Taco Bell Is Quietly Testing a First-Of-Its-Kind Chalupa
Taco Bell has started to make good on its pledge to add more plant-based items to the menu. According to Business Insider, the chain has begun testing a new plant protein in one of their most popular limited-time offers of all time—the Naked Chicken Chalupa.
The vegetarian chalupa will have all the classic features of a Chicken Chalupa, except the crunchy, breaded "meat" in the middle will be made of pea protein. This shell will be stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and avocado ranch sauce, with the option to leave out dairy for a fully vegan dish.
However, this vegan chalupa shell is only available at a single California Taco Bell location at the moment. The test may seem limited, but it's a significant one for Taco Bell. The chain is relatively vegetarian-friendly compared to others and has made it its mission to become the category leader in the arena, according to a press release.
Taco Bell has made several moves this year to appeal to its vegetarian customers. After reinstituting potatoes, which are a popular vegetarian substitution for protein in their items, the chain also started testing an initial version of a plant-based protein in April. The chain's first proprietary plant-based protein was a boldly spiced concoction made from a blend of peas and chickpeas, which started being tested in a new Cravetarian Taco (which rhymes with "vegetarian").
While plant-based food is likely to define a new era at Taco Bell, here are some discontinued favorites the chain's fans are still mourning.
Most Infamous Menu Cuts Taco Bell Has Ever Made
Once upon a time, Taco Bell tried to compete with fast-food burger slingers by creating its own version of a burger-slash-Sloppy Joe. There was taco beef between a burger bun, topped with diced onions, shredded lettuce, and—if you got the Supreme version—cheese and tomatoes. The sandwich debuted on the menu in the '70s and managed to stick around until the '90s. Still, fans who remember it say it was delicious, and its absence, while understandable, is mourned to this day.
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Chicken Caesar Grilled Stuft Burrito
In 2003, Taco Bell introduced the Chicken Caesar Grilled Stuft Burrito, which was its take on high-end fast-food. While its usual fare of burritos and tacos cost around $1 at the time, this glorified chicken caesar wrap went for $3. It consisted of chicken, romaine lettuce, and Caesar dressing. In addition to grilling it, Taco Bell's special twist was the addition of crunchy red tortilla strips. Many agree that this was the best item on the iconic "stuff" menu. In fact, the item is still at the top of many "most missed items from Taco Bell" lists, and fans share nostalgia and homemade recipes for it on Reddit.
Grilled Stuft Nacho
Even as a limited-time menu item, the Grilled Stuft Nacho had a short life. Though it was first tested on menus in 2013, it was cut as soon as 2014. It made one more appearance in 2015, and it hasn't been heard from since. Considering the fact that Taco Bell applied some genuine whimsy to the creation of this item, it's really a shame. Shaped into a triangle like a nacho, this innovation was basically a toasted tortilla stuffed with beef, cheesy jalapeño sauce, crunchy red tortilla strips, and sour cream. While there are similar concepts on Taco Bell's current menu, the shape and crunchiness of this item was wonderfully reminiscent of a giant stuffed nacho. Yes, it also had its own petition on Change.org.
Another relic from the '70s, the Enchirito was a hybrid between a burrito and an enchilada. Advertised as bearing "lots of sauce" and "lots of cheese," the Enchirito was one of Taco Bell's top-selling items for decades. It was so big and filling that it even came in a little tin tray, so diners could easily take their leftovers home and reheat them. It came as a shock to many to learn that the item was removed from menus in 1993. While it did make several intermittent appearances between permanently being discontinued in 2013, customers said the post-1993 Enchirito was never the same. For one, the iconic three olives were missing from the top, and for another, it came in a plastic container. Later, Taco Bell debuted the Smothered Burrito, but again, it just wasn't quite the same. The magic of the original Enchirito seems to have been lost forever.
Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme
This Crunchwrap was a favorite for many Taco Bell fans. It was stuffed with chicken, incredibly spicy Lava sauce, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Though its run lasted from 2006 till circa 2010, fans kept fighting for it long after it had disappeared. In fact, a Facebook calling for its return was active as recently as 2015, according to Mashed. One fan even allegedly called Taco Bell's headquarters to plead the case to management. Unfortunately, no such move is on the horizon!
Lava sauce was the true breakout superstar when Taco Bell launched its line of Volcano menu items. The super spicy nacho cheese sauce was included in the second run of the Volcano Burrito, the Volcano Taco, and Volcano Nachos, which were on the menu between 2008 and 2013. The condiment could be added to any menu item or ordered as a dipping sauce on the side, and it garnered a ton of praise as one of the hottest sauces in the industry. Due to numerous social media campaigns bemoaning the condiment's departure from the menu, Taco Bell delighted fans in 2015 by announcing its comeback via Twitter. Unfortunately, we haven't seen this beloved sauce since it was permanently discontinued in 2016.
Double Decker Taco
This better-than-a-regular-beef-taco taco featured a reinforcement to its crunchy shell: a soft fluffy tortilla stuck to it like glue with a mix of refried beans. First introduced in 1995 in a series of commercials featuring basketball legends Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwan, this architecturally ingenious taco was added to the permanent menu in 2006, where it enjoyed a long run before being removed in 2019. However, the silver lining is that a) this may be an easy secret menu customization to ask for, and b) it still isn't too late for Taco Bell to bring back this one-of-a-kind creation.
The latest piece of heartbreaking news from Taco Bell came last year when the chain discontinued its Mexican Pizza. Not actually a pizza (nor really Mexican), the item featured two flour tortilla shells filled with refried beans, seasoned ground beef, and Mexican sauce. It was then topped with cheese, chopped tomatoes, and more Mexican sauce. A favorite customizable item of vegetarians and halal eaters everywhere, the pizza's departure was mourned across social media and in a super-popular petition, which garnered more than 160,000 fan signatures. Because some of the items cut from Taco Bell's permanent menu during the coronavirus pandemic have already made a comeback, fans remain hopeful that the Mexican Pizza may yet return.
Business Insider asked Taco Bell's global chief food innovation officer about the potential return of this beloved item in Junary. "I think there's always a chance," she said. "We're constantly listening to our customers. So, I wouldn't pull that off the table."
For more, check out 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are.