May 26, 2019

The Impossible Burger Goes Kosher

Back in 2011, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods Patrick O. Brown started to  experiment with ingredients to make a meat-free burger, including potato and wheat protein, coconut oil and heme, which gives meat its taste and aroma but can also be found in plants. 

Now his tasty creation, the Impossible Burger, is being sold at more than 1,400 eateries, including Fatburger, White Castle, Umami Burger and Crossroads Kitchen. 

Backed by Bill Gates, Impossible Foods is nearing $400 million in funding, and in May the Impossible Burger received a kosher pareve certification from the Orthodox Union. The May launch at Crossroads Kitchen was significant enough for IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous to use it as a jumping off point for a sermon about growing up vegetarian and why Jews keep kosher. 

While its rollout has been slow across the kosher world — only one local kosher joint, Wunder Eats, is selling it — Los Angeles Jews have been eating it at other restaurants across town. 

“I have had many veggie burgers in my 27 years as a vegetarian and most were ‘granola’ tasting,” said Pico-Robertson resident Noah Bleich. When he discovered the $9 Impossible Burger at Fatburger, Bleich said, “It’s the closest thing to eating burgers I have had since becoming a vegetarian.”

The burger with fries is $16 at Crossroads, $13 at Wunder Eats and $16 at Umami, where it comes with two patties. In kosher restaurants, a typical meat burger ranges anywhere from $7 to $30 with add-ons like beef pastrami and a side of fries.  

Meat-eater Nicole Aimee Schreiber, who paid $16 at Umami, said it was “totally reasonable” and “incredible. It doesn’t taste like real meat but it tastes amazing.”

According to Brown, the company went kosher so that everyone could try it. “Getting kosher certification is an important milestone,” he said. “We want the Impossible Burger to be ubiquitous, and that means it must be affordable and accessible to everyone, including people who have food restrictions for religious reasons.”

To receive kosher certification, a  rabbinic field representative toured Impossible Foods’ 67,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oakland, which puts out 500,000 pounds of plant-based meat every month. “The rabbi confirmed that all ingredients, processes and equipment used to make the Impossible Burger are compliant with kosher law, derived from the Torah’s books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy,” Brown said.

A 3-ounce Impossible Burger has 200 calories and contains 10 grams of saturated fat, 430 milligrams of sodium and 20 grams of protein. A real meat patty that is 80 percent lean ground chuck will typically have 271 calories, 25 grams of protein and 18 grams of total fat.

“All ingredients, processes and equipment used to make the Impossible Burger are compliant with kosher law, derived from the Torah’s books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.” — Patrick O. Brown 

There are no hormones, cholesterol or artificial flavors in the Impossible Burger, while real burgers usually have all three. The Impossible Burger has roughly 75 percent less water, generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and requires about 95 percent less land than ground beef from cows. Brown said he hopes Impossible Foods will replace meat from animals by 2035. 

“The Impossible Burger is absurdly delicious, and not just ‘for a meat replacement,’ ” L.A. vegan and storyteller Sarah Klegman said. “[It’s got] that perfectly grilled outside and soft, flavorful, delicious inside. I’ve had a real burger, and a real cheeseburger and the Impossible Burger measures up without a doubt.”