When Burger King made headlines this month with the announcement of its vegan “Impossible Whopper,” my ears perked up. Were they serious? A veggie burger option at one of the two main American shrines to red meat? Could it be true? I wanted to know more.
Why the interest? I’m always frustrated on road trips that healthy fast food options seem to be nonexistent. Sure, organized people pack homemade lunches or food to take to eat on the road, but I still like to think of myself as spontaneous adventurer willing to depart at the last second for wherever the wind takes me dammit, and I’m often at the mercy of whatever is available at interstate exits.
The fast food choices along highways are frankly crap. Burgers, tacos made from questionable meat, or fried chicken seem to be the only choices. If I’m behaving myself, I’ll usually resort to nuts and water from gas station convenience stores, but I often fall victim to the junk food on offer.
So, the possibility of sliding through a drive-thru and getting a healthy option intrigued me, and I couldn’t wait to grab the bull (or is it the bean?) by the horns.
This isn’t actually Burger King’s first veggie burger
First off, when I started looking into it, I discovered Burger King selling a veggie burger isn’t a new thing at all, so it’s a little strange the company is grabbing such big headlines with the new Impossible Whopper. Way back in 2002, it added its 330-calorie Veggie Burger to the menu which uses a Morning Star Farms patty.
It’s a shame the company hasn’t done more to promote its original offering, because honestly, before the Impossible Whopper announcement, I wasn’t aware at all that you could order one at most restaurants across the country, and it certainly doesn’t get prominent placement on store menu boards – if a mention at all. In most cases, you have to know to ask for it.
Morning Star has some of the tastiest veggie products around in recent years, and they’re available in nearly all grocery stores. I’m a fan of items like their breakfast sausage links, spicy breakfast sausage patties, meatless crumbles for sprinkling into lasagna, chili, or stews, and their Grillers Prime burger patties which are so close to the real thing that they get my unofficial “scrumptious” rating.
The only apparent downside is that some health bloggers have questioned their use of highly processed soy, and some other ingredients, which they claim have negative health consequences. And, you do need to read the fine print if you insist on truly vegan, because many Morning Star products include egg whites. However, the way I look at it is it has to be healthier than eating lots of meat packed with growth hormones and antibiotics. Plus, their products are damn convenient for whipping up fast cholesterol-free meals.
In contrast to the old Veggie Burger, the Impossible Whopper is a team effort with Impossible Foods, which already sells its product through a substantial number of sit-down restaurants. Burger King intends to roll out the Impossible Whopper nationwide by the end of 2019, but they haven’t made it to Charlotte-area restaurants yet. So, before I can try the new product, I went out to taste the original.
Original Burger King Veggie Burger taste test
First off, be prepared to wait just a tad longer. As you’d expect, Burger King doesn’t get Veggie Burger orders all day long, so they’ll be throwing yours on the grill (or perhaps microwave) when you ask for one.
The company doesn’t specify on its menu if it’s using one the Morning Star products available in grocery stores or one custom made for Burger King, and it doesn’t list the ingredients. Grocery store Morning Star burgers usually include some combination of soy protein, wheat gluten, egg whites, and brown rice, plus lots of other lesser ingredients.
Somebody apparently forgot to explain to Burger King that if you slather a veggie burger with egg-based (and high-cholesterol) mayo you’re kinda defeating the whole point, but you can order the original Veggie Burger without, which hopefully nixes the “less than 5” mention under cholesterol in the nutritional information and probably cuts a few calories too.
I ordered two when I went in, and the bill was just over $6. The Veggie Burger’s not bad in my opinion, but it’s pretty standard Burger King fare. What I mean by that is you still have the typical white bread bun and iceberg lettuce – both of which do little to enhance the most common complaint about vegetable burgers – that they taste a little too like cardboard. A liberal amount of ketchup and mustard plus the fresh tomato and onion helps things out, but my overall impression was a little leathery and tasteless. This is not a thumbs down, but I think I’ll be sticking to just one in the future with a side salad.
Moreover, I think that’s the root of the issue with this product. While Burger King gets tremendous kudos for offering this menu choice in the first place, it’s still basically fast food. I’m just as tempted by highly processed foods as the rest of the world. If you order this burger, are you going to skip the Coke and fries and choose a side salad and water? Hmmm, think about that for a second. Are you really? Tick tock.
Still, I’m really excited that a fast food chain as large as Burger King seems committed to veggie alternatives, and I’ll be stopping by on the many road trips I take when I don’t put much forethought into what I’ll eat along the way.