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

Updated: Nov. 14, 2023

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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Burger King Cola Cup, Potato french fries and Whopper Hamburger in Burger King restaurant.
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” as one that would automatically conjure thoughts of something big.

Love Burger King? See where they landed on our fast-food cheeseburger taste test.

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taff of 500th Burger King restaurant in Russia in the service area in the day of opening.

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 2012, though, the price did drop back down to 55 cents. Well, sort of—it was a buy-one-get-one deal, in celebration of the burger’s 55th anniversary.

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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 they’re the most popular burgers at their respective franchises. But in actuality, it’s really not comparing apples to apples. The Whopper, with its quarter-pound patty, is actually much more similar to a 1997 addition to the McDonald’s menu, the Big N’ Tasty. Meanwhile, Burger King introduced a burger with two patties called “the Big King,” also in 1997. Despite those not-so-veiled attempts to recreate the competition’s signature sandwich, the primary rivalry between the Whopper and the Mac remains. 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, though, thought that it wasn’t spicy enough to merit the “angry” descriptor. But that didn’t stop BK from releasing a follow-up in 2016, the “Angriest Burger,” with a red-tinged, hot sauce-infused bun.

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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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Burger King Restaurants logo
Vytautas Kielaitis/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.

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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 clearly still addled by 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 its “A1 Halloween Whopper,” a special edition that used A1 Steak Sauce to spook-ify the bun.

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Whopper and soda
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 title, “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 15 more of the biggest scandals that rocked the fast food industry.

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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 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 try performing, and so she nervously obliged, taking the Whopper, shake and fries she’d purchased onstage with her. She told “Oprah’s Master Class” that her first performance wasn’t much of a routine—”People enjoyed me eating onstage and not talking,” per HuffPost—but someone in that audience invited her to perform at a nearby university campus. After that, she continued to get bigger and bigger gigs, 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 will have the chance to try out the latest variation on the Whopper. Starting on November 25, 2018, six different Wisconsin locations will be selling a Green Bay Whopper that contains a *whopping* eight slices of American cheese. The Green Bay Whopper will be available until December 2. Next, check out these surprising secret menu items at your favorite restaurants.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest