Chipotle is testing cauliflower rice in some US restaurants

Monday, July 13, 2020
This Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, photo shows the sign on a Chipotle restaurant in Pittsburgh.
This Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, photo shows the sign on a Chipotle restaurant in Pittsburgh.
kgo-AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Chipotle is testing cauliflower rice as customers' tastes continue to shift toward healthier options.

Beginning Wednesday, the cilantro-lime flavored rice alternative will be available in 55 restaurants in Denver and throughout Wisconsin for a limited time. Chipotle said in a release Monday the new menu item, its third over the past year, has been one of the most demanded foods from its loyal fans.

Health-conscious customers have increasingly been gravitating toward low-carb or more plant-based alternatives, such as cauliflower rice. A serving of has 4 net carbs - a fraction of the carbs that a cup of white or brown rice have, CNN reported.

However, Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol previously told CNN's Christine Romans that he doesn't see offering a meat alternative, like Beyond or Impossible, because it's too processed and doesn't align with its mission of serving "whole" foods.

Last year, Chipotle introduced a new collection of meals that fit into paleo, ketogenic and Whole30 eating plans. All three of these diets follow strict rules and are growing in popularity. It has also remodeled its menu for vegetarians with vegan or vegetarian bowls made from existing ingredients.

Chipotle is also bucking the trend in introducing a new menu item during the Covid-19 pandemic, while other restaurants are reducing their menus. The slimmer menus are a way to shed complexities and costs, and push simpler or more popular items at a time when conserving cash is crucial for restaurant operators.

Substituting cauliflower rice in place of Chipotle's regular rice options will cost $2 extra.

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