Call it a Halloween tradition of sorts: Burger King has come out with another seasonally spooky burger, the limited-time-only Ghost Pepper Whopper, available now through October 31. This Whopper, served on a (rather adorable) bright orange bun with black sesame seeds, features a flame-broiled Whopper patty, ghost pepper cheese, spicy queso, bacon, and crispy jalapeños. It’s nice to see a fast food brand get into the Halloween spirit.
In fact, Burger King has a history of Halloween-themed burgers, such as a ghoulishly gray Ghost Whopper, the Nightmare King (designed to give you nightmares), and of course, the notorious Halloween Whopper, which turned people’s turds bright green due to the food coloring in its bun. I can independently confirm this side effect. (Sorry, BK, people are going to dig out that old chestnut every Halloween through the end of time.)
Burger King let me sample the new Ghost Pepper Whopper, a sandwich that starts off with a surprise. The first thing you’ll notice upon unwrapping it is just how orange the bun is. If in the photo above the bun looks as if it’s got merely a burnt sienna brioche hue, that is your mind playing tricks on you, adjusting the color to be more aligned with what it understands burger buns to be. Make no mistake, it is actually straight-up pumpkin orange. Which is awesome.
I will forever apologize for these gnarly lid-off sandwich photos, but we’ll chalk them up to thorough journalism. As you can see in the photo above, it’s not an overdressed sandwich, and there are no extraneous elements like lettuce or tomato. The only green involved is fried jalapeño chips, which popped up on McDonald’s menu this past summer. This Whopper is just cheese, bacon, those chips, and a spicy queso that is essentially nacho cheese sauce.
If that looks or sounds dry, well, you’re right. The perimeter of the burger is bone dry, which means you’ll be acutely aware of how dull plain commodity ground beef can be. (My burger was weirdly unsalted, which is funny, because they’re usually too salted.) Burger King’s burgers usually come way overdressed, with the top bun playing Slip ‘N Slide in a pool of mayo and ketchup, so having a Whopper on the opposite end of the spectrum feels sad in a different way.
The good news is, the bites of burger loaded with plenty of toppings taste pretty good. It’s mostly the spicy queso that does the heavy lifting here, since it’s the only moisture anywhere on the burger. At first I was unimpressed with the spiciness, but sure enough, the heat grew over time, hitting a respectable medium level by the time I finished my meal. You’ll have to get at least halfway through the burger to know how you feel about it, because while its center was interesting, the outer edges were not. For that reason, I’ll have to knock it down a peg, from a B to a B-.
The Ghost Pepper Whopper either needs more spicy queso sauce or an additional condiment to both season the burger and give it some moisture. Hell, I’m wondering if lettuce and tomato would have even done the trick, though I’m sure those elements would have toned down the overall spiciness, and the heat was sort of the point.
What’s really spooky, however, is the price. At my local Burger King, this thing clocks in at a monstrous $7.99. The classic Whopper at this location isn’t cheap, either, at $5.49, but promotional items seem to come at a premium. Eight bucks for a funny-looking burger? (We all know exactly how much food you can get elsewhere at a better price.)
So while the burger’s mostly fine when you get the great bites, I’d say Burger King’s Ghost Pepper Whopper is scary for all the wrong reasons. It’s one thing if you’ve got money to burn, but I think that $8 in your pocket can be better served getting a better deal somewhere else. Maybe nothing else as orange, though.