Which came first, the chicken or the pea protein isolate?
Domesticated chickens date back to 2000 BC, but peas were present a few thousand years before that. When considering whether those peas were dried, milled, wet filtered, and put in a centrifuge to extract the protein… I’m going to just give the chicken a win. And Jack in the Box is giving the chicken a win too, sparing them from its new offering, the Unchicken Sandwich.
Jack in the Box is currently testing the Unchicken Sandwich only in restaurants near Reno, NV and Monterey, CA, making them just the second major fast food chain in the US to test plant-based chicken. This follows KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken tests in 2019 and earlier this year. Jack in the Box has partnered with Raised & Rooted, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods, to bring its Unchicken Sandwich to the meatless crazed masses.
Raised & Rooted advertises its chicken alternative as a blend of pea protein isolate, bamboo fibers, egg white, and golden flaxseed. The breading is Jack’s recipe, available in original and spicy. I opted for the latter.
Aside from having a plant-based patty, the sandwich offers the standard accompaniments of a toasted split top bun, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. My sandwich came with what can only be described as an aggressive amount of lettuce. While Jack in the Box is usually generous with lettuce, it seems it may have gone overboard to compensate for the very thin Unchicken patty.
Upon my first bite, I was immediately hit with an intense amount of spice. As someone who is often disappointed by the lack of spice in fast food offerings, the strong cayenne and paprika flavor from the crisp breading offered a welcomed punch. The plentiful amount of lettuce, along with the tomatoes, worked well to help cool down the heat.
If I was not cued to the fact that it was a plant-based sandwich, I don’t think I would question that it was anything but a thin, processed chicken patty sandwich. The grain-like aftertaste you get when tasting the patty alone is masked quite well by the spices in the breading. On close inspection, the Unchicken is denser than most chicken patties. But when eating the sandwich together, it is remarkably similar to the texture of chicken.
Having tried plant-based burgers and chicken nuggets in the past, Jack in the Box’s Spicy Unchicken Sandwich takes the top spot as the most convincing imitation. Keeping the patty thin and having a crisp, spicy breading really hides any shortcomings that come from utilizing a chicken alternative. If you’re inclined to eat a more plant-based diet, this is definitely one to try.
Purchased Price: $5.49 (sandwich only)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Not available.