Chipotle is finally dropping a brand new plant-based protein option! For a limited time at all Chipotle locations nationwide, you’re now able to load up your tacos, burritos, and bowls with Chipotle’s Plant-Based Chorizo. The new menu item follows a successful test run in Denver and Indianapolis over the summer, so it comes with some promise and that has us pretty hyped. Mostly because their old plant-based option, Sofritas (introduced eight years ago) is easily one of Chipotle’s worst protein options.
I can go on and on about why Sofritas are so bad (in fact, I have) but to spare you some time I’ll give you the short version: They’re too wet. Going into this tasting, I had my fingers crossed that the new chorizo doesn’t suffer the same fate.
Chorizo is no stranger to the plant-based treatment, soyrizo has been around for quite some time and it’s pretty adept at capturing the smokey magic of actual chorizo. Chipotle’s plant-based chorizo differs from soyrizo in that it isn’t made from soy. Instead, it’s made from a blend of chipotle peppers, tomato paste, crushed garlic, smoked paprika, and fresh peas and is certified vegan (unlike KFC’s plant-based chicken) and packed with a filling 16 grams of protein per serving.
That all sounds great on paper. So… what does it taste like? We hit up our nearest Chipotle to find out.
For this tasting, I decided to try the chorizo in three different forms — team Uproxx is nothing if not thorough. To do this, I ordered three tacos, one loaded up with the plant-based chorizo and nothing else, to give a clear idea of the full flavor, and I also loaded one up with beans, rice, cheese, and mild salsa and another with beans, lettuce, cheese, fajitas, mild salsa and corn salsa, to approximate the experience of eating it in a burrito and salad bowl.
If you’re wondering where the sour cream and guacamole are, always order that shit on the side. You’ll have a better Chipotle experience every time.
Plant-Based Chorizo Naked
Before I bit into this mountain of plant-based meat, I gave it a good inhale. The spices check out — “I’m getting a lot of smokiness and spice on the nose with a slight underpinning of plant-based staleness” is what I have written in my notes. It’s a pretty good approximation of the real deal but by being plant-based it really loses that unctuous, savory, mouth-watering quality that actual chorizo has.
When it hit my palate, I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor — it really tastes almost exactly like chorizo. It has a smokey paprika-forward flavor with a hit of spice that feels fiery and spicy without feeling like you just ate a hot pepper. It’s spicey, but anyone can handle this heat level so don’t be scared if you have a lower tolerance.
Where it suffers is the texture. Like many plant-based meats, this chorizo has an almost grainy texture to it. Where actual chorizo is soft and easy to chew through, this is hard, dry, and mealy. The flavor is good, but the actual product stays in your mouth for way too long. It’s off-putting and downright unappetizing. Thankfully no one is going to eat this “meat” naked like I am, once it’s mixed in with other ingredients I think the experience will be much more enjoyable.
Plant-Based Chorizo (As A “Burrito”)
I mixed together pinto beans, rice, chorizo, fajitas, salsa, and cheese to approximate a burrito and it greatly improved my experience. The flavor of the chorizo is really enhanced once it starts mingling with Chipotle’s other ingredients. The slightly spicy pinto beans play particularly well with the smoky notes of the chorizo while the fajitas introduce interesting sweet and peppery notes.
All of my issues with the chorizo are completely gone in this build, I’m not noticing the dry grainy texture whatsoever. If you’re really looking to up the spice, go for Chipotle’s red hot salsa, which should leave your mouth dancing with flavors and plenty warm.
Plant-Based Chorizo (As A “Salad”)
For my salad-inspired build, I went with pinto beans, fajitas, lettuce, corn salsa, mild salsa, and cheese. I like this build flavorwise but to better approximate a salad I chose to eat this one with a fork (making sure to liberally dip in guacamole) and the off-putting texture was a lot more apparent. Still not nearly as bad as eating it naked, but a little too chewy for my liking.
However, the flavors are great. That corn salsa adds sweetness in a way that differs from what the fajitas provide, and altogether it’s a medley of spicey, smokey, and sweet flavors that really play well together.
The Bottom Line
Chipotle’s Plant-Based Chorizo really exceeded my expectations. While the texture is awful to the point of being unappetizing, once that’s buried under layers of fajitas, salsa, cheese, beans, and rice, it’s not noticeable enough to be a problem and is a major step up from the wet mess that is Sofritas. It’s Chipotle’s best plant-based meat option.
Still, I have one word for you Chipotle: calabacitas. Why the hell doesn’t Chipotle — a Mexican-inspired fast-casual joint — have calabacitas, one of the best vegetarian Mexican dishes and an ideal candidate for tacos, burritos, and bowls? For those who don’t know, Calabacitas are a mix of Mexican squash, tomato, onion, and corn, sautéed in oil and butter and slow simmered until a light stew is formed and then tossed with cheese (you don’t have to do this part if you want to keep it vegan).
No, it’s not a protein substitute, it’s not going to give you a comparable amount of protein as Sofritas or Plant-Based Chorizo, but it’s a wholly vegetarian dish and it’s packed with more flavor than both the Sofritas and Plant-Based Chorizo combined. Calabacitas + Chipotle’s fajitas + beans + the salsa of your choice topped with guacamole = the delicious veggie-friendly option Chipotle fans deserve. Get on it Chipotle.
Find your nearest Chipotle here.