Impossible Burgers Are Now in Stores—Here's How They Compare to Beef
This week, Impossible Burger launched a line of ground plant-based meat and is currently testing it in select grocery stores in Los Angeles and New York City. To give us a better idea of the product, they sent us a sample to try for ourselves. Coincidentally, the day they sent it, I was planning to make beef meatballs for dinner. So, naturally, I decided it would be fun to do a taste test experiment on my four roommates (two of which are also dietitians, I should mention) to see how much Impossible Meats really look, smell, taste and cook like beef. Spoiler alert: The results will surprise you.
Nutritional Comparison: Impossible Burger vs Beef
Though one is plant-based and one is animal-based, the nutritional comparison of impossible meat and ground beef may surprise you. Here is a quick nutrition comparison between the two:
What Does Impossible Burger "Meat" Taste Like?
From the minute I opened the package, the Impossible Burger ground "meat" looked eerily similar to beef. It was pink, plump and grainy. So far, their claims were holding up. Once I started mixing the two types of meatballs, the impossible burger had a notably different smell than the ground beef, but the texture was spot on. Regardless, I seasoned them identically and even measured out the spices, a rarity for me. Once they were balled up and on their respective baking sheets, they were nearly impossible to tell apart (pun intended).
After cooking the beef (and "beef") to a safe temperature, I removed the meatballs from the oven and called in my subjects. Visually, there was nothing that would give away the plant-based impostor. Even cut in half, the Impossible Burger almost looked meatier than the beef. Not to mention, it had slightly more juice in and around it. I can confirm, it really does "bleed" like meat. The roommates were still at a loss for which meatballs were the real deal.
Then, it was on to the taste test. If there were any big perceivable difference in the products, this is what would give it away. Each taste tester (excluding myself—I knew too much) tried half of each kind of meatball and were asked to guess which was real meat. The most shocking part: most people answered incorrectly. Of the four people that tried the meatballs, three guessed that the Impossible Burger was real meat. Long story short: when they say it looks and tastes like meat, they seriously mean it.
So Impossible Burgers are just like meat, and they are starting to distribute to grocery stores. So what does this mean? We dove into the pros and cons of this trending product.
Impossible Burger Pros
Until now, Impossible Burgers were only something you could get at a restaurant, if you were feeling daring. Now, they are becoming more widely available for consumers to purchase and bring home. Climate change is getting more and more difficult to ignore, and our food choices can have strong implications for the planet. Meat, and beef in particular, creates around 34 times the climate pollution of beans and lentils, pound for pound. Additionally, other veggie burgers are not typically high in protein and are clearly far from the real deal. If you are a carnivore who wants to eat in a more climate-concious way, but can't go without the flavor and feel of beef, these may be a good choice for you.
Impossible Burger Cons
Though the product is, in a strange way, impressive, it doesn't necessarily mean it is healthy. Even though the Impossible Burger is plant-based and nutritionally comparable to beef, it is still a highly processed food. Here are the main ingredients: soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, methycellulose, yeast, dextrose, modified food starch and more. The soy and potato concentrates are the main reason why it is so high in protein compared with other veggie burgers. The fat from coconut oil and sunflower oil help the burger sizzle and have a juicy, burger-like mouthfeel. The subsequent unpronounceable ingredients are mostly to preserve texture and add flavor. Another main ingredient of these surprising patties is something already found in our bodies: heme. Heme helps our blood carry oxygen to where it needs to go and is naturally found in animal products. In short, this is what makes the patty look and taste like beef. Just because a food is highly processed doesn't make it inherently bad, but many highly processed foods bear the risk of having unintended negative health consequences compared to the less processed, whole food products they are imitating (remember margarine?).
Related: Is The Impossible Burger Healthy?
The Bottom Line
If you cannot make it a meal without the taste of meat, Impossible Burgers may be right for you. For those who are already down with working in some vegetarian and vegan meals, it may be worth making your own plant-based swaps. Lucky for you, we have a Veganize It episode all about how to make vegan meatballs just as delicious and satisfying as the original. Plus, trying to pull one over on your friends and family is a blast, I can speak from experience.