“Vegetarians rejoice: now you too can join your meat-eating brethren by stuffing your gullet with Taco Bellian deliciousness!” feels like the kind of thing Taco Bell’s marketing department might want me to write with the release of its “new” vegetarian-friendly menu item, the Black Bean Toasted Cheddar Chalupa.
I won’t do it, though.
Because, despite what the taco chain wants you to believe, non-meat eaters have always been able to clog their arteries right along with everyone else. Its refried beans, in fact, are vegan. Its black beans have been around for years and, in this modern era of customization, can be subbed for just about any other protein on its menu.
Furthermore, the toasted cheddar chalupa shell isn’t a “new” item, either. When it was first introduced in September of 2019, Taco Bell proclaimed it “the biggest food innovation of the year,” which, sure, why not. I can’t disprove this statement, nor am I sure why I’d want to.
So, here we are a year later, and Taco Bell is cramming the aforementioned black beans into the reintroduced cheesy chalupa shell. Perhaps it’s hoping it’ll placate vegetarians enough to not riot over the fact that it recently did away with one of the other things they could eat: the fried potatoes.
And so, does it work? Maybe!
As one might expect, the chalupa shell (which Taco Bell suggests is ensconced in cheddar that has been aged for six months) does the heavy lifting. This was my first experience with the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa — with any kind of filling — and I was very pleased. Texturally, the cheese adds a nice crunch that then yields to the pillowed, buttery chew of the traditional chalupa shell. Could I tell the cheese had been aged six months? No. Was it a little like when shredded cheese falls out of the omelet you’re making, and it gets all crispy in the pan, and you eat it and think, “now this is allllll right”? Yes.
I could happily eat eight of these shells with nothing else in them and call it a day.
I didn’t, however, because that would make for a bizarre review. Also, the one I ordered was filled with black beans, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, and sour cream.
You might be wondering how the shredded cheese plays with the toasted cheese on the shell, and the short answer is…indistinguishably? The longer, more ridiculous answer is that they harmoniously — though indifferently — coexist, like an old cat and old dog who live together but mostly just stay out of each other’s way. In other words, if they forgot to add your shredded cheese, it probably wouldn’t detract from the experience.
Which leaves the seasoned beans. And the verdict? I mean, they’re black beans, and by default, not very jazzy in nature. They are also a bit soupier than say, Chipotle’s black beans, but they have about the same amount of flavor. (It is also very possible the sour cream adds to this soupiness; that said, it provides a much needed tang to the proceedings, and I’d be hesitant to leave it off.)
While the Black Bean Toasted Cheddar Chalupa probably won’t convince anyone to give up their meat-eating ways, it does provide existing vegetarians with a nice alternative to the regular bean burrito or whatever that thing is with pinto beans and cheese in a cup. At least until this heavenly shell is once again banished to fast food purgatory. Then it’s back to subbing in black beans to a normal chalupa like a common street rat.
Purchased Price: $3.39
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 470 calories, 29 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 450 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 6 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.