How A Vegan Found A Burger She Could Love

What happened when I discovered the Impossible Burger

When I became a vegan there was only one thing I really missed about giving up meat and that was a good juicy hamburger. My pre-vegan self preferred my burger cooked on the rare side, topped with tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise on a high-quality toasted grain bun but I confess that while I love pretty much everything about maintaining a vegan lifestyle, I still have my moments when I miss those burgers! It’s also the reason why when a food savvy friend of mine from San Francisco heard I was making a trip to New York, he suggested I visit Bareburger, one of the few restaurants now serving the Impossible Burger.

The Impossible Burger is the brainchild of Pat Brown, a Stanford University Professor and CEO of Impossible Foods. With scientists, engineers, chefs and farmers, the mission of his Silicon Valley based company is to “transform the global food system by inventing better ways to make the foods we love, without compromise” starting with creating a burger that tastes like meat but is made from plants. It sounded too good to be true so I decided to go for a taste test and suggested to my content editor, Joanne Tombrakos that we meet at the flagship location of Bareburger on LaGuardia Place.

It was too cold to sit outside on the patio so we settled into a cozy booth near the front of the restaurant. Since Bareburger is an organic restaurant with 44 locations in 5 countries and specializes in sustainable food, grass fed protein, sourced as close to home as home as possible and free of pesticides and GMOs there were plenty of yummy choices for me on the menu. However, I barely glanced at it, pointing to the promotional card that announced “The Impossible Burger Is Here” and told the waiter that was what I wanted.

Joanne was more skeptical and asked the server to help her decide between that and the Guadalupe, a black bean and roasted corn patty. His advice was that if she liked meat to try the Impossible Burger because it really did taste like beef. Since this was now research for my blog and she does like her burgers, she ordered hers with caramelized onions on a gluten-free bun. I ordered mine with my favorite burger toppings of tomato, lettuce and avocado.

When our burgers arrived it was hard to believe this was not a ground beef burger both in look and smell and almost impossible to imagine it would also taste good, but it did! It was juicy and meaty and quite delicious. It also left both of us feeling as full and satisfied as any traditional meat burger I’ve ever eaten.

The Impossible Burger is made with all natural ingredients including wheat, coconut oil and potatoes but the secret ingredient that makes it smell, sizzle, bleed and taste like meat is heme, an iron-containing molecule in blood that carries oxygen. It’s heme that makes your blood red and meat look pink and can be found in both red meat and plants. The heme used in the Impossible Burger is extracted from yeast.

One of the things I found so interesting about what Pat Brown and his team are doing with Impossible Foods is that unlike other meat substitutes they’re not targeting just vegans and vegetarians. They also want to reach carvnivores who don’t want to give up the flavor but who are also environmentally conscious and understand that the way we produce meat is a threat to the global environment. Cows require a lot of water and a lot of land plus there is the issue of all the greenhouse gases emitted in the process. The Impossible Burger uses minimal natural resources and is 100% free of additives like hormones, antibotics and artificial ingredients.

There are only a handful of restaurants in the country serving Impossible Burgers at the moment but you can be sure when I am in San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas or New York I’ll be stopping into one of them to get my burger fix, something I thought would never be possible for me to do again guilt free!