Taco Bell Defy

Taco Bell

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As meatless patties and nuggets skyrocket in popularity, it’s clear that faux meat is in. But plant-based herbivores, vegetarians, and vegans’ appreciation for Taco Bell’s vegetarian menu and its greasy, meat-free delights predate the recent spate of Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers. In 2015, the Mexican food chain became the first and only fast food restaurant to receive anAmerican Vegetarian Association (AVA) certification.

And unlike In-N-Out, where grilled cheese and fries are pretty much your only options, Taco Bell has 18 AVA-certified menu items in addition to other plant-based options (see ourFAQ for an explanation). The chain, which oncesuccessfully campaigned for a taco emoji, has even put out vegetarianand vegan guides. But the question remains: Which vegetarian items at Taco Bell are worth ordering?

You’ll find the answer to that and more below, where we rank the best Taco Bell vegetarian options.

All images courtesy of Taco Bell.

Black Bean Toasted Cheddar Chalupa

Black Bean Toasted Cheddar ChalupaPrice: $4.19

Calories: 470

Vegan option: No

Rating: 9/10

Coated in crispy cheddar cheese and encased in fried dough, Taco Bell’s black bean chalupa is far better than a boring bean burrito. The inside is filled with lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and beans, but the chalupa shines thanks to its crunchy taco exterior. We recommend adding chipotle sauce for a little extra heat.

Cinnamon Twists

Taco Bell's Cinnamon TwistsPrice: $1

Calories: 170

Vegan option: Yes

Rating: 9/10

Airy, crunchy, and dusted in cinnamon sugar, this unassuming dessert snack is Taco Bell’s jewel in the crown, in part because they’re a departure from the chain’s mushy entrees, gooey desserts, and unhealthy obsession with plasticky cheese. The vegan-friendly twists are deep fried and crispy, a fast food take on Mexican duros. And best of all, I didn’t feel sick after eating them.

Black Bean Quesarito

Black Bean QuesaritoPrice: $4.49

Calories: 630

Vegan option: No

Rating: 7/10

Whoever came up with this truly excessive, Frankensteined combo of a quesadilla-wrapped burrito deserves some sort of culinary award. Would someone please contact the folks at Michelin? In all seriousness, Taco Bell’s quesarito is good, but it could be a lot better. Its main downfall is that the orange goop that lines the outside of the burrito — they tell us it’s nacho “cheese” — is kind of gross. Just use real cheese! That said, the extra toasted tortilla adds a little extra oomph to this otherwise boring burrito, making it one of the tastiest items on the menu. 

Spicy Potato Soft Taco

Taco Bell's Spicy Potato Soft TacoPrice: $1

Calories: 240

Vegan option: Yes

Rating: 7/10

This could have been great, even amazing, if the potatoes were just a tad larger and crispier. Nevertheless, the spicy chipotle sauce is this taco’s saving grace. Combined with the fried potatoes and soft shell, this is an altogether filling vegetarian snack that I’d order again.

Cinnabon Delights

Taco Bell's Cinnabon DelightsPrice: Two for $1.99 and a dozen for $6.19

Calories: 160 to 930

Vegan option: No

Rating: 7/10

These icing-filled artery cloggers manage to be both delicious and repulsive at the same time. The fried, cinnamon sugar-covered dough is a bit like a donut hole, and the delightful combo of glucose and fat certainly got my dopamine receptors firing … and then I hit the gooey center. If only there were a little less of the overpowering, saccharine ooze, I’d be able to enjoy more than one of Taco Bell’s Cinnabon Delights.

Cheese Quesadilla

Taco Bell's Cheese QuesadillaPrice: $4.29

Calories: 470

Vegan option: No

Rating: 7/10

It’s certainly not the best quesadilla I’ve ever had, but I found its simplicity comforting in a world full of Crunchwrap Supremes and Baja Blasts. Of course, the culinary masterminds at Taco Bell couldn’t resist zhuzhing it up with some goo — a creamy jalapeno sauce — but I ended up enjoying the extra heat. Plus, the outside was nicely toasted.

Black Beans and Rice

Taco Bell's Black Beans and RicePrice: $1.99

Calories: 160

Vegan option: Yes

Rating: 7/10 (with additions)

Provided you squeeze half a packet of Diablo Sauce into the bowl and dip a few tortilla chips in the mixture, Taco Bell’s black beans and rice combo was another understated highlight. The mild Mexican rice ensured that it wasn’t too bland, and the black beans gave the side dish some body.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between meatless and AVA-certified menu items?

With the exception of dairy and eggs, AVA-certified food items cannot include any animal byproducts. Since some of Taco Bell’s menu items are fried in the same oil they use to cook meat products, some meatless items aren’t AVA-certified because of potential cross-contact. When you’re ordering online, look for a green V, which indicates that an item is AVA-certified. 

Does Taco Bell have vegan options?

Yes, Taco Bell has a list ofAVA-certified vegan menu items, many of which involve replacing dairy ingredients in vegetarian items with diced tomatoes (aka ordering “fresco style”). The chain’s black and refried beans, hot sauces, and breakfast salsa are also dairy and meat-free. One vegan pro-tip: Add potatoes to make any order just a little bit more filling.

Does Taco Bell serve meat substitutes like the Beyond Burger?

Taco Bell doesn’t offer any meat substitutes. But don’t worry: The chain is developing both a plant-based protein with Beyond Meat and an in-house meat substitute, according to VegNews.

What are some other vegetarian-friendly fast food chains?

Most big fast food chains have either implemented or are testing plant-based meat substitutes. For a full list, check out our piece on plant-based fast food items.

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