Meatless burgers have finally gone mainstream. After years of cardboard imitations of hamburgers, people are raving about the dawn of the Impossible Burger. The thing is, it’s almost impossible to get — right now.
The patty is not made from vegetables like other substitutes. Instead, it’s a genetically engineered protein derived from heme, an iron-containing molecule that is found in plants and animal muscle. It uses the heme found in soybeans and ferments it with yeast to create a heme protein similar to meat, which gives it a meat-like taste and red-blood color. It has about 240 calories 8 grams of saturated fat and 370 milligrams of sodium.
People and companies are betting big on the burger. Impossible Burger was valued at $2 billion in mid-May, according to Reuters. Burger King put in an order to roll it out nationwide on its menu later this year, and it’s already available in St. Louis, Missouri as an Impossible Whopper.
Why now? It’s a combination of factors, but at the top of the list are people’s desire to eat for a healthier planet, and people’s desires to eat healthier. Meat and dairy production account for 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, which we know directly contribute to climate change, according to the New York Times. That’s roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today. So while we’ve heard for years that people can drive less to save the earth, it’s only recently become part of the conversation to also eat less red meat and dairy, in particular.
We also know that red meat is high in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol. High cholesterol can cause heart disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. Red meat consumption in the United States peaked in the late ‘70s and the population is now eating more chicken than beef. That said, Americans are still eating a lot of red meat — topping the list globally.
I have yet to try an Impossible Burger; after ordering it twice in local restaurants I’ve been told it’s not available. That said, homemade vegetable burgers are still better than most I’ve had in restaurants. Here’s a current recipe in rotation.
Quinoa chickpea burger
- 1 cup of quinoa (cooked)
- 1 cup of chickpeas (drained)
- 1 cup of spinach
- 1 carrot
- 1 zucchini
- ½ onion
- 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger
- 1 egg
- ½ cup flour
- Shred chickpeas, zucchini, carrots and spinach in a food processor. If you don’t have a processor, grate the vegetables, finely chop the spinach and mince the chickpeas. Combine with quinoa. Add the egg and flour. Stir in fresh ginger. Salt and pepper to taste. The consistency should be doughy enough to form a ball-patty shape. If it’s runny, add more flour. If it’s too sticky, add another egg.
- Form small patties. Heat cooking oil on a medium nonstick pan. Cook patty on one side for 3-4 minutes or until starting to brown and then flip. It may help to flatten the patty like a pancake to ensure cooking all the way through. Let it cool and enjoy, either as a burger or finger food on its own.
Christine Benedetti writes about food here every other week. Mostly the plant kind. She’s editor-in-chief of Aspen Magazine, but you can reach her @cabenedetti.