Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
Some of you might be aware that here at Twisted we like to rank the best Christmas sandwiches every year.
You could call it greed or a public service, but come December, the whole team take it upon ourselves to get together and fill our stomachs with so many Christmas sarnies that we can barely move, and then we tell you which is the worth your hard earned cash.
But for 2022, given the launch of our wonderful vegan brand, Twisted Green, we felt it only right to extend our offering one step further. After all, why should any of our plant-based, vegetarian and flexitarian readers miss out on the festive fun?
So, on top of 16 meaty Christmas sandwiches, we also tucked into 12 of the high-street’s best (and worst) vegan Christmas sandwiches, too.
In the interest of fairness, we asked everybody from our chefs to our videographers to get in on the ranking, and we all had no idea where any of the sandwiches were from. The only thing we were considering were two essential factors: Taste, and Overall Festive Vibes.
Ordered from bottom to top, here’s our analysis of this year’s selection:
Sainsbury’s No Pigs Under Blanket Christmas Sandwich (£2.95)
What is it?: “Mushroom and wheat protein sausage, wheat and pea protein slices, baconaise style vegan mayonnaise, cranberry chutney and onion on malted bread.”
Average score: 4.8/10
Twisted’s verdict: Curating the perfect Christmas sandwich is a fine art. You need just the right amount of festive flavours in each bite, and even a dollop too much cranberry or cabbage can completely ruin a mouthful.
That being said, we’re afraid that Sainsbury’s went a little (read a lot) too subtle.
With perfectly decent plant-based sausages and bacon stuffed between malted bread, this did taste like something we’d quite happily enjoy on a hangover, with some ketchup thrown on for good measure.
The team were unanimous that this needed lashings more baconaise and cranberry chutney to even remotely resemble a Christmas sandwich, though.
Co-op’s No Turkey Lunch Christmas Sandwich (£3.35)
What is it?: “Flame-grilled cooked flavoured soya protein with vegan mayonnaise, steam roasted carrot and parsnip, cranberry chutney and sage and onion stuffing on fibre enriched sage and onion bread.”
Average score: 5.8/10
Twisted’s verdict: The Co-op vegan Christmas sandwich offering was a No Turkey Lunch from its plant-based brand, Gro.
Filled with a soya protein in place of the traditional turkey, this promised a lot of the trimmings you’d typically expect on a Christmas dinner table, like carrots, parsnips, stuffing and cranberry chutney. However, once again, the problem was that the balance wasn’t quite right.
What the team found, here, was that the soya protein lacked flavour compared to some of its competitors, meaning that the sweet carrot and parsnip ended up dominating each bite.
What we were left with was a perfectly reasonable root vegetable sandwich, with the occasional hit of a nice herby stuffing, but unfortunately, this neither screamed ‘Christmas’ or left any huge impact on our taste buds.
ASDA’s Plant-Based Festive Feast Wrap (£2.75)
What is it?: “A wrap complete with succulent soya protein pieces, sage and onion stuffing, braised red cabbage, vegan sage & onion mayonnaise, cranberry & port sauce and fresh spinach.”
Average score: 6.1/10
Twisted’s verdict: Props to ASDA for mixing things up and giving us a wrap…we love a bit of variety in a sea of Christmas sarnies.
The spinach and braised red cabbage gave this one a nice texture, and the lack of breadiness really allowed the sage and onion mayo and the cranberry and port sauce to have their moments, too.
Saying that, there was one resounding criticism amongst the team – the red cabbage was too overpowering. It’s a tough gig to balance flavours when you’re using soya protein, as it really has to be good quality not to be swamped by whatever you’re serving it with.
Sadly, the team thought that this one didn’t quite deliver the ‘meaty’ flavour that was needed. It was still a perfectly pleasant wrap, though.
Tesco’s No Beef Wellington Christmas Wrap (£2.75)
What is it?: “Tortilla filled with textured wheat and pea protein, wild mushroom and red wine dressing, festive spiced red cabbage and spinach.”
Average score: 6.2/10
Twisted’s verdict: Tesco’s vegan Christmas sandwich was also a wrap this year.
It was nice to see something other than vegan turkey on the line-up, as they sent us one stuffed with plant-based beef wellington, made with wheat and pea protein.
The ‘beef’ was garnished with a wild mushroom and red wine dressing, which added something different and yet also familiarly Christmassy to the palate. Plus, there was a five spiced red cabbage thrown in there, too (just the right amount, this time, thank god).
How could this have scored more? Overall, the team felt this Tesco vegan Christmas wrap could have been a little more packed, and would have benefitted from another saucy element, like a plant-based mayo or a chutney.
Leon’s Bauble and Squeak Christmas Wrap (£6.89)
What is it?: “Baked fritter made with seasonal root veg, chestnuts, orange and herbs. Dressed with caramelised onion & sage mayo, topped with crispy onions and spiced pickled red cabbage.”
Average score: 6.2/10
Twisted’s verdict: It hasn’t passed us by that all three vegan Christmas wraps ranked next to each other. Whilst using a wrap is definitely an innovative way to serve up Christmas flavours, it’s clear they also leave no room for error when it comes to flavour.
Leon’s Christmas menu offering cost more than the other two wraps combined, but there was no denying its Christmassy-ness. Served hot (which was a nice touch), it came stuffed with a herby root vegetable and chestnut fritter, caramelised onion & sage mayo and – you guessed it – pickled red cabbage.
Whilst we really appreciated the innovative concept, here (and a break from all the soya and pea protein), a few of us found the fritter a little stodgy, and noted that, alongside the pickled cabbage, things tasted a little one dimensional.
Still, you’ve got to give Leon props for taking the Christmas sandwich in a different direction. An ultimately enjoyable option if you’re bored of fake meat.
Morrisons’ Very Merry Vegan Christmas Sandwich (£2.75)
What is it?: “A winter veg fritter and white bean and parsnip humous served with spinach and spiced red cabbage on malted bread.”
Average score: 7.2/10
Twisted’s verdict: Now, we know there’s an annoying assumption that all vegans eat is humous, but it was actually a pretty tasty addition to Morrisons’ Christmas sandwich.
Their decision to use parsnip made the humous taste pretty festive, and all importantly moistened up the sandwich, ensuring that the fritter (which was earthy and well seasoned) didn’t taste too dry.
Texturally, this sandwich was a really decent mouthful, and the salad added a nice crunch alongside all the delightful mushiness.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, our biggest criticism was the red cabbage. Please, somebody give us a sarnie that isn’t swimming in the stuff…
Paul’s Vegan Trimmings Christmas Sandwich (£4.65)
What is it?: “All of the Christmas trimmings! Carrots, maple roasted sprouts and chestnuts, stuffing crumb, Veganaise, cranberry sauce and salad housed in a Paul walnut baguette.”
Average score: 7.7/10
Twisted’s verdict: What’s this? A Christmas baguette? Oh, Paul, you do spoil us.
Paul won us over when it came to taste and Christmassy-ness, offering up a fresh walnut loaf straight from their bakery, which came with roasted sprouts, chestnuts and carrots dribbling out of the middle in a very tantalising manner.
The whole team liked how Paul celebrated the humble Christmas side rather than the typically meaty main event, with carrots and sprouts taking centre stage, alongside a crispy stuffing crumb, which added texture.
The only thing we’d change was that the sarnie was a little bit oily, given the amount of roasted veg on there.
That being said, we’re all for a brand taking the Christmas sandwich somewhere new, and doing so with a vegan Christmas sandwich is arguably even more impressive.
Costa’s Vegan P’gs & Blankets Christmas Panini (£4.75)
What is it?: “Plant-based sausages and bacon, sage and onion stuffing, sweet cranberry sauce, vegan mayonnaise and cheeze, enclosed within a stone-baked sourdough panini.”
Average score: 7.8/10
Twisted’s verdict: This may not be a looker, but in fairness, we reckon it would have been a lot more aesthetically pleasing if it had been prepared in Costa’s sandwich press, and not in the Twisted oven, alongside several other toasties.
That aside, Costa’s Christmas sandwich was actually one of the favourites of the day. For one, there was high praise for the taste of the plant-based sausages and bacon, and Costa managed to conquer one of the biggest battles of the day… making vegan ‘meat’ flavoursome.
The team also thought the balance of cranberry sauce and vegan mayo was just right. Plus, the vegan cheeze was a great addition, oozing alongside the cranberry to create a super-comforting bite.
Some might even say this sandwich was remanent of a Christmassy hot-dog. Either way, we’d definitely order it again.
Pret’s Festive Falafel & Squash Christmas Sandwich (£5.25)
What is it?: “Herby roasted butternut squash topped with sweet potato falafel, our Christmas pesto, pickled cabbage and carrot, port and orange cranberry sauce and vegan sage mayo. Finished with peppery rocket and crispy onions.”
Average score: 7.9/10
Twisted’s verdict: Now, what about Pret’s vegan Christmas sandwich? Their festive selection probably has one of the most unrivalled reputations on the high-street, and given that they landed in fourth place, we think it’s fair to say the hype is justified.
With a generous helping of well-seasoned butternut squash accompanying pickled cabbage, carrot and falafel, they once again threw everything and the kitchen sink at their plant-based offering this year, offering a veg-packed mouthful perfectly balanced with a crunch of rocket and mayo.
This sandwich was a textural party in the mouth, and hints of sage and cranberry said ‘Merry Christmas’ without throwing all the bells and whistles at us.
Some people wanted more Christmas flavours, but we’d take subtle and well executed over OTT any day of the week.
Marks and Spencer’s No Turkey Feast Christmas Sandwich (£4.35)
What is it?: “Roasted wheat and vegetable protein with cranberry chutney, vegan dressing, spinach and fried onions on malted brown bread.”
Average score: 8.5/10
Twisted’s verdict: Marks and Spencer’s vegan Christmas sandwich was predictably tasty – but then again, anybody who has tried their Plant Kitchen range would expect nothing less.
They offered up a No Turkey Feast, with chunks of wheat and vegetable protein which were not only convincingly meaty but also had flavour (hurrah). The sandwich was filled with cranberry chutney, crispy onions and spinach for crunch and freshness, and each element complimented the other well.
If we were to be critical, some of the team thought the cranberry was a little sweet here, but it definitely put us all in the Christmas spirit.
This is the sandwich you should go for if you’re a vegan who is missing turkey over the holidays. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
Caffè Nero’s Vegan Festive Feast Christmas Sandwich (£4.85)
What is it?: “A sourdough panini filled with THIS turkey and delicious mulled red cabbage, then paired with a vegan stuffing of apple, sage and fennel, finished with a gravy mayo.”
Average score: 9.2/10
Twisted’s verdict: Don’t sleep on Caffè Nero, folks. Their vegan Christmas sandwich is our runner up, and it was such a hit that some of the team even went back for seconds.
These guys are pretty much the only ones who managed to make red cabbage work, cooking it in mulled wine with cinnamon and cloves to ensure it wasn’t too sweet, but still very much smacked of Christmas.
The fennel and sage stuffing was also packed full of flavour, rather than just a tokenistic addition, and the soy ‘chicken’ was one of the ‘meatiest’ of the day, made all the more delicious thanks to the vegan gravy mayo served alongside it.
Yep, you read that right – gravy mayo. A true revelation.
Someone rather aptly described this as ‘a roast in a mouthful’, and isn’t that exactly what you want in a Christmas sandwich?
Greggs’ Vegan Turkey-Free and Stuffing Christmas Baguette (£3.50)
What is it?: “Plant-based turkey-free goujons served alongside a sage and onion crust, cranberry sauce and a vegan gravy.”
Average score: 9.4/10
Twisted’s verdict: And so to our winner… it’s Greggs!
We love the high-street bakery as much as the next person, but did we expect them to win in the battle of the vegan Christmas sandwich? Honestly, not for a second.
The more we think about it, though, the more obvious it is that this was always going to be their bag. You only have to have tried a vegan sausage roll to know that Greggs the Kings of delicious, well-flavoured plant-based meat – and that’s where this sandwich really excelled.
Warm and served in a fresh baguette, the turkey goujons in this Christmas sandwich were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and came coated in a sage and onion crust which instantly harked back to the festive dinner table.
The cranberry sauce was fruity and flavourful but not too intense, and the whole thing was brought together with a splash of vegan gravy. Honestly, what more could you want?
Ultimately, what edged it for Greggs was a really good quality protein and just the right amount of festive flavours. If you’re still reading, then you’ll be all too aware that achieving both of these is no mean feat.
Of course, we’re not saying this is the best vegan Christmas sandwich ever. There are independent sandwich shops which quite frankly thrash all of these on the ‘reg. But if you’re looking to grab a plant-based Christmas sandwich on the high-street this year, then there are certainly some strong contenders out there.
And with that, we wish you a merry lunch-break!