- On April 21, Taco Bell introduced its new plant-based protein: the Cravetarian.
- The Cravetarian, which is made of peas and chickpeas, is only available at one location in California.
- I tried the protein in a Crunchwrap Supreme and Crunchy Taco Supreme but was not impressed.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Taco Bell’s stores already offer “Veggie Mode,” a vegetarian menu showcasing all the meat-free options.
And all of the ingredients included on the 100% veggie-friendly menu are American Vegetarian Association certified.
Source: Taco Bell
“People who have been flexitarian or vegetarian have known that we’ve been the go-to place where you can actually get a healthy, plant-based protein that you can sub into your food,” Julie Felss Masino, now-president Taco Bell International, told Insider in 2019.
Unlike other fast-food chains – like McDonald’s or Burger King – that have relied on Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat for a plant-based substitute, Taco Bell decided to go with its own proprietary vegan protein.
“We’ve met with Beyond, we’ve met with Impossible,” Masino said in an interview with CNBC in 2019. “But I think what we’re proud of is that we’ve been doing vegetarian for 57 years.”
The new vegan option is made of peas and chickpeas, the latter a classic vegan substitute for meat.
A few of Taco Bell’s meat-based menu items can be substituted with the new vegan protein …
… including the classic burritos, chalupas, and Crunchwrap Supreme.
However, the Cravetarian is currently only available at one location: 14042 Red Hill Ave. in Tustin, California, just a short drive away from where I’m temporarily located.
I decided to jump on the freeway and head straight to the Taco Bell, eager to try this new veggie-based substitute. I’m not a strict vegetarian, but the majority of my meals are meat-free.
When I finally stepped into the fast-food chain, I noticed the Cravetarian wasn’t available at any of the electronic ordering kiosks, so I waddled over to the crash register instead.
After a few seconds of indecision, I settled on the Crunchy Taco Supreme ($2.19) and the Crunchwrap Supreme ($4.19), both with the Cravetarian substitute.
When my name was called, I marched up to the counter, grabbed my bag, and went back home. Just look how unusually happy I am with my veggie-friendly meal in hand!
At first glance, the Cravetarian (right) and Taco Bell’s generic ground beef (left) look quite similar. As far as I could tell, the only visual difference between the Cravetarian and the ground beef is the smaller clumps in the vegan protein.
Now, for the taste test.
First, I tried the Crunchy Taco Supreme, which looked almost identical to Taco Bell’s beef-based taco.
My order came with the Cravetarian protein, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and cheese.
But after my first bite, I was not wowed at all.
The Cravetarian tastes similar to other meat substitutes and I did enjoy the taste, but it didn’t offer anything new compared to other “vegan meats” I’ve tried in the past.
It’s salty (almost overbearingly so), and has the same crumbled texture as ground beef, except spongier.
“It tastes like hummus,” according to my friend, who decided to take a nibble of my taco.
If you’re a meat-eater looking for a meat-tasting vegan alternative, I wouldn’t run to the Cravetarian.
Flavor and bite-wise, the Cravetarian is not comparable to ground beef.
But if you’re a plant-based eater who doesn’t like Beyond Meat or chickpeas, you might not like the Cravetarian as well.
In my opinion, Taco Bell’s black bean Crunchy Taco Supreme is a much tastier plant-based option.
But I’m not a picky eater, and while I was disappointed by the Cravetarian, I still liked it enough to finish the rest of my taco. Now, onto the Crunchwrap Supreme.
At this point, I was already quite full from my previous taco, but I knew I had to march on.
Cravetarian or not, there’s a lot going on in a Crunchwrap Supreme.
All of my Crunchwrap Supreme fans already know the makeup of one of these large, flying saucer-shaped meals. But for those who aren’t tapped into the Taco Bell community, here’s a quick rundown.
The Crunchwrap Supreme comes with tomato, lettuce, a protein, queso, a hard corn tortilla, and sour cream, all inside of a folded and pressed tortilla.
But upon my first bite, I realized all of the Crunchwrap Supreme’s frills drowned out the Cravetarian’s flavor.
I tasted more sour cream than I did vegan meat …
… and ended up eating around the other add-ons in order to taste more of the Cravetarian. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t finish the Crunchwrap Supreme, but my mind about the vegan protein was already made up.
Overall, I think Taco Bell did a good job of matching the current “vegan meat” market offerings.
It’s pretty much exactly what I expected it to be: salty, sponge-like, well seasoned, and not-meat tasting.
But overall, the Cravetarian left me wanting more. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was hoping for a bigger flare. The meat substitute just reminded me of every other “alternative meat” product I’ve tried.
But don’t let my review deter you from trying it yourself. If you’re looking to try the Cravetarian, I’d recommend staying away from the Crunchwrap Supreme, which overwhelms the flavor of the protein. Just stick with the taco instead.