When I wrote my cookbook V is for Vegan eight years ago, I made a point of not using any imitation meat products in my recipes.

At the time, there were two main meat substitutes: Quorn, made from mushrooms; and Textured Vegetable Protein, a kind of soy bean extract. Since then there has been an explosion in meat alternatives as veganism has become almost mainstream - with products now aiming for 'authenticity' using technology.

I haven't eaten meat for more than 40 years and I have no desire to eat anything that resembles it. While shopping for this article, I came across fake mincemeat – grey worms of protein that made me want to heave. Mince is one of the reasons I became vegetarian in the first place. Why would I want to reproduce it?Ham & High: Food blogger and recipe writer Kerstin has been vegetarian for 40 yearsFood blogger and recipe writer Kerstin has been vegetarian for 40 years (Image: Courtesy of Kerstin Rodgers)

But many new vegetarians, often vegans skipping a step from carnivore to plant-based, like the taste and texture of meat. They miss it. And their cravings can be assuaged by fake meat products.

To conduct a thorough tasting, I bought a selection of products then assembled a panel: a meat eater (my sister), a recent vegetarian (my son in law), someone who has never eaten meat in their life (my daughter), and myself who hasn't eaten meat for 40 years. We tasted 18 different brands of meat substitutes resembling chicken, pork, beef and duck - ranging from the 'vomit-worthy' to the product you would swear was the real deal.

By the end, we all felt like we'd undergone a bushtucker trial with fake meat rather than kangaroo testicles. The two long-time vegetarians found it more of an ordeal than the carnivores. Meat eaters and veggies want different things, with the former seeking authenticity and meat-adjacent experiences. Yet imitations that are too close to meat are repugnant to many, like my daughter, who refused to eat one burger saying: 'I'm a veggie get me out of here.'Ham & High: A selection of alternative meat productsA selection of alternative meat products (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

The Vegetarian Butcher: ‘Happy Go Clucky’ vegan chicken burger (£1.87 per 100g)

This soy-based burger was popular among the vegetarians who aren’t overly keen on meat substitutes, but those who can remember what meat is like also found it similar to real chicken.

Squeaky Bean: Piri-Piri flavoured filets (£2.50p per 100g)

Smoky and a little spicy, with a soft texture, these did not go down well with the vegetarians but fared better with the meat eater. More like duck than chicken.

Oumph!: Crispy Buffalo Bites (£1.29 per 100g)

A Swedish company produces these nicely flavoured, sweet chilli bites with a soft texture. It scored well on similarity to meat.

Green Cuisine (Bird's Eye): Chicken-free dippers (99p per 100g)

Made from wheat protein, these look like McNuggets but only the outside texture is like the real deal. Although they have almost no flavour, the vegetarians liked them.

Wicked Kitchen: No chicken drumettes (62.5p per 100g)

Made from soy and wheat protein, these drumettes are from a US company fronted by two chef brothers – Derek and Chad Sarno – and backed by vegan actor Woody Harrelson. Despite the mildly spicy coating, they were unpopular with the whole panel.

Fridge Raiders Meat-Free: Katsu Tasty Bites (£2.30 per 100g)

Made from fava beans, these do not require cooking. They have a strong curry flavour and are very similar to real fridge raiders. The vegetarians liked them as they weren't “challenging”.

Vegerami chick’nless bites (£2.50p per 100g)

Made from wheat protein, these do not need cooking either and again have a curry flavour. The texture – tougher than others – is close to meat, and surprisingly the vegetarians liked them too.

Eatplanted: Chicken, lemon and herb (£1.32 per 100g)

This company is a Swiss start-up based in Zurich, backed by Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world. These lemon and herb ‘chicken’ pieces are made from pea protein. They were popular with our carnivore but not so much with the vegetarians who found it too similar to chicken although liked the lemony flavour.

Vivera: Plant Drumsticks (£1.15p per 100g)

Made from vegetable, soy and wheat protein, these have a spicy flavour and a real kick. The panel found them similar to meat thanks to their chewy texture.

Quorn: sweet chilli mini fillets (73p per 100g)

This is one of the oldest meat replacement brands, which uses a mushroom-based technology invented in the 1960s. These filets tasted more of lemon than sweet chilli and had an unpleasant mushy texture.

Dopsu: No-pork pieces (71p per 100g)

The name is a portmanteau of Doppelgänger and Substitute. This soy-free vegetable protein product has a slight hint of pork flavour but an unpleasant texture and prompted reactions ranging from “bad” to “vomit-worthy”.

This Isn't Bacon Lardons (£2.50p per 100g)

This award-winning soy-based product was the most similar to meat in flavour, texture and even smell. If you had it in a carbonara, you wouldn't know the difference.

Tivall: Vegetarian frankfurter (85p per 100g)

I've often bought these. You can boil them or fry them, but I find boiling works better. They have a slightly rubbery texture and not much flavour, but the panel quite liked them.

Fry's: frozen meat-free frankfurters (80p per 100g)

These ones have a smoky flavour and a tougher texture – more similar to meat than Tivall.

Gosh! Veggie cocktail sausages (88p per 100g)

Made from chickpeas, cauliflower and butter beans, these have a strong sage flavour and a very soft texture. It is more like the meat inside a sausage roll than a cocktail sausage.

Beyond Meat (£1.70 per 100g)

Beyond burgers are made from peas and brown rice. Coconut oil adds moisture, while beetroot, apple juice and pomegranate imitate the bleeding ooziness of red meat. They look and taste much like a real beef burger, with a vaguely beefy flavour and moist texture. My lifelong vegetarian daughter refused to try one, declaring: “I’m a veggie, get me out of here.”

Linda McCartney: Vegetarian shredded hoisin duck

This duck offer from the heritage vegetarian brand had a nice oyster sauce flavour and a crispy flavour when fried. A successful imitation of fatty duck liked by the whole panel.

Overall the most popular products were the 'frankfurter' sausages, Fry's and Tivall. Oumph!, Vegerami and the Linda McCartney duck were well received and the worst was Dopsu, which nobody liked.

For those who dislike the idea of counterfeit meat, Tofu is the original alternative; processed, but not ultra-processed. I like Cauldron: marinated tofu (£1.56 per 100g). It isn’t trying to be meat and there is no attempt to replicate its texture.