Chick-fil-A is testing a plant-based first, its brand new Cauliflower Sandwich in three markets to see if it’s worth a nationwide rollout.
Imagine opening the famous Chick-fil-A wrapping and seeing a delicious-looking chicken sandwich. You take a bite into it and immediately realize something is wrong. Instead of the texture of a fried chicken filet, your teeth bite through something with the texture of a vegetable. Yes, that chicken-looking mass between the buns, breaded and broasted to a golden brown, is actually a large slab of cauliflower. It actually is about the same size as the sandwich’s normal chicken filet.
Unless you intentionally signed up for cauliflower over chicken — or, as in my case, you knew in advance that’s what you were getting — you might be quite disappointed.
Since Charleston is one of the three nationwide test markets, I had the opportunity to sample one of them. A team from the nearest franchise location dropped off a box full of them in our newsroom, surely hoping we’d do a story on the new menu item. (We actually did a story on it last week before there was any indication they’d drop off samples.)
The team members were very enthusiastic about the little creation. Sort of the same level of “excited” that Apple Store members get when there’s a rollout of a new product. Very excited. As if the entire world has been waiting for this new product for generations.
Why does Chick-fil-A need a Cauliflower Sandwich?
If you think about it, that doesn’t sound like a dumb question. I can think of a couple of reasons it could be a welcome item on the menu for some customers.
First, if you’re trying to just cut back on meat, it might be a satisfactory alternative occasionally. I stress the word occasionally. This isn’t the kind of thing I can imagine many would select as their “go-to” item.
Second, if you’re vegan but you have kids who aren’t, it might help you avoid making two stops for dinner. While you get your kids that golden chicken goodness, there’s at least something you can eat.
Third, if you really, really like cauliflower, this might be the sandwich for you. It’s a big slab of cauliflower, about the size of the filet of chicken breast on the normal sandwich. So it helps if you actually enjoy that particular vegetable.
I don’t hate cauliflower. But I definitely am not enamored with it, either.
What I find curious about the sandwich is the cauliflower filet’s preparation. A news release states the big cauliflower is marinated, breaded with a signature seasoning, pressure-cooked, and served on a toasted buttery bun with two dill pickle chips. Just like the real thing.
I wish I could tell you that it tasted like the real thing. I wish I could tell you that by marinating that slab of vegetable and then by pressure cooking it the same way they cook the chicken, you wouldn’t know the difference.
But it doesn’t taste like the same thing. And you would know the difference.
Don’t get me wrong.
I respect Chick-fil-A’s effort to offer a vegan-friendly menu option. Those folks — or people who just love their cauliflower the same way some of prefer french fries — have reason to celebrate.
Some co-workers told me the secret to “help” the flavor is to pour a bit of the chain’s dipping sauce over the top of the veggie. I used the Polynesian Sauce. (Some co-workers used barbecue, Buffalo and even the regular Chick-fil-A sauce.)
Interesting idea. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: That Polynesian Sauce didn’t hide the fact that it was cauliflower. Would that it could have.
For those of you who choose not to eat meat at all, I respect your choice. I have zero — literally zero — desire to join you in that endeavor. But I respect your choice. For you, I suspect you’ll enjoy it…if you can get past the meat-looking breading and pressure-cooking.
I wonder if it wouldn’t taste better to a non-vegan, meat-loving customer if they had found a way to season and grill the cauliflower rather than disguising it so that it looks like any other chicken breast waiting to be served.
I’ve never been a fan of cauliflower, so it didn’t hit the mark for me. It’s not something I would ever order if I found myself at a Chick-fil-A. But I have no doubt that those looking for a plant-based option would be happy to see it on the menu!