Fast Food Plant-Based Sustainability

Taco Bell Tests New ‘Cravetarian’ Plant-Based Protein Option

While Taco Bell has some upcoming plans with Beyond Meat, that hasn’t stopped them from trying to make their own plant-based proteins.

Through April 29th, the chain is testing a “Cravetarian” ground beef substitute that’s made from a blend of pea and chickpea protein. It’s served up just like a classic Taco Supreme, with sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.

According to a release from Taco Bell, this taco contains 10 less calories than a standard Taco Supreme (180 vs 190), but no other nutritional or sustainability benefits are noted. Since this is just a test, were this to go nationwide, we would be likely to get more specific info.

Taco Bell has dabbled in proprietary plant-based substitutes in the past, including an “Oatrageous Taco” in parts of Europe. However, this represents part of a broader initiative where the chain is going all in on having more sustainable options.

Foodbeast was able to try the Cravetarian Taco ahead of its test launch, and found it difficult to differentiate from a standard Supreme Taco. Flavor and texture wise, things are there, and the spices do a decent job of masking any potential taste that the pea or chickpea might provide. Overall, it’s a solid option for vegetarians and non-vegetarians that’s meant as more of an environmental statement than a health food.

Taco Bell’s Cravetarian Taco will be available through April 29th at a single location (14042 Red Hill Avenue, Tustin, California) in Orange County. The individual taco costs $2.19, but you can also swap it into other items for no extra cost.

Grocery Packaged Food Plant-Based What's New

Plant-Based SPAM from OmniPork Makes Its USA Debut This Month

Photo courtesy of Chef Reina

In the United States, the plant-based giants we think of are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. While these titans specialize in the vegan beef category (Beyond Meat does make a pork sausage substitute, however), a third titular vegan brand is finally hitting US shores after years of hype abroad.

Called OmniPork, this plant-based SPAM and pork substitute was created by Right Treat, a vegan brand under the Green Monday group (Right Treat changed their name to OmniFoods in 2020). Green Monday is a global organization based in Hong Kong advocating for a sustainable future of food, and OmniPork is one of the key ways they’ve been spreading awareness.

Photo courtesy of MANEATINGPLANT

OmniPork comes in a few varieties: Luncheon (their take on vegan SPAM), Strip, and a plant-based ground meat. While they make some of their own grocery store products, like frozen dumplings or rice dishes, you can also find it at fast food chains like Taco Bell and McDonald’s in Asia, Australia, and the UK.

For those wondering what’s inside OmniPork, it’s made with a blend of shiitake mushroom, pea, non-GMO soy, and rice. OmniPork claims to have 68% less calories than regular pork, while touting other nutritional benefits like calcium, iron, and fiber.

The brand also touts itself as cruelty-free and an alternative to consuming pork, which is the most consumed meat in China by far (65%). In the USA, about a quarter of the meat we consume comes from pigs.

Photo courtesy of Chef Reina

Eating plant-based meats isn’t necessarily meant to be “healthier,” but what OmniPork does provide is a way to enjoy the flavors and textures of pork while eating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly diet.

OmniPork’s USA debut will happen on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2021, with 8 restaurants getting the honor of serving up the vegan pig first.

In Los Angeles, you can find OmniPork at renowned spots like CHIFA, RiceBox, Little Fatty, MANEATINGPLANT, and Ramen Hood. San Francisco will get OmniPork from Chef Reina and Shizen, while Tane Vegan Izakaya and GOEN in Hawaii will also serve up meatless pork dishes using the product.

The restaurants will have all of their dishes available via delivery as well, and the overall launch is a sneak preview before OmniPork hits grocery stores nationwide this coming summer.

Photo courtesy of MANEATINGPLANT

OmniPork’s launch in the USA is monumental for multiple reasons. First, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat now have a third oligarch in plant-based meat to compete with, and OmniPork’s existing relationships with fast food brands will help it proliferate quickly in the restaurant scene.

Because of its well-established name in Asia, Australia, and the UK, OmniPork also comes with a lot of global street cred, with the USA launch being the latest step on its quest to bring a more sustainable future of food.

As OmniPork continues to grow, we should see plant-based pork offerings of all different kinds pop up across the USA. Personally, I’m rooting for a vegan McRib.

#foodbeast Brand Fast Food Health Plant-Based Restaurants

The Halal Guys Just Launched PLANT-BASED GYROS

As plant-based options continue to increase at restaurants globally, many companies have defaulted to teaming up with big plant-based names to make faux meat products.

The Halal Guys just went the extra mile, however, and created their own plant-based gyro cones that are cooked on a rotating spit, just like regular gyro meat would be.

Photo courtesy of The Halal Guys

Their new Meatless Gyro, a limited-time offering, is a gluten-free and plant-based alternative to the standard gyro meat. The Halal Guys version is made with pea protein, brown rice, coconut oil, Halal Guys spice mix, beets, mushrooms, and paprika. A serving of the Meatless Gyro comes with 21 grams of protein.

Of course, when at The Halal Guys, there’s all of the toppings you can add to the rice, lettuce, and protein option. One of those is tzatziki, which normally contains dairy, but The Halal Guys has created a plant-based version of that as well. That iteration uses aquafaba, the leftover liquid from cooking chickpeas, to get to a similar texture on the sauce.

Foodbeasts Elie and Oscar got a chance to try the Meatless Gyro early. To Elie, the plant-based gyro version held up texturally to the original, while Oscar loved that it could be shaved off the cone the same way as regular gyro meat would. It had the same level of flavor since it uses the same Halal Guys spice blend, with Elie noting it was a tad more “earthy.” 

As for the plant-based tzatziki, it was a little thinner than the original due to the aquafaba, but it paired really well with the vegan gyro meat. For the overall meal, both Elie and Oscar noted that they felt really good and not bloated after eating it. 

“I’m definitely gonna be getting this meatless gyro into my rotation,” Elie noted afterwards.

Photo courtesy of The Halal Guys

Also joining The Halal Guys menus is a refreshing eggplant hummus, which combines eggplants and chickpeas for a refreshing snack, dip, or addition to your meal. Oscar even dipped his sandwich into it, combining the two for what he described as a “nice addition.”

The new Meatless Gyro and Eggplant Hummus will be available at participating Halal Guys locations nationwide starting for a limited time. You can get it in sandwich or platter form with all of the usual fixings, including that plant-based tzatziki for those looking to keep everything animal free.

Created in partnership with The Halal Guys.

Health News Plant-Based Science

Plant-Based Filet Mignon Is Now A Reality

Photo: Juicy Marbles

The plant-based meat wave is no longer just that and truly the green movement is here to stay, with the ebbs and flows of the notion mellowing out as a dietary constant. The popularity and mainstream appeal of Impossible and Beyond Meat are the banners for this declaration, with more plant-based innovations on the way. One of which happens to be a game changer courtesy of Juicy Marbles: plant-based filet mignon.

Co-founders of Juicy Marbles, Tilen Travnik, Luka Sincek and Maj Hrovat, managed to create a plant-based cut of filet mignon without any use of 3D printing, GMOs or laboratory alterations. The secret lies in how Juicy Marbles was able to use soy protein to mimic the muscle texture and marbling of real meat by arranging and layering the protein fibers from the bottom up using a patent-pending machine they call the Meat-o-matic Reverse Grinder™ 9000. Playful name aside, the reality of this applied technique is groundbreaking.

“The biggest challenge was getting the right fiber alignment and intramuscular fat structure – the marbling. The most expensive steaks in the world are known for their lush marbling. It takes a lot of energy and a rare breed of cow to attain that. With plant meat, we control it and, thus, over time, can scale up our steak production and bring down the price. Eventually, we’ll be able to make the most premium meats attainable for everyone,” explains Luka Sincek.

Photo: Juicy Marbles

So thanks to Juicy Marbles, the world’s first plant-based steaks can be purchased on their website and ship to the 48 states and throughout Europe for a limited time only.

According to the Juicy Marbles website the cuts of meat have a firm texture “while the linear fibre placement results in juicy chunks tearing away softly, like real muscle.”

With the possibility of actual plant-based cuts of meat being available directly to consumers, it will only be a matter of time before the flood gates open for other proteins to get a fully plant-based treatment in the form of individual cuts of meat that have an uncanny resemblance to the real thing.

Fast Food Plant-Based

Peets Is First Major Chain To Release A 100% Plant Based Breakfast Sandwich

Photo courtesy of Peet’s

One of the biggest questions surrounding fast food for 2021 was which chain would make a 100% plant-based breakfast sandwich first.

With spots like Burger King and Starbucks switching their meat options, and major vegan egg and dairy suppliers available, we knew the addition was coming to give plant-based folks a true breakfast sandwich option.

However, none of the major chains that were fielding plant-based breakfast meats were the first to go fully plant-based for breakfast. Instead, it was Starbucks rival Peet’s Coffee and Tea.

Peet’s combined vegan cheddar, Beyond Breakfast Sausage, and vegan JUST Egg into their new Everything Plant-Based Sandwich, which puts all of the above into a fully vegan Everything Bagel thin.

It’s a simple combination of already existing plant-based options, but it’s the first amongst major fast food players, which means everybody else will likely follow suit in the immediate future.

Peet’s Everything Plant-Based Sandwich is now available at participating locations nationwide.

Drinks Fast Food Plant-Based

Starbucks Adds Oatly Oat Milk To Menus Nationwide

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Since before its proliferation across the country, oatmilk has been regarded as one of the top tier dairy substitutes. It can parallel milk on consistency and creaminess, but also doesn’t mask too many of the flavors you infuse into it.

With the craze oatmilk has garnered across the US, it was only a matter of time until major chains added it. Starbucks has officially hopped onto the hype train and teamed with top oatmilk brand Oatly to bring the plant-based alternative nationwide.

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Oatly will be available as a milk alternative for any of Starbucks’ coffee options, but also comes with its own special drinks. New to Starbucks’ menu is the Honey Oatmilk Latte, as well as an Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso.

The new addition marks the 4th plant-based milk Starbucks has added to its menu, and the first its incorporated since 2016, when almond milk joined the ranks.

For the oatmilk industry, this marks the second major coffee brand to have added oat-based dairy into their arsenal. Dunkin’ teamed up with Planet Oat in the summer of 2020 to create their own national lineup of oatmilk beverages.

Plant-based milk will continue to grow in popularity as places like Starbucks add these options, meaning that folks who can’t have dairy or are vegan will find their lifestyles more accessible and affordable. The only question remaining is what plant milk will be the next craze.

Fast Food Plant-Based

Taco Bell Gives In: Potatoes And Beyond Meat Are On The Way

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

For those who have been clamoring for Taco Bell to bring back potatoes, your wish has been granted.

After getting taken off of the menu as a way to streamline operations during the pandemic, the taco titan has confirmed that their beloved spuds will be returning to menus starting March 11th. You’ll be able to enjoy them in all the same ways as before.

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

Buried within the announcement of potatoes returning was even bigger news, however. After years of resisting the urge to pick a plant-based meat purveyor like Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat, Taco Bell has finally given in and chosen the latter.

For a long time, the chain has hung their hat on the beans, potatoes, and other inherently vegetarian options they had on the menu without the need to add a plant-based meat. They did launch an oat-based protein substitute, but that never made its way to US markets.

This year, though, Taco Bell will test a product nationwide that includes a collaboration with Beyond Meat. Like many other chains (ie. Del Taco or KFC), they’ll be making a custom protein that fits within the chain’s flavor spectrum, although whether that will be a beef substitute or not remains to be seen.

Taco Bell did mention back in 2019 that they were looking into plant-based alternatives. With Beyond Meat on board, it will be interesting to see if they include any vegan cheese, egg, or other animal product alternatives as time goes on.

Fast Food Plant-Based

Fatburger Launches Vegetarian Chicken Wings

Photo courtesy of Fatburger

Brands Inc., the parent company to Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express, announced that they’re offering a new vegetarian wing item they’re calling Chick’n Vings.

The Chick’n Vings will be tossed in Buffalo’s Express’ 13 house-made sauces: Scorchin’, Carolina Fire BBQ, Coconut Jerk, Honey Garlic, and Sweet Bourbon BBQ.

Made with Quorn Vegetarian Meatless wings, the product does contain traces of eggs and milk proteins, preventing it from being labeled as vegan.

Not gonna lie, if they can satiate my chicken wing cravings come Lent season, I’m all aboard.

You can find these new vegetarian wings at all domestic Fatburger and Buffalo’s Expresses locations.