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Chipotle Launches 4th New Protein in a Year, and More May Be Coming

Chipotle has launched another new protein, bucking the perception that it has historically avoided changing to its menu. Garlic guajillo steak will be available nationwide Sept. 14 and can be loaded up with beans, salsa, and "costs extra" guacamole. Considering Chipotle's regular steak is one of the blandest protein options, the new beef offering is a welcome addition to the menu, even if it's just for a limited time.


GalleryNew Fast-Food Items You Can Try This Month

But tasty steak isn't the only thing Chipotle has up its sleeve right now. Nearly 100 locations in Denver and Indianapolis are testing chicken al pastor, a poultry version of the Mexican seasoned pork. Though it's not cooked on a vertical spit like the its namesake, it's still seasoned with adobo, morita chiles (a type of chipotle), deep red achiote, and pineapple. After the chicken is grilled and chopped, it's tossed with lime juice and cilantro. 

Though initial reviews of the garlic guajillo steak are mixed and sometimes suspicious about its similarity to a previous limited-time protein, the first reviews of the chicken al pastor are pretty positive, at least on r/Chipotle. "I absolutely love this chicken," says u/Worldly-Ad-5196. "It’s really good, sweet but with a kick to it."

The guajillo garlic steak is the fourth new protein Chipotle has launched nationwide in the last year. Smoked brisket was released in September 2021, and though it was only available for about two months, it garnered a huge following. In January, plant-based chorizo excited vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. And finally, in March, pollo asado — with very similar seasoning to the new guajillo steak, just on poultry — was released as the first new chicken option in the chain's history. All of those proteins were limited-time menu items. 

So why is Chipotle testing and releasing all these new items when it's usually avoided that fast food trap in the past? It probably has something to do with CEO Brian Niccol, who previously led Taco Bell, the fast-food king of limited-time offers and crazy new menu items. Niccol's time there may be rubbing off on Chipotle because he plans to announce new menu additions two or three times a year.

That doesn't sit well with many Chipotle employees on Reddit, who are working in understaffed restaurants in kitchens that were designed for producing a relatively small menu. They have voiced concern over grill space, cooking enough to keep up with orders, and even how badly customers are going to mispronounce "guajillo." So instead of trying the latest TikTok hack to game the burrito system, consider tipping the employees when you try out the garlic guajillo steak instead.

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