Stop Everything. Taco Bell Is Testing a Naked Plant-Based Chalupa

Stop Everything. Taco Bell Is Testing a Naked Plant-Based Chalupa

This is not a drill: Taco Bell is testing a Naked Plant-Based Chalupa. 

You heard that right. The fried chicken game has a new player in town. Taco Bell’s Naked Plant-Based Chalupa is a mashup like no other. 

The meatless chicken shell features a pea protein-based proprietary blend that’s breaded and crisped to a golden perfection. The shell is packed with lettuce, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, and an avocado ranch sauce. The plant-based chalupa can be made vegan by omitting the cheese and sauce.

The new menu item is currently only being tested at one Taco Bell location in Irvine, California, until June 27, while supplies last.

It’s a plant-based take on the company’s Naked Chicken Chalupa, which Taco Bell released earlier this month. 

“We’ve long been a food disruptor, and this time is no different,” said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s Global Chief Food Innovation Officer.

“We’ve seen our industry follow patterns of sameness, but we understand that consumers are looking for creativity and craveability in this space,” continued Matthews. “So whether someone is craving plant-based protein or crispy chicken or gooey cheesiness, we have something that’s not only flavorful, but also uniquely Taco Bell.

Eating Vegan at Taco Bell

The Naked Plant-Based Chalupa isn’t Taco Bell’s first plant-based menu offering.

In April 2019, the fast-food chain responded to public demand by launching a new vegetarian menu. And in 2020, Taco Bell’s new CEO, Mark King, told Bloomberg that vegan meat would be hitting the menu soon.

“We definitely see that plant-based protein has a place on the menu,” said King. In early 2021, the company announced it had partnered with Beyond Meat to add vegan meat to its menu for the first time ever. In April, Taco Bell finally began testing the “boldly seasoned plant-based protein” at a location in Southern California.

The Cravetarian Taco, a plant-based take on the chain’s popular Crunchy Taco Supreme, featured Beyond Meat, diced tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese, and sour cream all loaded inside a corn taco shell. The menu item could be made vegan by omitting the sour cream and cheese.

In March 2020, Taco Bell made placing a meat-free order even easier with the launch of “Veggie Mode,” an option for ordering vegetarian meals at the chain’s self-service kiosks. 

“We’ve been doing vegetarian for a long time, but that is not enough for us. People should be given more options than one plant-based choice,” Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell’s global nutrition and sustainability manager, explained at the time. “With Veggie Mode, we are proud to make it even easier to order delicious plant-based options.”

Want to find out more about the chain’s vegan offerings? Check out our guide to eating vegan at Taco Bell.