Americans love tacos. In fact, some estimates state that in the US, people eat more than 4.5 billion tacos every year. They’re eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the small ones even make a pretty good snack, too.

Jump to the chains

But when did this love affair with tacos begin? Well, it turns out, it wasn’t that long ago. Here’s a little bit more about the history of one of America’s favorite meals, plus where you can find vegan varieties across the country. Plus, if you feel like making your own, we’ve included 10 of our favorite plant-based recipes.

Jump to the recipes

Where did tacos come from?

According to historian Jeffrey M. Pilcher, we have Mexican miners to thank for the taco. “My theory is that it dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico because in those mines the word ‘taco’ referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore,” he told the Smithsonian. “These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face. When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite.”


It wasn’t until two centuries later—when Mexican workers started immigrating to the US to build mines and railroads—that the taco landed north of the border and started to become popular with Americans. This was helped along by first-generation Mexican-Americans, the children of these miners, who started experimenting with taco recipes, fusing together foods popular in the US (like hamburger meat and iceberg lettuce) with Mexican cuisine in the early to mid-20th century.

“A lot of Mexican American tacos are really adaptations of Mexican food [made with] the ingredients that are available through the US food-processing industry,” Pilcher said. Glen Bell—the founder of Taco Bell, one of the most popular places to grab a taco in the US—was inspired by these foods, and, despite not being Mexican, started up his own chain serving tacos in the 1960s. To this day, Taco Bell is not popular in Mexico, the real birthplace of tacos.

Types of tacos

There are quite a few different styles of tacos out there, but fresh, warm flour tortillas are closest to the kind originally eaten across Mexico. There are also crunchy hard corn-based shells, of course (which, despite claims to the contrary, were likely not invented by Bell, according to Pilcher), and soft chalupa bread shells, too.

VegNews.VeganMexican.Tacotarian (1)Tacotarian

There are no rules when it comes to taco fillings, but most opt for meat, fish, or beans, which are then covered with onions, cilantro, and sauce. Other common taco toppings include lettuce, fresh diced tomatoes, guacamole, and cheese.

What’s not vegan in tacos?

Tacos are super easy to make and order vegan if you choose filling options like guacamole, lettuce, refried beans, black beans, brown rice, vegan cheese, and so on. But many popular taco restaurants and chains also serve meat, fish, and shrimp tacos, which are often served with dairy cheese and non-vegan sour cream, so make sure to double-check the ingredients list before you order.

Chains with vegan taco options

If you live in the US, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Mexican-style chains with vegan-friendly taco options. Next time you’re hit with a craving, try one of these popular spots (listed in no particular order).



You can’t go wrong at Tacotarian. With locations in Las Vegas, NV and San Diego, CA, this all-vegan chain has a whopping 15 taco varieties on its menu. Expect classics such as Mushroom Asada, Chorizo, and Al Pastor alongside more innovative options including Plantain con Mole and the Giant Taco which comes stuffed with beans, nacho cheese, lettuce, guacamole, French fries, crema, cheddar cheese, salsa, and your choice of vegan meat. 


VegNews.vegantacos.jajajamexicanaJajaja Mexicana/Instagram

2 Jajaja Mexicana

This plant-based chain (with locations in New York, NY and Wynwood, FL) specializes in authentic Mexican food, which is why you can find a plethora of street taco options on the menu. Try the Pollo Coco, for example, which comes complete with vegan chicken, or the Jackfruit Carnitas, which comes with salsa verde.

VegNews.BajaFishTacos.VeggieGrillbyNextLevelVeggie Grill by Next Level

3 Veggie Grill by Next Level

Everything on the menu is vegan at Veggie Grill by Next Level (yes, we do mean everything). And if you’re in the mood for tacos, the chain’s Mas Veggies menu will satisfy all of your cravings with its Baja Fish Tacos and Smokey Mushroom Asada Tacos.


4 Chipotle

Chipotle has been providing the US with Mexican-inspired fare since the 1990s. And for the most part, it’s always been a safe haven for vegans. Nearly all of its menu items, including its tacos, can be veganized quite easily by omitting animal products, like cheese, beef, and chicken, and opting for options like plant-based sofritas, beans, and veggies.

VegNews.VeganTacoBellTaco Bell

5 Taco Bell

As mentioned above, wherever you are in the US, you can usually find a Taco Bell pretty quickly. If you want to oder plant-based, swap out your meat for beans and request that all dairy- and mayo-based toppings and sauces are replaced with freshly diced tomatoes. For a little more sustenance, ask for the chain’s beloved spicy potatoes. Most taco shells are vegan but avoid the Doritos Locos option. The chain has also experimented with vegan meat and dairy-free cheese in the past; in 2023, it launched the Vegan Crunchwrap complete with plant-based crumbles and queso sauce. While this limited-time menu has since been removed from its menu, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for future vegan menu items. 


6 Qdoba

Another popular choice for Mexican-style cuisine across the US and Canada, Qdoba offers a wide range of vegan-friendly taco options. Go for flour, corn, or taco salad shells, and fill them up with options like fajita veggies, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo. 

VegNews.vegantaco.deltacoDel Taco/Instagram

7 Del Taco

Del Taco first added Beyond Meat to its menus in 2019, but unfortunately, this vegan protein is no longer available. With a few modifications, however, you can still order plant-based tacos. Whether you opt for the crunchy shell or soft tortilla, The Del Taco can easily be made vegan. Substitute beef with beans, and remember to ask for no cheese. You’re left with a bean taco topped with lettuce and diced tomatoes. For a little more flavor, add guacamole and finish off with vegan-friendly sauces.


VegNews.vegantaco.bajafreshBaja Fresh/Instagram

8 Baja Fresh

As the name suggests, Baja Fresh likes to keep its ingredients as fresh as possible. And like most Mexican-inspired chains, it offers plant-based staple ingredients, like beans, lettuce, and guacamole. But you can also choose to top your taco with Impossible Foods’ meat too.


9 Moe’s Southwest Grill

Ordering vegan at Moe’s is very simple; just create your own tacos with all of the chain’s vegan ingredients. This nationwide chain has all the usual options (including handcrafted guac), as well as organic tofu. Plus, each order comes with a side of free chips and salsa, which are also vegan-friendly.

VegNews.vegantacos.dostorosDos Toros/Instagram

10 Dos Toros Taqueria

Dos Toros, which has locations in New York and New Jersey, makes ordering vegan tacos easy. Basically, everything on the menu is plant-based (other than the meat, cheese, and source cream of course), so you can relax and indulge. Vegan protein options include beans, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. 

Untitled design (5)Taco Cabana

11Taco Cabana

While Texas-based Taco Cabana’s menu is pretty meat-heavy, there are a few veggie options, and one, the Black Bean Taco, can be easily made vegan. Ask for corn tortillas and no cheese!


12Rubio’s Coastal Grill

While the name implies the menu is going to be pretty fish-heavy, there are a few vegan options at this fast-casual chain, which has locations across California, Nevada, and Arizona. Just ask for grilled veggies or Impossible Foods’ meat as your protein, and make sure to specify you don’t want cheese or non-vegan sauces.


13 Chuy’s

Texas-based Chuy’s, which has 102 restaurants across the US, has a lot of meat on the menu. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of options if you want vegan food. Just ask for crispy tacos with all of the chain’s plant-based ingredients, like Mexican rice, refried beans, lettuce, and tomatoes. (Again, make sure to remind your server you want yours cheese-free!)

How to make your own vegan tacos

You don’t have to eat out to enjoy tacos. Next time you’re gearing up for a taco night, try one of these easy, vegan recipes.


1 Chickpea Tacos With Creamy Cashew Dill Sauce

An ultra-creamy, cashew-based dill sauce completes these already-delicious chickpea tacos. Serve with gently warmed tortillas for the ultimate Taco Tuesday treat.
Get the recipe

VegNews.NaanTacosCandice Hutchings

2 Chalupa Naan Tacos With Avocado-Ranch Sauce

Shake things up by swapping your crunchy shell or soft tortilla for a chalupa instead. The bread originates from central Mexico; it’s thick, doughy, and guaranteed to fill you up.
Get the recipe

VegNews.BuffaloChickpeaTacos.RichaHingleRicha Hingle

3 Spicy Buffalo Chickpea Tacos

Everyone loves buffalo seasoning, right? Next time you’re hosting a taco night, impress your friends by making your own! And don’t forget the cooling ranch, as this recipe has quite a spicy kick.
Get the recipe

VegNews.AvocadoPortabelloTacos.KristyTurnerChris Miller

4 Avocado Portabello Tacos

Delicious tacos don’t need fancy ingredients. Combine avocado and portobello mushrooms for a meaty, creamy dish that is animal-free.
Get the recipe

VegNews.TexMexTofuMigasTacos2Eric Isaac

5 Cheesy Tex-Mex Tofu Tacos

Set yourself up for the best day possible by treating yourself to breakfast tacos loaded with tofu scramble, your favorite veggies, avocado, and lots of vegan cheese.
Get the recipe

VegNews.AvocadoTacosChelsea Kauai

6 Vegan Crusted Avocado Tacos

Craving fish tacos but don’t fancy the actual fish part? We’ve got a solution: breaded, crispy avocado! Don’t forget the capers for that signature salty, fishy taste.
Get the recipe


7 Mushroom-Sausage Breakfast Hash Tacos

For the perfect Sunday brunch treat, load up tacos with vegan sausages, pickled onions, and breakfast hash.
Get the recipe

VegNews.TofuScramble.BaileyRuskusBailey Ruskus

8 Sweet Potato Tofu Breakfast Tacos With Ranchero Sauce

If you prefer whole food ingredients to vegan meat, another delicious breakfast taco filling idea is sweet potatoes and tofu served with homemade ranchero sauce.
Get the recipe

VegNews.FishlessBajaTacosThe Experiment

9 Fishless Baja Tacos

If avocado isn’t your thing, recreate vegan fish with chickpeas instead. Plus, impress your pals by serving your tacos with a twist: homemade mango salsa.
Get the recipe

VegNews.VeganCripsyHoisonTofuTacosMixed & Measured

10 Crispy Hoisin Tofu Tacos With Scallion Tortillas

Hoisin is usually served with Chinese cuisine, but there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy this thick, sweet sauce in a taco, too. It’s the perfect fusion dinner.
Get the recipe

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