Taco Bell is testing its own meat substitute ahead of launching Beyond Meat later this year

Taco Bell is testing its own meat substitute ahead of launching Beyond Meat later this year

Taco Bell’s new Crispy Melt Taco, made with a plant-based meat substitute

Source: Taco Bell

Taco Bell is testing a plant-based meat substitute made from soy and pea protein at its restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama.

It’s the Yum Brands chain’s third attempt at proprietary meat alternatives since it announced a partnership with Beyond Meat that has yet to result in public testing. Last year, Taco Bell tested a meat substitute made from peas and chickpeas in its Cravetarian taco, and another alternative made from pea protein that was breaded to create a plant-based shell for its Naked Chalupa.

A Taco Bell representative said the new meat alternative is an improved version of the one tested in the Cravetarian taco.

Taco Bell also said Thursday that a Beyond Meat product will be available before the end of the year. Parent company Yum signed a deal with Beyond in early 2021 to create exclusive menu items for KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, but the lively partnership hasn’t resulted in many permanent menu items being available nationwide.

Though Taco Bell has long been a vegetarian favorite, it took a while for plant-based meat alternatives, which are more like meat, to be accepted. Before last year, the chain said it would instead focus on its existing meatless substitute options, like potatoes and beans. But a series of menu cuts during the pandemic angered its vegetarian customers, prompting Taco Bell to bring the products back and invest in new plant-based options as well.

The newest plant-based meat alternative is inspired by “classic Taco Bell flavors,” according to the chain. The Crispy Melt Taco features a deep fried white corn tortilla filled with grated cheddar, mozzarella, Monterey pepper, warm nacho cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and the new soy and pea protein. The taco retails for $2.49.

The alternative will also be found in Nachos BellGrande, the variant of the chain with loaded nachos.