Wendy’s is test marketing a vegetarian burger option in our area, so we gave it a try.

Wendy’s describes the Spicy Black Bean Burger like this:

The Spicy Black Bean Burger comes with the signature black bean patty as well as crispy-fried chipotle jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, spicy chipotle sauce, tomatoes, onion, and Romain on a toasted premium bun. The burger is meant to be a vegetarian/flexitarian option rather than a vegan one.

It appears as though Wendy’s has spent over a year developing this burger and the black bean patty. While the world has been taken by storm with Impossible and Beyond Meat that tries to mimic meat properties, the black bean burger goes in a different direction.

The black bean patty is made with black beans, carrots, brown rice, red and green bell peppers, wheatberries, corn, and a blend of spices. And while the name says burger, this sandwich is supposed to be a craveable flavor on its own, not something that will fool you into thinking you’re eating meat. I’ve never heard of a wheatberry, but to me that sounds like a shampoo ingredient.

I welcome the fact that the burger isn’t just resting on the burger patty and is hoping to create dynamic flavors with the crispy jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and spicy sauce. Let’s see how it actually went down.

Upon first glance at the foil wrapper, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the burger actually appeared to have some girth. Back when I tried Wendy’s Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger, I was overwhelmed with being underwhelmed at the burger’s puny nature.

After opening up the sandwich, you can tell immediately that you’re dealing with a bird of a different feather. The multicultural blend of colors and swirls in the burger patty were easily spotted. With the premium bun, head of iceberg, tomato, bed of crispy jalapenos atop a slice of pepper jack, token onions slices, and disappointingly low amount of sauce, the Spicy Black Bean burger was all present and accounted for.

When doing the standard bifold cut for presentation purposes, I was startled to see that when the patty was cut in half, there were whole black beans and corn kernels openly visible, and clear as day. I don’t have a mass amount of experience with veggie burgers, but I have always eaten ones that mashed, diced, and pulverized the ingredients into a smooth blend, making the ingredients indiscernible.

Biting down, I was immediately hit with a pretty powerful spice flavor. This sandwich definitely has some spunk. I wouldn’t call it the flavorful heat that Buffalo hot sauce brings, but more like that hot red pepper flake feeling you get when dashing a bunch on your pizza or spaghetti sauce.

The sandwich provided a wealth of texture, with the burger patty itself creating a wide variety of different notes between the blend of ingredients, with whole beans and corn, not to mention the high level of spice. The crispy jalapenos and pepper jack cheese created a nice and savory taste, while the accompanying vegetables were customarily just there. I disappointingly didn’t get much of a taste of the spicy chipotle sauce, because for whatever reason it just barely squeaked onto that top bun.

This might be a random aside, but fast food employees almost never get the sauce right. You’re either swimming in a river of slop or you’re left with the smallest dab of nothingness. It’s a problem that never seems to go away.

Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised with the Spicy Black Bean Burger from Wendy’s. While I wouldn’t consider it a burger and more of a sandwich, the Spicy Black Bean Burger can currently be found in Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Jacksonville on test market. Wendy’s said that they should know by August whether this will get a full nationwide release. At $5.79 for the sandwich alone and still packing 580 calories (only ten less than a Classic Dave’s Single) I’m not sure many meat eaters will be swayed into making this their regular, but it’s still relatively hopeful to see a major fast food chain stepping into this realm.

Wendy’s Spicy Black Bean Burger: 6.5/10