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A former meat eater takes on Chipotle’s latest vegan offering.
I’ve been a vegan for eight years. Chipotle is like McDonald’s for me—fast, relatively cheap, and I can always count on it tasting exactly the same every time I order.
However, this time, Chipotle chose to really wake my tastebuds up, by adding plant-based “chorizo” to their lineup of protein options. Available for a limited time (presumably to test who really wants vegan chorizo) at participating restaurants across the U.S., Chipotle is offering plant-based chorizo to pad out its vegan and vegetarian offerings.
Appealing to the crowd that’s looking to go plant-based temporarily (or permanently), or just those looking to add more veggies to their diet, the fast casual brand launched the plant-based chorizo “during a season when healthier options are top of mind,” according to their press release.
If you know anything about actual chorizo, it’s a crumbly pork sausage popular in Latin cooking, mixed with a variety of spices, which give it a uniquely red color. As chorizo gained popularity outside of its respective homelands, it managed to reach your average supermarket aisle. Even Trader Joe’s’ vegan version called “soyrizo,” made of —you guessed it—soy protein. A staple in my diet, vegan chorizo has found its way into many a veggie scramble, taco, and pasta in my household.
Since Chipotle is my life, à la my favorite Vine clip, I had to give this new vegan meat substitute a try, or else the vegan police might just show up at my house and force it down my throat, just to say I did. High school me who once pronounced it ‘chi-pot-el’ would never forgive me for not doing so.
Well, this ain’t you budget grocery store’s “soyrizo.” In fact, there’s no soy in it at all.
According to a Chipotle representative, this is exactly what’s in Chipotle’s new vegan chorizo, and they keep it simple.
Water, Pea Protein, Tomato Paste, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Onion Powder, Spanish Smoked Paprika, Chili Powder, Vinegar, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Chipotle Chili Pepper, Cumin Seed, Black Pepper, Sea Salt, Oregano.
The star of the show is pea protein, a plant-based protein made from ground-up yellow split peas. Found in a number of vegan protein powders and even Beyond Meat burgers, pea protein is a meat and dairy alternative that isn’t dying down anytime soon.
According to the same representative of the company, here are the nutrition numbers for your average four-ounce serving of just the plant-based chorizo alone:
220 calories, 16 grams (g) protein, 16g carbohydrates (6g fiber, 1g sugar), 8g fat
While it has more calories than the other vegan protein option, the soy-based sofritas (150 calories per four-serving), you’re getting double the protein it offers (a measly 8 grams). It’s less calorie-laden than the brand’s original pork-based chorizo (RIP), you’re also cutting it in the protein department compared to meat-based chorizo (roughly 31 grams per serving).
Though Chipotle’s famous for burritos, I’m more of a bowl gal myself. So I ordered my plant-based chorizo with brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, mild salsa, hot salsa, lettuce, and some guac on the side, because why not.
If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you’d think it’s a duck, right? Applicable to this chorizo. My boyfriend thought today was the day, I had given up on veganism and sank my teeth into real meat, not plants in disguise. Sorry, not happening. Chipotle may have just unlocked the secret to winning meat-eaters hearts with vegetables.
Let’s get into this texture—just the right amount of chewy, especially when nestled atop a bed of beans and brown rice. The plant-based crumble was far from the dry, bitter taste you’d get from a number of vegan meat substitutes. It was moist in all the right ways, and packed with all the flavor you’d expect—cumin, garlic, pimiento, the works. It was so flavor packed, it left a red stain on my sweater when it jumped from my mouth in glee. Worth it.
I made my carnivore partner try a bit and he was bamboozled. Upon learning that it was plant-based, his only discrepancy was that the texture could have been drier and crispier, which may be a personal preference. Given that I’ve made him try every meat substitute under the sun, I trust his judgement.
As a seasoned plant eater, this is by far my favorite in fast-food-gone- veggie options. You can tell Chipotle put thought into this offering and aren’t just out to win over more veg-heads—they’ve already done that. It’s you meat lovers out there they’re working on, and this chorizo won’t disappoint.