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Dallas taste-off: McDonald’s McPlant vs. Burger King Impossible Whopper

Dallas taste-off: McDonald’s McPlant vs Burger King Impossible Whopper

McPlant
McDonald's on the left, Burger King on the right. Photo by Teresa Gubbins

Dallas is one of four places in the U.S. where you can try a new veggie burger from McDonald's. The company is testing the McPlant, its new plant-based burger, in eight restaurants, including Irving, at 8435 N Belt Line Rd.; and Carrollton, at 2151 N Josey Ln. (The other three markets are Iowa, Louisiana, and California.)

The test began on November 3, and both Dallas-area stores say that sales have been brisk, with each location selling about 200 McPlant burgers the first day.

McDonald's McPlant uses a patty from Beyond Meat — vs Burger King, which has an Impossible Whopper with a patty from Impossible Foods it debuted in August 2019.

When two fast-food titans each partner up with the two reigning titans of the faux-burger world, it's time to put them side by side and decide.

McPlant versus Impossible Whopper, how do they compare?

McDonald's McPlant
On November 3, I made a field visit with vegetarian expert Stacy Breen to the McDonald's at 2151 N Josey Ln. in Carrollton, where we ordered McPlants and fries. While we waited, Stacy observed that both Irving and Carrollton have large communities of people from India, many vegetarian, and wondered if that was a factor in McDonald's decision to choose those two stores.

The McPlant comes in a neat cardboard box and was like a McDonald's cheeseburger in every way — served on a sesame seed bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and American cheese — except made with a plant-based patty formulated via a collaboration between McDonald's and Beyond.

Exactly what that formulation is, they do not say, other than peas, rice, and potatoes — not all that different from Beyond's regular formulation of "pea protein, rice protein, and potato starch." But maybe they have added a little flavor, because it had the palest hint of a tomato/BBQ thing that added a "meaty" taste.

The patty seemed a little bigger than McD's regular 1.6-ounce beef patty. The texture was good: firm and yet crumbly in all the right meaty ways, not rubbery, not spongey. The patty's perimeter was trimmed sharply, which gave it a subtle crust.

Everything else in the sandwich was a tribute to McDonald's formula: Its tangy combination of mayo-ketchup-mustard, the tiny dose of rich-and-creamy from the American cheese, and the juicy sharp crunch from the tomato-lettuce-onion. Their buns are great, with a constitution that stands up to what's inside but is still moist and pliant. The buns are said to contain high-fructose corn syrup, so there's a pleasing almost yeasty sweetness.

While we there, Jeff Sinelli — founder of WhichWich, Burguesa, Birdguesa, and a pioneer at introducing vegan items such as the black bean patty at WhichWich — breezed in and ordered a whole batch of McPlants, which he said he planned to take back to the office for evaluation. He was particularly tickled that he successfully persuaded McDonald's staffers to create a "hack" McPlant Big Mac.

"We were one of the first to put Beyond beef on the menu at WhichWich more than six years ago," he said. "The problem is that it was expensive. Hopefully this will help bring the cost down."

Burger King Impossible Whopper
I get an Impossible Whopper at Burger King about once a month. It has an Impossible patty, with tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, pickles, and onions.

Unlike the McPlant, it has no cheese and or mustard. It's also a Whopper, so it's larger, with a bun and patty that measure 5 inches across, versus the McPlant which is 4 inches across.

The Whopper Impossible patty is thin like a fast-food patty, and has a meaty flavor. BK touts their burgers as being flame-grilled but when I've ordered the Impossible Whopper, they pull the patty out of a wall compartment. This is not to say it has not been flame-grilled ahead of time and they're re-heating at the last minute. It does have a pattern of definitive scorch marks, though who's to say that's not just decorative. But if the flame-grilling is the selling point, it kind of gets lost.

The Impossible Whopper has also, at times, come up short on lettuce and tomato. According to my neighborhood Facebook page, our local Burger King is not the best of breed. To that point, I'm fairly sure that once, when I ordered an Impossible whopper via drive-thru, I got a real beef patty by mistake, which is why it's wise to go into the store and order it at the counter, to reinforce that yes you really do want the Impossible version. This is important because the Impossible is the most convincing beef fake, and it can be hard to tell the difference.

Summary
The Impossible Whopper is bigger, which most people would like. It lacks mustard, which I missed; and American cheese, which I did not. It has a softer squishier bun. It's $6.79 (although they frequently run specials such as 2 for 1 or $2 Impossible Whoppers on Wednesdays). It helps if you order extra lettuce and tomato for an additional 25 cents.

The McPlant is $5.49. It's smaller, and has a better bun. It's a cheeseburger, which makes it probably more delicious for non-vegans, but to make it vegan, you must subtract both mayo and cheese which alters its profile more significantly than the Whopper, which only requires you to skip the mayo to make it vegan.

But the differences between the actual patties themselves are fairly negligible, especially since Beyond has changed its recipe at least twice and more closely resembles Impossible these days.

Honestly, the joy of burgers is about the symphony of toppings. If you eat a burger patty solo — no topping, no bun — the flavor is nil, especially in fast-food burgers where the patty is a little more than a thin platform for what's piled on top.

Both the McPlant and the Impossible Whopper give vegans an accessible, convenient new option, but these sandwiches are less about vegans and more about the growing number of people who don't want to eat beef but still crave a burger experience, and these two more than capably fill that niche.