We Tried Beyond Meat's New IV Recipe, And It's A Big Leap Forward For Plant-Based Meat

Plant-based meat has been on quite the journey over the past few years, and Beyond Meat's fourth generation of products is the culmination of everything the upstart industry has been through. Just a decade ago, plant-based meat as a whole was barely known in the food world. Beyond Meat, one of the pioneers of the 21st century plant-based meat movement, released its first product in 2012 and went on to release its first iteration of burgers in 2016. Plant-based burgers started popping up everywhere as sales increased; fast food chains even started to embrace plant-based products. It seemed like plant-based meat was the food of the future.

Then, the backlash came. The meat industry and consumer groups started slamming plant-based meats for their synthetic composition, poor flavor, and long ingredient list. As a result, the plant-based meat's reputation as an alternative to animal proteins took a hit. The decreasing demand for plant-based meat hit the entire industry, including companies like Beyond Meat. The brand released its fourth generation burgers and plant-based ground to the market in mid-April of 2024 to help counteract some of the negative perceptions around plant-based meats and win over the hearts (and stomachs) of consumers. I sampled this lineup to see if it delivered on its promise of a better flavor and ingredient list, and to see if it was worth purchasing.  

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer/distributor/etc.

What is Beyond Meat IV?

I was invited by the Beyond Meat team to sample several of the new Beyond Meat IV products at the company headquarters in El Segundo, California. One focus of the line is cutting down on the ingredients, and the biggest change was the replacement of coconut and canola oils with avocado oil, which has a more neutral flavor and reduces saturated fat by 60%. The Beyond Meat team also cut down the sodium by 20%, increased the amount of protein, and modified the base to include new ingredients like red lentil and faba bean for a meatier flavor. 

Several representatives from the company informed me that the new line was part of a concerted effort to address previous criticisms of plant-based meat, particularly the health concerns, while still committing to improving the product's taste. To that end, Beyond Meat worked with partners outside the company, like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and lifestyle expert, to help develop the product.

How much does Beyond Meat IV cost?

After releasing some well-received new products at the end of last year, like its Stack Burger, Beyond Meat IV beef and burgers launched in mid-April of 2024 at a host of national retailers like Kroger and Walmart, with a larger rollout planned over the rest of the year. While the company has made a host of improvements, some of the new ingredients, like the avocado oil, have led to an increase in price as well, as noted by the brand's representatives. 

The cost of Beyond Meat IV varies based on store and region, but in my nearby stores in Southern California, the price of the 8-ounce burger patties ranged from five to eight dollars, while the 16-ounce package of Beyond Beef IV was priced between $10 and $12. It's significantly more expensive than the 80/20 blend of ground beef per pound and was only slightly more expensive than the leaner 90/10. There was a similar price difference between the more expensive Beyond Meat IV patties and pre-made beef burgers.

Taste test: Beyond Burger IV

I've always been more impressed by the technical ability of plant-based meat companies to create a meat analog, rather than the taste of the product itself. However, just a few bites of the Beyond Meat IV burger quickly convinced me that the fourth-generation line really is a huge leap forward for plant-based meat in every way.

I got a simple slider with a Beyond Meat IV patty, cheese, sauce, and a pickle. The first thing I noticed was that the smell of the freshly cooked recipe immediately read as charred and hearty. While it didn't smell exactly like a beef burger, it was really appetizing. The taste hit with much cleaner, meaty notes than previous plant-based burgers have for me. As a whole, it was the first time I really felt like I wouldn't be able to tell if this burger was made with real meat or not. 

When I tasted the patty on its own without the cheese and the sauce, I noticed a bean-y undertone, but it didn't really detract from the taste at all. Most impressively, this version has completely done away with the lingering, artificial aftertaste I always got from other plant-based burger brands. Combine all that with a pleasant, not-too-dense texture and decent juiciness, and this was the best plant-based burger I'd ever had.

Taste test: Beyond Beef IV

The other two recipes I tried were made with Beyond Beef ground instead of the pre-made burgers. The first was a Japanese-style glazed meatball with a spicy mustard aioli, and the second was a tostada with taco-spiced meat and a sweet potato puree.

The meatball was soft, with a nice, tender texture and plenty of flavor from both the spice mixture in the meat and the sauce. Like the burger, the accompaniments made it hard to tell it was beef-less. The tostada also mostly delivered on flavor, and the "beef" did a good job of offering an umami counterpoint to the puree and crunchy tostada. Both recipes had the same clean, meaty taste as the burger. During the tasting, the brand's representatives shared how the new recipe browns better due to avocado oil's higher smoke point. This was clear on the tostada, which stood out with a nice, charred flavor.

Overall, these two dishes were very impressive, but they had one small downside that was more noticeable than the burgers. The meat on the toastada was a bit dry and lacked the richness you get from ground beef, which also helps the spices pop. This wasn't as big an issue with the meatball, which had mix-ins like soy sauce, and the burger, which had the fatty balance of the cheese. But when the meat was sauteed with just spices, it did get a little mealy.

Beyond Meat IV vs. ground beef

The new Beyond Meat IV lineup is the closest I've ever tasted to truly replicating the experience of eating a ground beef burger. While it's not a direct analog to beef, the Beyond Meat IV line has a better meaty flavor compared to other plant-based meat products from the brand. When cooked in a recipe, I'd imagine it would be hard to distinguish it from beef. The texture was noticeably less dense and closer to ground beef than previous versions as well. The ground beef still stands out for its rich beef fat flavor and juiciness. But, the new Beyond Beef was still satisfying, and honestly better than other meat options like turkey burgers, too. 

The one downside for Beyond Meat is the higher price point, but the nutritional benefits may make it worth purchasing for some consumers. Compared to 80/20 ground beef, Beyond Meat's IV recipe has 75% less saturated fatand no cholesterol. Beyond Beef may also have more sodium, but it has more protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and fiber than ground beef. Plus, Beyond Meat is hormone and antibiotic-free, which can't be said for all beef.

Is Beyond Meat IV worth it?

I would say emphatically that Beyond Meat IV is worth trying. The new Beyond Meat IV line has improved on pretty much every aspect that kept me from eating and cooking with plant-based meat more frequently in the past. While the improvements in the ingredients and nutrition of the product are commendable on their own, what stands out is that the plant-based meat's flavor is such a clear improvement from other brands. Every aspect that turned me off of plant-based meat, like the aftertaste, has either been solved completely or mitigated as much as possible. If you already like Beyond Meat, you are going to be very happy with this new product. And if you are someone, like me, who wasn't quite convinced before, now is the time to give it another try.

There have to be some reasons to choose this product over ground beef, especially considering its meaningfully higher price point. The impact of red meat on digestion and the impact of eating meat on greenhouse gas emissions are clearly in Beyond Meat's corner, while its flavor will satisfy the cravings of meat lovers. From its inception, Beyond Meat has been all about offering a sustainable, accessible alternative to meat, and the fourth-generation line is a huge step in that direction.