Taco Bell has always offered an extensive meatless menu, even before other chains started introducing options for fans of meatless fast food. For decades, the Black Bean Crunch Wrap Supreme and Bean & Rice Burritos provided hungry customers affordable plant-based options when quick vegan bites were hard to find. Now, the fast food giant is rolling out its new vegan beef at approximately 50 additional stores in the Birmingham, Alabama area.

The Birmingham expansion marks the first time Taco Bell’s proprietary “real season plant-based protein” will be available for customers in the South. Customers can order plant-based beef for their burritos, tacos, nachos, and more. The proprietary protein is flavored to taste just like its conventional beef and uses a blend of soy and pea proteins.

To help introduce the new vegan beef, Taco Bell unveiled the meatless NachoBellGrande and a new Crispy Melt Taco, available for $2.49 at all participating storefronts. Customers substituting beef for plant-based protein will not have to pay an upcharge, breaking a standard across most leading fast-food chains.

Birmingham locations will offer the meat alternative through mid-October, or until supplies run out. Taco Bell has yet to comment on other tests in the region or a national rollout.

Taco Bell is Testing Vegan Meat Nationwide

Taco Bell initially showcase the “real seasoned plant protein” at one location in Tustin, California last April. Featured with the Cravetarian Taco (a meatless take on the Crunchy Taco Supreme), the test run was a massive success. That October, Taco Bell expanded the trial to 95 Detroit-area locations.

“Taco Bell has always been a go-to spot for vegans and vegetarians, with plant-based menu items having a prominent place on our menu for years,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told VegNews at the time. “We’ve long been committed to offering food for all, meaning that we strive to ensure more people, no matter their lifestyle, can enjoy the craveable flavors of Taco Bell. That’s why we are constantly innovating, listening to our fans, and analyzing menu test results—in the plant-based space and beyond.”

The popular fast food chain is also experimenting with plant-based chicken. Last June, the company unveiled a vegan chicken chalupa shell. The Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell is a vegan version of the chain’s Naked Chicken Chalupa. The vegan chalupa was available at a single location in Irvine, California for a limited-time trial.

In 2019, Taco Bell released its vegetarian menu across its 7,000 US locations, eventually introducing its full “Veggie Mode” category at its ordering kiosks in 2020. Taco Bell’s “Veggie Mode” option allows customers to view its nearly 50 American Vegetarian Association-certified options, showing customers its vegetarian and vegan options.

The World of Vegan Fast-Food

Taco Bell pioneered meatless fast food, but in recent years, several other major fast food chains have accelerated their plant-based development. Vegan meat options are now appearing on restaurant menus an estimated 1,320 percent more than prior to the pandemic.

McDonald's is testing the McPlant at several locations within the United States and worldwide. KFC launched its Beyond Tenders at over 4,000 locations nationwide. Now, vegan diners can find an affordable plant-based option at nearly every major fast food chain.

Current estimates predict that the vegan fast food market will reach $40 billion by 2028. While the vegan fast-food market is primarily driven by major corporations, the increased interest is encouraging smaller businesses to challenge major chains. California-based vegan fast-food eateries Plant Power Fast Food and Noomo have recently partnered with franchising companies to accelerate their national growth.

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Fast-food restaurants have finally got the memo that their customer base isn’t just coming through for a burger, fried chicken, or a beef taco. Many now have plant-based foods and are coming up with creative, delicious ways to get more greens on the menu. Here are the 6 best fast-food chains with plant-based options on the menu.

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