This year, my trusted and expert panettone tasting team is obviously unavailable. I knew I’d only be able to manage fewer panettoni. So, I chose to focus on new products while revisiting only one of the winners from last year. I review four vegan panettone cakes this year, three of which are new products, instead of six as I did in 2019. I’ve also included links to other vegan panettone in case you want even more choices.
Panettone is a traditional leavened and baked Italian Christmas cake typically containing sultanas, candied orange peel and delicate aromas. It originated in Milano sometime in the 18th century. It’s packaged in attractive boxes and they’re often given as gifts. Since I can remember, it’s been ubiquitous in shops all over Italy and that fashion has taken hold in the UK too. You can now also find chocolate and other flavour panettone. Commercially made vegan panettoni were rare. Now, they’re available in large supermarkets!
There are also a few vegan artisans in the UK making their own. For example, Vegan Sweet Tooth, Pomodoro & Basilico, Chiara Saitta, the talented head pastry chef at Erpingham House in Brighton and Cornflower Cakes by Iva in Hackney are all making panettone to order, and Flora No Fauna Bakery in Ealing is making both panettone and pandoro, which is a similarly leavened sweet cake, but much fluffier and without the candied fruit (all to order). It’s clear, next year we’ll need an entire section of the review devoted to locally made panettone. If you want a challenge, you could try to make your own with VegsideStory (complete with video instructions) while practicing your Italian!
Unlike last year where there was a definite dud (Mindful Bites – avoid), this year they were all good. So, you’re spoilt for choice! Prices exclude shipping or delivery charges.
A note on packaging, the external boxes for each of these are paper or cardboard and widely recycled. The plastic bag in which each of these panettoni is wrapped is not recyclable unless you have access to specialty recycling facilities.
The traditional flavours
Vergani Panettone, 750g: £21.75 Red Beetle
This panettone tied for first place last year and is once again a winner.
Vergani’s are the costliest panettoni and with good reason; they use prime quality ingredients and it shows. In this traditional version – we talk about the chocolate drops version below – the sultanas are plump and juicy, the candied orange peel is thick, with a good bite, sweet but not too much, and flavourful, and both are plentiful without being overwhelming. Nothing ruins a panettone more than tough and waxy dried fruit. Even if you have always disliked candied peel, this panettone could change your mind and you should try it.
The texture is springy and pleasantly dense while still melting in your mouth. The fragrance filled the room with vanilla and delicate spices. Good ingredients don’t come without a price, and if you spend over £25 on the Redbeetle site (one of my favourites for Italian foods), shipping is free. The packaging design is new this year and less rustic than last year’s. Verdict: this traditional panettone is superb.
Nomma Passionately Plant-Based Panettone, 750g: £5.50 Tesco
It’s great a vegan panettone is available from a mainstream supermarket at this price and without it containing any palm oil to pad profit margins (one of the many reasons I avoid products with palm oil). This also means it’s been an extremely popular item and may already be sold out. Luckily, I bought ours in early November. If you can’t find it at Tesco, it’s available elsewhere on the web; just search for the name.
The texture is good, although it’s slightly drier than the Vergani. It’s still dense and springy as it should be, but the aromas aren’t as fragrant and the sultanas and candied peel are sparser and of lesser quality. The sultanas as less plump and juicy and the candied peel is thin, but still flavourful. Despite these negatives, my partner preferred this one. In his words, “it was lighter”, which interpreted means he preferred the more muted mix of ingredients. Verdict: this is a very good panettone; a solid option.
The other flavours
Vergani Panettone al cioccolato, 750g: £21.75 Red Beetle
Like its traditional counterpart, this Vergani chocolate panettone is just as high in quality and excellent in flavour.
Just look at that texture and all those chocolate drops! Once again, the texture is spot on; a balance of springiness and moisture giving the cake a substantial bite and mouthfeel while still being pillowy soft. The chocolate is plentiful and semi-sweet, so there’s always a balance of flavours in each bite. Verdict: delicious and absolutely first-rate.
Selfridge’s salted caramel and dark chocolate panettone, 900g: £19.99 Selfridges
Salted caramel and dark chocolate are a winning combo in this household, so we were predisposed favourably. Would this deliver? Last year, we were excited about the pumpkin spice panettone, but there was a metallic aftertaste which just didn’t work unless you dunked the slice of cake in coffee.
This panettone delivered in spades. It was decadent, rich and not unctuous. It’s moreish, with the sweetness and all the flavours perfectly balanced. No missteps here. And Selfridges seems to have sorted the packaging. Unlike last year’s box, this one is proportionate to the size of the product inside it. Verdict: superlative.
Unreviewed panettoni for 2020
We didn’t buy the Dolce Natale, Go Vegan panettone, which was the other favourite from last year. We would absolutely recommend it again though. It’s available in traditional organic wheat or spelt, and chocolate from Greenbay, the Vegankind Supermarket and Ocado for £14.99 and £15.99.
Holland & Barret no longer carries the vegan panettone from last year.
Whatever sweets you decide to indulge during this winter festive season, choose vegan. Animals aren’t objects. They too just want to live.