Vegetarians in Dallas now have expanded choices when dining at Taco Bell. On April 4, the national chain introduced its first-ever dedicated vegetarian menu, currently found only in DFW. The demand for vegetarian items is steady — already, about 9% of all items ordered at Taco Bell are either vegetarian or made vegetarian by substitution or removal, according to the company. Taco Bell sells 350 million vegetarian items a year.
Taco Bell has been a champion of vegetarian food for years. In 2015, they were the first quick service restaurant to be certified by the American Vegetarian Association (AVA). Now, they're doubling down.
There are three items being tested on the in-store vegetarian menu boards. The Vegetarian Crunchwrap Supreme ($3.70) is a twist on the classic, made with black beans instead of meat. The Vegetarian Quesarito ($3.05) is a queso-burrito hybrid, stuffed with black beans, rice, sour cream and cheese. While the vegetarian 7-Layer Burrito ($3.22) is not a new menu item, it's one of the three featured vegetarian products. Prices vary by location.
We tried these three vegetarian menu items, and if you’re a plant-based eater looking for a Taco Bell fix, these will satisfy you. There is much better vegetarian food to be had in DFW, but if you are hankering for some cheap, late-night drive-thru eats, these items will do the trick.
Our favorite was the Vegetarian Quesarito. Black beans serve as the substitute for meat, and it is stuffed with rice and sour cream and includes both shredded and nacho cheese. The creamy chipotle sauce adds a distinct smoky flavor to this wrap.
Size-wise, the most substantial of the three is the 7-Layer Burrito, filled with refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and rice. It is a hefty meal.
The Vegetarian Crunchwrap Supreme was the most disappointing. The ingredients were not uniformly layered, so one bite consisted only of cold sour cream and lettuce and the next was warm beans and nacho sauce.
Our biggest complaint about the new menu is the lack of texture variation. The 7-Layer Burrito is composed of many layers of mushy, sloppy ingredients inside a soft taco shell. The only semblance of crunchy elements — the lettuce and tomatoes — don't hold up against the refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and rice. Even the menu item heralded as crunchy, the Crunchwrap Supreme, proves to be a disappointing combination of soft and chewy. No crunch here.
These dishes may be getting all the press, but they aren’t the only vegetarian items offered at Taco Bell. There are 13 AVA-certified options on the menu, like the Power Menu Veggie Bowl, the Cheese Quesadilla, the Black Bean Burrito, the Cheesy Roll-Up, the Spicy Tostada, the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito and the breakfast soft taco without bacon.
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Taco Bell does have more meatless options that aren’t certified by the AVA because they use the same frying oil to prepare menu items that may or may not contain meat. Things fried in oil like hash browns, chips, Cinnamon Twists, potatoes and the Fiesta Taco Salad shell are not acceptable to the AVA-certified vegetarian diet because of the potential cross-contact. Find the AVA-certified items at Taco Bell by looking for a green “V” symbol on the menu.
Taco Bell also makes it easy for vegans to dine there. For those looking for certified vegan options, order one of Taco Bell's certified vegetarian items and ask for it to be made “fresco style.”
Currently, 60% of Taco Bell’s Dallas-area restaurants are testing this vegetarian menu, which amounts to close to 200 locations.
Depending on the success of this Dallas test, Taco Bell will debut their expanded vegetarian menu nationally in late 2019 or early 2020.