Impossible Burger

impossible buger

About

I've been following the progress of this beef replacement since I first read about it back in 2011. I am a carnivore but I would love to find a healthful replacement that did not involve the slaughtering of animals. As a child I lived on a cattle ranch. I'll never forget seeing a young calf slaughtered on the ranch when I was in 2nd grade. It was pretty traumatic but somehow I still ate meat. I've always felt if there was something similar I could eat that didn't kill an animal I'd love to use it. I tried going vegetarian on many occasions but I always gravitated back to meat. This article is about the first product I've tried that gives me hope for a plant based meat replacement.

Even if I could just replace ground beef in my burgers, tacos and other recipes with a comparable replacement, I'd be happy. I'd be making a tiny dent in the environmental impact of beef production and a few less animals would die.

Impossible Burger History

The Impossible Foods company was founded back in 2011 by Patrick O. Brown, a Stanford Biochemistry professor.  The start-up headquartered in Redwood City, California.  Mr. Brown's mission in short is to preserve the flavors and nutritional benefits of meat without all the environmental downsides of raising and slaughtering live animals.  According to the company making Impossible Burger takes 75% less water and produces 87% less greenhouse gas than conventional beef.  The Impossible Burger was the first product released by the company in July, 2016.

The product has gone through two recipe incarnations.  You can see the ingredients below of the first and 2nd generation recipe.  The main differences in the second gen product which was launched in January, 2019, is the replacement of wheat with soy protein. There were adjustments to the vitamins added to make the burger more nutritionally equivalent to real beef, a reduction of sodium, a 40% reduction of saturated fat, and overall improvement of the meat-like texture. Additionally the product is now gluten free.

impossible-burger-presented

Impossible Burger Nutrition Comparison

This is a comparison between the original burger recipe, the new recipe, and regular ground beef (80% lean 20% fat). 

  Serving
 Calories  Fat Sat. Fat
 Carbs  Fiber Sodium
Recipe 1          
 4 ounces
 290 17
 14  7  0  580
Recipe 2  4 ounces  240  14  8  9  3  370
Ground Beef
80/20 fat
 4 ounces  307  20  8  0  0  85*

*This is the natural amount of sodium in raw beef and does not include and salt you've added to your burger.

Distribution Of The Impossible Burger

Since 2016 the product was primarily sold to large and mostly high-end restaurants like Momofuku Nishi in New York and Jardiniere in San Francisco.  They continued to expand their distribution to more local smaller restaurants like Mendocino Farms in California, Even burger chain Umami Burger has deemed it their official vegetarian burger and sells two variations; the Classic Impossible Cheeseburger and the Impossible Trufflemaker.

Coming To A Retail Store Near You

Impossible Foods opened up distribution to Whitecastle to add their burger to the establishment's slider offering. More importantly;  the company announced in January, 2019 that they plan to release the product to retail outlets this year. 

The Protein Molecule That Makes This Burger Bleed

The fact that the burger has a "rare beef" appearance is to help lure in the carnivores.  It certainly looks like real beef when cut open.  On the outside, at least with the burger I tried, you could tell it was formed and pressed and that detracted from the look of real beef.  So back to the bleeding feature.

The  ingredient that creates this "bleeding" effect is called heme, or also referred to as "plant blood".  Heme is an organic molecule found in the protein leghemoglobin. Heme is extracted from roots of nitrogen-fixing plants such as fava beans, peas and beans. You can read more about the details here

The heme in Impossible Burger is made using a yeast engineered with the gene for soy leghemoglobin. First, we grow yeast via fermentation. Then, we isolate the soy leghemoglobin (containing heme) from the yeast, and add it to the Impossible Burger, where it combines with other micronutrients to create delicious, meaty flavor.

 

Impossible Burger Ingredients

Original Impossible Ingredients

Everyone wants to know "what's in Impossible Burger".   Here are the ingredients in the original recipe which are still used in many restaurants.

Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (Soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Soy Protein Isolate, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

Impossible 2.0 Ingredients

These are the ingredients which are used in some restaurants and will be in the retail products available sometime in 2019.

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 B1

How Much Does The Impossible Burger Cost?

Here are examples of restaurants and eating establishments that offer Impossible Burgers. Cleary the prices vary significantly depending on where you dine and what options are available. These prices are at the time of this writing, 2019.

Manzanita - Ritz Carlton, NorthStar - Ok, so you don't come here and expect cheap.  I paid $28.00 for my Impossible Cheeseburger including a small side salad. This is the highest price I've seen.  I have to say I really like Manzanita and this is an awesome Ritz Carlton so I only feel a little bit guilty for paying that price.

Umami Burger -  They offer a few variations but expect to pay about $14.00 a burger. The burger is limited to specific locations, see their website.

Momofuku Nishi - A cheeseburger will set you back about $18.00

Jardiniere - The Impossible Burger is only served after 7pm and the cost is about $18.00 with cheese.

Whitecastle - An Impossible Burger Slider goes for the bargain price of $1.99.  They are only available at some locations.

Mendocino Farms - Offers seasonal Impossible Burgers that average about $12.65 a burger.

impossible-burger-open-patty

Downsides To Impossible Burger

I think the most unsettling issue is that you are trading a fully natural product for a highly processed product.  There is a lot of controversy about the healthfulness of unfermented soy products.  The fact is you'll find soy isolates in thousands of packaged and processed food. I try to avoid processed foods in general so at least for me if I add one product to my diet it's probably not a big deal.   You may want to read this article Soy Facts and Myths .

Is It Worth Trying?

Personally, based on trying the burger you see here, I will try the new product when it appears on retail shelves.  I doubt I'll become a complete vegetarian any time soon but I'll do what I can to make a dent in the amount of beef I buy.  If most of us do that we can make a big difference.  You can use the vegetarian burger meat as a replacement in any recipe that calls for ground beef.

Fun Fact about Impossible Burger

What Does Impossible Burger Taste Like?

I'm not sure if my burger was the original recipe or Impossible 2.0.  It had the texture and general looks of a regular ground beef burger.  It was pretty pink in the middle, probably more so than I'd want a real beef burger.  The first thing I detected was salt only because that's not typically the standout on most burgers I've eaten.  My burger was topped with cheddar, had red onion, lettuce, tomato and pickle so I have to say I didn't miss any meat flavor.  In fact, I suggest if I served it to a guest I question if they'd really notice a difference.  I tasted a piece of the burger without any condiments and it simply tasted like a seasoned, close approximation of ground beef. 

Based on my tasting so far I think it tastes similar to ground beef but not exactly.  However if all you are going to do is mix it with a lot of other ingredients, like chili, tacos, casseroles, hamburgers, then I say it's close enough.

impossible-burger-bite

Find An Impossible Burger Near You

Impossible Burger Locations - Impossible Foods has a great tool to help you locate seller of Impossible Burgers near you.

Where Is It Made?

The plant based meat replacement is made in a plant in Redwood City, California as well as a plant in New Jersey.

Nutrition Facts Original Recipe

impossible burger nutrition facts 

Nutrition Facts New Recipe

The new Impossible Burger has 240 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat, 370 grams of sodium, 9 grams of carb and 3 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein.  You can see the full recipe nutrition panel here.

Silicon Valley Impossible Burger Sightings

We just heard today that State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria in Los Altos, CA. is serving an Impossible Foods Vegan Sausage pizza. Wow!  They make the vegan sausage with the Impossible Burger bulk product.

News Events - Impossible Burger New Locations

impossible whopper
 

April 1, 2019 - Burger King announced it will be testing the an "Impossible Whopper" in 59 restaurants in the St. Louis, MO. area starting today.  In house testing at the Corporate level said neither employees or customers could distinguish the difference between the old "meat" version and the new meatless burger.  Should Burger King go nationwide with the rollout that would put Impossible Burger in over 7200 locations nationwide.

Impossible Burger In Retail Bulk Rolls Out Now

September 20, 2019 the bulk burger not-meat is available at some Gelson's Markets in Southern California.  You can check out their store locator.  I'd call ahead to make sure you location has stock.  Impossible Foods intends to have the product nationwide sometime next year, 2020. 

Image Credits - All images taken by Gourmetsleuth.com at Manzanita Restaurant, NorthStar, California.

Nutritional Information - From Impossiblefoods.com

Fun Fact - Information from NPR, A Nation of Meat Eaters

Impossible Foods - Read more about the company, find locations that serve the product.

May, 2019 -  OK, so if you don't trust my humble opinion of the this burger's great burger flavor, check out Food and Wine magazine's Impossible Burger taste test results.  This article includes comparisons with Beyond Beef's burger as well as several other contenders.

author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.