First there was the Impossible Whopper. Then KFC introduced Beyond Nuggets. And now, this. On Thursday, Chick-fil-A, the leading chicken sandwich joint in America announced that it is going to test its own vegetable-centric option after four years in development: the fried cauliflower sandwich.
According to the fast food restaurant’s website, the sandwich will be made via the same cooking process and same seasonings as their famed chicken sandwiches, just using a “real cauliflower filet.”
And, yes, there will still be two pickles on the sandwich — let’s get that out of the way as soon as possible.
The veggie-based sandwich will debut with a pilot program beginning on Monday, February 13, in three markets: Denver, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; and North Carolina’s Greensboro-Triad region.
“Cauliflower is the hero of our new sandwich, and it was inspired by our original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich,” said Leslie Neslage, director of menu and packaging at Chick-fil-A, in a statement. “Guests told us they wanted to add more vegetables into their diets, and they wanted a plant-forward entrée that tasted uniquely Chick-fil-A. Our new sandwich is made with the highest quality ingredients and whole vegetables, and we hope it offers customers another reason to dine at Chick-fil-A.”
While other chains have gone the route of processed plant-based options like Impossible and Beyond, Chick-fil-A has landed on a whole vegetable approach.
“Our culinary team brainstormed and explored everything from mushrooms to chickpeas to chopped vegetables formed into patties, but we kept coming back to the cauliflower filet,” writes Stuart Tracy, the company’s principal culinary developer, on the restaurant’s website.
Although... MAJOR WARNING to vegetarians who have been waiting for a menu item like this: the fine print also says “entrée not considered vegetarian,” which, well, what does that actually mean? Perhaps that it’s fried in the same place with the meat sandwiches?
And it’s definitely not vegan, either. The website also adds in fine print: “Milk and eggs are included in the preparation process of the Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich. We do not designate vegetarian-only preparation surfaces.”
The other slight issue with a plant-based sandwich that is getting good reviews so far is the company’s poor history with LGBTQ+ rights. The company has a long history of financially supporting anti-gay groups like the Marriage & Family Foundation, Exodus International and the Family Research Council. And though they stopped directly donating to those groups in 2019, due to widespread protests, president and COO Dave Cathy (son of the founder of the chain) still openly donates to such groups and has spoken out against gay marriage.
Anyway: first cauliflower came for our rice, and now it’s coming for our breaded sandwiches. If corporate America tries to get me to eat cauliflower fries next, I’m out. Especially if they’re not vegetarian.