When I think of my fondest memory growing up in a suburban Carolina town, nothing compares to the moment my mother, a staunch nutritionist, let go of everything she learned in dietetics and let us eat at Taco Bell. I remember everything about the old set up — from the purple, turquoise, and pink color scheme that never made any sense to the little Chihuahua stuffed animals that I begged my mother to buy. I had the same thing every single time: a bean burrito with no onions and no cheese, cinnamon twists and a Pepsi. Looking back I can fondly say my mother unwittingly jump-started my venture into a vegan diet.
But how, you may ask, could Taco Bell be a gateway into a vegan lifestyle? Let me let you in on a little secret. Taco Bell, known almost exclusively for munchies and indigestion, is a slice of vegan heaven. After two years of animal free eating, I have learned a thing or two about how to eat at a fast food restaurant. The options at Taco Bell, when compared to McDonald’s apple pies and apple cinnamon oatmeal without cream, are actually quite extensive. But what makes Taco Bell such a great option for vegans? The key is that everything can be made to order. Their beans, potatoes, tortillas, taco shells, rice, guacamole, red sauce, salsa, and jalapeños contain no animal products, and so you can create almost anything you want with substitutions.
For example, if you want to order a taco, substitute the beef for beans and ask for fresco style. You can also replace the sour cream and cheese with lettuce and Pico de Gallo. Let’s say you want a bean burrito instead. Ask for one without cheese and voila — a vegan bean burrito. The substitutions can get trickier after the taco and burrito, but with a little ingenuity and help from my trusty sidekick, the Taco Bell app, anything is possible.
The app, compatible on both the Android and iPhone, is helpful because you can see all of the possible modifications on your screen that are otherwise not visible on the store menu. For example, when I go into the app and order a Mexican pizza, it shows what toppings are on it and gives me the ability to change each topping. So instead of seasoned beef, it shows the options for chicken, steak, shredded chicken, or beans. (I, of course, choose beans.) Then I can remove the three-cheese blend and add on a variety of ingredients, including onions, lettuce, Pico de Gallo, jalapeño peppers, potatoes, Latin rice, chunky salsa, and black beans. These modifications are possible for every menu item including my favorites, the sevenlayer burrito, tostada and the cantina power bowl — the budget friendly version of Chipotle’s rice bowls. Lastly, what makes the app incredibly useful is the ability to save yourself the embarrassingly lengthy conversation between you and the cashier when you tell them all the changes you want to make to your seven-layer burrito. All you do is order on the app, pay with a card, and show up to take your food.
So with that, get your hungry selves out to a nearby Taco Bell, either at the Natick Mall or on Cochituate Road in Framingham, andmake your vegan fast food dreams a reality. Remember, the cinnamon twists are vegan, so even a vegan like you can have your dessert and eat it too.