The Impossible Burger, made by Impossible Foods, has quickly taken off in popularity. Rather than accept the plight of being just another veggie burger, the Impossible Burger takes aim at the meat-eating crowd.
Vegans, vegetarians and people who adopt a plant-based diet are quick to try the latest and greatest vegan products. But meat lovers may be a bit skeptical.
What’s in the Impossible Burger? Does it really taste like beef? Is it safe, healthy, and a good source of protein? How does the Impossible Burger 2.0 compare to the original recipe?
If you’ve been curious about the veggie burger that “bleeds” like real meat, here’s what you need to know.
What is the Impossible Burger?
The Impossible Burger is a meatless patty that mimics a beef patty in every way. The creators at Impossible Foods set out to recreate the sensory experience of sinking your teeth into a juicy hamburger, but with plants.
The process of cooking, seasoning and eating the Impossible Burger is like a traditional beef burger.
When uncooked, the Impossible Burger looks like raw ground beef and can be seasoned or marinated like a regular patty. Once it hits the grill, it sizzles like beef and gives off a mouth-watering aroma. And finally, when it’s wedged between two buns and piled high with toppings and sauces, it’s indistinguishable from real meat.
History of the Impossible Burger
You can make a true veggie burger at home with some black beans, brown rice and, obviously, vegetables. You can’t make the Impossible Burger at home.
In 2011, Impossible Foods founder Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D. posed the question, “Why does meat taste like meat?” Simple enough.
The next five years consisted of religiously researching beef burgers at the molecular level. The result? A recreation of the precise texture, flavor and nutrition profile of ground beef using only plant-based ingredients.
The Impossible Burger launched in 2016, but the geniuses at Impossible Foods didn’t stop there. In 2019, the new and improved Impossible Burger 2.0 made its debut.
Is the Impossible Burger Safe to Eat?
The Impossible Burger looks, feels and tastes like no veggie burger you’ve ever tried before, so it’s natural to question food that’s completely new to you and to the market.
The safety of the Impossible Burger was a major concern at first. Impossible Foods uses an ingredient, soy leghemoglobin (a.k.a. heme), that hasn’t previously been tested for safety. Now, we know that the Impossible Burger is safe, but it was a long, winding road for Impossible Foods.
According to a 2017 press release, Impossible Foods placed the novel ingredient in front of a panel of food safety and allergy experts in 2014 and again in 2017. Both panels unanimously found the ingredient to comply with GRAS standards.
In 2015, the FDA was wary to declare the new ingredient as safe for human consumption and urged the company to submit more information on heme. Despite the FDA’s request, the company brought the Impossible Burger to the market based on third-party expert testing. The New York Times brought the controversy to light in 2017 with concern that Impossible Foods rushed to the market with a product that wasn’t FDA approved.
Without GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the FDA, a product could be pulled off the shelves. To ensure that the key ingredient of the Impossible Burger is 100% safe, Impossible Foods volunteered their product to be tested on animals.
In response to the positive results of the testing, the FDA sent Impossible Foods a no-questions GRAS letter in July 2018. This was a major proponent in bringing the meat replacement to consumers and ensuring everyone that yes, the Impossible Burger is safe to eat and FDA approved.
Impossible Burger Ingredients
The Impossible Burger has an impossibly short ingredients list. Almost one-third of them being vitamins and minerals.
Here is the full ingredients list of the Impossible Burger 2.0:
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
Somehow all of those plant-based ingredients come together to replicate meat. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ingredients and what they do.
Impossible Burger Main Ingredients Broken Down:
Soy Protein Concentrate
With the launch of the Impossible Burger 2.0, Impossible Foods decided to swap out wheat protein with soy protein. This swap makes the burger beefier, higher in protein quality and higher in fiber.
The Impossible Burger has both the texture and protein content like a beef burger due to this ingredient.
As you can imagine, soy protein concentrate contains soy. This is the major allergen the Impossible Burger. Because Impossible Foods removed wheat protein, the burger is now gluten-free.
This is likely the largest source of saturated fat in the Impossible Burger. However, a beef burger is juicy and somewhat greasy. Coconut oil satisfies those characteristics of a good burger.
The original recipe did not contain sunflower oil, but the Impossible Burger 2.0 has 40% less saturated fat thanks to this ingredient. Sunflower oil also reduces the amount of total fat in the burger.
Like wheat protein, potato protein gives the burger its texture and protein-packed nutrition profile.
It’s exactly what it sounds like — protein from potatoes! It’s similar in nature to other protein isolates derived from plants, like peas, rice, and mushroom. Potato protein is generally vegan as well as kosher and halal certified. There are no animal proteins nor gluten in potato proteins.
Potato protein does not have as many allergy concerns as products like soy, dairy, or wheat.
The Impossible Burger 1.0 amazed consumers with its realistic flavor and texture, but Impossible Foods wasn’t happy with the dryness. Some critical reviews critiqued the burger for being too dry, so Impossible Foods set out to make the burger juicier.
With the help of methylcellulose, the new burger is easier to handle when it’s raw and juicier to bite into when it’s cooked. Methylcellulose is “a plant-based culinary binder commonly found in ice cream, sauces, and jams.”
2% or less of Leghemoglobin (Soy)
Although Impossible Foods uses an extremely small amount of soy leghemoglobin, or “heme,” this ingredient plays a huge role in the sensory experience in the meat-like Impossible Burger.
Humans have consumed heme for thousands of years. It occurs naturally in all living organisms, including plants and animals. This molecule is high in iron, which is why both the Impossible Burger and regular beef patties are high in iron.
There are two types of heme: myoglobin, which is found in animal muscle, and leghemoglobin, which is found in nitrogen-fixing plants and legumes. The Impossible Burger uses heme from soybeans.
Vitamins and Minerals (2% or less)
Almost one-third of the Impossible Burger ingredients list is made of vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
- Vitamin B6
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Vitamin B12 is especially important to note, as this vitamin can be difficult to obtain on a plant-based diet.
Impossible Burger Nutrition and Dietary Concerns
Impossible Foods not only created a veggie burger that’s indistinguishable from beef, but it also stacks up against meat’s nutrition. How do they do it? Let’s look at the facts.
Impossible Burger Nutrition Facts
Impossible Foods state the nutrition facts for the Impossible Burger clearly on their website.
The Impossible Burger 2.0 is even more nutritious than its predecessor with 30% less sodium and 40% less saturated. Plus, the new recipe is higher in fiber, vitamins and mineral.
For every 4 oz (113g) serving of the Impossible Burger, the nutrition profile* is as follows:
- 240 calories
- 14g fat (18%)
- 8g saturated fat (40%)
- 0g trans fat
- 0mg cholesterol
- 370mg sodium (16%)
- 9g carbohydrates (3%)
- 3g fiber (11%)
- <1g sugar
- 19g protein (31%)
The Impossible Burger is also a significant source of the following vitamins and minerals:
- Calcium: 170mg (15%)
- Iron: 4.2mg (25%)
- Potassium: 610mg (15%)
- Thiamin: 28.2mg (2350%)
- Riboflavin: 0.4mg (30%)
- Niacin: 5.3mg (35%)
- Vitamin B6: 0.4mg (25%)
- Folate: 115mcg DFE (30%)
- Vitamin B12: 3mcg (130%)
- Phosphorus: 180mg (15%)
- Zinc: 5.5mg (50%)
*The daily value percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Impossible Burger Nutrition vs. Beef Nutrition
The Impossible Burger rivals real beef on every level, including nutrition.
A 3-ounce ground beef patty contains the following nutrition facts:
- 251 calories
- 18.5g fat
- 0g carbohydrates
- 0g fiber
- 65mg sodium
- 0g sugar
- 20g protein
As you can see, the Impossible Burger is lower in calories and fat, but higher in sodium, carbohydrates and sugar. The Impossible Burger is also higher in dietary fiber.
The Impossible Burger contains roughly the same amount of protein as a traditional ground beef patty.
Where the Impossible Burger really stands out against beef is its vitamin and mineral content. The Impossible Burger contains more calcium, iron, thiamin, folate and zinc. It contains roughly the same about of vitamin B12.
Let’s not forget about cholesterol. People who are trying to lower their cholesterol and promote good heart health will be happy to know that the Impossible Burger is cholesterol-free.
What’s interesting is that the Impossible Burger is nutritionally closer to a beef patty than other veggie patty. An 85g veggie patty contains significantly less calories, protein, fat, iron and vitamin B12.
Impossible Burger Allergens
Impossible Foods strive to make their products as allergen friendly as possible, but the Impossible Burger is not entirely allergen-free.
The major allergen in the Impossible Burger is soy. While the new recipe is gluten-free and wheat-free, the burger is not soy-free.
Soy protein concentrate is the main source of soy in the Impossible Burger, but it also contains Soy Leghemoglobin.
However, the Impossible Burger is free of other common allergens, including gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish.
The Impossible Burger also recently achieved its Halal and Kosher certifications.
Is the Impossible Burger Vegan?
Technically, yes, the Impossible Burger is vegan and vegetarian. There are no animal products used in the Impossible Burger ingredients. It is safe to eat for people who don’t consume animal products.
However, Impossible Foods tested heme on rats as explained in this letter to their community. Impossible Foods felt this was a necessary action to receive GRAS status from the FDA.
People who don’t buy products that were tested on animals may not feel comfortable supporting this product.
The fact still remains that the Impossible Burger is free of animal-derived ingredients.
What Makes the Impossible Burger Unique
Part of what makes the Impossible Burger radically different from other veggie burgers is its use of plant-based heme.
Impossible Foods states that “The heme molecule in plant-based heme is atom-for-atom identical to the heme molecule found in meat. It’s what makes the Impossible Burger so rich and decadent.”
Heme is basically what makes the Impossible Burger taste like meat. Since other veggie burgers, like the Beyond Burger, don’t contain this meat-like ingredient, they just don’t appeal to people who want a hearty, meaty burger.
Veggie burgers can taste amazing, but it depends on who you ask. Vegans and vegetarians may be satisfied with a classic black bean burger, but try getting a meat eater to replace a juicy slab of beef for some beans and veggies. It just won’t stick.
What makes the Impossible Burger so different is that Impossible Foods’ target consumer is the meat-loving carnivores. They’ve given the masses what they want: A meat replica that tastes identical but has less of an impact on the planet.
Sustainability of the Impossible Burger
The Impossible Burger is significantly more eco-friendly than beef. One of the main reasons that consumer food trends are pushing towards plant-based alternatives is because of the lesser environmental toll.
Impossible Foods asserts that, “Compared to cows, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions.”
Impossible Burger Reviews
Of course Impossible Foods think their product is delicious, but is the Impossible Burger really juicy, meaty and mouth-watering?
The folks at Revelist tried the Impossible Burger 1.0 when it debuted at Momofuku Nishi in New York City. The Italian-Korean fusion restaurant was packed due to the debut, but it was worth the wait. The Revelist rep—who is a full-fledged meat-eater—gave a promising review: “Given the option of a regular burger or an Impossible Burger, I’d choose the latter eight out of 10 times—because it’s that good to my palate and it’s that good for the planet.”
No matter how environmentally conscious a burger may be, no one will eat it if it doesn’t taste amazing. There were some mixed reviews about the flavor and texture of the Impossible Burger 1.0 (can’t please everyone, right?), but the Impossible Burger 2.0 lives up to its impossible promise.
Does the Impossible Burger Taste Like Beef?
Reviewers were quick to notice the upgrade in taste and texture of the Impossible Burger 2.0. The Thrillist staff flew to Las Vegas where the new recipe was debuted to see if the Impossible Burger 2.0 actually tastes like meat. It turns out, the Impossible Burger 2.0 could trick meat eaters into believing it’s real.
The Real Simple staff, including a vegetarian and a meat-eater, tried the Impossible Burger and found that it tasted eerily similar to ground beef. The vegetarian concluded, “I found it too similar to ground beef, to the point where I felt like I was eating a real burger.”
Skeptical BuzzFeed staff members couldn’t believe that the Impossible Burger wasn’t real beef. Some predicted that Impossible Foods is the future. One of the taste testers joked, “This is me becoming a vegetarian.”
It’s not just magazines and online media companies raving about the Impossible Burger, however. Bloggers, YouTubers and social media influencers have spread awareness with taste tests, reviews and more online. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
Where to Find the Impossible Burger
As of 2019, the Impossible Burger has expanded to more than 5,000 restaurant locations across the United States, Hong Kong and Macau. Their ground “beef” is used in a variety of products, including burgers, tacos and more.
Where is the Impossible Burger Sold?
The Impossible Burger is sold in many national restaurant chains across the United States. Some of them include Umami Burger, White Castle, Fatburger and Dave and Buster’s.
See if the Impossible Burger is available near you using the Impossible Foods store locator.
How Much Does the Impossible Burger Cost?
The price of the Impossible Burger varies per restaurant and location. The price also depends on the size of the burger.
Umami Burger charges $16, but you get two Impossible Burger patties. White Castle, however, charges $1.99 per slider, but the portions are very small.
Here are some other examples*:
- Fatburger — $9
- Dave and Busters — $14.99
- Punch Bowl Social — $13
- Charleston’s Restaurant — $15
- B Spot — $9.99
- Dog Haus Biergarten — $8.99
*Prices may vary per location and menu item.
Can You Buy the Impossible Burger in Stores?
The Impossible Burger is currently only available for purchase in select restaurants. It’s expected to hit stores in 2019.
Reasons to Consume the Impossible Burger
Impossible Foods released a sustainability report in 2018 that details all their efforts to create the world’s most realistic veggie burger in a sustainable fashion.
Some of the highlights and reasons why you should try the Impossible Burger include:
- Taste: In a blind taste test, about half of meat-eating consumers prefer the Impossible Burger based on taste alone. Their goal is to beat beef burgers decisively in blind taste tests.
- Sustainability: If Americans replace 50% of ground beef consumption with Impossible Foods products, there would be a drastic reduction in carbon gas emissions, water use and land use.
- Transparency: Impossible Foods aims to be the most transparent food company in the water. They publicly list every single ingredient and where they’re sourced from.
Final Thoughts on the Impossible Burger
The Impossible Burger wasn’t created exclusively for vegans, so to all the meat-eaters out there: Give the Impossible Burger a try.
Vegans are welcome to enjoy the eerily meat-like burger, too, but the reality is that they make up only 6% of the U.S. population.
Impossible Foods caters to the other 94% who love a thick, juicy cut of beef—not the “rabbit food” that they think vegans eat. If you’re a part of that 94%, this burger is for you.
Listen, most vegans don’t give up meat because they don’t like the taste of meat. They go vegan for all kinds of reasons (i.e. health, ethical, environmental, etc.) that have nothing to do with taste.
I think everyone can agree that meat tastes good.
If the Impossible Burger succeeds at tasting like meat, then it’s a win-win for everyone. No animals were harmed, fewer resources were required and your tastebuds were still happy.