Taco Bell’s New Vegetarian Certified Menu Has 26 Vegan Ingredient Options

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

Vegan fast food may not be Forks Over Knives-approved (sorry Dr. Esselstyn!), but herbivores need convenient eats, too. And sometimes, that means ordering via drive-thru speaker box.

Other than Amy’s, however, the landscape for vegan food at QSRs (quick service restaurants) has been less than impressive, with most of the major chains giving plant-based eaters the brush off.

Taco Bell, on the other hand, has just made history as the first-ever QSR to offer menu items certified by the American Vegetarian Association (AVA). The certified items include 13 ready-made menu items, plus 35 a la carte ingredients (26 of which are also vegan).

While most of the ready made menu items aren’t vegan, most can be made that way via customization. They include: 7-Layer Burrito, AM Grilled Taco – Egg & Cheese, Bean Burrito, Black Bean Burrito, Black Beans & Rice, Cantina Power Veggie Bowl, Cantina Power Veggie Burrito, Cheese Quesadilla, Cheese Roll-Up, Cheesy Bean & Rice, Double Tostada, Pintos ‘n Cheese, Biscuit Taco – Egg & Cheese.

As far as ingredients, the 26 vegan items are:

  • Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Border Sauce – Fire
  • Border Sauce – Hot
  • Border Sauce – Mild
  • Border Sauce – Verde
  • Cantina Salsa
  • Cilantro
  • Flatbread
  • Green Chili Sauce
  • Green Tomatillo Sauce
  • Guacamole
  • Jalapenos
  • Lettuce
  • Mexican Pizza Sauce
  • Onions
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Premium Latin Rice
  • Rainforest Coffee
  • Red Sauce
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Salsa Del Sol
  • Taco Shell
  • Tomatoes
  • Tortilla
  • Tostada Shell

Given that this list includes beans, tortillas, salsa, and guacamole, vegans have plenty of delicious options to make a meal with.

“We’re continuing our tradition of rolling out food-firsts as the first QSR to be certified by the American Vegetarian Association – something we’re extremely proud of,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told Latest Vegan News. “We know that our customers are more engaged and more curious about their food than ever before, and with an AVA certification – the recognized standard of vegetarian assurance – those looking for meat-free options can be confident in their choices.”

The company also notes that they sell more than 350 million vegetarian menu items each year.

So will they be rolling out more completely vegan menu items in the future? Here’s what they told LVN: “As a leader in the vegetarian space, we will continue to explore other options, just as we are for other relevant lifestyles, as we continue to innovate across our entire menu.”

We’ll keep our fingers crossed that plant-based meats (and CHEESE) are up next.

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Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief

Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief

A wizard of words, lover of all living things and vegan mac 'n cheese master, Hannah is the Editor-In-Chief and Founder of SomeGirlsVeganNews.com. Her writing has appeared in Live Happy magazine, the Miami New Times, OneGreenPlanet.com, MindBodyGreen.com, FoodRevolution.org and numerous other publications and websites. She's obsessed with vegan pizza and crop tops, and is totally addicted to the outdoors. You can reach Hannah directly at hannah.sentenac@gmail.com.

103 Responses

  1. Yvonne says:

    Do they use lard in Taco Bell beans?

    • Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief says:

      Hi Yvonne! Nope, they don’t! Their beans are vegan. 🙂

    • alisha says:

      No they are dehydrated and they add water

    • Vail says:

      That ended years and years ago, I remember a vegetarian friend (a million years ago and BV – before vegan, ha, for me) in college working with them to stop using lard. She liked how open they were & that they were very open to suggestions and of course was so excited when they did change.

      This is a great list, thank you so much for it!

  2. Kc says:

    Why aren’t the potatoes listed as a vegan option?

    • Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief says:

      Not sure KC, but Taco Bell sent me this list directly. I checked the website but potatoes aren’t listed — only as ingredients in a few of the non-vegan menu items. I’d say reach out to them and ask!

    • David C says:

      The potatoes are vegan. PETA’s website suggests you order them as an add-on at taco bell.

      • Mal says:

        PETA has been wrong on these types of things so many times. I think it’s because they rarely revisit the vegan menu options they post

    • Sara says:

      I’d like to know this, too! Because I add them to everything I get there! :/

    • Jessica says:

      Because their potatoes are cooked with bacon… I made that mistake once.

    • Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief says:

      Hi all. Here’s the response I just got from the company’s spokesperson: “Taco Bell’s potatoes cannot be considered vegetarian certified because they are fried in oil that is not vegetarian certified. Taco Bell is focused on increasing the number of certified products over time.”

  3. JN says:

    I’m surprised the flour tortillas are vegan because most commercial brands don’t seem to be. But I’ll take your word for it! Good news.

  4. Mia says:

    the list includes “tortilla”, is that the flour tortilla used for burritos and soft tacos?

  5. Suzy says:

    Big big yayyyyy!

  6. Patty says:

    I am trying to figure out how the spicy potato tacos are NOT vegetarian? And I get them without cheese, lettuce and sauce which would make them vegan, right? If not, this changes everything! Please advise!

    • mrsmosley says:

      They are fried in oil used for meat products

      • Katie says:

        When I worked at Taco Bell they didn’t fry any meats in the deep fryer! The only things that were deep fried were the cinnamon twists, the taco salad shells, and the nacho chips. All of the meat is cooked in bags in a hot water bath.

    • Kelly says:

      Co mingling items in oil loses them vegetarian certification. They must fry something meaty in the same oil.

      • TacoBellManager says:

        They come pre made. We only recoil items to bring them up to heat. They are cooked in bacon grease and lard at the factory.

        • cynthia says:

          Are you saying…The potatoes in the spicy potato tacos are cooked in bacon grease and lard at the factory? Please say it ain’t so.

    • River says:

      There’s no meat fried in the oil and it’s vegetable oil. The only non-vegan things that go in the frier are the cinnabon delights (egg in the dough and milk in filling) and caramel empanadas (milk in the filling) They’re definitely vegetarian and vegan as far as ingredients go in the actual potatoes but it’s a personal choice on how you feel about the oil. As far as sources I’m vegan and work at Taco Bell currently. Also I’m very lactose intolerant and haven’t had a reaction to potatoes so I doubt they really pick up anything from the oil.

      • Petvet says:

        I don’t know if it’s the only non-vegetarian thing that’s fried in the oil but the red tortilla strips that are used as toppings for certain menu items contain carmine, so that would probably prevent any item fried in the same oil as them from being certified vegetarian.

  7. Avi says:

    Do you have vegan ordering advice for amateurs? Some suggestions would be rad, I wouldn’t know where to start but love the concept of suddenly having fast-food options for when I’m traveling.

    • stephen says:

      7 layer burrito without sour cream and cheese (so 5 layers) is real good and pretty filling for $2.50~

    • David Ulrich says:

      Never subtract at a fast food place always add. Otherwise you end up with a wimpy little meal with not much in it. Start with a bean burrito, fresco. then start adding. I like rice, guacamole, romaine lettuce, and sometimes black beans. but you can pick your own items from the list above.

    • Darcey Mussey says:

      If you can use the odering app, do it! It’s so much easier than trying to explain a complex order to the poor cashier (I always felt so bad for them). Your order goes right to the screen in the kitchen as you specify. It’s pretty great!

  8. ivonne says:

    7 of the ingredients are sauces…hmnn that really does not count as a vegan item to me. Kind of disappointing. Now if they add vegan sour cream and cheddar cheese that would be vegan items.

  9. melinda says:

    Hi- I would be concerned with any Mexican rice. In restaurants across the board the rice is cooked in chicken stock. I notice that rice is not vegan but shows up on the vegetarian list?

    • stephen says:

      Premium Latin Rice is listed as Vegan. they do not list potatoes, cooked in oil not vegan certified, so I think the rice is safe as listed (if cooked as intended).

  10. Matt says:

    I’m upset that peta had listed the potatoes as vegan if they truly weren’t. This isn’t the first time they have misreported vegan food items. Now I will have to fact check them every time they post an article.

    • Matt says:

      Also peta listed the rice a vegan. It makes me sick to my stomach that an organization like that didn’t do their homework. Every vegan I know who orders from them orders the potatoes and rice.

      • Matt says:

        Nevermind I read Melinda’s comment before seeing that the rice IS listed on the vegan list. That’s a huge relief. Still bummed about the potatoes haha.

        • River says:

          The only thing that would make the potatoes non-vegan is that they’re fried in the same oil as desserts containing egg and milk in them. No meat products are fried and the oil is just canola oil or another vegetable oil so they’re vegetarian at the very least and no ingredients in the actual potatoes are animal based. (I’m vegan and work at Taco Bell currently)

          • Petvet says:

            The red tortilla strips are fried oil and contain carmine (I commented above, in a different thread)

      • Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief says:

        Hi Matt! Just for future reference, PETA may list some items that are vegan as far as ingredients, but not OFFICIALLY or certifiably vegan. Unfortunately there are still very few products that can call themselves “officially” vegan. PETA’s stance is as such (this quote is taken from their blog), and at LVN we tend to agree: “Being vegan is about helping animals, not maintaining personal purity. Boycotting products that may contain trace amounts of animal products can actually be harmful to animals in the long run. For example, by refusing to eat a veggie burger from a restaurant because the bun may contain traces of milk or eggs, you are discouraging that restaurant from offering vegan options because it is seems too difficult a task.”

        • stephen says:

          if they can get veggie burgers they can get vegan buns…

          • Sarah says:

            So, your personal purity is more important than saving animals, is what you’re saying, Stephen. Even if you don’t realize that’s what you’re saying.

            If a hamburger bun or another product is 99.99% vegan, but can’t be certified because it is made on equipment that also produces foods made with milk and/or eggs, that product is still vegan. No cruelty or animal products went into the production of that item. It’s still vegan. By saying it’s not “vegan enough,” you are making things harder on animals, because companies will stop producing the items that are vegan and just start making MORE of the items that aren’t.

        • Tahler Thacker says:

          I absolutely agree w/ PETA!

    • Curtis says:

      While PETA supports a strict adherence to veganism, the org puts the task of vigorously reducing animal suffering ahead of personal purity. Boycotting products that are 99.9 percent vegan sends the message to manufacturers that there is no market for this food, which ends up hurting more animals.

      • Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief says:

        Well said Curtis! That’s the same line of thinking we support here at LVN.

        • Adam says:

          Exactly. It may gross done people out too much to offer something otherwise vegan that was fried in shared oil, but that’s a personal issue, not a vegan issue. If I order the potatoes that were fried in that oil, I’m not paying for any animal products and not causing any more demand for animal products. So I have no problem continuing to order them. It’s up to you where you draw your line, but remember veganism is about reducing harm and suffering, not personal purity.

  11. Breona says:

    I worked at taco bell recently and we have new crispy chicken that is fried for the biscuit tacos (breakfast) and at one point they were using the strips for lunch too. All other meats are done the hot water bath. But the new crispy chicken is fried (using the same fryer they make potatoes in.

    • Sarah says:

      Again, this isn’t about personal purity.

      • Petvet says:

        Could it be that veganism means different things to different people? Perhaps personal purity IS important to some vegans!? People are vegans for different reasons, and some are vegan for multiple reasons. Even if someone won’t eat a bun because it contains traces of eggs, they are still leading a life that doesn’t support cruelty. You can’t tell someone they don’t care about “saving animals” because of what they don’t eat. What if someone doesn’t eat fast food at all, and makes all meals at home or eats locally at non-chain restaurants? Are they “not caring about saving animals” because they aren’t eating veggie burgers at Burger King?

  12. Breona says:

    Rice is cooked using hot water, season packets, and most companys tell you to add oil from the fryer, which they fry meats in smh. Don’t get it if you’re vegetarian.

    • Rio says:

      As a vegan who works at Taco Bell I can assure you that we do not cook our meat in oil! It comes prepackaged and is heated using hot water. The only non vegan items that are fried are our Cinnabon delights (contain milk and eggs) and our Apple empanadas (contain milk).

  13. Robyn says:

    I’m not sure how you’re going to make the cheese roll-up vegan…

  14. Ss says:

    Is this only for taco bell USA? What about Canada?

  15. Dominica says:

    Glad to hear their vegetables are vegan. 😂

  16. Rachel says:

    vegetable shortening is cheaper than lard, which is why it’s used more often than lard is cheaper tortillas, beans, etc.

  17. Amber says:

    I’m sure potatoes are fine. I worked there as a teen before potatoes even came out. They don’t put anything meat oriented in fryer. The meat is all precooked and comes in bags that they heat up in a rethermolyzer (thing that has very hot water in it) the only thing fried are taco salad shells, chalupa shells(not sure if those are vegan), cinnamon twists, and Mexican pizza shells.

    • stephen says:

      “Taco Bell’s potatoes cannot be considered vegetarian certified because they are fried in oil that is not vegetarian certified. Taco Bell is focused on increasing the number of certified products over time.”

      • Sarah says:

        All that means is that they fry things that have milk and eggs in the fryer. No meat goes in there. Again, I reiterate this is not about our personal purity, regardless.

  18. Antoine Doinel says:

    Order the double decker taco with beans instead if meat, no cheese, and mild sauce… Add guacamole if you like. Yum! Vegan and super good.

  19. Sunshine Rivers says:

    I gave up eating there a while back because any time I tried to sub beans for meat they charged me for a side of beans. I’d argue that this policy made no sense but they said it came down from corporate and they had no choice but to charge me extra to leave out an expensive ingredient and substitute a less costly one.

  20. Monie Ordonia says:

    I don’t know about first ever… have you ever looked at Taco Time’s Menu? I know they aren’t all over the country, but they have plenty of Veggie options… skip the cheese and that can be labeled Vegan!

  21. Neil says:

    Does their sour cream still contain gelatin?

  22. Georgia says:

    My family & I do not support factory farming. Most fast food restaurants do business this way. What about Taco Bell?

  23. Chiba says:

    8 sauces & 3 salsas are “menu items”?

    This is a ridiculous list. Just ridiculous. Blatant, pointless PR propaganda.

  24. Carrie says:

    I asked the McDonalds in my town what oil they use and they use soy, how is it that their fries are with meat?

  25. mel says:

    I. Was told by taco bell that their beans are Not vegetarian. Please clarify

    • Sarah says:

      Did you ask corporate or did you talk to someone at the restaurant? Taco Bell’s own website says their beans are vegan, and if you email corporate, they’ll tell you the same.

  26. OUTraged says:

    WHEN?……I can’t find any information on when they’re suppose to add the menu. No “date” is posted anywhere. And honestly? I could care less about gross vegetarian stuff…..I want Vegan items not items with dairy in it!…..Am I just suppose to go into one of their stores and puke on their floor??

  27. Lisa says:

    On a recent road trip with very few options, I stopped at Taco Bell and ordered a double decker taco, sub beans for the taco meat. They gave me the double decker with the taco shell empty 😂😂. After going back in, they made it correctly but you should check your Oder before driving off if trying to order vegan/vegetarian. But glad to know they are up and coming with vegetarian friendly options.

  28. Michael says:

    Use the mobile app. It has all the sub beans for beef options, and I haven’t had them mess up my order and accidentally give me meat when using it.

  29. Ellie says:

    I was hoping the potatoes were vegan..watch out for the creamy chipotle too I was not pleased that they’re animal based

  30. Af says:

    Is the premium Latin rice the same rice they put in the burritos? I wanna make sure the rice is vegan. An employee once took rice out of my burrito after asking for it fresco style, cuz he claimed the rice had dairy in it.

    • Rio says:

      Yes it is the same rice! Our Latin rice is the only rice we serve and it is vegan (though does contain oil that could have been potentially come in contact with dairy products).
      *i am a vegan who currently works at Taco Bell

  31. carol Anderson says:

    Too confusing.
    I’m in east Texas’s and doubt if my local taco bell even has vegetarian options let alone vegan.

    • Monsoon says:

      You’re wrong. This is a nationwide list. All Taco Bells get their ingredients from the same place. All Taco Bells use the same ingredients. All of the things on this list are available at all Taco Bells.

  32. Vegas Vegan says:

    If there is such a word as “veg-washing”, Taco Bell exemplifies it. The list is mainly sauces and produce. I got all excited thinking they’d be offering vegan cheese/meat. BIG YAWN! 99% of other fast food places also offer vegan sauces and produce.

    • V.V. says:

      You’re 100% correct. Although I welcome vegan options any and everywhere, I try to not to give my $$ to Pepsi/KFC/Taco Bell. It’s not a matter of personal purity. They’re are far better and easy options from more sustainable operations. I want to fund those businesses and not Big Food. Also–in general–I’m sorry I’m not excited about Taco Bell. I am a vegan with taste. In a bind, I’d eat it but not soon thereafter.

  33. Don Guild says:

    Are we to assume that TACO BELL defines VEGAN as not just organic and non animal, but are they also eliminating GMOs in their definition of Vegan?

    • Monsoon says:

      VEGAN is defined as free of animal ingredients. Period. It has absolutely nothing to do with pesticides or GMOs. GMOs are not animal ingredients (though some of your organic pesticides are!). GMOs have nothing to do with veganism. If you want to avoid GMOs for whatever reason, then you are free to do so. But do not conflate your anti-science, anti-GMO stance with veganism; they are related in no way whatsoever.

  34. Krishauna says:

    Big huge yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hope to see more options like dairy free cheese and meatless meat!!

  35. The Wiz says:

    I wouldn’t eat anything at Taco Bell – vegan or not. I know a guy who is a food scientist for the company who told me they make heavy use of GMO ingredients. He also confirmed they use “creative” ingredients such as sand (yes silica) as an anti-caking agent in the chili so it can sit under the heat lamps for up to 7 days!! Mmm, that’s good eats!

    I used to be a Taco Bell fan before changing to a plant based diet but wouldn’t go near one knowing what I know now.

  36. Jack says:

    Oh we are at TC now i can feel my butt getting bigger

  37. Its aight. Ive seen better

  38. Lp says:

    Taco Bell used to let us say sub beans and replace meat with beans at no cost and when they rolled this new menu out they also removed sub beans so now we are stuck paying for meat on our special orders. Shame now it costs too much and we will never go again. Bean burrito tortillas always have dry papery texture I used to get chalupa and crunchy tacos with beans but our order costs was way more by about 40%

  39. Tay says:

    An employee at Taco Bell informed me the beans aren’t vegan and they’re cooked in lard. She noticed my order was “vegan friendly” and gave me a heads up. So bummed.

    • Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief says:

      Hi Tay,
      Hmmmm, according to the company, all of their beans are vegan. I’d definitely suggest reaching out to them directly and letting them know about your experience!

  40. Catherine Burchett says:

    What ever happened to the veggie fajita???? Man I miss those. Would love for them to come back on the menu

  41. jess says:

    “While most of the ready made menu items aren’t vegan, most can be made that way via customization. They include: 7-Layer Burrito, AM Grilled Taco – Egg & Cheese, Bean Burrito, Black Bean Burrito, Black Beans & Rice, Cantina Power Veggie Bowl, Cantina Power Veggie Burrito, Cheese Quesadilla, Cheese Roll-Up, Cheesy Bean & Rice, Double Tostada, Pintos ‘n Cheese, Biscuit Taco – Egg & Cheese.
    Curious how they plan to customize the egg & cheese to veganize that.

  42. jess says:

    Just want to add, I know several Vegans including myself (18 years) that are also now Gluten Free. Back in the day I seemed to have been an anomaly no longer able to eat my beloved seitan! As of 2016 this is their GF List:

    Although a few items that appear on that list (that one would think do NOT contain animal products) hash browns, chips and salsa, Guacamole, lettuce (?not listed as GF?) …I am not seeing a whole lot that are on both lists. The only thing I am seeing on both lists are black beans. On the Vegan list rice and beans are not listed as a dish together, they are listed as black beans and also on the list is Premium Latin Rice. So if that rice is the same rice as in the Black Beans and Rice (do they even serve more than one type of rice? i.e. white rice/ yellow rice) , basically what GF Vegans can eat at Taco Bell are Black beans and Rice, and not even sauces.

    I really don’t have a lot of trust for Taco Bell. !9 years ago when I was pregnant and my husband was a student, I met him for lunch one day. I ordered bean burritos my husband was adamant that it be bean, and they needed to be careful as I was Vegan and pregnant. I bit into the bean taco and another bite or 2 later I got a mouthful of ground beef. It was as if they started to make the taco and then realized I could not have meat and rather than waste the taco and get in trouble they threw beans on top of the meat. As if I would not know the difference…as if not only would I not taste the difference or detect the texture difference from the beans to the meat that was more towards the center of the burrito.
    The manager did not even take my side as a pregnant customer or even offer to remake my lunch (I was actually sick to my stomach and pretty devastated by this point) OR reimburse my lunch! They probably thought we were a couple of kids trying to eat for free. Of course this was years ago. There was not a whole lot of respect then for alternative diets veering away from the SAD diet at that time! But I have never attempted to find anything in there ever again.

    Taco Bell Gluten-Free Menu 2016
    Cantina Power Bowl – Chicken
    Cantina Power Bowl – Steak
    Cantina Power Bowl – Veggie
    Boss Nachos – Chicken
    Boss Nachos – Steak
    Black Beans
    Black Beans & Rice
    Chips and Guacamole
    Chips and Nacho Cheese Sauce
    Nacho Cheese Doritos Chips
    And all their soda and freezes are gluten-free.

    Sorry if I seem to have hijacked this topic in anyway. It is very hard to find meals for myself in chain restaurants and I notice a lot more Vegans mentioning Gluten in youtube videos and such. Just wanted to share.

  43. MA says:

    They didn’t put Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes on the list because of the nacho cheese and sour cream that come on top. You would have to order them with no nacho cheese sauce and no sour cream for them to be vegan/vegetarian.

  44. Ty says:

    Is the rice in the cheesy bean &rice burrito have any meat base or any type of meat in it

  45. Meg Norris says:

    *The best vegan menu items at Taco Bell*
    : #1. Crunch Wrap
    A. Fresco style (takes out all dairy & Subs Pico de Gallo
    B. Sub black beans for meat

    #2. Black Bean Burrito
    A. Fresco style

    #3. Cheesy Gordita Crunch
    A. Fresco style (no dairy add Pico)
    B. Sub black beans for meat
    * I always double confirm that they take out the Baja sauce in case that wasn’t covered in “Fresco style”

  46. ellie says:

    i went there once and i slipped on the chicken fried rice with my sketchers

  47. Ren says:

    beans = refried beans and are VEGAN???

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