When we realised there were six vegan panettoni on the market this year, we knew we had to try them all. Here we will give you our opinion on the best vegan panettone for this winter holiday season.
Panettone is a traditional Italian Christmas cake. It originated in Milano sometime in the 18th century. Since I can remember, it’s been ubiquitous in shops all over Italy and that seems to be the trend for the UK too. In 2018, the UK bought more panettoni (plural of panettone) than traditional British Christmas cakes!
A panettone takes about three days and alooooot of effort to make. It’s rich in ingredients, such as sultanas, raisins and candied orange peel, spices, aromas and fats. The result is a perfumed, airy golden cake with some heft. It should feel heavy when you take it out of the package because of all the ingredients, but don’t be fooled in thinking the texture will be anything but a Christmassy scented cloud.
Baking without animal products is obviously possible and the results are delicious. All these panettone are vegan. Instead of dairy butter, these are made primarly with olive oil. None of them contain palm oil (yes, palm oil is suitable for vegans, but there are other factors making it a substance we like to avoid if possible) and they’re all made in Italy (we think).
We went out and bought one of each and conducted unscientific taste tests. We’re not panettone or baked goods experts, but we’ve been eating slices of panettone since forever. We enlisted some help and had plenty of coffee on hand.
The panettoni are listed below by highest to lowest price.
Vergani Panettone, 750g: £22.95 (incl. shipping) Red Beetle
This is the costliest panettone and with good reason. The sultanas and candied peel are of excellent quality, very flavourful and plentiful. Nothing ruins a panettone more than tough and waxy dried fruit. Even if you dislike candied peel, but are up for testing that notion, try this. It should do the trick in converting you. The cake texture was light and melt in your mouth, and the fragrance filled the room with heavenly spices. Good ingredients don’t come without a price, but with shipping included, this isn’t a bad deal. The packaging design is a complete winner with great graphics, minimalist and recyclable paper (the inner bag is plastic, which you can recycle with a Terra Cyle box near you). And it ties for First Place in Best Vegan Panettone of 2019!
Selfridges Vegan Pumpkin Spiced Panettone, 800g: £19.99 (excl. shipping) Selfridges
Sure panettone comes in a variety of flavours, including chocolate, other berries, or even without candied orange peel, but this is the first time we’ve ever seen a pumpkin spiced panettone! So we’re here for it. As soon as we opened it, that nutmeg-cinnamon-ginger-turmeric and magic pumpkin aroma was unmistakable and delightful. The texture was good, despite it being slightly gummy. There are no sultanas, raisins or candied peel, but there are bits of pumpkin, obviously! The crust of this panettone was the best one of all.
So far so good. But there was a strange, metallic after taste at the back of the throat. Solution? Dunk it in coffee. If you want to blow people’s minds on whatever winter holiday you fancy, then make vegan French toast with this. The packaging was odd too. The box is HUGE in comparison to the product. Sure a big box make something look impressive, but then opening it and seeing a much smaller item on the inside is counterproductive and that’s with a cake that weighs 800g. In any event, like the Vergani, the box is cardboard and recyclable and the twine reusable. Like all panettoni, they come wrapped in plastic bags because they need to stay moist for a long time.
This panettone has no candied orange peel, so it’s for you if you don’t like them. It’s full of sultanas instead and they’re of very good quality, plump and juicy. The texture is denser and not as fluffy as the others, but it’s good. Balanced blend of spices and fragrant. This box, unlike Selfridges’, is proportionate to the panettone inside. We liked the minimalist look, no twine and the fonts. We bought it from The Food Market because we like supporting small businesses and sometimes it’s worth paying the extra couple quid to do that. Verdict? Second Place in Best Vegan Panettone of 2019!
Dolce Natale Biologico Vegan by Probios, 500g: £13.99 Ocado, GreenBay Supermarket and Plant Based Supermarket
Out of all the panettoni, this was the only one where the decision was not unanimous as to whether it should be in first place. Solution? It’s a tie with Vergani for First Place in Best Vegan Panettone of 2019!
This panettone is the airiest and fluffiest and the cake dough is the most golden. There are loads of juicy and plump sultanas, but there is no candied peel. And this last thing is what ties it with the Vergani. We couldn’t have a first place without the orange peel, like it or not.
This panettone also wins on the name, mentioning the word vegan THREE times in gold and wishing you a Merry Christmas! Maybe this alone should make it the overall winner? The packaging is nice with the finger holes. You can imagine it gently swinging by your side as you skip down the road to your next holiday party. Unlike all the others, the clasp for this panettone is made of aluminium instead of the classic twist tie. Although recyclable, it was hella difficult to open. Also available in spelt.
Mindful Bites, 300g gift box: £10.19 Ocado (on offer)
Sigh… We won’t beat around the bush on this. It’s a flat out, unanimous, NO. It’s dry and flavourless. We tried the gift box size because of the three flavours: original, mixed berries and chocolate. We were hopeful because this would have made a good gift. But, as one of the judges said with all the love possible, “I’m going to throw this at your face.” The chocolate one tasted like stale, sourdough bread with some wisps of chocolate thrown in. To salvage this, we will be mixing it with vegan ice cream. Not even dunking it in coffee improved it. Maybe the full size works better, who knows. We won’t be finding out.
Holland & Barrett Vegan Friendly Panettone, 750g: £6.99 Holland & Barrett
This eminently affordable treat is also pretty good. It has a good amount of raisins and citrus peel and of good quality. Not first rate, but good. The cake is a bit pale and on the slightly dryer side of moist, but again, it’s tasty. And we like its straight forward classic panettone trapezoid box packaging with the colourful geometric shapes. It’s also available in a 100g size for £1.29. How they manage to sell it so cheaply is perplexing. I suppose volume and distribution are king in this case. In any event, all this put together places this one at Third Place in Best Vegan Panettone of 2019!
Whatever sweets you decide to indulge in this winter or festive season, choose vegan. Animals aren’t objects. They want to live.