Chick-fil-A’s first meatless chicken sandwich is made with this star vegetable

Meatless chicken can be made from a variety of bases, perhaps none more popular than cauliflower—which serves as a faithful vegan alternative to chicken wings every Super Bowl Sunday. This year, the humble cauliflower is pulling double-duty as the meatless chicken in Chick-fil-A’s first vegetarian sandwich.

Starting February 13, the major chicken chain will unveil the Chick-fil-A cauliflower sandwich, which is made with cauliflower and the original Chick-fil-A signature seasoning (which includes milk and dairy), pressure-cooked and breaded. Two dill pickles are paired with chips and served between toasted buns.

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“Cauliflower is the hero of our new sandwich, and it was inspired by our original Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich,” Leslie Nestlage, Chick-fil-A’s director of menu and packaging, said in a statement. “Guests told us they wanted to add more vegetables to their diet, 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 eat at Chick-fil-A,” Nestlé said.

Next week, the new vegetarian sandwich will hit Chick-fil-A locations for a limited time in three test markets: Denver, CO; Charleston, SC; and the Greensboro-Triad region of North Carolina.

Creating Chick-fil-A’s first meatless chicken sandwich

Over the years, Chick-fil-A has gained a reputation for many things but vegetarian food has not been one of them until now.

The chicken chain invested heavily in the development of its new Chick-fil-A cauliflower sandwich, which it says took nearly four years to perfect, meaning chefs and recipe testers worked throughout the pandemic to get the sandwich’s recipe just right.

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“We explored every nook and cranny of the plant-based space in search of the perfect centerpiece for our plant-forward entrée,” Stewart Tracy, culinary developer for the Chick-fil-A cauliflower sandwich, said in a statement. “Time and time again, we come back to cauliflower as the base of our sandwiches.”

“After a significant amount of development, we knew we had a one-of-a-kind entry; One that puts a delicious spin on what we’re known for—great-tasting food with ingredients you can trust,” said Tracy.

The sandwich is in its experimental launch phase, during which companies typically focus on gathering large amounts of data before expanding the test or rolling it out nationally. This means that the current iteration of the Chick-fil-A cauliflower sandwich contains animal-derived ingredients, but the final version may change based on consumer feedback.

Cauliflower enters the chicken battle

Chick-fil-A has been at war with Popeye’s for years, with each chain one-upping the other with a new chicken sandwich they hope will be all the rage. Casualties in this war are chickens, which are slaughtered in polluting factory farms to keep up with these rituals.

Chick-fil-A’s exploration of meatless chicken alternatives comes as the pandemic continues to highlight how vulnerable the animal agriculture industry is to supply disruptions. Currently, the poultry industry is facing a historic egg shortage due to the longest avian flu outbreak on record. Although plants like cauliflower are not impervious to supply chain disruptions, they are immune to zoonotic disease transmission.

VegNews.Impossible Chicken.BurgerKingBurger King

Other fast-food chains are slowly exploring the plant-based chicken space to future-proof their businesses. Last year, Burger King tested its first meatless chicken sandwich in partnership with Impossible Foods — a partnership that began in 2019 with the launch of the Impossible Whopper.

Burger King tested the Original Chicken Sandwich at locations in the Cincinnati, OH area in August. A meatless take on its classic chicken sandwich, this version was made with Impossible Foods’ new plant-based Impossible Chicken patty and can be ordered entirely plant-based, minus the mayonnaise.

Overseas, major chains have been much more active in introducing plant-based chicken alternatives, including Burger King. The chain has been testing plant-based options at meatless pop-ups for two years with its European supplier The Vegetarian Butcher. This has resulted in main menu updates in several markets, including vegan versions of classics like The Long Chicken. The fast-food chain also works with The Knot Company in South America where its AI-perfected vegan chicken has been gracing the menu since last summer.


One of Chick-fil-A’s top competitors, KFC, has also joined vegan chicken. While it tried to add Beyond Fried Chicken to its U.S. menu for a limited time last year, the vegan chicken option didn’t stick permanently. However, in the United Kingdom, KFC serves a vegan burger made with Quorn’s meatless chicken fillet seasoned with Cornell’s famous 11 herbs and spices.

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