I tried the Greggs vegan sausage roll – here’s what I learned

Rather than an aberration, it’s the very essence of a high street bake.

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Why is everyone talking about the Greggs vegan sausage roll? There are a few reasons. First, the mildly appropriative obsession with the cheap bakery chain among the British media. Second, the overwhelming enthusiasm of the British public to read about it. And third, Piers Morgan. Get an infamous reactionary to scream online about Something New Happening That Young People Like and your PR operation’s golden. Much like the glistening pastry shell of a freshly reheated bake.

When Greggs announced the newcomer to its menu – with a trailer and everything – the Good Morning Britain host (who is, incidentally, made entirely of ham) tweeted that: “Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns.”

To which the greatest press operation on the English high street replied: “Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you.”

Cue sales.

This was certainly the case at the Greggs branch on the Strand near the New Statesman offices this lunchtime, the day the vegan sausage rolled into our lives. A queue out of the door ended in every vegan-curious punter looking crestfallen at the empty shelf (apart from one elderly lady who was loudly baffled by the only remaining roll: steak and stilton. Wait till she hears the latest news).

A 15-minute wait to heat up the vegan sausage rolls exposed the true devotees, who had paid in advance to reserve their taste of the exotic new snack. When dozens finally arrived, around five or so fools who hadn’t put down-payments on their pastries watched them rapidly disappear. More tension hasn’t been felt in a Greggs since the great pasty tax of 2012.

Most who were enquiring after the vegan sausage rolls or managed to get their hands on one simply wanted to try it – and many were buying them in conjunction with meaty pastries.

This makes perfect sense when you actually taste the roll – as a meat eater I can confirm that it’s almost exactly like a Greggs sausage roll. The pastry is slightly paler, and there’s perhaps a little less inside that feels gristly or gets stuck in your teeth, but it’s very much the essence of a Greggs bake: greasy pastry and nondescript grey matter.

That’s why the fuss over it is misguided (yes, yes, I know I’m participating in it). It’s tempting to think something vegan would sully our much-loved roster of fast food high street snacks with purity. But actually, anyone who’s tasted it will know it’s a classic, not an aberration. This is the future, and it looks very much like the past.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

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