As an editor at Men’s Health, I’m fascinated with all the tips, tricks, and hacks that help you live better. But I hadn’t truly considered how to “live más” until I received an invitation from Taco Bell Cantina to sample their new vegetarian menu.
The Bell isn’t jumping on the alt-protein bandwagon like some of its competitors. Instead, it’s choosing to highlight the vegetarian fare on its existing menu and adding two brand-new options: the Black Bean Quesarito and the Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme, meat-adjacent versions of two of Taco Bell’s most popular, meat-filled menu items. The new vegetarian-friendly menu rolls out nationally on September 12th.
Taco Bell will change its in-store menus to showcase four vegetarian dishes, but the restaurant offers 13 vegetarian menu items in total, featuring 36 American Vegetarian Association-certified ingredients and 26 certified-vegan ingredients. In fact, everything on Taco Bell’s menu is customizable, so even menu items containing meat can be made meatless by swapping meat for vegan protein like pinto beans or black beans.
The goal is to make these vegetarian options easier to find for committed vegetarians and flexitarians alike, says Liz Matthews, the Chief Innovation Officer, who has been at Taco Bell for more than 20 years. “Over the past five years we’ve seen more people ordering vegetarian options. I’ve never seen an eating pattern move so fast. This is where food is going.”
Matthews is quick to point out that a large number of people eating at Taco Bell already order vegetarian items. Vegetarian dishes already account for 9 percent of total food orders and the black bean burrito is the number-two selling item. But with the new vegetarian dishes, Taco Bell wanted “more cravable options.” And how does Matthews define cravable?
“It goes back to the feeling you have when you eat something that’s tasty and cheesy and delicious, but also a little spicy. And cheesy. It’s a feeling,” she told me. “People feel they have to sacrifice, when they eat vegetarian and they shouldn’t.” Cravability is a high standard, but that’s what Taco Bell is after.
The average order at Taco Bell is two-and-a-half orders, so the two items I tried are about right for a big snack or as a combo for a meal.
To the food!
The Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme
510 calories, $4.29
Ingredients: Flour Tortilla (vegan), Black Beans (vegan), Nacho Cheese Sauce (vegetarian), Iceberg Lettuce (vegan), Reduced-Fat Sour Cream (vegetarian), Tomatoes (vegan), Tostada Shell (vegan)
It’s heavy in your hand like a small, dense frisbee and it has a great crunch from the tostada shell. The beans are tasty, but I wish there were more, and they mix with the melted nacho cheese and sour cream in a gooey tastiness. The dish was approaching cravability, but the iceberg lettuce was a little limp and wilted and took away from the deliciousness of the other ingredients.
The Black Bean Quesarito
630 calories, $3.79
Ingredients: Flour Tortilla (vegan), Black Beans (vegan), Seasoned Rice (vegan), Cheddar Cheese (vegetarian), Nacho Cheese Sauce (vegetarian), Reduced-Fat Sour Cream (vegetarian), Creamy Chipotle Sauce (vegetarian)
The quesarito is a quesadilla that’s rolled up like a burrito. It had more cheese (both cheddar and nacho) and more flavor (from the rice, beans, and chipotle sauce). Yup, it engenders deep feelings of desire, the dictionary definition of cravability.
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