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The Impossible Burger is a plant-based alternative to traditional meat-based burgers. It’s said to mimic the flavor, aroma, and texture of beef.

Some claim that the Impossible Burger is more environmentally friendly than beef-based burgers, while others argue that certain ingredients in the Impossible Burger may not be optimal for your health.

I sampled the Impossible Burger and will discuss my thoughts on the taste and texture of this popular meat substitute in this review.

This article will also explore what the Impossible Burger is, what it’s made of, and whether it’s nutritionally superior to beef-based burgers.

Pros

  • sustainable alternative to beef burgers
  • vegan-friendly and gluten-free
  • similar to beef-based burgers in terms of taste and texture
  • contains several important nutrients, including vitamin B12, folate, and thiamine
  • offers the same amount of protein as 80% lean beef
  • versatile and easy to prepare

Cons

  • limited research available on long-term safety of soy leghemoglobin
  • contains some common food allergens, such as soy
  • made with genetically modified ingredients
  • higher in sodium than regular beef

The Impossible Burger was created by Impossible Foods, a company Patrick O. Brown founded in 2011.

Brown is a scientist and professor emeritus at Stanford University in California. He holds a medical degree and a PhD and has worked as a research scientist for many years.

Through conferences, Brown tried raising awareness about how using animals for food harms the environment. However, this had little effect, so he created a business that produced plant-based alternatives to popular animal products.

Impossible Foods now offers a variety of products, including plant-based burger patties, ground sausage, nuggets, meatballs, and pork.

Its signature product, the Impossible Burger, aims to perfectly mimic the taste of beef.

Impossible Burger in packagingShare on Pinterest
Photography by Rachael Link, MS, RD

Using carefully selected ingredients, Impossible Foods created a plant-based burger that some people say perfectly resembles the taste, aroma, and texture of beef.

The ingredients list for the Impossible Burger is as follows:

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, mixed tocopherols (antioxidant), soy protein isolate, zinc gluconate, thiamine hydrochloride (vitamin B1), niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12.

The original Impossible Burger was made with wheat protein. However, in 2019 the company introduced a new recipe featuring the following changes:

  • The burger contains soy protein instead of wheat protein and is certified gluten-free.
  • It contains a plant-based culinary binder called methylcellulose to improve texture.
  • The company replaced a portion of the coconut oil with sunflower oil to reduce saturated fat content.

Heme, or soy leghemoglobin, is the ingredient said to set the Impossible Burger apart from other plant-based burgers. It adds to the flavor and color of the burger and makes it “bleed” like a beef burger does when cut.

It’s also perhaps the most controversial ingredient in the Impossible Burger.

Unlike the heme found in beef, the heme in the Impossible Burger is engineered by adding soy protein to genetically engineered yeast (1).

Though it is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some people have raised concern about the potential health effects of soy leghemoglobin (1, 2).

Currently, Impossible Foods products are available at a variety of restaurants, fast-food establishments, and grocery stores throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Macau, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates.

You can cook and prepare the Impossible Burger just like regular ground beef.

Share on Pinterest
Photography by Rachael Link, MS, RD

The brick form contains three servings per pack and can be separated and shaped into individual patties or crumbled and used in place of ground beef in sauces or fillings.

It’s also available in frozen or refrigerated preformed patties for additional convenience.

You can grill, saute, or bake these patties and cook them to varying degrees of doneness depending on your preference, as you would regular meat.

The “meat” is fully cooked once it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). You can also evaluate the firmness or color of the patty to determine whether it’s cooked to your desired doneness.

Though I’ve tried the Impossible Burger while dining out in the past, this was my first time making it at home on my own.

Forming the patties and preparing the burgers was very simple, and the texture of the uncooked patties reminded me of regular ground beef.

Share on Pinterest
Photography by Rachael Link, MS, RD

They also held together very well during and after cooking, which can be a common issue with other meat substitutes and veggie burgers.

The patties darkened from pink to brown and formed a charred crust during cooking, similarly to regular burgers.

I was impressed by the taste of the burger, which was smoky, rich, and meat-like. As a vegetarian, I felt that it was definitely a good substitute for meat and was satisfying enough for a main meal.

My boyfriend, who regularly eats meat and is a self-proclaimed burger connoisseur, also felt that it was pretty close to regular burgers in terms of taste and texture.

Though he noted it wasn’t an exact match and wasn’t as juicy or flavorful as a real burger when eaten on its own, the toppings we added masked any major differences.

In February 2021, Impossible Foods reduced the suggested retail price for products sold in grocery stores by about 20%, to $5.49 for a 12-ounce (340-gram) package.

However, the price can vary depending on where you buy it, with some retailers even charging up to $15 for a 12-ounce (340-gram) package.

The cost for Impossible Foods products in restaurants can also range quite a bit and depends on the overall price point of the restaurant, as well as the other ingredients that are used.

For example, an Impossible Whopper from Burger King typically costs $5–$6, but an Impossible Burger from a more pricey restaurant could cost closer to $20–$25.

There are nutritional differences between the Impossible Burger and beef-based burgers.

The following chart compares a 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of Impossible Burger to an equal-size serving of ground beef (3, 4, 5).

Keep in mind that this nutritional information does not account for additional ingredients such as cooking oil, toppings, seasonings, or buns.

The Impossible Burger80% lean ground beef90% lean ground beef
Calories230287199
Total fat13 grams22.6 grams11.3 grams
Carbs9 grams0 grams0 grams
Protein19 grams19.4 grams22.6 grams
Fiber5 grams0 grams0 grams
Added sugarless than 1 gram0 grams0 grams
Sodium16% of the Daily Value (DV)3% of the DV3% of the DV
Vitamin B12130% of the DV101% of the DV104% of the DV
Folate20% of the DV2% of the DV2% of the DV
Thiamine30% of the DV4% of the DV4% of the DV
Riboflavin15% of the DV13% of the DV13% of the DV
Niacin50% of the DV30% of the DV36% of the DV
Zinc50% of the DV43% of the DV49% of the DV
Iron25% of the DV12% of the DV14% of the DV
Seleniumnot listed31% of the DV34% of the DV

There are a few key differences between Impossible Burger meat and beef. For starters, the Impossible Burger contains the same amount of protein as 80% lean ground beef and is lower in calories and total fat.

However, 90% lean ground beef is slightly lower in calories and fat and contains more protein than the Impossible Burger.

Additionally, the Impossible Burger contains fiber and carbs, whereas ground beef does not contain any carbs.

Another noticeable difference is that the Impossible Burger beats beef in its content of many vitamins and minerals, such as folate, B12, thiamine, and iron.

However, it’s important to note that these nutrients are added to the product, whereas the nutrients found in beef are naturally occurring. Beef also contains vitamin K2, which isn’t found in the Impossible Burger (or other unfermented plant foods) (4, 5, 6).

Impossible Burgers also contain a high amount of added salt, with 16% of the DV for sodium in one 4-ounce (113-gram) serving.

Impossible Burgers offer several health benefits.

High in important nutrients

The Impossible Burger contains an impressive amount of nutrients because vitamins and minerals are added during processing. These include:

  • iron
  • zinc
  • niacin
  • riboflavin
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin B6

Some of these nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, and zinc, are especially important for people following plant-based diets, including vegans and vegetarians.

Vegans and vegetarians are at a greater risk of developing deficiencies in these nutrients than people who consume animal products (7, 8, 9).

One quality that really sets the Impossible Burger apart from other vegan and vegetarian foods enriched with iron is that it provides heme iron. Your body can better absorb heme iron than the non-heme iron you typically get from plant foods (10).

Moreover, soy leghemoglobin has been shown to have the same bioavailability as the iron found in meat, so it’s a potentially important source of highly absorbable iron for those who don’t consume animal products (11).

The iron in the Impossible Burger is FDA-approved for use in food, although its long-term safety is still unknown.

Suitable for plant-based diets

The Impossible Burger is a good choice if you enjoy the taste of beef burgers but want to limit your intake of animal products.

In addition to being suitable for both vegetarian and vegan diets, the Impossible Burger contains nutrients that many plant-based diets lack, such as vitamin B12 and heme iron.

Given that certain restaurants and fast-food establishments offer the Impossible Burger, it’s a tasty and easy on-the-go meal choice for those following plant-based diets.

May be a more environmentally friendly choice

The Impossible Foods website claims that producing this plant-based burger uses roughly 92% less water, generates 91% fewer greenhouse gases, and requires 96% less land than producing conventional ground beef from cows (12).

Indeed, research shows that cattle farming is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions in the livestock industry (13).

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming contribute to climate change. This leads many climate experts to recommend that people eat a more plant-based diet in order to reduce pressure on the environment (14, 15).

Although the Impossible Burger offers some benefits, there are some downsides to consider as well.

Concerns over plant-based heme

Although soy leghemoglobin — the heme used in Impossible Burgers — has been deemed GRAS by the FDA, its long-term safety is unknown.

Current studies on soy leghemoglobin have been conducted only in animals and over short periods.

For example, a 28-day study in rats found that those fed the equivalent of 750 mg/kg per day of soy leghemoglobin, which is more than 100 times greater than the 90th percentile estimated daily intake in humans, had no negative effects (11).

However, it’s currently unknown whether this manufactured compound is safe for humans to eat over prolonged periods.

Contains potentially allergenic ingredients

The original Impossible Burger recipe contained wheat and soy, both of which are common food allergens.

However, since the company introduced the new recipe in 2019, the burger now uses soy protein instead of wheat protein and is certified gluten-free, making it a good option for people with gluten-related disorders or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Still, the Impossible Burger contains other ingredients that some people can’t tolerate, such as soy.

Though it is a less common allergen than milk or wheat, soy is considered one of the eight most common food allergens for both adults and children (16).

Concerns over GMOs

Impossible Foods is open about the fact that Impossible Burgers contain GMO ingredients such as soy leghemoglobin and soy protein.

Most scientists agree that GMO foods are safe. However, some are concerned about the use of GMO crops that are resistant to commonly used herbicides such as glyphosate and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) (17, 18).

Glyphosate has been linked to potentially harmful effects on humans, plants, and animals, leading many experts to demand further research on its possible hazards to both humans and the environment (19, 20, 21).

For example, glyphosate has been shown to harm hormonal function and gut flora, and some studies have linked it to certain cancers, such as leukemia (22, 23).

If taste and convenience are your main concerns, the Impossible Burger may be a good choice for you.

It’s also a great choice for vegans and vegetarians, because all products from Impossible Foods are free of animal products and byproducts.

Though the Impossible Burger was originally made with wheat protein, it now contains soy protein instead, so it’s a good fit for those following a gluten-free diet.

Additionally, because it requires fewer natural resources and generates fewer greenhouse gases than beef, the Impossible Burger is a sustainable and eco-friendly option for those who are looking to reduce their environmental footprint.

However, if you want to eat a more nutritious plant-based burger, consider a more whole-food-based veggie burger.

Is the Impossible Burger healthy?

The Impossible Burger contains mostly soy protein, as well as preservatives, salt, flavorings, and fillers to enhance its taste, shelf life, and texture.

Although these ingredients are considered natural, they aren’t necessary for a healthy diet, and some people prefer to avoid them.

Another downside to the Impossible Burger is that any restaurant can put its own spin on the burger, meaning that other ingredients — aside from those listed on the official website — may be present in the final food product.

Many other veggie burgers on the market contain similar ingredients. However, some contain more whole-foods-based ingredients, such as lentils, quinoa, hemp, and black beans.

If your primary concern is consuming mostly whole foods, you might want to consider making your own veggie burgers from ingredients such as beans, grains, nuts, sweet potatoes, or beets. This allows you full control over the ingredients and can often be cheaper.

The heme iron in the Impossible Burger is more bioavailable than the non-heme iron found in plant foods.

If you eat a plant-based diet, you can instead meet your iron needs by eating nutrient-dense whole foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains or by taking iron supplements.

Additionally, pairing plant-based iron sources with foods rich in vitamin C and soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains and legumes before eating them are simple ways to naturally enhance the absorption of non-heme iron (24, 25).

Is the Impossible Burger healthier than a regular burger?

The Impossible Burger can be a sustainable alternative to regular burgers and does contain higher amounts of several important nutrients, including vitamin B12, folate, and thiamine (3, 4, 5).

However, the Impossible Burger contains more sodium than regular ground beef and is lower in some vitamins and minerals. Compared with 90% lean ground beef, the Impossible Burger is also higher in fat and lower in protein (3, 4, 5).

Is the Impossible Burger vegan?

All products from Impossible Foods, including the Impossible Burger, are free of animal products and byproducts.

This makes it a great option for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone looking to reduce their consumption of meat and animal products.

Does the Impossible Burger taste good?

The Impossible Burger has a rich and meaty flavor that is very similar to the flavor of burgers made from beef.

Though many people enjoy the flavor of the Impossible Burger on its own, others may prefer adding extra seasonings, toppings, or condiments to their burger to tailor it to their taste buds.

Where can you buy Impossible Burger?

The Impossible Burger is available at a variety of stores and restaurants. Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and Target are all major stores that carry Impossible meat. Red Robin also serves Impossible Burgers. However, availability may vary by location.

You can use Impossible Foods’ store locator tool to find stores near you. You can filter the results by type to view restaurants, grocery stores, or both.

After selecting a store near you, you can view details, including which type of Impossible meat the store carries — such as Impossible Beef, Impossible Chicken Nuggets, and so on.

Why is my Impossible Burger pink?

The key ingredient — and the answer to many of your Impossible Burger questions — is heme.

According to the company, heme is what makes the burger taste like meat, helps it stay juicy, and makes it look a bit red or pink in the center (26).

The Impossible Burger has made headlines for its impressive similarity to beef-based burgers.

It boasts high protein, vitamin, and mineral contents, including a genetically engineered, plant-based source of heme iron known as soy leghemoglobin.

While there are concerns about the inclusion of soy leghemoglobin, the Impossible Burger is still worth considering if you’re looking for an eco-friendly — and tasty — alternative to a traditional burger to enjoy on occasion.