If you’re interested in reducing your animal agriculture footprint, you don’t have to go fully vegan to do so. There are lots of plant-based options that make it easy to swap out meat for a meal, or dairy-free milks for your coffee instead. Last year alone, it’s estimated that 92 billion animals were killed for food globally — any time you choose a vegan product, you aren’t directly contributing to that number.

I’ve been vegan for a while now, and I’m always excited to try the best vegan restaurants in Toronto or the new plant-based products that hit grocery store shelves. The quality of the latter can be hit or miss. I’m cautiously optimistic to sample NotCo, though. The Chile-based company has been around since 2015.

As I dig deeper into their products, I’m intrigued by NotCo’s scientific approach to crafting their faux meats. NotCo uses an AI program (named Giuseppe) that analyzes food at a molecular level to create a supposed can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter level of similarity to their animal-based inspirations. To find out just how close they are to the real thing, I sample NotCo’s burgers, regular and chocolate milk, and chicken burger.

A NotCo double-decker burger on a yellow background

NotCo: NotBurger

Once relegated to discs of puréed legumes binding together a hodgepodge of other veggies, plant-based burgers have seen a major glow-up in recent years. Sinking my teeth into NotCo’s NotBurger, I’m impressed by its similarity to beef. If you told me this was a regular hamburger, I’d believe you.

My taste buds relish in the glistening fat that oozes out of the burger in all the right places. Inside the patty is a fleshy red hue, dyed by beets. A few bites were a bit salty for my taste at times, but what good burger isn't?

While it’s not miles ahead of every other plant-based burger I've tried, it's clear the NotBurger has been fine-tuned to closely mimic classic beef flavours. This might be a staunch carnivore's best bet for navigating Meatless Monday.

Where other veggie burgers might crumble or burn on a grill, the NotBurger chars to perfection. Popping that between two buns with some ketchup, mustard and pickles, I can't get enough.

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NotCo: NotMilk Chocolate

This is easily the best dairy-free chocolate milk I’ve ever tasted. The milk is silky, thick and luscious with a comforting je-ne-sais-quoi that brings me back to my childhood. Sugar is definitely present in the nutrition facts, but at 15 grams per cup, it’s not as overwhelmingly sweet as some other plant-based chocolate milk on the market.

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NotCo: NotMilk Regular

I’m used to the overbearing presence of coconut milk in most plant-based whole milk, so it’s really refreshing to discover it’s not included in NotMilk Regular. Ingredients include pineapple, cabbage juice and pea protein which all join forces to create this creamy brew. I'm not asking questions, just knocking back glass after glass. It’s very close to the flavour profile of milk, but it's not an exact replica. Either way, it’s delicious, especially in a fruit smoothie.

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NotCo: NotChicken Burger

The NotCo NotChicken Burger pack comes with four patties, so I try it on its own and then in a sriracha-mayo sandwich with shredded lettuce. The similarity to real poultry is uncanny, and has me re-reading the package to make sure there's no meat hiding in the ingredients list. I know from experience how difficult it is to perfect vegan chicken, so I'm blown away. When they're baked, a crispy breading gives way to a just-oily-enough, juicy patty that's infectiously chewy. It's a pure, meaty delight.

NotCo: The verdict

Overall, I was impressed with NotCo's line of vegan products. The flavours are some of the closest to their animal inspirations that I've experienced — and even when they aren't an exact match, they're still delicious.