Wendy's new Spicy Black Bean Burger.
Wendy's launched the vegan-friendly Spicy Black Bean Burger in three cities. | Photo illustration by Eileen W. Cho for LIVEKINDLY

Wendy’s Black Bean Burger Heats Up the Vegan Fast Food Race

Wendy's is testing the Spicy Black Bean Burger, but will the old-school burger be a hit among the beefy vegan patties at fast food chains?

Wendy’s is officially testing a black bean burger.

Starting June 28, locations of the fast food chain in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville will be able to order the plant-based Spicy Black Bean Burger, but only while supplies last.

The patty features a blend of spices, plus crunchy jalapeños for added heat. Wendy’s new black bean burger is not vegan by default. The sandwich comes with melted pepper jack cheese, spicy chipotle sauce, tomatoes, sweet onions, and romaine lettuce on a bun. It can be made vegan upon request by leaving off the cheese. 

Wendy’s New Black Bean Burger

The decision to feature a black bean patty—the symbol of old school vegetarian options—stands out in a fast food landscape dominated by plant-based burgers that sizzle and taste like beef. Wendy’s introduced its burger with a knowing wink. “Certain plant-based creations have spawned a bland reputation for the category—looking at you McImpossible—but luckily, Wendy’s has spice in her DNA,” said the company. (The shade of it all!)

Wendy’s was mulling over launching a plant-based burger—a black bean patty—way back in 2015. The test began in Columbus and its 2016 test market expansion included a commercial, but it was discontinued in 2017, so a nationwide launch never happened. So, will this burger come to all 6500 Wendy’s locations? That’s up in the air at the moment. But the company has some catching up to do in the plant-based burger game.

The Vegan Fast Food Burger Race

Back in 2018, White Castle became the first fast food chain to sell the Impossible Burger, offered in the form of a slider. Since then, several major fast food chains have jumped on the bandwagon to cater to the growing consumer appetite for plant-based burgers.

Other chains soon followed. Burger King launched the Impossible Whopper to a test market on April 1, 2019 (it was not a joke) only to roll it out nationwide later that year. McDonald’s, the biggest burgers-and-fries fast food chain in the US, signed a three-year agreement with Beyond Meat earlier this year. It has tested the “McPlant,” a beefy pea protein-based patty, in some international markets. (The closest McDonald’s came to bringing a plant-based burger to the US was testing a Beyond Meat patty in Ontario in 2019.)

Carl’s Jr launched its Beyond Famous Star in 2018. Hardee’s also tapped into the growing meat-free demand with its own Beyond Burgers in late 2019.

Will Wendy’s Spicy Black Bean Burger be a hit when others are leaning into the next generation of plant-based meat? Wendy’s thinks so.

“The Spicy Black Bean Burger is a culinary creation that turns the notion of a tasteless, texture-lacking black bean patty on its head by bringing our iconic spice as only Wendy’s can,” says John Li, Vice President of Culinary Innovation for The Wendy’s Company.