We Tried Burger King's Ghost Pepper Whopper & Here's How Spicy It Actually Is
BK's spooky new special is now available nationwide and packs a surprising punch. Here's our review.
If there's one thing Burger King is going to do, it's celebrate spooky season. Last year, the fast food favorite celebrated Halloween with the premiere of Ghost Pepper Nuggets. This year, it's doubling down on the Zak Bagans lifestyle with the launch of a Ghost Pepper Whopper, available at locations nationwide starting October 13, as well as a "ghost hunting" feature that can land you BOGO Whoppers on its app.
If you're spice-averse or heartburn-prone, the mere mention of the ghost pepper could be enough to send your spine into shivers. The ghost pepper, also known as bhut jolokia in its native India, is one of the world's hottest peppers. Its Scoville rating ranges from 850,000 to 1,050,000 units, almost 30x higher than cayenne pepper, so I can't blame you if you're feeling apprehensive about giving it a try even as a surge of food brands add it to their menus.
So let's get the question of the hour: Just how spicy is Burger King's Ghost Pepper Whopper? As a spicy food fanatic myself, I had to know. I hopped in the car and headed straight to the nearest BK drive-thru to discover the truth.
How spicy is Burger King's Ghost Pepper Whopper?
Let's start with the basics: What exactly is on this thing, and which ingredients bring the heat? The Ghost Pepper Whopper begins with a single standard flame-grilled Whopper patty topped with bacon, crispy jalapeños, spicy queso sauce, and Ghost Pepper cheese. Bringing it all together is a vibrant orange Whopper bun covered in black sesame seeds.
That's a whole bunch of ingredients, but it's three of them partnering to serve up Scovilles: the jalapeños, queso, and Ghost Pepper cheese. Collectively, they bring a slow burn of heat that you don't pick up on immediately post-bite but lingers on your palate and collectively increases as you continue eating.
The level of heat also varies depending on how much queso any given bite features. My first bite was dominated by the smokiness of BK's signature flame-broiled patty, with a background of the bacon, but my second bite brought more heat as I encountered the queso, which seemed to be responsible for the majority of the sandwich's spiciness. To be honest, the heat of the Ghost Pepper cheese was overshadowed by the queso, and the jalapeños primarily made themselves known via their crunchy texture rather than their flavor.
All of that is to say that, even as a spicy food enthusiast, I needed to take a couple of breaks to reset my palate and dilute the spice with a sip of Sprite or a handful of fries. By the time I was done, I could definitely feel the burn, though it was still a pretty manageable level of heat overall. This sandwich packs a genuine punch, but it's not overdoing it—you won't be heading to the ER, but you also won't be bored. It strikes an excellent middle ground that might serve as a bit of a letdown for Hot Ones wannabes but remains appealing to a relatively wide range of heat tolerances.
Now that we got spice out of the way let's touch on the other ingredients. The Ghost Pepper Whopper comes on a saturated orange bun generously studded with black sesame seeds. The visual effect gives you all the Halloween feels as long as you don't think too long or hard about whatever food dyes were used to make the bun so colorful. The bun's flavor was pretty bland, if slightly artificial-tasting (probably due to the dyes) and the texture was a bit drier than your typical burger bun. That said, the bun's dryness helped make it a solid base for the multitude of toppings adorning it and allowed the burger to be much less messy than one might expect of something slathered in queso.
The meat itself on my burger wasn't especially memorable—not bad, but not great either, possibly a bit under-seasoned. When combined with the bacon, however, the natural smokiness of the flame-broiled patty complements the heat coming from the queso and Ghost Pepper cheese very nicely, rounding out a very satisfying flavor profile overall. As a former vegetarian who typically prefers the Impossible Whopper to the original, I can't say I feel like I'm missing much by generally sticking to the plant-based alternative.
Should you get it?
OK, that was a lot of words. Is the Burger King Ghost Pepper Whopper actually good? My definitive answer is yes. The heat was there, the flavor was satisfying, and you'd be challenged to try and find a fast food burger out there right now that has a similar overall impact. Compared to an original Whopper, I did find myself missing the freshness of tomatoes and lettuce and the acid of pickle slices. I also still prefer mayo as a burger's creamy element to this burger's queso. That said, I didn't find the Ghost Pepper Whopper particularly heavy or a grease bomb like I feared it might be. Overall, if you can handle the heat, I'd say it mostly lives up to the hype.