Since they first hit the menu in 2018, Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries—seasoned fries served with a side of nacho cheese dipping sauce—have been a top-selling, limited-time item. This year, the popular fries are back and there is something new to crave for Taco Bell lovers looking for a dairy-free option.
On October 12, Taco Bell will debut Vegan Nacho Sauce that customers can pair with the chain’s vegan-certified Nacho Fries instead of the dairy-based nacho cheese sauce. This marks the fast-food chain’s first vegan offering to be made available across all of its 7,836 locations.
The Vegan Nacho Fries will be available for a limited time in two sizes: regular for $2.19 and a new large size for $2.99. This vegan item is offered at cost parity to its dairy-based counterpart.
“We’re thrilled to reintroduce Nacho Fries, now with a larger-than-life flair, and our beloved Vegan Nacho Sauce,” Liz Matthews, Global Chief Food Innovation Officer at Taco Bell, said in a statement.
“This sauce, born from the success of our Vegan Crunchwrap, represents Taco Bell’s commitment to providing delicious, craveable food for a variety of lifestyles—whether you’re vegan, flexitarian, or want to try something new, there’s a place for you at our table,” she said.
Taco Bell’s first vegan nacho sauce
Taco Bell’s first national vegan menu item comes after an “overwhelmingly positive” test of a Vegan Crunchwrap in June at three locations in Los Angeles, New York City, and Orlando. The Crunchwrap, included plant-based beef and dairy-free “blanco sauce”—which represented the chain’s first-ever foray into vegan dairy—surpassed both sales and feedback expectations.
The Vegan Crunchwrap served as the testing ground for its Vegan Nacho Sauce, which is made from a base of chickpeas and soy. The sauce is now stepping into the limelight in a new form after years of “meticulous” development which involved “rigorous testing and refinement to create a sauce that would elevate the menu offerings,” the chain reveals to VegNews.
“We’re beyond thrilled to introduce Nacho Fries with Vegan Nacho Sauce nationwide,” Missy Schaaphok, Director of Global Nutrition and Sustainability at Taco Bell, tells VegNews. “Following our successful Vegan Crunchwrap test, this is another stepping stone on our journey to continue to provide inclusive and accessible options to all our fans.”
“Taco Bell has always been about pushing culinary boundaries and providing craveable options, and the Vegan Nacho Sauce embodies our commitment to innovation while catering to a wide range of lifestyles,” Schaaphok says.
The beef component in the Vegan Crunchwrap was also an in-house invention that Taco Bell first tested at one location in Tustin, CA in 2021. Before testing it out in the Crunchwrap alongside the vegan cheese sauce, Taco Bell expanded the vegan meat, which it calls “real seasoned plant-based protein” to menus at approximately 95 Detroit, MI locations and then 50 Birmingham, AL outposts for a limited time last year.
There, customers could also order the vegan meat—made from a blend of soy and pea proteins—in place of beef in tacos, burritos, and more for the same price as its animal-derived counterpart.
“Taco Bell worked hard to innovate and develop a plant-based protein that is just as craveable as Taco Bell’s iconic real seasoned beef,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told VegNews at the time. “We believe that fans should never have to compromise taste for their cravings and dietary choices.”
During this test, Taco Bell offered the plant-based beef as part of Nachos BellGrande and Crispy Melt Taco—two items made with dairy cheese. When VegNews asked if vegan cheese innovations were on the way, Schaaphok previously explained that while the focus was plant-based meat, the chain had its eye on the dairy-free space.
Fast-forward to today, Taco Bell was indeed watching the space, confirmed by its launch of the Vegan Nacho Sauce. Is vegan beef next?
Taco Bell’s other plant-based innovations
In 2021, Taco Bell’s vegetarian options represented more than 12 percent of its sales and the chain is looking to bolster that number with new innovation. In announcing its first national vegan dairy item, Taco Bell has hinted that more vegan-friendly offerings are on the way.
In addition to its in-house plant-based beef, Taco Bell has been working with vegan brand Beyond Meat since 2021 to develop proprietary proteins. While rumors swirled that the deal had been canceled before the innovation was revealed, Taco Bell confirmed to VegNews that this was not the case before it announced the test launch of Beyond Carne Asada.
Last October, the vegan steak—created to mimic the chain’s existing animal-derived marinated steak—hit the menu at nearly 50 Taco Bell locations in Dayton, OH for a limited time, where it was also available at price parity to its animal counterpart.
Outside of beef and dairy, Taco Bell has also previously experimented with plant-based chicken inside its innovation kitchen in Irvine, CA. Here, the chain tested a very limited run of the Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell.
None of these items have yet to find a place on the national menu, but Taco Bell’s launch of the Vegan Nacho Sauce means that anything is possible.
“We are constantly listening to what our fans are asking us to do and evolving our menu to meet their needs and the demand,” Marissa Thiry, Taco Bell’s Senior Nutrition Specialist, previously told VegNews.
“While we have had vegetarian options on our menu since the very first Taco Bell opened with the bean and cheese burrito, we know that customers are still asking for more plant-based options, so we’re constantly looking at what’s next and what we can bring to them that’s unique to Taco Bell and that delivers to them what they’re looking for,” Thiry said.