Chick-fil-A Debuts Cauliflower Sandwich

Chick-fil-A Cauliflower sandwich

The Plant-Based Sandwich Will Be Tested in Three Markets

The Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich will audition in three U.S. cities starting next week. In announcing the test of the sandwich, the company described it as a tender filet of cauliflower that’s marinated and then coated with seasoned breading before pressure-cooking. It’s served on a buttery bun with dill pickle slices – the same presentation as the company’s signature fried chicken breast sandwich.   

The tryout is set to begin Monday in three locales: Charleston, S.C.; the Greensboro triad region of North Carolina; and Denver, according to a CNN report. The Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich will set you back at least $6.59, and possibly more, with restaurants allowed to charge more than the start-at price.  

Why Cauliflower?

Stuart Tracy, culinary developer of the cauliflower sandwich for close to four years, said Chick-fil-A chefs had been working to develop a veggie-based sandwich using various options, from “mushrooms to chickpeas to chopped vegetables formed into patties.” Cauliflower’s “mild flavor” won out, he said. 

“We explored every corner of the plant-based space in search of the perfect centerpiece for our plant-forward entrée,” Tracy said, according to CNBC report. Time and time again, we kept returning to cauliflower as the base of our sandwich.” 

It’s a popular pivot: Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance, offers fried cauliflower in buffalo sauce as an option instead of chicken wings, CNBC points out. Cauliflower has also been used as a rice substitute, when finely chopped; in pretzels; and in pizza crusts at restaurants such as the Blaze Pizza and MOD Pizza franchises. 

Chick-fil-A is Still Committed to Chicken

Nonetheless, “we are committed to chicken, and chicken is the hero,” Leslie Neslage, the company’s director of menu and packaging, told USA Today.  It’s just that “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,” so Neslage said Chick-fil-A aims to please. 

Plant-based foods and meals have been a major trend in the nation’s restaurants, including many fast-food franchises. However, Chick-fil-A is aware that vegans will still pass the new sandwich because it contains milk and eggs. And some vegetarians will follow suit because Chick-fil-A locations are not equipped with “vegetarian-only preparation surfaces,” according to the company.

Plant-Based Fast Food

Fast-food restaurants have been flirting with plant-based meat substitutes to replace chicken nuggets and ground beef for a few years now. Probably the most noteworthy win is Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, which was introduced in April 2019 and is still going strong. The burger franchise has also been testing plant-based chicken sandwiches, CNN reported. 

Key competitor McDonald’s tried a McPlant sandwich in 2022, but so far it hasn’t seemed to pass muster. McPlant is not a fixture on the company’s U.S. menus. 

Two brands under the Yum! Brands umbrella, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, also have experimented in the veggie domain. KFC tried out plant-based fried chicken nuggets last year, but they haven’t landed a permanent spot on the franchise’s menu so far. CNN also pointed out that Taco Bell has experimented with meat alternatives, but nothing has officially joined its menu. 

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Mary Vinnedge is an award-winning journalist who has served as editor in chief, managing editor and senior editor at national and regional publications, including SUCCESS and Design NJ magazines. She also held reporting and editing roles at The Dallas Morning News and Charlotte Observer newspapers.

Before Mary began covering franchise news and trends as a staff writer for FranchiseWire and Franchise Consultant Magazine, she developed articles on topics ranging from lifestyle, education, health and science to home projects, horticulture, gardening, interior design and architecture. These articles included her reporting on academic news at her alma mater, Texas A&M University, when Mary worked in the marketing department of the Texas A&M Foundation. She continues to be a news junkie and subscribes to several publications.

Today Mary and her husband are empty nesters living on Galveston Island near Houston. The couple’s blended family – scattered around the United States – includes five children, four grandchildren and two very spoiled, very barky miniature schnauzer rescues.
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