Why Taco Bell Stopped Selling Shredded Chicken

Taco Bell may have been around since the 1960s, but the menu at the Mexican fast food joint is constantly evolving. Many fan favorites have come and gone over the years, like the Double Decker Taco, which was essentially two tacos for the price of one, or the admittedly gimmicky Cool Ranch Doritos Taco (via Greatist). Or there's also the beloved but now-gone Verde Sauce, still mourned by its most devoted fans. And who can forget the famous Nacho Fries, the spicy potatoes that came with a side of cheesy queso for dipping? That product took years of development, but after some ups and downs, the item is still available at some locations.

One of the most recent departures from the Taco Bell menu is not a dish, but an ingredient: shredded chicken. No longer offered at the national chain as of November 2020, according to Taco Bell, the removal of shredded chicken as an ingredient leaves only two chicken entrees (the Chicken Quesadilla and the Chicken Chipotle Melt, plus the Chicken Chalupa combo) for diners who want poultry instead of beef. The chain claims this change was part of its quest to give its menu an innovative twist. In a statement, the company said that these decisions "will leave room for new fan favorites, continued progress in categories such as plant-based diets, and even opportunities for the return of some classics on a limited time basis," as reported in Nation's Restaurant News.

The real reason why Taco Bell decided to cut its shredded chicken from the regular menu is probably more exciting than you thought.

Taco Bell is trying to streamline its menu

The Taco Bell menu is nothing if not extensive. But in recent months, the restaurant has realized it may have become a little too extensive, putting a strain on individual restaurants. In a 2020 press release, Taco Bell President Mike Grams explained that the decision to remove certain menu items — like the shredded chicken — was part of an effort to make the chain's processes more efficient.

Ultimately, streamlining the menu is meant to make a faster and more pleasant dining experience for customers, and also maybe keep the menu as cheap as possible. As of November 5, 2020, all dishes made with shredded chicken, including the Shredded Chicken Soft Taco, Shredded Chicken Burrito, and Shredded Chicken Quesadilla Melt, were taken off the menu permanently.

Other items that were removed at the time were the Mexican Pizza and Pico de Gallo (via Yahoo!). Taco Bell realizes that getting rid of these items may disappoint some people but the chain promises it's for the best. "While we know fans may be understandably sad to see some of their favorites go, this evolution of our menu truly paves the way for fresh new ideas," Grams said in the 2020 press release.

On one side, regulars are probably having a smoother and more seamless experience at Taco Bell. This reduced menu also means great news for vegan Taco Bell lovers. Shredded chicken might be gone, but a new type of meat is now here to take its place — and it's not even technically meat.

Taco Bell is giving more plant-based options a try

After around two years of officially announcing the removal of products like Shredded Chicken Quesadilla Melt, Mexican Pizza, and 7-layer burrito (via Eat This, Not That!), Taco Bell has announced a more innovative twist to its menu.

The chain's customizable menu has always been veggie-friendly, but thanks to some recent partnerships, now Taco Bell is more vegan-friendly than ever. In September 2022, the company announced a collab with Beyond Meat, featuring Beyond Carne Asada Steak, available only in Dayton, Ohio for a limited time (via PR Newswire).

Taco Bell's plant-based efforts don't stop there. According to VegNews, the chain started testing vegan beef in 50 locations in August 2022, starting in Birmingham. It was offered as part of classic options like Nachos BellGrande and crispy melt tacos, without extra cost. This "beef" is developed with chickpea and pea proteins, but it's seasoned in a way that mimics the traditional meat version of the dish.

VegNews reports that the chain did the same for the Detroit Area with the vegan beef in October 2021, all part of the Cravetarian menu that includes veggie versions of acclaimed items like Crunchwrap Supreme and Burrito Supreme. Taco Bell decided not to charge the customer for substituting meat with vegan meat for accessibility reasons. "It was important not to have an upcharge," Chief Innovation Officer Liz Matthews told Forbes. "As a brand, we want to make sure this is craveable–as craveable as our seasoned beef–and to democratize the product." Sure, it's not shredded chicken, but it's certainly something.