Taco Bell just revealed its most recent plant-based experiment: A chalupa shell made from vegan chicken. With several plant-based protein alternatives on the menu,  Taco Bell’s Test Kitchen has spent several months developing the vegan chicken shell made from a pea-protein blend. The fast-food giant is testing the limited-time "Naked Chalupa with a Cripsy Plant-Based Shell" at a select location in Irvine, California.

“At Taco Bell, we’re pushing the limits of what people have known vegetarian and vegan items to look like within the quick-service restaurant industry,” Senior Manager of Global Nutrition and Sustainability at Taco Bell Missy Schaaphok told VegNews. “No matter one’s lifestyle, everyone should have access to delicious and crabapple food, whether that’s in the shape of our iconic Chalupa shell or in a way that we have yet to introduce.”

The Naked Chalupa can be made completely vegan by removing the dairy cheese and avocado ranch sauce. The dairy can be supplemented by guacamole, potatoes, extra beans, and salsa. The Naked Chalupa with a Plant-Based Shell will be available until June 27 at its initial test location: The Taco Bell location at 2222 Barranca Pkwy in Irvine, California. The new plant-based item will be available at an affordable price of $3.49 per chalupa.

Taco Bell has pioneered plant-based fast food for decades, typically staying away from plant-based protein alternatives and instead allowing customers to substitute meat for beans or potatoes with nearly any menu item. Other chains like Qdoba and Del Taco have started including plant-based meats, but Taco Bell has waited until now to expand its protein offerings. In 2019, Taco Bell released its vegetarian menu across its 7,000 US locations, eventually introducing its full “Veggie Mode” option at its ordering kiosks last year. The “Veggie Mode” option allows customers to view its nearly 50 American Vegetarian Association-certified options, showing customers its vegetarian and vegan options.

“At Taco Bell, we’ve long been a go-to spot for vegetarians and vegans,” Schaaphok said. “Our beans are a great options for fans looking to swap out meat and by introducing these tests, we’re doubling down on our commitment to offer a variety of menu items where every type of lifestyle can find exactly what they’re craving. Consumers are asking for more plant-based options and we are excited to continue innovating further in this space.”

Taco Bell uses the Irvine store to gauge customer response, following consumer trends and observing the way the fast-food market is shifting. Taco Bell also recently announced a partnership with plant-based protein company Beyond Meat. The fast-food giant plans to release a line of plant-based protein selections that will give Taco Bell fans the chance to try familiar meat-based favorites with a fully vegan alternative.

“These one-store tests are a quick way for the brand to continue pushing the boundaries of food innovation and get a sense of potential demand for a new menu item,” Schaaphok said. “Similar to our wider market tests, we are always listening to our fans to determine whether to expand the test.”

The current Beyond Meat partnered products have yet to be revealed, but Taco Bell has also announced that its menus may feature vegan cheese options in the future as well. Many of the signature items can be made vegan by sacrificing the dairy components, however, the fast-food company wants to change this. The company is now focused on developing alternatives for all animal products on its menu.

“As you know well, we are constantly listening to our fans and we never say never,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told VegNews. “Every test item and menu change is highly intentional, and we are currently focused on plant-based meats. We’ve made space on the menu for new products, so there is more to come in 2021 as we continue innovation and product testing behind the scenes.”

While Taco Bell is moving quickly to enhance its vegan and vegetarian options, The Beet has compiled a list of everything vegan at Taco Bell currently. With potatoes back on the menu, the possibilities for plant-based Taco Bell lovers are immense. Check the guide out to make your ordering experience as easy and delicious as possible.


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