REVIEW: Hardee’s Jalapeño Turkey Burger

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger

I have to say, I’m quite disappointed after having eaten the new Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. Jalapeño Turkey Burger.

I’m not disappointed because it has more calories than a standard Hardee’s quarter-pound cheeseburger, which contradicts its own claims of healthiness.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Patty Closeup

Nor am I bummed that the obviously pre-formed turkey patties are tenderized with more mazy grooves than a 2D Pac-Man screen. Hell, it doesn’t even boil my blood that the whole damn burger concept is basically a repackaged version of the on again/off again Santa Fe Turkey Burger from Carl’s Jr.

No, what really pisses me off is that Hardee’s finally made a decent tasting turkey burger, and they didn’t even bother to make a provocative commercial about it.

I know what you’re thinking. Turkey + Burger shape = Crap. In the interest of full disclosure, I will point out I don’t always agree with this equation — provided, of course, that I make and grill the burgers themselves.

The way I see it, if a lazy line cook at a fast food place can’t even nail a moderately juicy beef burger (and most can’t) then there’s no way they’re going to get turkey right. I didn’t need more than a 2011 visit to try the “Original” Carl’s Jr. Turkey Burger to confirm this suspicion, and thanks to the memory of that disgustingly dry and insipid excuse for a burger, I held out little hope for the latest variation from sister chain Hardee’s.

At best, I expected the new take to feature glooby mayonnaise, a stale bun, and decrepit produce working in perfect consort with a flavorless hockey-puck of poultry meat.  At worst, I expected to choke and die, but that’s another story completely.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Bun

I was wrong. Well, for the most part I was wrong, that is. The bun, in perfect little-used wheat bun fast food fashion, was stale and falling apart. It lost any malted flavor it once had thanks to an over-toast, while the burnt tasting wheat base could hardly contain the innards of the burger from slipping out. A real shame because I was still burping up the aftertaste of that piquant and flavorful collaboration of southwesterly flavors hours later.

(Aside — Don’t act like you don’t do it, and don’t pretend like burping up the taste of a morning donut or afternoon burger isn’t on par with some of life’s simplest pleasures.)

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Side

Ironically enough, the burger actually wins on the taste of the turkey, which, despite a crusty and seared-looking exterior, was juicy and slightly sweet, coalescing in the kind of pleasing poultry flavor one might associate with Thanksgiving and all those Thanksgivng-ey herbs and spices.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Jalapeno

The patty itself is adorned with a slice of Pepper Jack cheese, which, while not of the optimum goo capacity one often looks for with American cheese on a burger, was nevertheless tasty enough to impart more than just salt and fat. It added a mellow milky flavor that actually helped to cut the blow of the otherwise inferno provided by the Sante Fe Sauce and jalapeño coins.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Top

Speaking of infernos, there’s definitely some heat with the triple threat of jalapeños, sauce, and cheese. I’ll admit my tolerance for spiciness or heat isn’t as high as others, but the good news for fire-eaters and non fire-eaters is that there’s enough flavor in the smoky-spicy sauce to bring either eater back for an additional bite. My only qualm was with the consistency of the soybean-oil based sauce, which was too loose and perhaps too liberally dispersed on only the top side of the burger.

Iceberg, tasteless tomatoes, and a meager portion of red onion didn’t add the kind of freshness that could really help dissipate the heat of a burger like this, but when it comes to a fast food burger, I unfortunately accept as much. At least the burger feels substantial, and outweighs (size-wise) most burgers in its calorie range.

I’ll stop short of calling this a very good burger and just call it a pleasantly surprising, if not reasonably priced, and substantial burger that heat-seekers should enjoy. Its limits and failings – a stale bun, meager produce, unmelted cheese – are nothing new to fast food, and they’re the kinds of shortcomings one takes into account when ordering a $3.49 sandwich as opposed to a $7.49 sandwich. The surprise, however, is the turkey. Whether it’s healthier or not is debatable, but in this case, Hardee’s/Carl Jr. seem to have created a tasty and juicy alternative to beef that someone doesn’t even need a New Year’s Resolution to seek out.

Now, if they could only get on that damn commercial, they might actually sell a few of these things.

(Nutrition Facts – 450 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1260 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 32 grams of protein.)

Item: Hardee’s Jalapeño Turkey Burger
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Hardee’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Hefty – one might say, “hearty” burger. Turkey is surprisingly juicy and flavorful. Triple threat of heat imparts good flavor. Under 500 calories. Affordable.
Cons: Classic case of fast food Wheat Bun fail. Sante Fe Sauce is loose and messy. Cheese would be better if it were fully melted. Produce sucks. Still more calories than a quarter-pound cheeseburger. Lack of provocative advertising campaign.