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Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich Image.jpg Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A's Cauliflower Sandwich has been in development for about four years.

Chick-fil-A is testing a proprietary cauliflower sandwich

Chick-fil-A’s cauliflower sandwich has been in development since late 2018 and will be tested in three markets starting Monday and running through May.

Hold off on any reports that the plant-based trend has passed. Heavyweight Chick-fil-A just threw its hat into the ring, and its hat looks very different from the other hats.

Starting Monday, Chick-fil-A will begin testing its first plant-forward entrée, the Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich, at restaurants in the Denver, Charleston, South Carolina, and Greensboro-Triad, North Carolina, region.

The sandwich features a tender filet cut from a whole cauliflower, marinated and breaded with the brand’s signature seasoning, pressure cooked and served on a toasted buttery bun with two dill pickle chips. The cauliflower sandwich was created in-house by Chick-fil-A’s culinary team, which spent about four years trying to find a solution to consumers’ increasing demands for more vegetable options.

“A lot of this started with noticing a trend in the marketplace of people eating more vegetables/eating less meat. We see a lot of products in retail that address this need that has now shifted to new products in the marketplace like Beyond and Impossible appearing heavily at other fast-food brands. We looked at ‘what does that mean for us?’” Stuart Tracy, Chick-fil-A’s culinary developer said during a product preview earlier this week at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.

To find that answer, the team created its first prototype in October 2018 and went through dozens of iterations, trying everything from mushrooms to green tomatoes to beets to legumes. The cauliflower sandwich was developed early in the process and “we just kept coming back to it,” Tracy said.

“This is a great example of a purpose-built, plant-based entrée that checks all of the boxes our consumers wanted – something that tasted like Chick-fil-A, that was identifiable and that was delicious,” he said. “They didn’t want it to be mysterious, or a scramble of ingredients dressed up like something else. They wanted to be able to see it and say, ‘OK, that’s a mushroom, or green tomato or cauliflower in this case. With those three big learnings in mind, we got to work and found the cauliflower sandwich early.”

The sandwich is also operationally simple, which is a critical feature at a company that generates such high volumes as Chick-fil-A. During the four-year process, Chick-fil-A worked with suppliers to procure the right cut of cauliflower filet – width, length, weight – and marinade, which is a mild buffalo flavor. The cooking process is similar to the brand’s signature chicken sandwich: cauliflower filets are dipped in an egg and milk wash, then coated once in seasoned coater (“a familiar Chick-fil-A flavor,” Stuart said) and then pressure cooked in refined peanut oil. The pressure-cooking process takes a little longer than chicken, but not enough to affect speed of service, Tracy said.

“The oil is the thing some people don’t think of as a thing that adds flavor. It totally does, it’s the secret ingredient. The way those flavors converge is special,” Tracy said. “Cauliflower when it fries is sort of sweet, our coater has sweet notes to it and the peanut oil is this ethereal, savory, nutty thing that just spikes it.”

During the test, which runs through May, the Cauliflower Sandwich will start at $6.59. Customers in the three test markets can check the Chick-fil-A app or contact their local restaurant to find out if it is participating in the test.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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