This Ingredient Makes The Impossible Burger Actually Taste Like Meat

Impossible Foods is on a mission to "make our global food system truly sustainable" by using plants to manufacture traditional meat products instead of relying on unsustainable animal agriculture, which damages fragile ecosystems and harms the environment, per Impossible Foods. They plan to do this by making plant-based products that taste as good as meat, and so far, they seem to be pretty successful. The Impossible Burger is often praised as the plant-based burger that most closely mimics the experience of eating a traditional, animal-based burger. That's because it's not just the flavor that tastes like meat. It's the juicy, meaty texture that really gives people the authentic burger-eating experience. 

The secret ingredient that gives Impossible Foods this unique flavor is actually heme, an essential molecule found naturally in the body's bloodstream that helps cells turn calories into energy, says Impossible Foods. It is also found in the hemoglobin and myoglobin of animal blood and muscle, and it is the source of the juicy, umami texture that people associate with taking a big bite out of a burger.

Impossible Foods extracts heme from plant-based sources

Heme also contains iron, which makes red meat such a good source of iron-rich protein that people crave. All of which is to say that eating heme is a significant part of what gives animal protein its distinct texture and taste. However, animal protein is not the only source of heme. According to the Daily Meal, the molecule can also be found in a plant compound called leghemoglobin, which is found in legumes. 

Rather than relying on heme from animal tissue, Impossible Burgers get their heme from the extracts of the root nodules of soybean plants. The Impossible Foods scientists then made the heme production process even more efficient by inserting soybean plant DNA into genetically engineered yeast, which is then fermented to make heme, according to Impossible Foods. The result is a completely plant-based molecule that makes each bite of the Impossible Burger taste just like its animal protein based counterparts.