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11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Burger King’s Whopper

Which came first: the Whopper or the Big Mac? Find out the answer, plus more fun facts you never knew about the 61-year-old burger.

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Nakhon Pathom, Thailand - May 10, 2018 : Burger King Cola Cup, Potato french fries and Whopper Hamburger in Burger King restaurant. Burger King is a global chain of hamburger fast food restaurants
natthi phaocharoen/Shutterstock

It predates the Big Mac

By more than ten years, as a matter of fact. While McDonald’s and Burger King have both been around since the 1950s, Mickey D’s didn’t introduce the Big Mac until 1968. The Whopper, meanwhile, debuted in 1957, when co-founder Jim McLamore noticed that a rival burger joint was having success with an extra-large burger. He chose the name “Whopper” to automatically conjure thoughts of something big.

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ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 29, 2017: Staff of 500th Burger King restaurant in Russia in the service area in the day of opening. First Burger King restaurant opened Russia in 2010

Its original price was 37 cents

Ah, how times have changed; when the Whopper first debuted in the 1950s, it would only set you back 37 cents, according to Politico. Today, you’ll get one for an average of $4.19. In celebration of the burger’s 55th anniversary in 2012, the price did drop back down to 55 cents for a brief time. Well, sort of—it was a buy-one-get-one deal.

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beauty woman in cafe eating hamburger
Anatoly Tiplyashin/Shutterstock

Whopper or Big Mac?

This seems to be the primary question that American burger aficionados are most inclined to argue about, simply because these are the two most popular burgers at their respective franchises. But in actuality, it’s not an apples to apples comparison. The Whopper, with its quarter-pound patty, is actually much more similar to a McDonald’s Big N’ Tasty, a 1997 addition. Burger King had introduced a Big Mac equivalent with two patties called “the Big King,” also in 1997. Despite each brand’s not-so-veiled attempts to recreate the competitor’s signature sandwich, the primary rivalry between the Whopper and the Mac continues to this day. Check out more facts you never knew about the McDonald’s Big Mac.

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single red chili peppers with fire on black background

There was an “Angry” version at one point

In 2009, Burger King released a limited-edition burger called the “Angry Whopper.” In addition to all of the usual Whopper components, this burger also had spicy crispy onions, pepper jack cheese, jalapeños, and a spicy “angry sauce.” Some consumers thought that it wasn’t spicy enough to merit the “angry” descriptor, but that didn’t stop BK from releasing a follow-up: The “Angriest Burger,” with a red-tinged, hot sauce-infused bun, was introduced in 2016.

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Burger buns with sesame seeds on a chopping board

The Whopper Jr. was a happy accident

In 1963, Luis Arenas-Pérez was opening up a Burger King restaurant in the Puerto Rico municipality of Carolina. Pérez discovered that the shipment of molds for the Whopper buns from the United States hadn’t arrived in time for the grand opening. So he decided to improvise, using the regular-size buns and calling the creation the “Whopper Jr.” The name and the product stuck, and Pérez’s quick thinking and lasting impact on the company earned him a spot in the Burger King Hall of Fame. Don’t miss how these 8 famous fast-food restaurants got their names.

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BERLIN - OCT 01: Burger King restaurant exterior - sign near the main entrance in Berlin on October 01. 2016 in Germany
Savvapanf Photo/Shutterstock

It temporarily couldn’t call itself a “Whopper” in one U.S. city

The Burger King franchise ran into a little trouble when it first tried to expand into the San Antonio, Texas, area. A totally separate, unaffiliated chain called “Whopper Burger” held all rights to the name “Whopper” in that area. And this copyright snag actually successfully kept the King out of San Antonio for several years—for the most part. My San Antonio reports that there was, temporarily, a BK open in San Antonio, but it couldn’t drop the W-bomb in any of its advertising. It had to call its famous burger the “Deluxe,” and it didn’t last very long. The dispute was resolved in 1983, when the widow of Whopper Burger’s owner sold the franchise to Pillsbury, who also owned Burger King at the time, per The Daily Meal. Learn about the first locations of your favorite fast-food spots.

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Tasty and appetizing hamburger isolated black with a black bun and bacon.

There was once a Halloween version with a black bun

If you’re saying, “Wait, wasn’t it green?” you’re recalling Burger King’s bizarre introduction of a green-tinted “Nightmare King” burger for Halloween 2018. But that wasn’t the chain’s first strangely colored Halloween special, nor was it actually a Whopper. The first oddly colored burger that Burger King introduced, at least to its American customers, came in 2015 with the announcement of the “A1 Halloween Whopper“—a special edition that used A1 Steak Sauce to spook-ify the bun.

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Lodz, Poland, March 28, 2017: Burger King Whopper with cup of Coca Cola
Grzegorz Czapski/Shutterstock

It encouraged “unfriending” sprees

In a marketing scheme rivaling the strangeness of multicolored burger buns, Burger King once promised Facebook users free burgers, at the cost of a few friends. This promotion advertised a new Facebook app with the eyebrow-raising name “Whopper Sacrifice.” The app would provide you with a coupon for a free Whopper for every ten Facebook friends you deleted. However, Burger King pulled the program after Facebook demanded a tweak to the most controversial aspect—a notification sent to the unfriended users, telling them that their online friendship had been traded for a burger. (Or, more accurately, a tenth of a burger!) Before the end of the campaign, though, the New York Times estimates that nearly 234,000 people had been “unfriended.” Here are 10 more of the biggest scandals that rocked the fast food industry.

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LOS ANGELES - SEP 4: Ellen DeGeneres Star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony for Ellen Degeneres at W Hollywood on September 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

It helped Ellen DeGeneres break into comedy

Stars, they’re just like us! But a 20-something Ellen DeGeneres wasn’t actually a star yet when she took the stage for her first-ever comedy performance at a fundraiser with friends. Her buddies had been urging her to take the stage, and so she nervously obliged, bringing a Whopper, shake, and fries she’d just purchased onstage with her. Per HuffPost DeGeneres told “Oprah’s Master Class” that her first performance wasn’t much of a routine. “People enjoyed me eating onstage and not talking,” she recalled. Someone sitting in that audience invited her to perform at a nearby university campus. After that, she continued to get bigger and bigger gigs, ultimately making a name for herself as a comedian.

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Several slices of american cheese in the studio

Say cheese!

If you’re a Cheesehead living near Green Bay, Wisconsin, you’re one of the lucky few who may have had the chance to try out the latest variation on the Whopper. Last fall, six different Wisconsin locations sold an extra-cheesy Green Bay Whopper with a *whopping* eight slices of American cheese. The Green Bay Whopper was available until December 2.

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The Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger
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Whopper, hold the meat, please

As of April 2019, Burger King announced that it would be introducing a… meatless Whopper. No, we’re not kidding—the meatless Whopper will be made with a vegetarian patty supplied by start-up Impossible Foods. The Impossible Whopper, as it will be called, will first be rolled out to 59 Burger Kings in the St. Louis area, according to the New York Times. If consumers like those meatless burgers, we can expect to see the Impossible Whopper expand into every Burger King in the nation.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.