Smashburger Is Bringing Jackfruit To The Fast-Food Alternative Meat Game

When Burger King released its meat-free Impossible Whopper nationwide in 2019, it was the first of its kind. Well, sort of — the smaller plant-based chain Next Level Burger technically finished first, having debuted its all-vegan menu concept in Bend, Oregon in 2014 as "America's first 100% plant-based burger joint." Still, as the second-largest burger chain in the U.S., it's safe to say that BK's foray into a meatless patty alternative set the tone for the deluge of plant-based burgers that followed suit at places like McDonald's, Wendy's, Carl's Jr., and beyond. 

Two popular suppliers of these genetically engineered plant-based patties are Impossible Foods (à la Burger King) and Beyond Meat (à la Carl's Jr.), both of which mimic that sought-after meaty taste and appearance with plant proteins, flavors, fats, and binders. Unfortunately, being meat-free doesn't necessarily equate to being healthy. Dietician Gina Keatley told Insider that the impressive levels of protein and fiber in Impossible and Beyond patties are matched by high sodium content. 

Meanwhile, over at Smashburger, they're testing out a new plant-based patty that turns into an actual plant — jackfruit. The franchise would be the first major chain to use the ingredient as the base of a burger.

A drought-resistant plant with a meaty texture

The Denver-based fast-food chain Smashburger is teaming up with Colorado meat-alternative food producer jack & annie's for a limited-time meatless burger made with jackfruit, FoodBeast reports. The "easy-to-grow and drought-resistant plant" yields a texture that's similar to meat but is lower in calories and higher in fiber (per jack & annie's). With the record-breaking droughts that devastated farmland across the globe in 2022 — particularly in Europe – jackfruit sounds like a sustainable alternative not only to meat but also to other potentially meat-mimicking plants that require ample irrigation. 

Unlike other meat-alternative brands, the jack & annie's patties use jackfruit as the main ingredient, says Restaurant Business. The plant is blended with other "whole food ingredients that are minimally processed," further distinguishing the patty from other brands. 

The jackfruit burger (dubbed the Plant-Based Classic Smash Burger) is currently being tested at Smashburger locations in Colorado, New York, and New Jersey through April 25. If the new menu item is successful, those core franchises may decide to expand the burger to outposts in other parts of the country.