Review: Impossible Whopper by Burger King

The hunger for which Americans have had for beef for centuries seems to be insatiable — to the point where it has been ingrained in the culture in the United States. Consider the Where’s the Beef? advertising campaign from Wendy’s back in 1984 and the repeated vexatious chant from 1981 known as T Bone by Neil Young, which is nine minutes and 14 seconds about how our Canadian protagonist has mashed potatoes but none of that satisfying meaty goodness attached to the bone.

Review: Impossible Whopper by Burger King

Providers of food — such as restaurants and supermarkets — have been seeking to offer alternatives to beef chiefly due to the increase in prices, which have been fueled by simultaneously record increased demand with decreased production. As one example, increases in beef prices have been cited as part of the reason for the decline of Kosher delicatessens over the years.

Furthermore, the production of beef is increasingly harmful to the environment overall. “Ninetieth-percentile GHG emissions of beef are 105kg of CO2eq per 100g of protein, and land use (area multiplied by years occupied) is 370 m2∙year”, according to this study from 2018 by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek as accepted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “These values are 12 and 50 times greater than 10th-percentile dairy beef impacts (which we report separately given that its production is tied to milk demand). Tenth-percentile GHG emissions and land use of dairy beef are then 36 and 6 times greater than those of peas. High variation within and between protein-rich products is also manifest in acidification, eutrophication, and water use.”

To offset the negative aspects of beef production and consumption, alternatives have been provided for traditional beef — and, to devoted meat eaters, have mostly failed. Alternatives to beef with ingredients based from plants are consumed mostly by those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet; but most beef eaters remain skeptical…

…until now, as both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have been developing alternatives to meat — such as beef — which emulate the texture, taste and overall experience to real meat.

Could substituting meat with alternative foods whose ingredients are derived from plants help repair and reverse what has been called the great nutrition collapse?

Before reading the remainder of this article, first watch this video from CBS News pertaining to the product created by Impossible Foods from the Sunday Morning television program:

The Impossible Whopper Taste Test

The last time I ate a Whopper sandwich from Burger King, I encountered an inordinate amount of gristle which impeded upon any enjoyment I might have had out of eating an otherwise insipid hamburger. I do not like fighting with my food; and having to pick gristle out of my mouth every couple of minutes is not exactly appetizing.

My curiosity was piqued one day when I was hungry for something quick for dinner. I decided to purchase the Impossible Whopper from the Burger King restaurant which is located closest to where I am based; and I brought it back home.

Impossible Whopper

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

I ordered my Impossible Whopper sandwich with no onion and extra pickles. Pickles are one of my favorite condiments.

Impossible Whopper

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

At first glance, the Impossible Whopper resembles an original Whopper sandwich…

Impossible Whopper

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…even when lifting up the top half of the bun. The tomato was not at peak ripeness — as usual with a Whopper sandwich — but the lettuce was surprisingly not brown and limp. Note the grill marks on the patty itself. Because the patty of the Impossible Whopper is cooked on the same equipment as the patties of the original Whopper sandwich, it is not vegetarian — but customers can supposedly request that it be prepared on separate equipment for a vegetarian option.

Impossible Whopper

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

I then turned the sandwich over to see what the patty looked like — and it did somewhat resemble a beef hamburger. Even the bottom half of the bun had that “grease absorption” look and feel to it.

I then tore a piece of the patty which had no condiments on it and ate it plain. The flavor resembled beef with what seemed to be a smoky note; but I was not convinced that it completely tasted like real beef. The texture was somewhat different as well in what I can only describe as slightly “spongier” than real beef. Nonetheless, I would not relish dining on plain Impossible Whopper patties anytime soon.

Impossible Whopper

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

However — upon biting into the sandwich with all of the condiments and the bun — the Impossible Whopper almost identically resembled an original Whopper sandwich. The patty appeared to have the doneness temperature of slightly less than medium.

What I liked most about the Impossible Whopper is that I did not encounter any gristle.

Alternatives to Beef Hamburgers?

When I assisted in the clean-up efforts after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast back in 2005, we either ate MREs — ready-to-eat meals which members of the military eat when on a mission — at night, or we cooked on an outdoor grill illuminated either by a fire or an electric light powered by a battery. One night, we had hamburgers — but there was no ground beef to be found; so we had a choice of ground turkey hamburgers or vegetarian hamburgers. I had one of each. They could not compare to beef hamburgers; but on their own, they were not bad.

I would have no problem eating a hamburger comprised from vegetables and plants — as long as it was dressed with plenty of condiments and was accompanied with a bun of very good quality; and as long as I do not compare it to a real beef hamburger. A vegetarian hamburger is a completely different type of food to me than a beef hamburger; and comparing them would be like comparing a fish sandwich to a chicken sandwich with the same condiments. Similarly — my being originally from Brooklyn as a “pizza snob” — I can eat certain types of pizza as long as I do not compare them to the ones one can enjoy in New York.

Nutritional Information and Comparison

Ingredients of the patty itself of the Impossible Whopper sandwich include soy protein, potato protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil, salt, yeast, and a variety of emulsifying agents…

…as well as heme, which is a molecule rich with iron which is key to giving the patty that flavor reminiscent of beef.

If you are thinking that the Impossible Whopper is a healthier alternative to the original Whopper sandwich, think again. The following information was extracted straight from the official Internet web site of Burger King.

To be fair, the comparison shown above includes all of the ingredients of a Whopper sandwich; but the differences between the two Whopper sandwiches reflect the patties themselves. Compared to the original Whopper sandwich, the Impossible Whopper has:

  • 30 fewer calories
  • Six fewer grams of fat
  • One less gram of saturated fat
  • No trans fat at all as compared to 1.5 grams of trans fat for the original Whopper sandwich
  • 80 fewer milligrams of cholesterol
  • 100 more milligrams of sodium
  • Nine more grams of carbohydrates
  • Two more grams of fiber
  • One additional gram of sugar
  • Three fewer grams of protein

Vegetarian Diet Advantages and Disadvantages

“Multiple studies have linked vegetarian diets to a reduced incidence of chronic disease and cancer. Excluding meat or animal products makes a diet healthier, but there are other factors to consider”, according to this article written by Liza Torborg for the Mayo Clinic…

…but “there still aren’t enough data to say exactly how a vegetarian diet influences long-term health”, according to this article published from Harvard Medical School. “It’s difficult to tease out the influence of vegetarianism from other practices that vegetarians are more likely to follow, such as not smoking, not drinking excessively, and getting adequate exercise.”

Regardless, both articles cite that some evidence exists that vegetarians have a lower risk for cardiac events — such as a heart attack — and death from cardiac causes; that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers even though the evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians do is minimal; and that a predominantly plant-based diet can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes.

This abstract from the United States National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health suggests that hypogonadism — which is a condition in which the body does not produce enough testosterone — and erectile dysfunction are associated with soy product consumption.

Summary

The Impossible Whopper cost me $5.29 plus tax, which totaled $5.61 — compared to the cost of the original Whopper, which is $4.19 plus tax for a total of $4.44. At first glance, the difference of $1.10 is not an unreasonable premium for the Impossible Whopper…

…but one can usually procure a deal with an original Whopper with either a special or a coupon — neither of which apply to the Impossible Whopper. For example, I could purchase one Whopper sandwich and get one free of charge, which means that each Whopper sandwich costs a total of $2.22 each. That increases the premium price of an Impossible Whopper to $3.39 over the original Whopper, which is not worth the cost, in my opinion.

The Impossible Whopper is a good alternative to the original Whopper sandwich if you crave an original Whopper sandwich without the benefit of a discount or coupon or if you simply do not want to consume meat for whatever reason — but it is still a fast food option which is only marginally healthier than an original Whopper sandwich.

In the meantime, I have a feeling that a viable Kosher pastrami sandwich with “meat” derived from plants is not in my future anytime soon…

All photographs ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

7 thoughts on “Review: Impossible Whopper by Burger King”

  1. Brian says:

    My local BK offers the option to sub an Impossible patty on any style whopper for a $1.30 surcharge so the price delta is not that bad for me. The app is hit and miss for offering that customization but I have a 100% success rate using regular whopper coupons on a counter order for an Impossible.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That information is good to know, Brian. Thank you.

      If I am in the rare mood for a Whopper sandwich, I will see if a Burger King restaurant near me will honor coupons in a similar way for the Impossible Whopper.

  2. isgs says:

    No mention of “Beyond” (brand.) They are also rapidly expanding in the fake meat market.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Not only is there mention of Beyond in the article, isgs, but a link to the company itself is provided.

  3. Chris says:

    Thanks for this review since sometimes one finds oneself in a place with only fast food options. That sodium content is pretty frightening which is why this would be a “sometimes food” at most.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      What you wrote is exactly why I write articles about fast food options, Chris

      …and as for the frightening sodium content, an Impossible Whopper sandwich would be perfect on a day when one has been traveling all day without eating and arrives at the destination late at night where only fast food places are open.

      May as well meet your maximum daily nutritional requirements when you have traveled all day without anything to eat…

  4. James Clausen says:

    Could you make the sandwich look any worse? I like information, not opinion.

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