After successful regional testing, Burger King’s vegetarian Impossible Whopper, made with Impossible Foods‘ proprietary soy-based “meat,” is available nationwide.
Apart from a perhaps-bimonthly Chick-fil-A, I don’t eat fast food anymore. I will still have a very occasional premium fast casual burger—your Five Guys, your Wayback, your Smashburger—but I haven’t eaten mass-market fast food burgers for years. The Whopper was one of the last ones I ate regularly, so I still have a solid context from which to judge this product. I had my first Impossible Whopper this afternoon on Jordan Lane.
The initial presentation is that of a regular Whopper.
Hello, Impossible Whopper. (Click for larger.)
The Impossible patty’s uniform roundness and grill marks only on one side are perhaps slightly unsettling (but how often are you going to take your burger apart?).
A good look at the Impossible patty. (Click for larger.)
Have a bite.
You taste good, Impossible Whopper. (Click for larger.)
Guess what? It tastes like a Whopper. Apart from the slight visual differences noted above, I found the experience indistinguishable from eating a regular Whopper made with beef. I even pinched a bit of the patty off and tried it solo. The gustatory simulation is pretty remarkable, really.
So that’s the cool part.
(Updated with one more cool part, for those to whom this applies: I note no gastrointestinal anomalies 20 hours later. Some soy “meat” preparations have been less than predictable in this regard for me.)
Now, the questionable part: for a great many of us, I’m not sure there’s much point to this product.
To be sure, there is appeal for a certain sort of vegetarian. If you’re a vegetarian for moral or ethical reasons and you’ve also somehow kept a fast food burger craving alive—and I’m not sure that’s much of a Venn diagram—then this is for you.
(And let me add a particular word of caution to people who keep vegetarian for religious reasons or because of allergies: Burger King will prepare an Impossible Whopper without using the common grill, but you must ask them to do so. If you just order one without special instructions, then the patty may contact beef on the grill.)
Beyond those folks, however, it’s hard for me to see the value here. The Impossible Whopper is $1 more than the regular Whopper. It has 630 calories—a whopping (sorry) 30 fewer than the beef counterpart. (To be fair, there are 0 trans fats here and 1.5g in the regular Whopper, 10g cholesterol vs. 90g in the regular, and 4g fiber here vs. 2g in the regular.)
Still, we’re talking about slight needle movement on what absolutely remains a fast food burger. So how is anyone but a die-hard vegetarian who still craves beef a regular consumer of this product?
And how many of those people are there?
Now I didn’t look extensively into exactly how this patty is produced, but there may be a little save-the-earth benefit here. Raising livestock is resource-intensive, and though there are various views, just about everyone agrees that we can’t sustain our current practices indefinitely. Generally speaking, plants are easier.
(I think the ultimate answer there will be cultured meat, actually. Can a cultured meat Whopper be reasonably expected in the near future? I think it can.)
For now, I’ll give the Impossible Whopper:
5/10 as a fast food item
9/10 as a simulacrum