Chipotle introduces spicy chicken al pastor, a new menu item, in Denver

Since Chipotle Mexican Grill was founded in Denver — and still lays claim to the chain’s first-ever location — it only makes sense that the company, now based in Newport Beach, California, would test out possible new menu items here, something it has done several times in the past.

The latest experiment is chicken al pastor, which is now available at 94 restaurants in Denver (and Indianapolis). It’s made with spicy adobo, achiote, morita peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and pineapple — a new ingredient for Chipotle, which doesn’t currently use it.

Although al pastor is typically made with pork, Chipotle is using chicken because it “is the most popular protein among Chipotle guests,” company vice president of marketing Stephanie Perdue said in an email. Al pastor is a popular marinade, she added

The test comes six months after Chipotle introduced pollo asado, another chicken dish, across its footprint and a year after it brought out plant-based chorizo and smoked brisket. Those rapid-fire additions are unusual for the chain, whose menu has stayed nearly unchanged over the decades.

But Perdue said Chipotle is “always exploring menu innovations,” especially if they stay true to its list of 53 approved ingredients. “Innovation is an ongoing priority for Chipotle.”

Denver and Indianapolis were picked for this test because they “have large Chipotle footprints that will provide critical operational learnings about Chicken Al Pastor,” she added. “The combined historical sales response is predictive of the national potential of a menu launch.”

If things go well, as they did for pollo asado, Chipotle will consider a broader launch strategy.

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