The Impossible Burger is now available at a number of national fast-food chains and restaurants, but where should you go if you’re craving a guilt-free burger?
We went on a gut-busting tour of seven patty-slinging stores—Applebees, Bareburger, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Dave & Buster’s, and TGI Fridays— testing both the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat burgers, to see who makes the best ersatz meat patty.
Our favorite overall was the Impossible Burger from Bareburger. Not only was it the only burger prepared medium-rare—it actually “bled,” but Bareburger’s toppings and bun were the tops.
However, the Bareburger was $15; if you’re looking for something more affordable, then the Burger King Impossible Whopper tastes just as good as the real thing, and at $6.49 with cheese, is about half the price. For a real bargain, you can’t beat White Castle’s $1.99 sliders.
Editor’s Note (September 2019): We updated this story after we taste-tested the Burger King Impossible Whopper.
Burger King Impossible Whopper (17 points)
We were astounded with how close the Impossible Whopper came to the original Whopper. From appearance to texture to taste, the Impossible Whopper was just as good. If you were to give this to someone who didn’t know otherwise, it’s doubtful they’d be able to tell the difference. And, at $10 for the Whopper with small fries and a soft drink, it’s much cheaper than the Bareburger.
Bareburger Impossible Burger (17 points)
Of all the burgers we tasted, this was the only one that "bled." When we cut into it, we could see a reddish liquid oozing out, just like in a real medium-rare beef burger. Bareburger was also the only restaurant that asked us how we wanted our burger cooked, which was a nice touch. This was the best-tasting burger we ordered, and the entire presentation was perfect. Of all the joints we went to, Bareburger was the only one that toasted its buns, which put it over the top.
White Castle (16.5 points)
Yes, White Castle, the favorite stop for stoners and late-night partiers, came in second in our Impossible Burger taste tests. This spot's Impossible slider was twice the thickness of the restaurant's traditional slider (with four times the visual appeal), so we just felt like we were getting more value. There wasn't anything fancy about the presentation — bun, pickle and smoked cheddar — but it was done well. When we brought a sack of sliders back to our office, a few people had trouble distinguishing between the Impossible slider and the real thing. And at $1.99 per slider, it was by far the least expensive burger we tried. Harold and Kumar, eat your heart out.
Dave & Buster's (13.5 points)
We skipped the Skee-Ball and went straight to eating at Dave & Busters, which offers a passable Impossible burger. One of this burger's distinguishing characteristics was the garlic aioli. This added a gourmet touch and packed a ton of flavor but somewhat overwhelmed the burger itself, which may have been the point. We also suspect that the aioli is the reason Dave & Buster's Impossible burger is a whopping 1,358 calories — more than an actual bacon cheeseburger from D&B's!
Applebee's (11.5 points)
We were eating pretty good in the neighborhood of this Times Square Applebees — there are two within 10 blocks of each other — but nothing about this Impossible burger stood out. Applebee's adds huge chunks of red onions, which overpowered everything. (We removed them after a bite.) While not as juicy as a regular burger, this sandwich looked more like one than the sandwiches we had in other restaurants. Unlike the offerings at D&B's and Bareburger, there's no mayo-based special sauce, which kind of exposed the patty's blandness. We may have been paying the Times Square tax, but this burger was also the most expensive, at $20.99.
Bareburger Beyond Meat (10 points)
To make things as even as possible, we ordered Bareburger's Beyond Meat and Impossible burgers with the same toppings (brioche bun, cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato and special sauce) and asked for them to be cooked to the same temperature. Yet, the Beyond Meat patty was much paler and had a more "formed" look — not the irregular edges you expect with a traditional meat burger. The Beyond Meat patty was less juicy, didn't "bleed" and just had a blander, earthier taste.
TGI Friday's (9 points)
This burger needed more flair. This was the third Beyond Meat burger we tasted, and it was just as bland as the others. In general, we found that a Beyond Meat burger was not nearly as flavorful as an Impossible Burger. And TGI Fridays' presentation was just meh. This was also the second-most expensive burger, at $18.99. Again, though, this was in Times Square, where everything is priced to part tourists from their money.
Carl's Jr. (5.5 points)
We had to trek out to the far reaches of Brooklyn for this Beyond Meat burger, but sadly, the trip wasn't worth the effort. While the pickles, tomatoes and lettuce on this burger were all good, it was rubbery and bland. "It tastes like frozen soy patties from Morningstar Farms," Caitlin said.
Beyond Burger vs. Impossible Burger
Despite being vegan beef replacements, Beyond Meats' Beyond Burger and Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger have little in common. Beyond Burger is made primarily of pea-protein isolate, water, coconut oil and canola oil, with beet juice extract and annatto for color. The Impossible Burger, which debuted with a reengineered recipe in January, is made of soy and potato protein. But its meatiness comes from heme, a molecule found in blood that Impossible Foods engineers from plants.
We tasted the difference for ourselves. The Impossible Burger definitely tastes beefier — and is also both juicier and "bloodier" than a Beyond Burger. The two Bareburger options arrived with the same condiments, cooked to the same medium temperature, and only the Impossible Burger could've been mistaken for a beef burger. It also just tastes better. Heme for the win.
Meat your judges
Caitlin McGarry: A recovering vegetarian, she spent many years subsisting on frozen veggie burgers and will never forget the taste. She now loves a good burger, but dislikes cooking meat at home.
Mike Prospero: He has no compunctions about eating meat, as his belly would suggest. However, he does try to purchase "happy meat" that has been ethically and sustainably raised, such as when he tests smart smokers and other kitchen gadgets.
How we picked
While dozens of restaurants in New York sell Impossible and Beyond Meat burgers, we concentrated our search on national chains. and narrowed it down to six: Applebee's, Bareburger, Carl's Jr., Dave & Buster's, TGI Fridays, and White Castle—a murderers' row of mediocrity. At each restaurant, we ordered the burgers as they appeared on the menu, without any extra toppings. (With Barburger, we ordered each with lettuce, cheese, tomato, pickles and special sauce.) We did not add any extra ketchup or other condiments.
How we tested
We rated each burger on four criteria.
- Presentation: How does the whole burger, in the bun and with the toppings, look?
- Flavor: How does it taste? This takes into account not just the patty, but also everything that comes with it.
- Texture: How does the burger feel in our mouth as we eat it?
- Beefiness: How close does it come to a real burger?
For each of the categories, we rated each burger on a scale from 1 to 5, then tallied the results.
Credit: Tom's Guide