Close up of Whopper

The Fascinating History of the Burger King Whopper

The rivalry between Burger King and. McDonald’s is a tale as old as time. Slinging a nearly identical breed of American fare, the two fast-food giants have unsurprisingly gone head-to-head for decades, and in every way imaginable. From menu items and rewards programs to price points and technology innovations, the chains teeter-totter back and forth in terms of who is excelling in each business facet. But, one area where his majesty the King will forever triumph is the release date of his world-famous signature burger.

Although the restaurants opened within a year of each other — with Burger King in 1954 and McDonald’s officially in 1955 — Burger King introduced its iconic Whopper in 1957, 10 years ahead of the Big Mac. The burger was originally dreamed up by BK co-founder Jim McLamore in order to give customers a bigger, meatier option with quarter-pound patties between each bun.

It’s easy to look at the timeline and assume the Big Mac was cooked up in response to the wildly successful Whopper. According to former McDonald’s CEO and driving force Ray Kroc, this is the reality. In his autobiography, Kroc shared that the sandwich was in fact created because the company feared the Whopper. However, the creator of the Big Mac, Jim Delligatti, is said to have been alternatively inspired by a double-decker burger from a different competing chain — Big Boy. Unfortunately, we may never know the whole, juicy truth.

The Whopper has worn many hats during its lifetime

burger kind whoppers in wrappers

The Whopper is no one-trick pony. Although the classic combination of ground beef, lettuce, onion, tomato, and sauce on a sesame seed bun is the structure that rose the burger to fame, it has taken on countless other forms during its 67 years. A few renditions remain on the menu today including the plant-based Impossible Whopper released in 2019 and the Whopper Jr., which was created by happenstance. Apparently, Puerto Rico franchise owner Luis Arenas Pérez swapped in smaller buns when the molds for the regular buns didn’t arrive in time for his store opening in 1963. The rest is history.

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Other memorable creations have not only tipped the scales in terms of size but also creativity. There was the Angriest Whopper from 2016 that brought the heat with jalapeño peppers, spicy Angry Sauce, and a fiery red bun. The Green Bay Whopper was weighed down with eight slices of cheese and the rainbow-colored Proud Whopper turned heads. Plus, we can’t forget about the Whopper in burrito form, fittingly called the Whopperito.

The chain doesn’t stop there either. It also offers other flame-grilled burgers that don’t land in the Whopper family. These include small-mouth choices like the hamburger and cheeseburger, or more specialty options like the protein-packed Bacon King and the barbecue Rodeo Burger featuring onion rings. There are currently 16 burgers on the Burger King menu — including recently re-released BK Melts — compared to just nine at rival McDonald’s.

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