Plant-based diets are all the rage, but even some devoted vegetarians admit to having a craving for a good burger now and then. And that’s led some companies to try to give consumers a way to satisfy that desire without deviating from their diet. Last year, there was a lot of buzz about veggie burgers that taste like meat, such as the Beast Burger, sold in supermarkets, and the Superiority Burger from the New York City restaurant of the same name. The latest player is the Impossible Burger, and its now on the menu at chef David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi restaurant in New York City.

In development for five years, the Impossible Burger’s debut was highly anticipated thanks to lots of advanced press describing it as meaty and the veggie burger that bleeds. I had the opportunity to taste the Impossible Burger, prepared by Chef Chang, at a press event hosted by the company. 

When raw, the “meat” resembles fine-ground ground beef. When cooked, it really does have the red, juicy look of a beef burger, as you can see in the image below. Does it taste exactly like one? No, but it came closer to real beef in flavor and texture than any other veggie burger we’ve tasted at Consumer Reports. In cooking, the Impossible Burger develops a nicely browned crust. When you bite into it, you get the same browned flavors, fatty mouthfeel, and burst of juiciness you would in a burger, but not the distinct flavor of the beef juices. The meaty flavor and red color comes from a plant-based heme protein called leghemoglobin, an iron-rich molecule, and coconut oil is responsible for the mouthfeel, Impossible Foods’ CEO Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D told me. On a bun with lettuce, tomato, cheese, a Thousand-Island-style sauce, and pickles—which is the way I was served it—you might be hard pressed to say it wasn’t a beef burger.  

A look at the contents of the Impossible Burger

As for nutrition, three ounces has 220 calories, 13 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 21 grams of protein, and 470 milligrams of sodium. The same amount of 80 percent lean ground beef has about the same calories and protein, and more total fat. But the Impossible Burger is higher in saturated fat and sodium. “The sodium content is on the high side compared to other veggie burgers we’ve looked at,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a project leader in our food testing department. And it is a processed food, as a look at the ingredients list shows: water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors and 2 percent or less of leghemoglobin (heme protein), yeast extract, salt, soy protein isolate, konjac gum, xanthan gum, thiamin (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12.

The company seems to be more concerned about the environment than nutrition, though. It claims that it can make the Impossible Burger with 95 percent less land, 87 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, and 74 percent less water than it takes to produce a beef burger.