Growing up, it was a tradition in my family to get fast food for dinner on Friday nights to celebrate a successful week.
More often than not, those Friday nights ended up at our local Burger King where I’d always get the same thing: a Whopper, a medium order of French fries, and a Dr. Pepper.
While that combo was the equivalent of a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant to 11-year-old me, adult me tries to follow a healthier — and plant-based — diet that doesn’t come from a drive-through window. At least most of the time.
But when I heard that Burger King planned to roll out a plant-based version of the Whopper, I had to go back and try one.
Could the meatless Impossible Whopper match the taste of the classic?
First, a Quick Primer on the Impossible Burger
Most meatless burgers leave… a lot to be desired. The patties — typically made with black beans, chickpeas, or soy — can be low on protein, but the texture is the biggest turnoff. It turns out the things people crave most in their burgers are the natural red-tinted juices that help give it taste, known as heme.
And that’s what plant-based burgers are missing.
Or was missing, until food technology companies like Impossible Foods found a way to add the “blood” to the patties via leghemoglobin, a plant-based molecule that mimics the heme found in regular beef.
How Does the Impossible Burger Taste?
Though the Impossible Burger was already available at some fast food restaurants — including a slider version at certain White Castle locations— the Impossible Whopper is the first full-sized meatless burger introduced on a mass scale (sorry, LA, Umami Burger doesn’t count… yet).
The fast food chain first offered the Impossible Whopper in a few select locations, but finally rolled it out on August 8 to all of its United States-based locations.
So… what does it taste like?
I was seriously skeptical, but I have to admit, the results are delicious. The Impossible Whopper looks exactly like the regular version, right down to the smell of the flame-broiled patty (thought that smell could be because it’s cooked on the same grill as the regular beef burgers — you can request it be cooked on a separate grill).
The texture and taste of the Impossible patty was pretty much indistinguishable from regular beef, though it did seem like the faux meat had a slight aftertaste that I don’t experience when eating beef. It’s entirely possible that I was looking for a way to declare the Impossible Whopper as the Imposter Whopper, but I’ll be honest and say if I had to do a blind taste test I probably wouldn’t be able to tell which is which.
It’s Still Fast Food, Though
Fast food has an (earned) reputation for being unhealthy, but certain chains have differentiated themselves as healthier options to traditional takeout fare by labeling their menu items with terms like “low-calorie,” “organic,” and “plant-based.”
The problem? This can be a marketing ploy to get customers in the door instead of a real attempt to offer healthier meals. Even extremely unhealthy foods are often considered healthier when given more waist-friendly names.
While Burger King isn’t specifically saying that the Impossible Whopper is a healthier alternative to the regular Whopper. They’re just saying it’s not made of beef.
But compare the nutrition between the faux and real versions and you won’t find a lot of differences.
The original Burger King Whopper packs in 660 calories per sandwich with 40 grams of fat and 28 grams of protein. The Impossible Whopper is nearly identical in calorie count (630) with 34 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein.
The main difference is in the cholesterol: The Impossible Whopper only has 10 milligrams compared to 90 in the real version, but there’s a lot more sodium (1,240 milligrams versus 980 in the regular version).
My Final Verdict
I think Burger King hit a home run by rolling out the Impossible Whopper to the entire country. Is it the healthiest plant-based choice? No. But, might it encourage people to try more plant-based foods? Hopefully!