Life

The Fake Burger Face-Off — Impossible Foods Vs. Beyond Meat


Carl

There’s a great debate in the vegan burger community right now. Who makes the better faux-meat and, by extension, the best veggie burgerImpossible Foods or the Beyond Meat? Each plant-based patty has its acolytes. To figure out which is the best and which you should spend your hard earned cash on, we decided to taste test them both.

Before we get to that, what’s the big difference between Impossible Food and Beyond Meat’s patties? Mostly, what they’re made from. Impossible Foods is made from a soy extract and uses coconut oil with textured potato proteins. Beyond Meat uses pea protein, rice protein, mung bean protein, coconut oil, potato starch, apple extract, sunflower lecithin, and pomegranate powder (giving the patty a reddish color, more on that later). Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger 2.0 are gluten-free.

As far as methodology, here’s how things went down. Since Dane and I are both currently in Los Angeles, we were unable to get the Burger King Impossible Burger. Instead, we sampled the Impossible Classic Cheeseburger from Umami Burger against Carl’s Jr.’s Beyond Famous Star With Cheese. Essentially, these burgers are built the same: Patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, sauce, bun, cheese. The big difference here is Carl’s Jr. is using Beyond Meat and Umami Burger is using Impossible Foods.

Of course, the price points and caliber of short order cooks varies too — Umami Burger is fast casual and Carl’s Jr. is fast food. We did our best to account for that and judge the two patties on their merits alone.

— Zach Johnston, Senior Food Writer-at-Large, Uproxx Life

Zach Johnston

THE IMPOSSIBLE CLASSIC CHEESEBURGER, UMAMI BURGER

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Dane’s Take:

It feels unfair to compare these two burgers — one looks like it was made with love, the other one, well, is from Carl’s Jr.

The first thing that hit me about the Impossible patty from Umami was just how much it tasted like meat. Honestly, if you were to pass me this burger I wouldn’t ever assume it wasn’t meat. I’d just bite into it, no questions. I might ask about the sauce, which would go something like, “Hey, I like this sauce. What is it?” To which you’d reply, “I wasn’t offering you a burger Dane, I was asking you to hold it up so I could take a picture of it.”

Whatever Zach, don’t silently hand someone a burger if you don’t want them to eat it. We cool?

The flavor of Umami’s Impossible Classic Cheeseburger comes in waves. An initial burst of savory flavor slowly mellows out to something pleasingly earthy, taking you through a gradient of flavor that is similar to how grass-fed beef on the leaner end tastes, though it retains some of the juiciness you’d expect from a fattier cut of meat. However, one of the major ways the Impossible patty differs from real meat is how much more there is to chew. You definitely experience the denseness. It feels… manufactured though that isn’t a very flattering way of describing it. Maybe it’s better to say “you can taste the design,” which is still a weird thing to say about food but hey, this is meat 2.0 we’re talking about!

The Umami house sauce, and vegan bun are astounding and while this doesn’t quite live up to the taste of a real burger for me, I could see myself being specifically in the mood for an Impossible Cheeseburger from Umami over the real thing on plenty of occasions.

Zach’s Take:

It’s really hard to see how this isn’t going to win simply because Umami Burger is a rad fast casual and not a run of the mill fast food. Still, I’m keeping an open mind and really going to focus in on the patty here.

So, first, this burger is like a magic trick. There’s no way I’d guess this isn’t beef. The patty feels like a processed step up from the frozen meat patties you get at the grocery store in the big plastic sleeve. There’s a nice bit of give and fattiness at play. It’s soft, umami rich, and, dare I say, beefy.

I eat a quarter of the burger as it’s served. The bun is soft and lush. The Umami burger sauce has a nice tang to it. The toppings (lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle) are spot on and fresh with a nice crunch. The cheese has an even melt and good thickness over the patty. This is a solid $13 burger.

For the second quarter, I only eat the patty (that’s admittedly covered in melted cheese and some of the sauce). Still, the patty is the real star here. It’s easy to eat and I, in no way, would second guess it wasn’t a classic, albeit processed, burger patty. Five stars!

Are we giving stars? We are now!

Zach Johnston

BEYOND FAMOUS STAR® WITH CHEESE, CARL’S JR.

Dane’s Take:

Well, eating this second was stupid. What a mess. Beyond thinks that by adding pomegranate juice they’re mimicking the color of real meat and… sorry, if you saw a real burger that was this color you’d think there was something wrong with it. Zach is going to be too kind about Carl’s Jr’s Beyond Famous Star. He’s going to say something about the ketchup/mayo mix being his “jam.” That’s disgusting. Ketchup and mayo should not be anyone’s jam (and if you eat it with peanut butter you’re a f*cking monster).

One thing that I enjoyed about the Beyond Famous Star was the charred outer, it gave nice crispiness to every bite and a lingering straight-off-the-fire flavor, but when the best thing you’ve got going for you is the way you taste when charred, that’s kind of a bad sign. The Beyond Famous Star also has a noticeable plant-like flavor — which plenty of people surely love — where the Impossible patty truly mimicked the complexity of real meat.

If “meatiness” is the standard, the Beyond patty tastes dishonest. It’s caught in the uncanny valley of fake beef.

Zach’s Take:

Hum, the bun is doing this burger no favors. It’s a dry sesame bun that’s likely a day or two old. The burger, overall, is okay. It’s got fairly fresh lettuce (iceberg), tomato, onion, and pickle. The ketchup/mayo mix is my jam. The cheese feels a bit thinner and a little more plastic than I’d like.

I go in for the patty next. There’s a surprisingly fake-red to the meat. The color is so unnatural that it’s fairly off-putting. The consistency of the patty is a bit denser than the Impossible Food counterpart. There’s less depth of flavor but that could be due to how Umami prepared their patties compared to Carl’s Jr. One edge this patty does have is the charbroiled crispiness on the outside of the burger. It adds a nice crunch and Mailliard flavor that I really enjoy.

Zach Johnston

THE WINNER

Dane:

We’ll need to see how the Beyond Famous Star compares to something like the Impossible Whopper for me to be sure which actually tastes better, but as of now, I’m going to have to say Impossible beats Beyond. Sometimes I want a nice dive bar charbroiled burger; other times I’m looking for something more along the lines of what you’d find at In-N-Out. I feel like Umami’s Classic Impossible Cheeseburger is also worthy of its own mood. Those times you feel like eating a burger but don’t want the heaviness that comes with eating a quarter-pound of red meat.

Zach:

Umami and Impossible Foods win hands down. Is it fair to compare a trendy fast casual to fast food? Probably not. But when we get down to brass tacks, the Impossible Food patty is far better at mimicking real beef. Again, not everyone likes that. Tons of vegetarians specifically don’t want that. But I loved it. There’s a clear meaty feel with a nice flavor. There’s also no fake red trying to trick my brain into thinking I’m eating beef.

I know I’m not eating beef. I literally ordered a plant-based burger.

AFTERWORD:

After the taste test, Dane and I split an Impossible Trufflemaker from Umami Burger to see what they can do with a jazzed up version. That’s an Impossible Food patty with vegan bun, miso mustard, charred green chile salsa, truffle fondue, truffle aioli, port wine, truffle glaze, curly lettuce, and tomato.

This was a great burger. The chile pepper heat was the perfect accent to the rich umami of the truffles and savory cheese at play. The bun holds together the whole way through and is lush. At some point we remembered we weren’t eating meat, but it was very late in the game.

The Impossible Food patty feels like the real deal with a leaner edge that just works. The Trufflemaker is 14 bucks without fries, but I’d argue it’s worth every cent. -ZJ

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