Vegan meat substitutes have come a long way in the past decade or so, dramatically improving in taste accuracy and texture, but discerning carnivores can usually still tell the difference. A new player in this space, Impossible Foods, promised to revolutionize vegan meat-alikes with what it calls the Impossible Burger, and after navigating the FDA minefield last year and rolling out to a few restaurant chains, it’s now ready for the spotlight. Today, the Impossible Burger will be available White Castle restaurants across the United States in the form of the Impossible Slider, a $1.99 sandwich with zero actual meat.
The burger itself is a highly scientific amalgamation of wheat, coconut oil, potato protein, soy, and a handful of other ingredients. It all comes together to form a patty that is remarkably meat-like in appearance, and even “bleeds” when you bite into it. Welcome to the future.
White Castle will be serving the new burger alternative in 140 of its stores starting today, but plans on expanding the offering to all 380 of its locations before long. The partnership between White Castle and Impossible Foods makes the Impossible Burger the first vegan burger to hit fast-food restaurants on a large scale, the companies say.
Impossible Foods had an interesting experience in awaiting its approval for the burger from the FDA last year. At the time, reports suggested that one of the ingredients, soy leghemoglobin, was being closely scrutinized by the agency because it’s not typically considered a food. The worry was that the substance could be an allergen, but since the FDA had never declared it unsafe for human consumption, it was given the thumbs up.
According to the company, it’s that substance that is key to the burger’s meat-like taste. Using a fermentation process involving yeast and leghemoglobin, the company produces heme. “It is responsible for the characteristic of taste and aroma of meat, it catalyzes all the flavors when meat is cooked,” Impossible Foods says. “Heme is exceptionally abundant in animal muscle – and it’s a basic building block of life in all organisms, including plants.” Neat!
It will certainly be interesting to see how customers embrace to the new meat-free burger option, especially since it costs around twice as much as a standard White Castle slider. We likely won’t have to wait long before seeing plenty of varied reactions.