With the inevitability of seeing Italian family members at Thanksgiving right around the corner, it pains me to type the sentence that will surely be the one that gets me, at long last, banned from future family gatherings for life: The new meatless meatballs from Impossible Foods are delicious.
As an abstainer of red meat for more than a decade (by choice) and a lifelong Italian (by coincidence), I feel qualified to speak on a product that insinuates itself as a meat dish often closely associated with Italian cooking, despite the gag order I signed on the day they gave me my Italian card preventing me from discussing such things publicly.
Unlike the Beyond Meat plant-based meatballs, which are sold in pre-apportioned little trays of 12, the Impossible meatballs come in a big freezer pouch that loosely accommodates about 14 meatballs (at $8 per pack, the price on both is pretty much the same—better value for your dollar duly noted). The meatballs come pre-formed and fully cooked, meaning all you really need to do is heat them thoroughly before incorporating them into the meatball-based recipe of your choosing. Per the package’s instructions, you can throw them in the oven or air fryer or cook them on the stovetop in your favorite sauce—which seemed like the most “authentic” method, so that’s the one I went with.
The meatballs themselves are made up of a custom mix of Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage, with a little “savory homestyle meatball seasoning blend” mixed in for good measure. For the uninitiated, that means these meatballs are mostly derived from plants like soy and potatoes, and are flavored with heme—a lab-made version of the same iron-rich compound that makes meat taste meaty. Each three-meatball serving packs about 12 grams of protein, which is a surprisingly decent amount—three eggs, for reference, are about 18 grams. While I haven’t had the Impossible Sausage, the Impossible Burger—which looks, tastes and “bleeds” just like real beef—is a pretty damn good approximation, which inspired confidence in the finished product here. Now that I think about it, there’s actually something kind of sweet and incredibly apt about the Impossible Meatballs being ground up from all the leftover Impossible pork and sausage products.
On the stove and in sauce, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Impossible Meatballs and the genuine article. Covered, they warmed through in about 12 minutes (the package recommends heating them for 17, but I like to live dangerously), and they even browned up on the bottoms just like a real meatball would. I cooked a little fusilli on the side for good measure while I was waiting, because it just felt like the thing to do, you know?
When you’ve eaten enough plant-based meatballs, you come to understand that you’ll know mostly heartbreak—I’m looking at you, Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs—so it was a real shock to the system when the Impossible Meatballs ended up being delicious. It’s not that the Impossible Meatball’s main competitors are disgusting, per se—it’s more so true that they all fail in at least one critical area, whether it be taste, texture or sturdiness (the Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs fail in all three categories, I’m sorry to say).
As far as plant-based meatballs go, the Impossible Meatballs are very garlic-forward, which is always appreciated, and the spice blend really puts in the work to make them flavorful without being overpowering. Texturally, the meatballs take on an almost sponge-like quality that really walks the line between being totally unappealing and very true to what a meatball actually feels like.
As with any imitation meat product, it’s best to attach a disclaimer: These meatballs are best enjoyed if you try hard not to constantly compare them to the thing they’re imitating, and rather just do your best to enjoy them as a standalone, plant-based product. With that in mind, these really do hit the spot. They taste enough like meatballs as to be totally satisfying, while still occupying a space that’s almost totally distinct; if you’re someone who’s meat-free or plant-based but still craves the comfort of a well-crafted meatball, there’s finally a product on the market capable of scratching that itch. Strega Nona is shaking in her boots, and Carmela Soprano is punching the air—they can’t believe it happened right under their noses, but it did.
Impossible Meatballs go on sale today for $8 a pack at Walmart stores across the U.S.