London's Best Vegetarian And Vegan Christmas Sandwiches 2019

M@
By M@
London's Best Vegetarian And Vegan Christmas Sandwiches 2019

If you're thinking of going vegan for Christmas 2019 (or already have), and giving the turkeys a rest this year, here's our appraisal of the festive sandwich options around town. They're in alphabetical order... and see the bottom for our rankings.

Benugo (vegan)

More of crumble than sandwich about this one.

We begin with a sandwich which, on paper, sounds like a winner. Grilled carrot, nut roast, crispy onion, chilli jam and — praise be! — parsnip hummus. This is such stuff as dreams are made of. Sadly, like any dream, it crumbles at the slightest touch. Approximately one-fifth of our Festive Vegan Feast Bloomer ended up on the floor. Like Boris Johnson dressed as Santa Claus, the bread simply lacks the integrity to hold its act together.

The portion that did reach our palate was delicious. This is both the nuttiest and crunchiest sandwich we've sampled, rich with the promise of Christmas. That chilli jam hits in waves of sweetness, with a gentle after bite. Full marks for filling, then, but this one needs a structural overhaul. Price £3.95.

Boots (vegan)

Simple but effective

To the great surprise of your correspondent, Boots has fielded the most enticing, most delicious Christmas sandwich of the year. And it's very different from all the others.

The Vegan No Salmon & No Cream Cheese sandwich is awkwardly named. To describe a sandwich by what it lacks is a fool's game — one might just as accurately call this a Vegan No Parachute & No Strychnine sandwich. But we get the idea. It's meant to be like a salmon and smoked cheese sarnie, without either item.

And it does a very, very convincing job. The cream cheese is a superb imposter. Helped by a fake moustache of dill, it is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The 'salmon' is impersonated by thin slices of carrot, steam roasted with tamari. Yes, it emits a crunch in precisely the way that smoked salmon does not, but this is still a thrilling forgery. The sandwich only loses marks for not seeming particularly Christmassy (until we held it up against this tree). But, in every way that counts, this is a splendid example of brilliant, budget vegan food. Price £3.

Caffe Nero (vegan)

The only ciabatta on our list is styled as a Vegan Roast Dinner. That might be over-egging the pudding, to mix metaphors, but this is still a punchy little package. The headline acts are spiced butternut squash, kale and cranberry sauce, yet the sum of the parts is more of a sausage-and-stuffing flavour. The texture is spot-on, with a crisp outer shell protecting a warm, gooey interior. I didn't realise that toasted ciabattas could hold credibility without melted cheese, but this concoction has changed my views. The only downside is that it's over too quickly and isn't particularly filling. Price £4.55.

Co-Op (veggie, not vegan)

Nothing says 'Christmas' like a brie sandwich in a graveyard, in the rain.

Tis the season to be boring at the Co-Op, whose only festive offering for meat-dodgers is a routine brie-and-cranberry pairing. With the addition of spinach, it's near identical to the Tesco offering (see below), but will cost you 80p more. A perfectly tasty sandwich, but hardly one for connoisseurs. Price £3.

Costa (vegan)

Is it my imagination or has Costa's lunchtime range massively improved of late? Where once you could expect little more than variations on a cheese toastie, today you get a healthy gamut of options. The vegan Christmas sarnie is an excellent, if temporary addition to the menu.

It's called 'Veggies Under Vests'. I'm not sure I quite get the joke. Is it some kind of pun on 'pigs in a blanket'? Dunno. But of all the sandwiches I've sampled for this piece, this has the most balance. It's a hearty mix of falafel and parsnip stuffing, carrot, cranberry sauce, vegan mayonnaise and fresh spinach. None of those constituents dominates, not even the falafel, which can often drag a vegan sandwich down. It all harmonises into a delicious rubble with a carroty crunch.

It won't win any awards for novelty or originality, but this sandwich could only be more solid if it were left in the freezer overnight. Good show, Costa. Price £3.20.

EAT (veggie, not vegan)

This brie, cranberry and spinach offering makes a serviceable Christmas sandwich, but nothing too special. The nut stuffing is excellent, and sets it apart from the three other brie-based sarnies. However, it was not evenly spread throughout the sandwich on our trial. So while there are rewarding bites, just as many disappoint. The onion seed bread is another difference from the identikit rivals from Tesco, Co-Op and Waitrose (see below), but given the low seed count, they might as well not be there. Also, a bit dry. We have little else to say about this one, other than, at £4, the cost is too steep for something so unadventurous.

M&S (vegan)

The No Turkey Feast is precariously balanced on one of the tacky fake-snow Christmas trees in Broadgate Circle. We had to wait for the security guard to look the other way to achieve this stylish shot.

The struggling high-street giant was quick out of the starting blocks, launching its Christmas range in early October. (Early October!) The vegan No Turkey Feast is accurately named, for it contains no turkey and is no feast. It is, nonetheless, a very satisfying lunchtime companion. The 'no turkey' comes in the form of marinated soy protein, which is firm and chewsome, if somewhat lacking in taste.

Not what you'd call a handsome sandwich, but it hit the spot.

Still, there's plenty of it. With well-balanced sage and cranberry notes and a layer of crisp spinach, served between malted slices, it's easy to make-believe that this is a proper turkey sandwich. A good all-rounder, but no Christmas cracker. Price £3.50, with 5% of the sale price going to Shelter. A sweet potato and chestnut affair called The Nutcracker is also available.

Paul (vegan)

All About the Sprout (or is it?).

Sprouts in a sandwich? Audacious move, Paul. Audacious move. It's called All About the Sprout but, oddly, the bijou brassicas play only a supporting role in this vegan baguette of strong flavours. Pickled red cabbage leads the assault on the taste buds — perhaps a little too forcefully. The sour crunch is supported by a clamour of seasonal flavours, with hints of sage, cranberry and chestnut, plus a gratifying marmalade cameo. This is one sweet, rich, fart-furnishing baguette.

Price £4.25. If the sprout sandwich leaves you cold, then Paul also offers a fresh winter salad (£4.95) and a hot camembert toastie (£4.25).

Pret (veggie, not vegan)

St Pancras wasn't looking very Christmassy when I bought my lunch, so you'll have to make do with a background of out-of-focus architecture.

Pret has a weird practice of not putting the names of its sandwiches on its boxes. It's a memory game for the till staff, and mix-ups are common  On this occasion, the smiling cashier at the St Pancras branch had no idea what festive wonderment had just been placed before her, and I was almost charged the meat-eater's price (to be fair, it was noon on the first day of sale for this new sandwich).

It's a colourful mouthful

But inside the evasive packaging dwells a sandwich of rare accomplishment. Pret's Veggie Christmas Lunch is a finely balanced package of seasonal tastes. A mush of cranberry, sweet potato and stuffing yields to the crunch of nut and carrot (we've always been dubious of carrot in sandwich, but here it works splendidly). Despite an ambitious list of ingredients, the sandwich holds together well, to the frustration of the lurking pigeons.

This is a sandwich of the sweeter persuasion. The cranberry is hosed-on in excelsis and sugared further with caramelised pecans. It may not be to everyone's taste, but it charmed the Christmas jumper off your correspondent. Price £3.75, which includes a 50p donation to homeless charities.

Sainsbury's (vegan)

Just falafs

You might think that the 'Festive Falafel & Houmous Wrap' is merely a Falafel & Houmous Wrap in a Festive box. You'd be right. Well, almost. Some kind of fruity, spicy twist is going on here, to elevate things above rest-of-year status.

Image taken in Bunhill Fields, near William Blake's grave, for some reason.

Check the back of the package at your peril, for it reads like George's Marvellous Medicine, with around 70 ingredients. Among these are yuletide inclusions such as nutmeg, mace and cloves, but these dance around the edge of perception. The red cabbage (4.5%, apparently) works hardest to conjure the season of good will, but never quite convinces. This is a pretty decent wrap, just not one you'd leave out for Santa. Price £2.30.

Starbucks (vegan)

A first-class wrap in a first-class carriage.

The prize for the most colourful sandwich has to go to the Very Merry Vegan Wrap from Starbucks. These twin peaks of red, velvety wrap seem to stick two fingers up at the competition, and they're certainly a contender for best Christmas vegan lunch.

The magenta marvel (effected with beetroot stain) is rammed with sweet potato, spinach and red cabbage, all bound together with maple mustard. This all equates to a crunchy repast of subtle flavours. It's not particularly Christmassy in the mouth, but it would certainly look the part beside the holly and the tinsel and the roaring log fire. I had to settle for a Thameslink train through the Mill Hill tunnel. Price, £3.20.

Tesco (veggie, not vegan)

Hat not included.

Almost at the bottom of our list, for reasons both alphabetical and aspirational, is this festive shrug from Tesco. "Our chef's recipe layers French brie with chunky sweet cranberry sauce and spinach," says the blurb, and that's precisely what you get (plus bread, obviously). It looks, tastes and feels as you'd imagine.

That's not to say it's a bad sandwich. Only those with lactose intolerance or a cranberry aversion could dislike the winning combination. It's just that the 'chef's recipe' is really "take a non-seasonal brie sandwich and stick it in a red box with an out-of-focus suggestion of Christmas lights". The chefs at the Co-Op and Waitrose took the same approach.

The big saving grace here is the price. At just £2.20 (even cheaper if part of a Meal Deal), it's almost half as spendy as the similar offering from EAT. Good value, if you're looking for some budget cheer. Avoid, if you're after a full-on Michael Bublé of a sandwich.

Waitrose: Brie & Cranberry (veggie, not vegan)

Can an exciting background of skyscrapers save this sandwich? No.

You can pretty much copy and paste the review from the Co-Op sandwich. Waitrose's version of the B&C is near identical, and the same price. The only difference is a more generous furnishing of cranberry. Other than that, we can't find anything more to say. Must try harder next year, Waitrose. Price £3.

Ranked: The best Christmas vegan/veggie sandwiches overall

It should be noted that all of these were decent, enjoyable sandwiches. The ranking reflects our overall impressions of how novel, satisfying and 'Christmassy' the sarnie is.

1. Pret's Veggie Christmas Lunch
2. Boots's Vegan No Salmon & No Cream Cheese
3. Paul's All About the Sprouts
4. Starbucks' Very Merry Vegan wrap
5. Costa's Veggies Under Vests
6. Caffe Nero's Vegan Roast Dinner
7. M&S's No Turkey Feast
8. Benugo's Festive Vegan Feast Bloomer
9. Sainsbury's Festive Falafel & Houmous Wrap
10. EAT's brie, cranberry and nut stuffing
11. Tesco's brie & cranberry
12. Waitrose's brie & cranberry
13. Co-op's brie & cranberry

Ranked: The most inventive Christmas vegan/veggie sandwiches overall

1. Boots's Vegan No Salmon & No Cream Cheese
2. Paul's All About the Sprouts
3. Starbucks' Very Merry Vegan wrap
4. M&S's No Turkey Feast
5. Caffe Nero's Vegan Roast Dinner
6. Pret's Veggie Christmas Lunch
7. Benugo's Festive Vegan Feast Bloomer
8. Costa's Veggies Under Vests
9. Sainsbury's Festive Falafel & Houmous Wrap
10. EAT's brie, cranberry and nut stuffing
11. Tesco's brie & cranberry
12. Waitrose's brie & cranberry
13. Co-op's brie & cranberry

Last Updated 27 November 2019