All across the country, plant-based eating is booming. Vegans, omnivores, and everyone in between have been reaching for vegetarian and vegan food and plant-based alternatives to meat, inspired by growing concerns about the effects of factory-farmed meat on the environment, animal rights, and of course, personal health. No matter your preference, one thing almost everyone can agree on is a good burger, and plant-based burgers have come leaps and bounds in the past few years, with a few in Philly standing out above the rest. This list is of best vegetarian burgers is broken up into two categories: imitation meat options like Impossible and Beyond burgers and the veggie patties made with a mixture of plant-based ingredients.
The Imitation Meats
1229 Spruce Street, Center City
Known for its nostalgic horror decor and thematically similar Instagram presence, Monster Vegan really sets the tone with its pimento burger. Not your average burger, it blends the unexpected but delicious combo of pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and a classic Impossible patty. The purple cabbage and scallion slaw balance out the deep savoriness and richness of the vegan brioche bun that contains this monster of a burger. Round out the night with one of the signature cocktails that horror fans will appreciate, like the “They’re coming to get you, Barbara…”
Algorithm Food Truck
Roving; check the website for locations
Find this vegan food truck slinging its signature Libertine Burger at locations all across the city. The Libertine is a flavor bomb of sweet, smokey, savory, and pickle-y with toppings like vegan bacon, pickled jalapeno, red onion jam, and the tantalizing, pickled pico del gallo. All this jam-packed on a seasoned Beyond patty between two marshmallow-y halves of the classic Merzbacher’s sweet potato roll makes this an incredibly well-balanced and craveable bite. The Libertine is unmissable (and is half the reason to go to the Clark Park farmer’s market on Saturdays). Pair it with Algorithm’s famous Calabrian chili cheese fries for the full experience.
1214 N. 52nd Street, Carroll Park
With a myriad of curated topping choices, like nacho and mushroom bacon, Vegan-ish takes the blank slate of a burger patty and gives customers the same number of menu options that you would find in a traditional, meat-centric burger spot. The highlight of the burger options is undisputedly—“When Smokey Sings,” a sloppy-in-a-good-way combo of caramelized onions, long hots, and coleslaw on top of an Impossible patty and a buttery bun.
133 S. 18th Street, Center City
Double. Chorizo. Burger. Two Impossible patties loaded with chorizo spices plus chipotle mayo are studded with caramelized onions, smoked gouda, and pickles on top of a pillowy bun. It all comes together to make a spicy, savory concoction unlike any other veggie burger out there. Spicy but not too spicy, smokey but not overpowering, well-seasoned but not too salty, this burger hits all the marks. Make sure to add a side of tostones and one of Bar Bombon’s signature tequila cocktails to perfectly complement the bold flavors and round out the whole experience.
15 E. Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood
Though not officially in the Philly city limits (it’s in Wynnewood, about a twenty minute drive from downtown), Plnt Burger is a vegan fast-food dream. The Smashburger-style Beyond burgers are reminiscent of a classic In-N-Out burger, with the standard lettuce, tomato, and pickle, plus the welcome sweetness of caramelized onions and Follow Your Heart vegan cheese. Don’t forget the Bloomies — tiny individual blooming onion bites — and the dreamy chocolate-vanilla swirl soft serve, which are all vegan.
The Veggie Patties
Middle Child Clubhouse
1232 N. Front Street, Fishtown
This house-made veggie patty is so mouthwateringly delicious; the definition of “burger” is worth expanding to include Ian’s Patty Melt at Middle Child Clubhouse. Like your standard patty melt, this one is on rye with Russian dressing and grilled onions. Unlike regular patty melts, though, it will occupy your daydreams for weeks. Chef Adam Sosnowick says his “secret weapon” in this powerhouse patty, packed with things like beans and oats, is yucca. The flavor and texture yield an “almost bacon-like product” that brings a deep hit of umami to the party. The entire mixture is run through a meat grinder to hydrate the mixture and prevent the worst-case scenario in the world of veggie patties: crumbling. Chef Sosnowick then sears off the patty in the excess oil from confit onions to impart a complex sweetness to the exterior of the burger, mimicking the crust on a traditional burger. Run—don’t walk.
Primary Plant Based
161 W. Girard Avenue, Fishtown
The mushroom and eggplant umami burger at Primary Plant Based on W. Girard Avenue absolutely lives up to its name. With savory toppings like mushroom chimichurri and eggplant remoulade, this house-made patty mirrors those flavors with more mushrooms and eggplant plus savory additions like vegan fish sauce and porcini powder. This mouth-watering patty also includes a pop of lemongrass; this, along with the tart chayote pickle, balances out the deep flavor of the mushrooms. All topped with gooey, melty smoked gouda, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more unique or well-balanced plant-based bite.
4333 Spruce Street, Spruce Hill
One of the most fatal flaws of many veggie burgers is a misstep in texture, either too crumbly or too soft, like a paste. You’ll find neither here. What makes this patty stand out from the rest is the spot-on texture. With a mixture of lentils, walnuts, rice, and beans, a lot is going here. Some bits are mashed, and some are left whole to create a variety of interesting bites throughout with the right amount of toothsome variation to be the star of the show without being too much. All of this is topped off with elevated versions of the classic burger toppings, like everyone’s favorite, Copper Sharp, and house-made sweet potato mayo.
Lucky’s Last Chance
4421 Main Street, Manayunk
On a menu full of creative traditional burgers, Lucky’s continues the trend with an unexpected riff on the classic black bean burger. Black beans are a common ingredient in many veggie burgers, but few lean into black beans’ natural flavor pairings. Lucky’s embraces the bean with hints of cumin and paprika and tops the patty with bright pico de gallo and creamy, punchy guacamole. The Peace, Love, and Veggie burger is a perfect bite, punctuated with aggressively buttered and toasty Liscio’s roll. Add the pickled jalapenos from the additional optional toppings and thank us later.