I saw it the other day, while driving to the grocery store. A bright turquoise sign was plastered across the wall of Qdoba, with big white and yellow letters that read, IMPOSSIBLE IS HERE.
Plant-based protein, at a Mexican restaurant? It wasn’t that much of a surprise, but more of a confirmation that plants-based diets have hit the big screen. Qdoba, a major fast-casual/takeout restaurant was offering plant-based protein in the form of Impossible meat. I’d heard the rumors that the baron of classic American fast food, Burger King, would soon be offering Impossible Whoppers. Most major grocery stores here in the Northeastern U.S. were selling another popular plant-based meat, called Beyond. Many fast-casual restaurants here, such Naf Naf, Honeygrow, and Sweetgreen, were offering plant-based protein for their entrees, such as falafel or tofu.
I’ve always favored, and seriously considered many times, going vegetarian. For many years it was for ethical reasons. I believed that the animals who’d sacrificed their lives for the buffalo chicken wings or the grilled chicken sandwich I was enjoying had feelings, had experienced emotions of sadness and fear when they died, and had essentially known that they were dying. This made it really difficult to eat meat and to not feel sad as well, to not think of the innocent life that was taken. And then I’d known several vegetarians, people who were good friends, who I saw living their daily lives without buffalo chicken wings or grilled chicken sandwiches.
The Journey to a Plant-Based Society
Growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s, eating vegetarian meant ordering a Portabella mushroom sandwich for your dinner at the neighborhood Italian restaurant, ordering a sub from Subway with just The Works (all the veggies), and eating eggs or cereal for breakfast. I liked these options, but with the exception of eggs (I love eggs, but who wants to eat them for every meal of the day?), eating vegetarian always left me with that feeling of not being full. An hour after my meal, I’d be opening the pantry in search of some pretzels, or I’d be eating the Nutri-Grain bar I’d packed for an afternoon snack.
Now, 15 years later, the world is hyper-focused on eco-friendly living and sustainable food production. People want to consume whole foods, and many people practice clean eating to detox or to lose weight. Restaurants label entrees as free from common food allergies and food manufacturers market their snack foods as free from additives and preservatives. Research shows that a plant-based diet is good for your health and for the planet (check out this article from UCLA).
And there are vegetarian meals that actually leave me feeling full. Recently, I’ve been eating vegetarian for two meals a day and eating meat for one.
Which brings me to the Impossible Burger. And to the Beyond Burger.
Not only do they look like meat, but these burgers are supposed to actually taste like meat.
More curious than anything, I had to try them both.
The Beyond Burger
First, I tried the Beyond Burger. Simply put, it was easier to find. My husband and I bought a pack of two of them from Weis, our local grocery store, bought some seeded hamburger buns and a jar of crisp, thin Dill pickles, and attempted to create a non-meat burger experience.
The Beyond Burger cooked very quickly, at just three minutes per side. When it was done, the full patty had the sheen of grease of a burger. It was the same color as before it was cooked, the color of pinkish-neutral, like a medium to medium-rare burger.
The Beyond Burger tasted like a medium-rare burger. I couldn’t believe it! It had the gritty, stringy, greasy texture of an actual burger, and it even had redness on the inside (created with beet juice) that left it looking bloody like rare meat.
Its grease soaked into the bun like a real burger, and I could easily tear it in half, also like a real burger.
Next: the Impossible Burger.
The Impossible Burger
This burger was nearly impossible to find. It’s not sold in grocery stores, and very few restaurants in our area offer it on their menus. I did end up trying the Impossible meat in a burrito bowl at a Qdoba (Very good! Crumbly like actual ground beef), but to truly compare the Beyond to the Impossible, I wanted to eat them both in the same context: on a hamburger bun, with ketchup, mustard, and pickles.
After trying a few restaurants that had offered the Impossible Burger but sold out, and after coming up short in Google searches, my husband and I ended up finding the Impossible unexpectedly at a Red Robin. It wasn’t on the menu, but as we sat down, we noticed a table tent that shouted at us, “Introducing the Impossible Cheeseburger!” It was time to try it!
This burger arrived on Ciabatta roll (close enough to a seeded bun) with all the fixings, even lettuce and tomato, in a red plastic basket next to those addictive Red Robin steak fries.
I ate a few fries, and then went for the main event.
It was thin, and crispy on the outside. The tore clean in half, showing an inside the color of grey stone. It looked, and tasted, almost exactly like a Whopper. It was char-grilled with just a touch of grease, like a burger from a summer cookout. The taste was a bit smoky and the texture solid, like a well-done piece of meat.
Again, I couldn’t believe it! It tasted like meat.
Are you Impossible or are you Beyond?
Whether or not you’ll like the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger depends on the answer to this question: How do you like your burger cooked?
If your answer is medium to medium-rare, then I would choose the Beyond.
If your answer is medium-well or well-done, then I would choose the Impossible.
And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, try them both!
My preference? The Beyond Burger.
If you’ve tried either the Beyond Burger or the Impossible Burger, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the experience.