I'm certainly not vegan by trade, and have consumed many steaks, nuggets, what have you in my lifetime. However, I've also tasted a ton of what's out there in terms of plant-based alternatives that claim to be substitutes to animal products.
To be frank, some plant-based meats are just downright dreadful to taste, but there are a tastemaking geniuses out there putting together solid replicas to the OG food. In some cases, you could be bold enough to say that it tastes just like the original.
If you are looking to move away of meat, but still yearn for its familiar taste, texture, and aroma, these products are the best way to do it.
Best Burger Patty Replica - Impossible Burger 2.0
The original Impossible Patty was already pretty close to beef, but their 2.0 version is the best replica of beef in the burger world. The 2.0 is even better in terms of beefy flavor, doesn't have much of an aftertaste, and comes with an improved formula that delivers on micronutrients like iron. I seriously can't wait for this to drop in grocery stores, because when it does, it's going to change how we all buy "beef" as we know it.
Best Fried Chicken Replica - Gardein 7 Grain Crispy Tenders
When it comes to vegan fried chicken products, it's hard to pick a favorite. A lot of different brands have solid flavors to back them up, and deliver on texture as well. What makes the Gardein tenders stand out, though, is the breading. It tastes like it has more seasoning and aroma behind it than KFC's famous batter, giving it a strong edge over the rest of the market. The texture isn't identical to that of chicken, sure, but when it comes to chicken tender replicas, nothing comes close, from a flavor perspective.
Best Egg Replica - Follow Your Heart
There are really only two competitors in the vegan egg space: JUST Egg and Follow Your Heart. JUST is a great scrambled egg substitute, but it doesn't have the product versatility that Follow Your Heart's vegan egg powder does. It's a little more complicated to set up, as it requires hydrating prior to using, however, the applications it excels in are numerous. I've used it to make everything from carbonara-style pasta sauces, to shortbread cookies.
Best Ricotta Cheese Replica - Kite Hill
Kite Hill's ricotta cheese impresses in that it mimics the function of ricotta to perfection, something that's hard to pull off. Ricotta isn't really a cheese that melts, but it is perfect as the base for lasagnas, cannelloni, stuffing for pancakes, etc. Kite Hill's product can accomplish all of that easily, making it a great plant-based alternative for those not quite ready to give up some of their Italian favorites.
Best Fish Replica - Gardein
Fish is one of the trickiest animals to replicate in plant-based form, mostly because of its aroma. While no current vegan product in stores can replicate it, Gardein comes closest in terms of texture, appearance, and taste. This will probably be the best alternative until Impossible Foods comes out with its plant-based fish, which it is rumored to have already cracked the code in terms of flavor.
Best Sliced/Shredded Cheese Replica - Follow Your Heart
The biggest problem with vegan cheese is that most of it struggles or completely fails to melt, however, Follow Your Heart's varieties come closest, as seen in the above video. Their American and Pepper Jack slices can retain a somewhat gooey texture and have solid flavor, and the Parmesan actually helps make dishes more creamy rather than just dissolving into a pasta or risotto.
Best Milk Replica - Oatly
Shoutout to The Boba Guys for exposing how good oat milk can be. In terms of creaminess, no other plant milk can really stack up. It has a neutral flavor that makes it ideal for just about any application, savory or sweet. There's a reason this brand is virtually always sold out in stores and impossible to track down. Silk has an alternative that just came out if you're looking for oat milks and can't get hold of this gold standard.
Best Sausage Replica - Morningstar Farms
Morningstar Farms is a long-running brand in the world of plant-based products, and their breakfast sausage patties are a big reason for that. They deliver on salty and savory flavor while having a texture akin to that of cooked sausage meat. I've been consuming these since I was a kid, and love them just as much as regular breakfast sausage (which I'm a huge fan of). My personal favorite way to eat them? With soy sauce and rice.
Best Shrimp Replica - New Wave Foods
Vegan shrimp is a new arena companies are starting to innovate in, and the closest reproduction so far comes from New Wave Foods. Their plant-based shrimp is made from algae, and while it still has some grittiness to address from a texture standpoint, its sweetness and flavor are almost exactly to that of shrimp. Their fried shrimp product is spot-on in all regards, and makes for a great substitute for those looking for a vegan shrimp solution.
Best Yogurt Replica - Kite Hill
Kite Hill impresses in the cultured dairy category, and their almond milk yogurts are no exception. They are arguably just as creamy and tangy as a standard cup of yogurt, and can come in a variety of flavors as well. It's also a double-health bonus since you also get the probiotics used to culture Kite Hill's signature, and it's already ubiquitous enough that you can find it many stores nationwide. Out of all of the plant-based substitutes out there, this is the one you're most likely to find, and should definitely pick up.