Chick-Fil-A Just Revealed A New Sandwich—And We've Tried It

The beloved Southern fast-food restaurant is stepping into a whole new category.

<p>Courtesy of Chick-fil-A</p>

Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A is adding a new menu item to their delicious line-up of sandwiches, nuggets, and salads: a Cauliflower Sandwich.

Chick-fil-A's hero food is the chicken sandwich. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that. And for that matter, their chicken biscuit is the hero of many a morning meal, too.

But in an evolving world, where people want variety and are looking for more flexible options for their meals and diet, Chick-fil-A thought now was the right time to introduce their first plant-forward entree.

Leslie Neslage, director of menu and packaging for Chick-fil-A, shared that the culinary team went through more than two dozen concepts before finding the right plant-based option for the restaurant. What they wanted, above all else, was a sandwich that still had the look, taste, and feel of Chick-fil-A.

"What really matters is we want to have a menu of choice for our customers. Chicken is king for Chick-fil-A. That being said, customers really want to find a way to incorporate more vegetables into their diet," Neslage told Southern Living. "So it was really born out of a customer need. They want new flavor, new variety. That was the most important thing we deliver on—high-quality, fresh ingredients, great variety, and that we meet those customers where they are."

Some may call the no-meat sandwich trend a flash-in-the-pan idea as other restaurants have released their own plant-friendly or faux-meat options for several years. But Chick-fil-A has been working on this sandwich for years. In fact, product development testing for this new sandwich began more than four years ago, in 2018. Chick-fil-A's process of getting a new food item from idea into restaurants can take several months, or several years, as it did in the case of this new entree.

That means, says Stuart Tracy, senior lead culinary developer for Chick-fil-A, the chef behind the new sandwich, that they don't really want to respond to trends.

"We're more interested in things that are long lasting, evergreen. Identifying what's a trend and what's more of a behavior change is the tricky part," Stuart told Southern Living. "This idea that people want more vegetables in their diet is clearly a more long-lasting thing."

He continued, "We're all about a menu of choice. We want to meet people where they are. We're not trying to force them into trying something that doesn't feel like it can be a fit for them and their lifestyle. If you want to eat chicken, great—we have that in spades. If you want to try kale for the first time, we have a thing for you. If you want to try cauliflower and you've never had it before or you don't usually like cauliflower, please, try this," Stuart says.

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What Does the New Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich Taste Like?

Up until the moment you take your first bite, you won't be able to spot much difference between the new cauliflower sandwich and the classic fried chicken sandwich. I know this because I tried the new Cauliflower Sandwich this week at the Chick-fil-A Test Kitchens in Atlanta, Georgia.

This sandwich is made with whole cauliflower slices or slabs that have been marinated in a buffalo-style sauce and then dipped in an egg wash and double-breaded, just like the original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich. Then, each cauliflower filet is pressure-cooked to tender perfection and placed between two buttery, toasted buns with the standard two pickles of the chicken sandwich. In other words, they're virtually identical, in all but that one significant way.

I found the patty incredibly juicy and actually more tender than the classic chicken filet. The buffalo marinade is quite mild, adding a hint of vinegar to each bite, but very little burn, and serving mainly to blunt the "green" flavor of cauliflower that it always develops when cooked. Truth be told, if you didn't know what the patty was, odds are you wouldn't guess. And you're absolutely still going to want to slather on your favorite sauces.

Looks were important to the development team. After all, we do eat with our eyes first. Neslage said the new sandwich needed to "taste, look, and feel like Chick-fil-A," but Stuart said it also needed to be identifiable as a vegetable. In a world of mystery faux meats and round patties of unknown legume and bean origins, the Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich stands apart.

Final verdict: If you're a flexitarian eater or just vegetable curious, this is something worth trying. However, this is not a vegetarian-friendly entree. Due to the cooking environment, Chick-fil-A is not giving the sandwich that label.

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<p>Courtesy of Chick-fil-</p>

Courtesy of Chick-fil-

When Can You Buy the New Cauliflower Sandwich?

The Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich will be available beginning Monday, February 13. It will be only in three test markets: Denver, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; and North Carolina's Greensboro-Triad area.

The sandwich will only be available for a limited time, or while supplies last. After that, the company will gauge how well the test period went, take in consumer feedback, and determine if this vegetable sandwich is going to be available nationwide or not.

If you're one of the lucky folks in the test markets, try it and tell us what you think. We can't wait to hear!

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Read the original article on Southern Living.