KANSAS CITY — Test kitchens are cooking up new menu possibilities for restaurant chains, including a vegan offering for Taco Bell, kombucha for Dunkin’, salads for Noodles & Company and a plant-based burger patty for Wendy’s.
Taco Bell is testing the Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell, a meatless take on the chain’s Naked Chalupa, which is made with a chicken-based shell. The plant-based shell is made from a pea protein-based proprietary blend that is breaded, shaped into a Chalupa form then crisped. The shell is certified vegan by the American Vegetarian Association. The shell is filled with lettuce, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes and avocado ranch sauce.
The Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell is currently testing at one location in Irvine, Calif., while supplies last.
"We've long been a food disruptor, and this time is no different," said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell's global chief food innovation officer. "We've seen our industry follow patterns of sameness, but we understand that consumers are looking for creativity and craveability in this space. So whether someone is craving plant-based protein or crispy chicken or gooey cheesiness, we have something that's not only flavorful, but also uniquely Taco Bell."
In select Dunkin’ locations, the chain is testing two new beverages.
Made by infusing cold brew with coconut water, new ElectroBrew is available at locations in Springfield, Mass., Miami, Fla., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. And West Palm Beach, Fla.
Dunkin's Kombucha fermented tea is available in Fuji Apple Berry and Blueberry Lemon flavors at select locations in Albany, NY, and Charlotte, NC.
Noodles & Company is testing three new salads that celebrate global cuisine.
The Asian Apple Citrus Salad features a spring and kale mix tossed in a ginger citrus dressing with grilled chicken, diced apple, cucumber and slaw made from broccoli, carrots and red cabbage. The salad is topped with avocado, crispy chow mein noodles and black sesame seeds.
The Mexican Street Corn Salad features spring and kale mix tossed in cotija cheese dressing with grilled chicken, roasted corn and Roma tomato all topped with avocado, feta, chipotle cheddar tortilla strips and cilantro.
The Quinoa Chop Salad features spring and kale mix tossed in a ginger citrus vinaigrette with grilled chicken, red quinoa, roasted corn and Roma tomato. The salad is topped with avocado and pistachios.
The new salads are testing at select locations in Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and California.
Wendy’s is testing the Spicy Black Bean Burger, a new addition to the chain’s Made to Crave premium sandwich line. The burger features a black bean burger made with black beans, chickpeas, brown rice, carrots, corn, green bell peppers, red bell peppers and a blend of spices. The plant-based patty is topped with crunchy chipotle jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, spicy chipotle sauce, tomatoes, sweet onion slices and romaine lettuce all served on a toasted bun.
The Spicy Black Bean Burger is currently available at restaurants in Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Jacksonvile, Fla.
"Our Made to Crave menu is a destination for customers seeking bold ingredients and flavor innovation," said Carl Loredo, US chief marketing officer for The Wendy's Co. "With that spirit, we're bringing forward an incredibly tasty Spicy Black Bean Burger to this lineup in three select markets. Consumers are demanding plant-based sandwiches, and we're answering the call in a way that only Wendy's can with a mouthwatering sandwich packed with multiple layers of heat and flavor."