Vegetarian options: burritos, tacos, etc

Fast food chains and restaurants that serve Mexican/Latin American dishes can be great spots to find satisfying vegetarian meals, but watch out for the addition of animal fats and flavouring. What appears to be just beans may contain pig fat for example. Other good bets include: guacamole, meat-free quesadillas, and nachos with salsa.

Bar Burrito

Bar Burrito has a vegetarian soy option for their burritos, tacos and quesadillas.

Chipotle

Over 500 locations in the U.S. and one in Toronto at 323 Yonge St (at Dundas).

Chipotle is a chain restaurant a step up from a fast food place. They don’t offer full table service but they have a higher quality of food and atmosphere. All their freshly-made burritos, tacos and other Mexican style foods can be ordered vegetarian or vegan. They have two types of beans, the black ones that are vegan, and the pinto beans that are flavoured with pork. The vegetarian options obviously come with the black beans. The Fajita vegetables are also vegan. Their famous guacamole is vegan. They use a vegetable-based rennet in their cheeses.  See www.moes.com

Update: At some Chipotle locations you can now try their new vegan-friendly ingredient… Sofritas! Here is what they say on their website “We start with organic tofu from Hodo Soy that we shred and then braise with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices. The result is a delicious, spicy tofu that will give vegans and carnivores something they both will love.” 

www.chipotle.com

Taco Bell

Thousands of locations in the U.S., Canada and other countires.

In my youth, I spent many a day at Taco Bell munching down Bean Tacos, Bean Burritos and of course the massive Seven Layer Burrito. Taco Bell was always very flexible. You can ask for anything removed or replaced from your food and they will happily accommodate you. Of course if you decline the cheese you still pay full price. For anything on the menu, you can ask for beans instead of meat to make it vegetarian. You can also order Bean Burritos without cheese and Seven Layer Burritos without sour cream and cheese. The hard taco, tostada shells and nacho chips are the healthiest choices. These corn-based shells are vegan, free of hydrogenated fats and have relatively short ingredient lists. Hot, mild and fire sauces are all vegan and loaded with chemicals. –Thom

According to the allergen guide, the Mexican rice contains dairy in the seasoning and the Cheese Quesadilla contains egg.

Their website provides the following statement about vegetarian options: “Several Taco Bell items do not include meat as an ingredient. Popular ones include the classic Bean Burrito, 1/2 lb. Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito, 7-Layer Burrito, and Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes side item (the last two feature sour cream, which contains a very small amount of gelatin which is animal-based). Of course you can also request that any item on the menu be prepared without meat or sour cream. The enzymes used in the production of our cheese, tortillas, and flatbread are not from an animal source.”

In true fast food form, all their menu items contain long lists of chemical additives. You can download an eight page! ingredient list from their website. See “Our Food”: “Food Facts”, question five. The chain switched to zero trans fat frying oil in 2007 in all of its U.S. locations, but trans fats still occur in many items including the beans and rice. Chemical additives including dimethylpolysiloxene and TBHQ are feaquently used. L-cysteine (commonly derived from duck feathers) shows up in Chalupa Shell and Flat Bread (which also contain dairy), and the Pizza Shell and the Taco Salad Shell (which are otherwise vegan).

Update (April 2007): Jack, who does PETA’s blog, says: “…the new specialty item they’re pushing is vegetarian. It’s called a 7-Layer Crunchwrap, and it’s basically like a double bean tostada thing wrapped in a tortilla and grilled. Of course, they’ll gladly make it vegan by nixing the cheese and sour cream, which I guess makes the vegan version a 5-Layer Crunchwrap, huh?”
www.tacobell.com 1-800-822-6235.

Canada – There is a 7 Layer Burrito Fresco that contains zero cholesterol according to their nutrition pdf. Taco Bell’s fries are vegan and are cooked in their own 100% vegetable oil. In a phone call to Taco Bell in June 2004, we were told that the soft shells (for burritos or soft tacos) contain no obvious animal ingredients, although there are several chemical ingredients and hydrogenated fats are used. The soft shells appear to contain milk ingredients at least in Ontario based on the ingredient list provided at locations in Guelph and Cambridge.
www.tacobell.ca 1-800-822-6235.

Taco Del Mar

Over 250 locations across the U.S. and Canada, mostly in the West.

They have a Burrito Boyz is a casual restaurant chain that offers a vegan burrito and quesadilla (the menu says soya meat). It comes with a guacamole that contains dairy but they also have a vegan version. Tip provided by Sam.