Here’s What’s Really in Those ‘Impossible’ Meatless Burgers

There's one key ingredient you need to know about.

Impossible burger on a napkin.Nati Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

Vegetarians and people who try to eat less meat don’t have to suffer through another dry, boring veggie burger again. Impossible Foods, previously Impossible Burger, created a patty like no other that looks and tastes like a meaty burger—sans meat.

One of the main Impossible Burger ingredients that makes it so much like real meat is heme. The Impossible website describes heme as a molecule found in every living plant and animal that people always eat and crave. This iron-rich molecule is mostly in red meat, and it helps the Impossible Burger mimic the “bleeding juices” of real burgers. Impossible uses the heme-containing protein from the roots of soy plants and inserts it into a genetically engineered yeast, according to the website. The yeast goes through fermentation to make lots of heme, similar to how the Belgians make beer. This process helps them cut back on greenhouse gasses and makes the whole process more environmentally friendly. If this makes you think of washing down a burger with a beer and some fries, check out the secret ingredient that makes Five Guys fries so delicious.

Impossible burger vs a real beef burger.Nati Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

Other Impossible Burger ingredients include plant-based ingredients—but it’s not 100 percent veggies. These ingredients include: water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, 2 percent or less of: leghemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, konjac gum, xanthan gum, soy protein isolate, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamin (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12. Note, Impossible Burger recently launched a new recipe in January 2019; however, the website only shares where to find these updated burgers and doesn’t list the ingredients. If you’ve already tried these burgers, try these 20 world-famous dishes vegetarians can finally eat next.

For the original recipe, one burger clocks in with 290 calories, 17 grams of fat, 27 grams of protein, and 580 milligrams of sodium. The regular average burger patty made with 80/20 ground beef isn’t too different. There is a similar amount of calories, fat, and protein, but a lot less sodium, per the USDA. It’s important to remember, however, that restaurants don’t serve just a plain Impossible Burger patty. Although that probably tastes OK, restaurants typically jazz up Impossible Burger ingredients or patties with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and other toppings too that add on more calories. Don’t let the extra calories keep you from taste-testing these patties, though. In fact, trying new foods or ingredients could be the secret to making your recipes taste better.

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.