Reality Check: Jalapeño Turkey Burger from Hardee's & Carl's Jr.

Reality Check

Reviews of fast food burgers and a look at how the real life version compares to the advertised beauty shot.


[This photo: Hardee's/Carl's Jr.; All others: Todd Brock]

My New Year's resolution was "no bad burgers." It didn't last very long.

Hardee's and Carl's Jr. rolled out their new Jalapeño Turkey Burger recently, a 450-calorie offering undoubtedly timed to coincide with the annual I'm-going-to-start-eating-right promise made by millions as the holiday season wound down.

Even the ad takes a decidedly restrained tone. Forgoing the chains' usual boobs-and-burgers/softcore porn approach, the video spot features a muscle-bound hipster with perfect hair and an impossible jawline right from the pages of Men's Health chomping away in slow-mo glory, complete with the standard overdone squelch/crunch sound effects accompanying each bite.

(But make no mistake; this commercial is still aimed straight at dudes, as evidenced by the soundtrack. It's the axe-shredding opening of the 1987 heavy metal opus "The Ultra-Violence." 'Cos nothing says "health-conscious fast food" like a little ditty from the band Death Angel.)

The spot uses a tagline of "Lean But Mean" and goes so far as to imply that the Jalapeño Turkey Burger ($3.49) is not just a real man's sandwich but a serious flamethrower at that.


In reality, my Jalapeno Turkey Burger at least looked awfully damn similar to the promo pic. Lettuce, tomato, red onion all in proper stacking order under a charbroiled turkey patty, with melted pepperjack cheese, jalapeño "coins," and Santa Fe sauce on top, all tucked into a wheat bun.

But the pleasant surprises stopped there. The Jalapeño Turkey Burger is one of the worst burgers I've attempted to eat in recent memory. Turkey burgers get a bad rap in general for being dry and lifeless; this is a textbook example. Call me spoiled after finding a genuinely tasty turkey patty at a burger joint just down the street from my house not long ago, but a peek under the bun of this iteration just made me sad.


The patty was horrific. Pale, white, and pockmarked with industrial-grade texturestamping across the face, but with a weird orange color along the outer edge and actually scorched black in spots. You'd think with all of that color going on, there'd at least be some taste to go with it. But you'd be wrong. My wife has eaten way more turkey burgers—both good and bad—than I; she scrunched up her face on the first bite and described it as "very supermarketish." This thing was godawful.

The fixings were decent, a sadly wasted effort. The jalapeños and pepperjack brought a fair amount of gentle heat, and the Santa Fe sauce (it's soybean-oil based; this is supposed to be a healthy burger) added some desperately-needed creaminess and spice to the proceedings. Good proportion on the LTO, and even the wheat bun was passable. I actually thought to myself at one point, "The toppings are pretty good. I'll bet they'd be good on a burger."

Too bad that's what Hardee's thought they had already given me. You want to go light on your next trip to Hardee's or Carl's Jr.? Order a 1/4-pound Little Thick Cheeseburger or a Double Cheeseburger. Both have fewer calories than the Jalapeño Turkey Burger. Except they both have taste.

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