We tried the latest and greatest plant-based burgers on the market and lived to tell the tale.
As a vegetarian, I enjoy eating plant-based burgers that taste like vegetables, beans, and grains. I don’t necessarily miss meat, but with all the hype around the new “bleeding” burgers, I was curious to see what they tasted like.
So, I recruited some of my meat-loving coworkers and we ventured on a quest to try three “bleeding” veggie burgers. Here, our thoughts.
The Impossible Burger
After a (strangely secretive) email exchange with a PR representative from Impossible Burger, I was told that I couldn’t make the burgers at home but I could find them “conveniently” located at over 600 restaurants nationwide.
So, here I was, in Atlanta, sitting with two other staffers at a burger joint, staring at a single, flat, meat-resembling burger topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion, speared with a red flag-topped toothpick reading “Impossible.”
All I could think was, “this better be worth the 2-hour drive and the $2.50 upcharge.”
According to the website, the Impossible Burger is made with wheat protein, potato protein, coconut oil, and Leghemoglobin, a genetically engineered product from soy to resemble heme, typically found in meat products. The burger has 220 calories, 13g of fat, 10g of saturated fat, and 20g of protein, which is pretty similar to a beef patty (with a little less saturated fat).
We began by inspecting the burger. It definitely had a nice char, but it didn’t smell anything like meat. The patty was flat and appeared dense, but we drove this far so we wanted to try it.
I desperately wanted meaty juice to run down my chin as I bit into the burger, but instead I stared blankly at the gray interior hopelessly disappointed as I swallowed the chewy, dry bite.
We all agreed the burger itself was virtually flavorless, and though the texture was pretty close to meat (it definitely didn’t look like a veggie burger), the flavor didn’t even compare.
It was unanimous—none of us would be tricked by this, and we all agreed we should’ve ordered the black bean burger instead.
We did consider the option that this particular patty was just cooked wrong. Maybe the chef, unaware of how closely three food-lovers would inspect his meal, simply overcooked the burger? But I later confirmed with another staffer that the Impossible Burger he had tried at a New York location led to similar disappointment.
Final verdict: Totally not worth the 2-hour drive across state lines.
Don Lee Farms Plant-Based Burger
The Don Lee Farms burgers arrived as frozen patties in a large zip-top bag. The instructions were straightforward and simple: cook on a skillet or on the grill from frozen in extra virgin olive oil for three to four minutes on each side.
Each burger has 260 calories, 12g of fat, 2g of saturated fat, and 15g of protein. The patties are made from soy, oats, flaxseed, coconut oil, and beet powder to replicate a “bleeding” burger.
I opened the bag and drizzled a generous amount of olive oil onto the skillet. Once it warmed, I dropped frozen patties onto the sizzling oil and set my timer. They resembled a regular veggie burger, and there was no chance anyone would confuse these for meat. But they smelled good, so I was excited to try them.
I brought the tray down to our editorial staff, and everyone flocked over to get a bite of the meatless patties. The non-meat eaters agreed they were far superior to the average veggie burger. But did they remind us of meat? Not at all.
They smelled and tasted slightly smoky and spicy. The oats brought heft to the patty, and made the texture spot-on for a delicious veggie burger. Our meat-eating staffers definitely agreed it wouldn’t trick anyone—they rated it an average of three out of 10 in the categories of tasting like meat, looking like meat, and the texture resembling meat. But if you’re down for a delicious veggie burger, this one earned an eight out of 10 in the category of “would eat again.”
Final verdict: Though not even closely resembling a meat patty, this burger was really delicious. I’d buy these again.
The Beyond Burger
The Beyond Burger can be found nationwide at your local Whole Foods and specialty markets, and recently hit the menu at restaurants like TGI Fridays.
Each patty has 290 calories, 20g of protein, 22g of fat, and 5g of saturated fat, making them the highest in calories and fat of the three burgers we tested. These soy-free patties are made from pea protein, coconut oil, and beet juice extract to resemble a bleeding burger.
If someone handed me a package of these burgers without the wrapping, I would definitely think they were meat. The patties are bright pink and soft, like ground beef, and smelled reminiscent of meat.
I decided to follow the instructions of cooking the patties on the stovetop — with a few variations which may have hindered our experience a bit. I tossed the still-frozen patties on the skillet moments after the Don Lee Farm’s patties were removed. Some of the olive oil and burger bits remained in the pan, so as the Beyond Burger began to release the coconut oil, the patties were quickly swimming in an inch of oily fluid. Probably my own fault these weren’t spot-on. But hey, I’m no expert.
After flipping them a few times, frustrated I couldn’t achieve the beautiful char I had seen in pictures, I removed the still-raw-looking burgers and brought them down to the table for our staff to test out. Everyone asked me if they were cooked, which they were. We collectively agreed this experience would have been significantly better had I cooked them on a dry grill.
My coworkers who don’t eat red meat were very uncomfortable with how closely this meat alternative felt like the real thing. Each bite brought the fatty mouthfeel that veggie burgers typically can’t replicate, and the flavor was a rich umami with smoky undertones. We all agreed it was too salty, and I personally spent the entire day feeling the grease all over me.
Our staff rated the texture eight out of 10 for resembling meat and seven out of 10 for tasting and looking like meat. Many taste testers commented that it was too real, but also was clearly not real. It was almost like someone handed them a burger and something was wrong with the meat inside.
Final verdict: We all agreed that The Beyond Burger would trick us if we were out at a restaurant, and we’d all be willing to try it again it if it was cooked better (sorry, everyone!). Personally, as a decade-long vegetarian, I was totally unsettled by the texture and could never eat this burger again.