My family has a… rather unique Christmas tradition. For Christmas Eve lunch, when the 15-odd crew of us gather at my grandparents’ home outside of Cincinnati, OH, we have a White Castle slider eating competition. The record: twenty-one. (Blegh.)
As a vegetarian I usually have to abstain from this tradition. But this year, oh this year, I got to be a competitor. And it’s all thanks to Impossible Foods.
In September Impossible Foods, maker of the popular “bleeding” plant-based burger, rolled out their sliders to all 377 White Castle locations. So when we made our annual pilgrimmage to the local White Castle, I went along to pick up a dozen meat-free sliders as well.
I was surprised by how heavily White Castle was marketing the Impossible slider in stores, with giant window decals, BOGO coupons, and ample menu space. But maybe I shouldn’t have been. White Castle CEO Laura Ingram stated that sales of the meatless sliders “easily exceeded our expectations,” and is popular with both new and existing customers.
Here’s a poorly-shot visual comparison of the two burgers: Impossible on the left, traditional on the right:
The Impossible slider comes with a two-ounce meat-free patty, smoked cheddar cheese, pickles, and onions, and costs $1.99. A typical White Castle slider is $.79 cents (without cheese), and has a one-ounce beef patty, pickles, and onions. At $1.99, the Impossible slider is almost three times the price of the $.79 regular slider — but it’s also a lot heftier.
As you can see from the photo, the Impossible slider is just, well, better looking than the beef one. It’s bigger, the bun is fluffier (I’m not why they use different buns for the two, but they do), and with the cheese peeking out it just looks tastier. The patty itself is also quite a bit bigger and looks almost more like meat than the thin rectangular slice of the actual beef patty.
When it comes to taste, I also think that the Impossible slider delivered. With two ounces of “meat” the slider has a toothsome bite, and the smoked cheddar and sharp pickles pack a flavorful — and very salty — punch. I didn’t mind the savoriness but several of my family members found the sliders too salty for their liking.
In fact, many of my family members, who are die-hard White Castle lovers, actually said they liked the Impossible slider better than the original. Their one complaint: it didn’t have the same richy, meaty smell.
The sliders were also very well-done and didn’t “bleed” when we bit into them. Which isn’t especially surprising, since that’s pretty par for the course for fast-food burgers, but I’m disappointed that I still haven’t experienced the “bleeding” Impossible effect.
In the end, I only managed four meatless sliders and lost the contest (the winner ate twelve). However, we emerged with quite a few plant-based burger converts, many of whom said they would gladly order one of the burgers if they saw it on a menu — or on a grocery shelf — down the road.
That’s exactly what Impossible was hoping would happen. As I wrote back in September, the White Castle partnership is part of Impossible’s long-term goal to make their products more accessible and affordable. Judging from my experience, I’d say that so far they’re doing a great job.