This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Another day, another Veganuary launch – except, not? On Monday (the 5th of January), after the initial flurry of new items on the 2nd and 3rd – the Greggs vegan steak bake, the KFC zero burger, Subway's meatless meatball marinara, not to mention about a gazillion supermarket products – Burger King announced that its new Rebel Whopper burger, featuring a plant-based patty, would be available to its app subscribers. Today, it launches nationwide.
But there was a catch: despite the patty, which is made with veggie food company The Vegetarian Butcher, and its Veganuary launch, the Rebel Whopper isn’t vegan, as it contains mayonnaise. This would be fine if it were the only issue – vegans have said the words “no mayo please” more times than they’ve uttered the names of their loved ones. However, the burger is also cooked on the griddle alongside the beef patties for BK’s other burgers, which means it’s technically not even vegetarian.
Which… seems a bit short sighted. Katie Evans, the marketing director for Burger King told the BBC that the burger is aimed at flexitarians and people hoping to reduce their meat intake. Given that many other fast food chains have managed to pull off proper vegan launches for Veganuary, there was understandably some mild outrage among veggies and vegans. If anything, it just feels like a bad business decision from BK.
Nevertheless, a fast food chain as big as Burger King selling a meat-free burger is a big deal, and might lead to a vegan option in future. Also, it really might push some omnivores in the direction of reducing their meat intake when unhinging their jaws to swallow a burger at 2AM after a night out. Though I am but a disappointed vegan, I was still interested in measuring the Rebel Whopper’s effectiveness, so I consulted my meat-eating friend and esteemed colleague Nana Baah, who kindly reviewed it:
HOW REAL DOES IT TASTE?
Burger King’s justification for cooking the plant-based burger alongside the beef patties is so that it has the same “flame grilled taste” as their regular burgers. Nana thinks that they have achieved this: “The taste is smoky, but it tastes like a festival burger, i.e. crap and processed.” She pauses. “Which is a positive, by the way.”
Taste rating: 9/10
AS A BURGER IN AND OF ITSELF, HOW NICE IS IT?
It’s all well and good doing a plant-based item, but if it’s disgusting then nobody will buy it (looking at you, McDonald’s). So, how actually delicious is this burger? I put it to Nana. “Extremely,” she says. “I said, ‘Oh my god’ aloud after the first bite.” Then she’s quiet for a minute and just goes, “Ah it was really good” to herself, smiling. :)
Burger rating: 9.5/10
Texture can be the making of or the death knell for a plant-based product, as well I know. Too chewy and it’s gross, too soft and it’s… also gross, and a bit messy. How does the Rebel Whopper fare? “It held together like a beefburger would,” Nana confirms. “It was like – have you ever had a Rustler? Where the meat has been, like, punched? That is gorgeous.”
Texture rating: 8/10
HOW GOOD WOULD THIS BURGER BE WHEN DRUNK?
A very important element of any fast food burger is how enjoyable it would be after seven pints and a Jägerbomb, and if the Rebel Whopper is to have any sort of staying power, it needs to succeed in this category. “It would have to be a 10/10," Nana says. "It’s greasy. If I was hungover or drunk, I would need two. I think being pissed might actually be what this burger was made for.”
Pissed rating: 100/10
One element of the Rebel Whopper that Nana does complain about is the aftertaste: “When I finished, I had grease on my teeth which is not cool. I’m trying to think back to having other Burger King burgers, which I’ve not done in a while, but I’ve never felt like my mouth was gross after, which is how this felt. But I’d be willing to put up with that if I was drunk. It’s... not something I want to experience in the daytime.”
Aftertaste rating: 0/10
FINAL VERDICT: HOW LIKELY ARE YOU TO GET THIS INSTEAD OF A MEAT BURGER?
If Burger King say that this burger is aimed at flexitarians than we can probably measure its success by how likely meat-eaters would be to trade a regular Whopper in for the regular one.
“I would definitely get it instead, because personally I’m trying to eat less meat,” says Nana. She adds that the best part about it is that it still provides the authentic fast-food-induced self-loathing, which I agree is important. “You can still hate yourself after not eating meat, which is nice. I want to feel like I’m drowning in grease rather than killing animals. Scientists have cracked it.”
Likelihood rating: 10/10
There you have it. Should we get a YouTube channel where I just watch Nana eat stuff and ask her about it y/n?