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Taco Bell is testing a new chalupa bowl made from vegan chicken

Taco Bell today unveiled its latest menu innovation: a chalupa bowl made entirely from vegan chicken. Developed by innovators at Taco Bell’s test kitchen, the vegan chicken bowl is made from a proprietary pea protein-based blend that is breaded and deep-fried. Taco Bell is testing the shell in the limited-time Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell, a meat-free version of its Naked Chicken Chalupa filled with lettuce, cheddar cheese, diced tomato, and avocado ranch sauce to give customers the same indulgent more Option.

“At Taco Bell we are pushing the boundaries of what people know to see vegetarian and vegan products in the fast food industry,” Missy Schaaphok, senior manager of global nutrition and sustainability at Taco Bell, told VegNews. “Regardless of lifestyle, everyone should have access to delicious and sought-after food, be it in the form of our iconic Chalupa clam or in ways we have yet to introduce.”

The Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell – ordered vegan by omitting the milk cheese and ranch sauce – costs $ 3.49 each (plus tax) and is available until 27 Barranca Pkwy in Irvine, California.

Taco Bell has the meat based on plants

While other chains such as QDOBA, Del Taco and Taco del Mar embraced the trend towards vegetable meat at an early stage, Taco Bell initially stuck to what it knew best: letting customers swap beef for beans as a meat alternative. The chain has long been a vegetarian favorite and relied on its meatless options by launching a vegetarian menu in its 7,000+ US locations in 2019 year. The kiosks are now programmed with a one-swipe button that converts the Taco Bell order menu to only display its nearly 50 American Vegetarian Association certified options, many of which users can further customize to be fully vegan .


And while Taco Bell still prides itself on its vegetarian options – which again include fan-favorite spiced potatoes – the chain is now experimenting with new plant-based meat alternatives. In April, Taco Bell tested The Craveterian Taco, a meatless version of its Crunchy Taco Supreme filled with a “boldly flavored vegetable protein,” shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes and sour cream, served in a crispy corn bowl. Ordered vegan by omitting the dairy products, the taco was only available for a limited time at a Taco Bell location in Tustin, CA.

“At Taco Bell we have long been a point of contact for vegetarians and vegans,” said Schaaphok. “Our beans are a great option for fans of meat swapping, and by introducing these tests, we’re doubling our commitment to offer a wide variety of menu items where every lifestyle can find exactly what they’re looking for. Consumers are asking for more herbal options and we look forward to further innovation in this area. “

The one-store tests are an easy way for Taco Bell to try out innovative menu items. For a larger introduction of vegetable proteins, Taco Bell is currently working with the vegan brand Beyond Meat on the development of a menu item “not yet fully seen in the industry”, the details of which are still under wraps. “These one-store tests are a quick way for the brand to push the boundaries of food innovation and to get a feel for the potential demand for a new menu item,” said Schaaphok. “Similar to our broader market tests, we always listen to our fans to decide whether we should expand the test.”


Vegan cheese at Taco Bell?

Taco Bell does not offer any dairy-free alternatives to cheese or sour cream and ordering its vegetarian items vegan means avoiding dairy products. However, that may change one day. Taco Bell is currently focused on developing new plant-based meat options, but hasn’t ruled out the potential of introducing vegan dairy alternatives.

“As you well know, we listen to our fans all the time and never say never,” a Taco Bell spokesman told VegNews earlier this year. “Every test item and menu change is very aware and we are currently focusing on plant-based meat. We have made space on the menu for new products so that more will be added in 2021 if we continue behind the scenes innovations and product testing. ”

Photo credit: Taco Bell & Jessica Cruz

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