We Tried Burger King’s Impossible Whopper to See How It Compares to the Meaty Original
Burger King's new Impossible Whopper takes the sandwich from meaty to meatless, so we had to try it.
The Impossible Burger is like Frankenstein’s monster -- it wants to be taken seriously and sympathetically as its own autonomous thing, but thinking about it requires one to confront the fact that it was painstakingly crafted in a lab by scientists. And although we all know the monster’s terrible fate, the Impossible Burger’s destiny is still unfolding. Its latest iteration comes in the form of the Impossible Whopper, which is currently being tested at 59 Burger Kings in St. Louis.
The Impossible Burger is a product by Impossible Foods, Inc., a Silicon Valley company that develops plant-based products that are meant to replicate the taste and texture of real meat. Their approach is centered around “heme,” the iron-containing molecule that purportedly makes meat taste like meat (learn more about “heme” in this video, which is unsettlingly similar to the movie shown to visitors at Jurassic Park). Since its widespread release in 2016, the burger has made its way everywhere from White Castle to fine dining and even Michelin-starred restaurants, where it’s presented chefs with new opportunities in their quest to satisfy vegetarian and vegan diners.
The Impossible Whopper Paradox
First of all, Burger King’s goal with this burger, whether it’s meant for vegetarians, vegans, or just people who don’t feel like a regular Whopper, is unclear. When I ordered the Impossible Whopper, the cashier clarified that I’d wanted the “vegan” Whopper and not the “regular” one, and didn’t ask whether I wanted cheese, which led me to believe that it might actually be vegan. (I also ordered a regular Whopper so that I could try them side-by-side, and that one was offered with cheese.) While I was waiting for my food, I asked the cashier whether the Impossible Burger was made on the same equipment as the regular burgers. She said yes. For hardcore vegans, this would be unacceptable and would prevent them from ordering it. To further complicate things, the sandwich came with mayonnaise on it. But they don’t ask if you want cheese? Even more confusingly, the sandwich is labelled “Vegan Imp Whop” on the receipt, which is just straight-up untrue, at least insofar as an unmodified order goes. It’s technically not even completely vegetarian, since it’s cooked on the same gear as regular hamburgers. So who is this really for? This question plagued me throughout my meal.
Eating the Impossible Whopper
The Impossible Burger itself has Burger King’s signature “grill” flavor and sports the restaurant’s accompanying famous sear marks, which is a nice treat for the eyes if you happen to lift up the top bun. On that note, the bun itself is fluffy, structurally sound, and visually attractive, a rare instance of a fast food item actually looking somewhat like it does in advertisements. Also on the Impossible Whopper: ketchup, mayonnaise, weirdly satisfying pickles, juicy tomato, and some lettuce. Sadly, these ingredients are where most of the sandwich’s flavor comes from; indeed, the Impossible Burger itself is actually the least flavorful part of the Impossible Whopper.
The Impossible Burger, which has been juicy and served medium to medium-well at other places I’ve had it, was well-done here. As a result, it’s very one-note in its flavor and texture, lacking the depth I’ve seen before in those other burgers. That said, it’s not bad… it’s just not exceptional either. Texturally, it does resemble a real fast food hamburger, so if you’re just trying to get a burger without all the animal protein, cholesterol, and sodium, this will probably satisfy. It’s just that, as Gordon Ramsay would put it, it’s cooked to fuck. In researching this dish, I found that Burger King’s chief marketing officer, Fernando Machado, claimed that people in his own department struggled to tell the difference between the regular Whopper and the Impossible Whopper. That isn’t surprising to me. But the question shouldn’t be whether it tastes like a Whopper (it does), it should be whether it tastes good (not especially). The measuring stick for vegan and vegetarian dishes shouldn’t be how well they stand up to meat, but how dope they taste in their own right. In the end, on Burger King’s terms, this sandwich is par for the course.
Despite my reservations, I do think it’s a good thing that Burger King is doing this. The fact that the Impossible Whopper matches the regular Whopper’s general flavor and texture is no small feat, and if the chain’s goal was simply to replace the Whopper’s hamburger with an uncannily similar non-meat option, they totally succeeded. Let’s be real, the Impossible Whopper isn’t really for hardcore, plant-based vegans -- it’s for people who want to eat at Burger King and don’t want to eat a Whopper or some chicken. And that’s fine. Hell, if I was on a road trip or was out in desperate need of food at 2 a.m. with my friends and all I saw was a Burger King, I could see myself getting one. It’s not the healthiest option -- the Impossible patty may technically be “plant-based,” but it’s extremely processed, and high in fat and calories -- but it’s definitely going to be one of the healthier selections at whatever fast food restaurant you find yourself visiting.