What's the Impossible Burger? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Plant-Based Patty

What's the Impossible Burger? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Plant-Based Patty
Facebook / Impossible Burger

By now, you've likely heard about the plant-based burger that looks, tastes, and—yep—even bleeds like a classic meat patty. The Impossible Burger, with a name alone that elicits intrigue, has been a topic of incessant chatter (and a source of Instagram #content) since its debut in 2016. And yet despite the buzz surrounding this vegan alternative, we're left with so many questions. How's it made? What's it taste like? Is it *actually* worth the hype?

In the months following its 2019 revamp (more on that in a bit), nearly 5,000 trendy eateries and fast food chains alike adopted the burger—with some critics even touting the culinary innovation as better than its predecessor—that is, actual meat. So I set out on a journalistic mission to answer this: Have they made the impossible possible?

What is the impossible burger?

It's a plant-based patty that tastes and looks nearly identical to beef. The vegan-friendly substitute is also free of dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, shellfish, and wheat, and it's certified as kosher and halal.

What does it taste like?

As a meat-eater and diehard Shake Shack fan, I was skeptical that the Impossible Burger would stack up. But you know what? It exceeded my expectations in taste, appearance, and texture. Would I be able discern the difference in a side-by-side taste test? Sure, but I'd say it's a 95 percent match. Seriously.

In fact, a longtime vegetarian friend of mine was grossed out by the Impossible burger because it did come so close to the real thing—the "meat texture" freaked her out. She suggested that "true veggies" might not be fans as a result, which makes sense. Guess it's a case by case basis.

I did notice a slightly weird after taste, so pro tip: Wash it down with a milkshake and a few fries.

What are the ingredients?

In 2019, Impossible Foods premiered a "tastier, juicier, and better than ever" version of the burger. Here's what's in it:

Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

Is it healthy?

It's packed with important nutrients like iron, thiamine, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 and clocks in at just 240 calories—not bad!

However, it's important to note that the longterm effects of this man-made "meat" are still unknown. The fact is, they're genetically modifying yeast, and that comes with a whole host of questions and some concerns. But the brand is committed to safety and has fully complied with the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations regulation.

"The FDA reviewed our data and gave us a 'no-questions letter' validating the safety of our soy leghemoglobin," the website says. "This required rigorous testing, including a stringent rat feeding study—which found no adverse effects even at consumption levels extraordinarily higher than a human would ever consume."

The heme used in the Impossible Burger is the same heme we've all been eating for hundreds of years—just found in animal meat and other foods. So it's probably fine, but stay tuned.

How does the new impossible burger differ from the original?

Per Popular Science, the burger's key ingredient heme—which gives it that meat-like flavor—requires a protein for binding it together. Up until the January 2019 release of the new and improved patty, the brand used wheat protein. And as such, the recipe was not gluten free.

However, the Impossible Burger 2.0 has replaced wheat protein with soy and created a more nutritious product in the process. It has 30 percent less sodium, 40 percent less saturated fat, and the same amount of protein as the ground beef derived from cows.

What's the origin story?

Stanford Biochemistry professor and Impossible Foods founder Patrick O. Brown began an 18-month sabbatical in 2009 and set out to solve what he called the "world's largest environmental problem:" industrial meat production, Pacific Standard reports. By 2011, Brown had launched the company and debuted the Impossible Burger just five years later.

Where can you buy one?

It's currently on menus at thousands of restaurants, so I'm going to save us both the time and energy by not listing out every last one. But here are a few popular chains that carry it: BareBurger, Burger King, White Castle, Fatburger, Umami Burger, Applebees, and Qdoba.

Find more locations here.

Can you buy it and cook at home?

Not yet, but soon! Impossible Foods will make its debut in grocery stores later this year.

Are there competitors?

You betcha. Beyond Meat has its own line of plant-based alternatives, including a similar meat-like patty, and has become the Impossible Burger's number one competitor.

However, up until recently, the companies navigated the market from opposite sides. Impossible Foods focused on restaurants while Beyond Meat monopolized the retail space. Now that their strategies have intersected—the Beyond Burger has made its way to menus and the Impossible Burger will land in grocery stores later this year—their rivalry may come to a head.

How does it differ from real meat?

Besides the fact that it's vegan-friendly and isn't an exact flavor match, there are a number of distinctions. Like other plant-based foods, opting for an impossible burger over the classic beef patty is kinder to the earth. In fact, Fast Company reports it has an 89 percent smaller carbon footprint. It also uses 87 percent less water, 96 percent less land, and decreases water contamination by 92 percent.

It's also healthier with than most animal meat burgers with less calories and fat. Plus, it's got zero cholesterol.

How does it differ from other veggie burgers?

Traditional veggie burgers taste like, well, veggies, whereas the Impossible Burger mimics that beef flavor I can't stop rambling about.

Does it *only* come in burger form?

I'm glad you asked. The site advertises Impossible meatballs, empanadas, baos, tacos, pizza, chili cheese fries, and more.

WTF is this “bleeding” thing?

It's not actually bleeding, but it does have the same "juicy sizzle" as beef. The heme—yep, there's that ingredient again—is not only what helps it taste like meat, it's what mimics the experience, too. They're just trying to make the alternative as authentic as possible, and clearly, it's working.

What are people saying about it?

To put it simply: Everyone is really into it. Consumers are not only infatuated with the look, flavor, and feel, the Impossible Burger is prime social media content. What can I say? It's Instagram's world and we're just living in it.

Here are a few Twitter reviews:

A West
I had my first Impossible Burger. The future is now.

What's the Impossible Burger? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Plant-Based Patty

this hospital cafeteria has the impossible burger, damn i might fuck around & break my leg later idk

What's the Impossible Burger? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Plant-Based Patty

i had an impossible burger today. this is vegan guys. MY MIND IS BLOWN.

And of course, the 'grams:


What's the Impossible Burger? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Plant-Based Patty

That #ImpossibleBurger - #vegan plant based patty made to taste just like beef is absolutely incredible!!! Loved this version with sherry onions and truffle cream at @saxonandparole which went wonderfully with fries and a #caesarsalad with #bottarga. Hope @impossible_foods starts selling in the UK too!!! . . . #foodie #foodporn #foodstagram #nyceats #nycfoodie #nycfood #nycfoodporn #eaterny #forkyeah #vegetarian #burger #fries

What's the Impossible Burger? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Plant-Based Patty

Impossible burger refuel after 90 minutes of cardio. Delicious!! Thank you science.#impossibleburger #brooksidebagels

What's the Impossible Burger? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Plant-Based Patty

An impossibly good night! New friends found. #impossibleburger #goodfood #friends #newfriends #oldfriends #happy #grateful