I had a friend back in day (this was way back in the day) who was (1) vegan and (2) liked Taco Bell™.
When ordering, he would always get the Seven-Layer Burrito minus two of the layers, cheese and sour cream. I think at some point someone gave him a hard time because they claimed the beans were made with lard or something to that effect but I doubt this anecdote stuck.
Some 10 odd years later I had the opportunity, or perhaps misfortune, of becoming a regular Taco Bell™ patron. This was mainly because there was a Taco Bell™ two blocks from where I worked. I figured, why not try that Seven-Layer Burrito thing? Then that was it. That’s all it took. From then on, I went everyday. I mean everyday. And while my co-workers were understanding, I could tell they were a little weirded out by how often I frequented the place.
Taco Bell™ isn’t exactly a place many eco-conscious vegetarians regard in high standing. I even saw this interview with Anna Kendrick on Conan where she discusses her late-night Taco Bell™ addiction and I have to say, I identify with her feelings of conflict. No, I’m not proud of my Taco Bell™ love. Those tomato growers and meat-production facilities, I’m sorry. But like many fast-food places, here’s the rub: it’s cheap, it’s easy, and like Anna says, “It’s sooo good.”
Eventually I got to the point where I said enough is enough. That Seven-Layer Burrito thing, I can make it at home. What’s more, I bet I can make it healthier, cheaper, and more veg friendly. Okay, so I can’t really make it cheaper, my version costs about the same. But it’s definitely better for you and more ethical. Let’s break down those layers.
At TB, they start with a GINORMOUS pillowy soft tortilla. Admittedly it’s difficult to find tortillas as large as the one that Taco Bell™ uses. And sure, those tortillas are pliable and melt-in-your mouth. But those simple carbs are leading to naps-ville only hours later. My favorite replacement is from La Tortilla™. They make these fantastic whole-grain tortillas that have extra fiber, protein and are organic to boot.
Next up we have our rice. Of course Taco Bell™ is using the white stuff. I sub in brown with some extra cumin and cilantro to give it some kick. The minute variety is great if you’re trying to speed things along. Refried beans come second, and I’m fine with the canned variety. Lucky us, there are plenty of vegetarian refried beans on the markets and most are pretty tasty. I use pre-made guacamole from the deli (judge if you want) but Whole Foods™ makes a delicious version of the stuff, and if we’re going to be competing with that 30-second drive-thru, there’s no way I’m making that stuff from scratch. For our cheese and sour cream, you can go traditional or for those vegans out there, sub in Tofutti™ Sour Supreme and Daiya™ Cheddar Cheese Shreds, they work just fine. There’s so much flavor in this bad boy, no one’s gonna notice if your vegan dairy taste a little different than its animal-based counterpart.
Taco Bell™ tops this whole shebang off with tomatoes and iceberg lettuce. For an extra boost of antioxidants (I’m sorry iceberg, you are just not trying hard enough), I use mixed spring greens or baby spinach. Not to rock the boat too much, plain old tomatoes work just fine. You can use organic if you really want to stick it to the man.
So there you have it. How’d this whole experiment work out? I’ll let you be the judge. This burrito is packed with flavor, nutrients, and heart-healthy fiber not to mention less eco-guilt. Plus it tastes fantastic. Sorry Taco Bell™, I gotcha beat on this one. But those crispy potato tacos, that’s another story….
- 1 tortilla
- ½ cup prepared brown rice, warm
- 1 tbs chopped cilantro
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ cup vegetarian refried beans (I like black, pinto's good too), heated
- 2 tbs shredded cheese or vegan cheddar (like Daiya™)
- 1 tbs sour cream or vegan sour cream
- 2 tbs prepared guacamole
- 1 tbs diced tomato
- 1 handful of baby spinach or mixed greens
- Salsa to serve
- Start by heating your tortilla. Place on a microwaveable plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high 30 seconds until softened.
- Mix together the rice, cilantro, and cumin and place on the middle of the tortilla. Layer the beans, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes, and greens on top. Fold over the two ends of the tortilla and roll into a burrito. Enjoy with salsa!