Is the impossible breakfast sandwich at Starbucks real meat?

The impossible breakfast sandwich at Starbucks has been getting a lot of buzz lately. This meatless breakfast sandwich is made with a plant-based sausage patty, egg and cheese. But with its meaty taste and texture, many customers are wondering – is the impossible breakfast sandwich at Starbucks made with real meat or is it 100% plant-based?

What is the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich?

The impossible breakfast sandwich was added to the Starbucks menu in June 2021. It consists of a plant-based sausage patty made by Impossible Foods, egg and cheese on a ciabatta bun. The patty is designed to mimic the taste, texture and cooking experience of real sausage. Here are the sandwich ingredients:

  • Impossible Sausage Patty – plant-based patty made from soy protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil and heme
  • Egg – real egg
  • Cheddar Cheese – real dairy cheese
  • Ciabatta Bun

The sandwich is cooked on the same grill as the regular sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches at Starbucks. Besides the Impossible patty, all other ingredients in the sandwich are non-vegan.

Is the Impossible Patty 100% Plant-Based?

Yes, the Impossible patty used in Starbucks’ breakfast sandwich is completely plant-based and animal product free. The key ingredients in an Impossible sausage patty are:

  • Soy Protein Concentrate: Extracted from soybeans, provides texture and protein.
  • Coconut Oil: Adds saturated fat to mimic the mouthfeel of meat.
  • Sunflower Oil: Adds unhealthy fats found in animal meat.
  • Heme: An iron-containing molecule that comes from soy plants, replicates blood and gives the patty its meaty flavor.
  • Spices and flavors: Help replicate sausage seasoning.
  • Methylcellulose: A plant-derived binder that holds it all together.

Impossible Foods clearly labels their products as 100% plant based with no animal hormones, antibiotics or cholesterol. They use natural flavors, spices, oils and binders to create the juicy, savory taste of meat from plants. The Impossible sausage gets its meaty texture and appearance from optimizing low moisture levels during cooking. Plant proteins tighten and firm up when cooked, while the oils create a satisfying sizzle.

Why Does it Look and Taste Like Real Sausage?

There are a few key reasons why Impossible sausage can mimic the taste, aroma, sizzle and texture of real pork sausage so well:

  • Heme molecule – Heme is found in all living organisms and triggers craveable meaty flavor. Impossible Foods replicates it through fermentation of soy plants.
  • Fat blend – The combination of coconut oil and sunflower oil can mimic the mouthfeel and fatty experience of meat.
  • Spices and flavors – Savory spices like garlic, onion, paprika and cayenne capture sausage seasoning.
  • Textured plant protein – When heated, the soy protein tightens to replicate meaty chew and texture.
  • Cooking method – Direct flame grilling or pan-frying creates a caramelized, sizzling exterior.

Impossible Foods has tuned their formula over the years to precisely mimic the experience of cooking and eating ground meat. The plant-based heme was the breakthrough discovery that enables the Impossible burger to satisfy meat cravings. While the Impossible breakfast sausage smells, tastes and cooks like the real thing – it remains 100% meat free.

Nutrition Comparison to Regular Sausage

From a nutritional standpoint, the Impossible sausage has some advantages and disadvantages compared to regular pork sausage patties:

Nutrition Facts Impossible Sausage Patty Pork Sausage Patty
Calories 140 180
Total Fat 9g 16g
Saturated Fat 5g 6g
Sodium 370mg 450mg
Protein 10g 6g
Iron 3mg 1mg
Cholesterol 0mg 35mg

The Impossible patty is lower in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol compared to pork sausage. It contains a similar amount of saturated fat. Where it really differs is being higher in protein and key nutrients like iron. Going with the plant-based sausage can reduce your cholesterol intake compared to regular pork sausage.

Ingredients Label Analysis

Analyzing the ingredients label of the Impossible sausage also provides some clues that it is indeed meatless:

  • Does not contain any animal proteins like pork, beef or chicken
  • Gets protein from soy instead of meat
  • Uses oils like coconut and sunflower rather than animal fat
  • Includes natural heme from plants to mimic blood
  • Uses methylcellulose, a plant-derived binder, not animal products
  • No mention of animal hormones, antibiotics or slaughterhouses

While the Impossible patty looks and tastes similar to sausage, the ingredients tell the real story. It is manufactured from plant sources and assembled to precisely mimic meat. But no actual animal products are used in the production process.

Can Vegans Eat the Impossible Sandwich?

While the Impossible patty itself is 100% plant-based and vegan, the full Impossible breakfast sandwich at Starbucks is not considered vegan. Here’s why:

  • The sandwich contains egg, which does not fit a vegan diet.
  • It also contains real dairy cheese made from cow’s milk.
  • The ciabatta bread may use eggs, dairy or honey in the recipe.
  • It is cooked on the same grill as sausage, ham and bacon sandwiches.

Someone following a strict vegan diet would want to avoid the Starbucks Impossible breakfast sandwich. But vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs could potentially eat it. The sandwich satisfies lacto-ovo vegetarian, flexitarian and reducetarian diets, but it does not qualify as vegan.

Should You Trust the Impossible Patty is Meatless?

Impossible Foods was founded with the mission of eliminating the need for animals in the food system. They aim to perfectly recreate the taste, aroma, sizzle and nutrition of meat from sustainable plant sources. Here are four key reasons you can trust the Impossible breakfast sausage contains no hidden animal products:

  1. Transparent Brand: Impossible is upfront about creating 100% plant-based products and shares their ingredients and process openly.
  2. Trustworthiness: Impossible has built trust by delivering high-quality products that align with their mission over the past decade.
  3. Food Safety: The Impossible patty meets FDA food safety standards and contains no controversial artificial ingredients.
  4. Third Party Verification: Impossible Foods certifies all products through the Non-GMO Project and Vegan Action among other certifiers.

Based on their track record and transparency, there is no reason to believe Impossible Foods secretly uses animal ingredients while claiming otherwise. They use science and technology to transform plants into delicious meatless meat.

Taste Test Perceptions

In blind taste tests and sensory evaluations, Impossible sausage consistently fools people into thinking it is real pork sausage. In one Stanford University study, 132 participants were unable to distinguish between Impossible sausage and meat-based sausage through sensory analysis. Here are some of their reactions:

  • “I cannot tell the difference between the two.”
  • “Taste, texture, juiciness and mouthfeel are indistinguishable.”
  • “Visually looks identical to regular sausage.”
  • “Sizzles and caramelizes like real meat.”
  • “Flavor profile is indistinguishable from pork.”

The results show just how close Impossible has come to imitating real pork sausage based on the human senses. While the ingredients may be plant based, the senses perceive it as nearly identical to meat.

Restaurant Preparation

The way Starbucks prepares and cooks the Impossible breakfast sandwich also convinces meat eaters it is real sausage:

  • Prepared on the same grill as regular sausage sandwiches, absorbing similar flavors
  • Cooked to the same internal temperature as recommended for pork patties
  • Sizzles and chars on the grill just like the meat version
  • Layered with cheese and egg between a ciabatta bun, resembling a classic breakfast sandwich

Visually and aromatically, the sandwich comes across as a standard meaty sausage sandwich to customers. The plant-based patties brown and heat up in a nearly indistinguishable way from animal-based sausage. So the cooking process makes the sandwich seem very convincingly meaty.

Is More Testing Needed?

While the Impossible breakfast sausage convincingly replicates pork, some suggest independent testing could provide final validation it contains no animal products:

  • Lab analysis to verify protein sources and ingredients
  • Genetic testing to rule out animal DNA
  • Examination of supply chain and manufacturing process for animal inputs
  • Inspection of ingredients suppliers and declarations

However, Impossible Foods already subjects its products to frequent third-party audits required for voluntary certifications like kosher, halal, vegan and non-GMO. Their plant-based products comply with various dietary restrictions. So additional product testing may not be warranted to prove it is meat free.

Future Menu Potential

The early sales success of the Impossible breakfast sandwich at Starbucks suggests an opportunity to expand meatless options using similar plant-based ingredients:

  • Breakfast burritos or tacos with Impossible crumbles
  • Lunch melts, paninis or wraps with Impossible beef
  • Flatbreads or pizzas with Impossible Italian sausage
  • Chili or baked potatoes loaded with Impossible ground meat

As Impossible diversifies its product lines, Starbucks has an opportunity to follow suit and increase plant-based choices for flexitarians seeking to cut meat consumption. The realistic taste and texture can help transition habitual meat eaters to more sustainable options.

Potential Health Benefits

Choosing a meatless Impossible sausage sandwich over pork sausage could offer some potential heart health benefits:

  • Lower in total fat, especially saturated fat
  • Much lower in cholesterol with zero cholesterol
  • Higher in protein with less negative impact than red meat
  • No risk of processed nitrates or preservatives often added to cured meat
  • Sodium is slightly lower than many pork sausage brands

For those managing cholesterol or looking to improve heart health, the plant-based Impossible sausage represents a healthier substitute. It provides the sandwich experience without the negatives of cured pork meat.

Environmental Impact

Shifting from pork sausage patties to Impossible plant patties can reduce the breakfast sandwich’s environmental footprint:

  • Uses 96% less land based on Impossible’s life cycle analysis
  • Reduces water consumption by 87% compared to real meat
  • Cuts agricultural pollution from livestock waste, chemicals and runoff
  • Slashes carbon emissions from methane released by pork farming
  • Eliminates antibiotics usage associated with industrial animal farming

As consumers grow more eco-conscious, the Impossible sausage allows enjoyment of the classic sandwich with less planetary impact. It offers a more sustainable way to produce the flavors, textures and experience of sausage.


Based on an in-depth look at its ingredients, nutritional profile, preparation, transparency and certifications – the Impossible breakfast sausage served at Starbucks does appear to be 100% plant based and free of any animal products, including meat, dairy or eggs. The realistic texture and mouthwatering flavor profile is achieved through Impossible Food’s innovative use of proteins, fats, flavors and binders fully from vegetable sources. The sandwich as a whole is not vegan due to the egg and cheese, but the plant-based sausage patty aligns with meatless diets. While some suggest more testing could help validate its meat-free claim, Impossible Foods has already demonstrated strong commitment to transparency about its veggie meats over the past decade. The Impossible breakfast sandwich represents an impressive feat of plant-based engineering that can fool all of the human senses into experiencing the flavors, aromas and textures of meat – but from sustainable, wholesome plant ingredients.

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