Taco Bell’s going vegan with a new take on its beloved Crunchwrap. The fast-food chain is beta testing a meatless and dairy-free version in Los Angeles, New York, and Orlando, to potentially roll out to a wider audience down the line. When this Vegan Crunchwrap launched yesterday, I knew I needed to track it down.

The hexagonal beauty that is the Crunchwrap Supreme is one of fast food’s textural marvels. A crisped flour tortilla is wrapped around layers of ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, creamy nacho cheese, cooling sour cream, and that hallmark tostada in the middle, which grounds it all with an intense crunch. Added to Taco Bell’s permanent menu in 2006, the Crunchwrap has since grown into an extremely cherished, infinitely duped fan favorite.

Taco Bell’s newest creation is instead filled with a “proprietary” vegan beef (made from pea protein and soy), plus “cool vegan blanco sauce and warm vegan nacho sauce.” The chain has long been known as one of the few big fast-food operations where vegetarians could easily eat, but this is the company’s first fully vegan entrée item. It’s also the latest entry in the fast-food rat race to launch meatless versions of quintessential menu items, to varying degrees of success. 

Upon finding out that only one location in the great state of New York was serving the Vegan Crunchwrap, I trekked into the belly of the beast—midtown Manhattan. Had I not known from my online research that the Vegan Crunchwrap was being served at this location, I may have missed it entirely. When I reached the touchscreen menu at the two-story Herald Square Taco Bell Cantina, it wasn’t advertised as its own flashy new item, but rather tucked discreetly among other “specialties,” right next to the regular Crunchwrap. 

At first sight, it looked just like a normal Crunchwrap—which is to say, delicious. And when I bit into the Vegan Crunchwrap, with the OG meaty version alongside it as my control (for science), the differences between the two were also genuinely difficult to discern. The fake meat was, at worst, a bit saucier than the real meat, almost assuming a sloppy joe texture. The real meat crumbled like, you know, ground beef. The cheese and sour cream, and their dairy-free alts in the vegan version, tasted virtually identical and served the same purpose: to satisfy the creamy quotient. 

I’m not surprised that Taco Bell is able to mimic the texture and flavor of the original in its Vegan Crunchwrap. The main challenge with the veganification of Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap wasn’t to imitate the flavor of meat—because frankly, meat was never the focus of the original Crunchwrap. There’s nothing particularly “natural” about the OG version, which packs savory flavor and crunch into every bite. 

Already, the nacho cheese and sour cream of the original are at most dairy adjacent in flavor. The elements of the vegan version are approximations of approximations. I don’t eat a Crunchwrap to chase the pure flavor of farm-fresh cow’s milk cheese and sour cream. Since I wasn’t seeking out the taste of dairy when I bit into the vegan version, I didn’t miss it. The lettuce and tomato, mainstays of the original, were reliably crisp and cooling.

In the end, both Crunchwraps taste comparably artificial, and pleasingly so. I don’t expect anything more or less from the Crunchwrap I love. The vegan version, like the OG, is delicious and timeless for its salty, crunchy, gooey goodness—all chemically optimized for my palette. 

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