The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Taco Bell® Vegan Options

Posted on November 02, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

Taco Bell released an updated version of an online guide titled How to
Eat Vegetarian and Meatless at Taco Bell: in August 2016.
Missy Nelson, RD of Taco Bell responded to The Vegetarian Resource Group
with more detail about how Taco Bell defines “vegetarian” and “vegan.”
She told us:

Our definitions are as follows:

Lacto-ovo vegetarianism is defined by the practice of eating
grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with the use of
dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry,
game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter. Any material
taken/extracted/processed-through from animals, birds, insects, marine
animals, or slaughter by- products such as gelatin, enzymes, animal
fats, or bone char are non-vegetarian.

Ms. Nelson indicated that in addition to the lacto-ovo statement above,
vegans do not eat any animal products or byproducts such as honey or
ingredients processed from fur or feathers.

Taco Bell told us that items certified as vegetarian or vegan do not
contain sugar that has been processed through bone char. The same sugar
isn’t necessarily used for items not certified as vegan or

The full certified vegetarian menu can be found here; however, people can customize
to fit their specific needs.

At the bottom of their Vegetarian page Taco Bell posts this disclaimer:

Taco Bell…offers…AVA-certified vegetarian food items, which
defines vegetarian as lacto-ovo, allowing the consumption of dairy and
eggs but does not include any animal byproducts. Please note that in
some restaurants we use the same frying oil to prepare menu items that
may or may not contain meat. All vegetarian ingredients are handled by
our employees in common with meat ingredients, which may not be
acceptable to certain types of vegetarian diets. We cannot guarantee
that cross contact with meat products will not occur…

On its Ingredient Statements page Taco Bell identifies its AVA-certified
vegetarian and AVA-certified vegan ingredients.

Here is a partiallisting of the AVA-certified vegan ingredients:

black beans
fire sauce (hot & mild)
express nacho chips (regional)
fire roasted salsa
flour tortilla
Gordita flatbread
green chile sauce (regional)
green tomatillo sauce (regional)
Mexican pizza sauce
pico de gallo
Latin rice
rainforest coffee
red sauce
red strips
refried beans
salsa del sol
taco shell
tostada shell

In its updated guide linked above Taco Bell lists 11 vegetarian menu
items. Of these as presented, only one is vegan (Black Beans & Rice) but
seven others can easily be made vegan by excluding for instance cheese
or sour cream:

1. Black Bean Burrito
2. Black Beans & Rice
3. Veggie Power Menu Bowl
4. Veggie Power Menu Burrito
5. Spicy Tostada
6. 7-Layer Burrito
7. Bean Burrito
8. Pintos N Cheese

From Taco Bell’s website it is possible to customize menu options with
“Tasty Upgrades” many of which are vegan. See:

Patrons also have the option to “Change What’s Included.” For example on
the Pintos N Cheese page, customers could exclude the cheese and upgrade
with guacamole. The adjusted price reflecting upgrades is calculated
automatically onsite. Deletions of any included components do not result
in a reduced final price. See:

The VRG asked Missy for more detail on some of the ingredients in
certain menu items and in the Tasty Upgrades. We learned that the beans,
rice and red sauce of the Black Bean Burrito are not prepared with
animal broths or stocks and all of the natural flavors in this burrito
are all-vegetable. The monoglycerides and enzymes in the flour tortilla
are also non-animal.

The Veggie Power Menu Burrito lists Mexican pizza sauce as a Tasty
Upgrade. Missy told us that its natural flavors are all-vegetable. The
“beans,” also an all-vegetable Tasty Upgrade in both ingredients and
preparation, are Taco Bell’s Refried Beans (as listed in the Ingredient

The Spicy Tostada is served on the tostada shell with refried beans.

Taco Bell further elaborated on their frying oil in their updated online

In some of our restaurants, we use the same frying oil to prepare
menu items that may or may not contain meat. Therefore, menu items fried
in oil like hash browns, chips, cinnamon twists, potatoes and the
Fiesta taco salad shell are not acceptable to the AVA-certified
vegetarian diet because of the potential cross contact.

There is also a nutrition calculator on Taco Bell’s website. It is
different from many in that it allows a patron to adjust portions
(doubling for example) and presents the information in a familiar
nutrition facts label format:
On its Allergen Info page, it is possible to filter out all of the
animal products (eggs, milk, fish and shellfish) to create an
approximate vegan filter. See:
Vegan consumers should be aware that certain listings using this filter
set include hashbrowns, chips and cinnamon twists all of which contain
no animal ingredients per se but may have been fried in oil used to
prepare meat products. Interestingly the only “Vegetarian Menu” entrée
(excluding side dishes grouped in their own category) which came up was
the Black Beans & Rice dish which means it is the only
vegan-to-begin-with entrée listed on Taco Bell’s menu. Fresco meat
dishes also appeared using this approximate vegan filter since the
allergen list does not include meat.

On its FAQ page the first food-related question and answer:
Q: Does Taco Bell offer vegetarian-friendly options?
A: Yes…and people love it! We sell 350 million vegetarian items a year
and about 7 percent of all items ordered at Taco Bell are either
vegetarian-friendly, or made vegetarian-friendly by some type of
substitution or removal. Some of our most popular are the classic Bean
Burrito, 7-Layer Burrito, Cantina Power Veggie Bowl…Plus, you can
customize almost any item on our menu by replacing meat with beans.

Thank you to Jeanne Yacoubou, MS for her research on Taco Bell products.

The contents of this posting, website and our other publications,
including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal
medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified
health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient
information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure
about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and
mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a
product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or
confirmation on your own.

For more information on restaurant chains, see
For information on vegetarian restaurants, see

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