What Does The Taco Bell Menu Look Like In India?

"American" food is hard if not impossible to define. A geographically huge country inhabited largely by people whose families came from somewhere else, the United States has a food landscape that is a culmination, combination, and amalgamation of hundreds of other culinary traditions from around the world. By the late 20th century, those older tastes and styles of cooking had evolved into a wholly American form, distributed and widely consumed as fast food. As Italian food gave way to the modern, American-style pizza parlor, so too did various regional Mexican cuisines lead to the offerings at Taco Bell — not generally authentic, but tasty nonetheless.

And as Taco Bell's signature take on Mexican food came from outside the U.S., it's gone back to the world. In 2010, according to QSR, Taco Bell opened its first outlet in India, and in the 12 years since then, millions of people on the subcontinent have eaten tacos, burritos, and other specialties, adapted or invented for the market. Here are some of the most notable and interesting things about Taco Bell India.

There's no beef at Taco Bell India

Certainly the most fundamental difference between Taco Bell in North America and Taco Bell in India is that the menu, while loaded with fare like tacos, burritos, and nachos, is completely free of beef. According to Finology, in Hinduism, one of the most adhered to religions in India, cows are believed to be a sacred animal, and so they aren't slaughtered for their meat and eaten. Along with having concerns over animal cruelty and food safety, many Indian states have outright banned the raising and slaughter of beef cows.

Taco Bell's menu elsewhere prominently features beef, either in the form of strips of fajita-grade beef it calls steak or ground up, sauced, spiced, and served in tacos and burritos. Taco Bell India more than makes up for the absence of that option by offering many more choices than the average North American Taco Bell. Most menu items are available in vegetarian-friendly versions, while non-vegetarians can choose to have their entrée prepared with grilled chicken or Mexican chicken, which is similar to Taco Bell's proprietary ground beef concoction, only made with a different protein.

There are a lot of vegetarian options

Because so many millions of people in India eschew beef, or meat altogether, Taco Bell India caters to those local needs and sensibilities by not only offering numerous vegetarian menu options, but clearly differentiating those items, too. Vegetarian items lead the way on the taco sub-menu, for example, with the "veg" version of a food listed before its "non-veg" counterpart.

But even then, Taco Bell India customers have another decision to make — which way would they like their tacos, burritos, and so forth prepared. Taco Bell India allows customers to choose one of three different hearty and carefully cooked meat alternatives. The restaurant recommends a pinto bean mix, but fajita veggies are also available, as is a Mexican-style paneer, an Indian style of soft cheese. This is a menu at a restaurant where vegetarianism is the norm, not a dietary restriction for a small sub-set of customers.

Forgotten menu items live on at Taco Bell India

Until it eliminated 21 menu items in 2019 and 2020 in the name of simplification and speeding up order preparation (according to Nation's Restaurant News), Taco Bell boasted a menu in the United States that was vast and complicated, with plenty of items to please almost anyone. And that doesn't even count the heavily advertised temporary or recurring entrées that come and go from the menu with rapid regularity. But apparently some of those long-gone menu items didn't disappear from the entire world, only from American Taco Bells. Regulars of the Mexican-inspired fast food chain can find a number of discontinued sensations at Taco Bell India.

First appearing on stateside Taco Bell menus in 2017 and making a comeback as recently as 2021, the Naked Chicken Chalupa appealed to high-protein dieters. Instead of a carbohydrate-laden bread-like puffy taco shell, it used a folded over flat chicken disc as its base, then filled it with salad, cheese, and avocado ranch. At Taco Bell India, the very similar Naked Chicken Taco is a permanent menu fixture — made from a crispy shell of breaded chicken and filled with salad, cheese, and a ranch sauce. Another disappeared menu item survives at Taco Bell India — the 7 Layer Burrito. Like its American counterpart, the 7 Layer in India is fully vegetarian, although what makes up those seven layers differs slightly.

Combos offer many side options

The specific contents of the combo meals at Taco Bell generally differ from those offered by its fast food competitors. While the other joints pair a sandwich or entrée with fries or a similar side plus a drink, Taco Bell sells small, curated collections of food. The contents of the Cravings Box change with whatever menu item Taco Bell might be heavily promoting that week, or a combo might include some nachos and a taco, or a taco and burrito, or a taco, burrito, and Cinnamon Twists. A customer really has to pay attention to the menu board to make sure they're getting exactly what they want. 

At Taco Bell India, the combo meals are presented in a much more straightforward manner — customers select from an array of entrées, plus a side of their choosing, and a drink. For example, the Two Taco Meal comes with two tacos, of course, plus the customer's choice of Mexican Fries, Nachos and Salsa, Bell Potato Bites, or Mexi Corn Salad, the latter two of which aren't widely available in the United States.

Taco Bell India offers big boxes only on the weekend

"Party Packs" have long been a part of the Taco Bell menu, an easy way for customers to order for and then feed a bunch of people with ease. As of 2022, Taco Bell in the U.S. sells six such group meals under that umbrella title, including the Taco Party Pack, Supreme Taco Party Pack, and the Soft Taco Party Pack. They arrive inside a purpose-built cardboard carrying case with a handle that contains as few as eight or as many as 12 tacos.

Those Party Packs definitely evoke a weekend, hang out kind of vibe, and they apparently do in India, too, where Taco Bell sells a big box of tacos under the name "Weekend Taco Party." It comes in one size, with a standard eight tacos, and includes various types and styles of the customer's choice. And the name isn't just for mood — Taco Bell India sells this convenience item only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The Grilled Cheese Burrito is very dairy

Cheese factors prominently in lots of world cuisines, including American, Mexican-based American fast food, and Indian. The Taco Bell India menu is the place where all three savory, cheesy, dairy-forward worlds converge, specifically in the form of the Grilled Cheese Burrito, an item not found in this style in stateside outlets. 

Taco Bell India starts with a tortilla, already coated in melty cheese sauce, and it gets filled with jalapeño-spiced rice, a very hot "Reaper Ranch Sauce," and shredded cheese — a combination of cheddar and mozzarella, a style generally found in mainstream pizza parlors, not in Mexican food. Taco Bell adds a traditional-made-new touch with the inclusion of a generous portion of paneer — an Indian soft and often crumbly cheese, but cooked in Mexican-style spices. Then the whole thing is grilled, making it resemble some of the American Taco Bell menu's burritos, at least on the outside.

The Classic Burrito is still pretty new

There's nothing on Taco Bell's decades-old, ever-evolving American menu called "The Classic Burrito." There are a dozen or so well-known options under the "Burritos" heading — the Bean Burrito and Bean Burrito Supreme, for example, but no definitive signature item from which all other burritos derive. 

In Taco Bell India, however, the menu's flagship burrito is called the Classic Burrito, implying age, reputation, and accolades, even though it's a new item specifically created for Taco Bell's restaurants in India. As it stands, it doesn't really resemble any of the older burritos on the Taco Bell menu. No gloopy bean mush, shredded cheese, or that familiar Taco Bell red sauce appear anywhere in Taco Bell India's Classic Burrito. It consists of rice, some spicy vegetables (jalapeños, red peppers), a tangy sauce, a creamy processed cheese sauce, salsa, and one of three meat options — Mexican chicken, grilled chicken, or crispy chicken — in addition to the vegetarian versions showcasing whole pinto beans, fajitas vegetables, or Mexican-style paneer.

You can get Indian food at Taco Bell India

Taco Bell heavily but thoughtfully overhauled its menu for potential customers in India, paying heed to the nation's large population of vegetarians and people who don't eat beef as well as incorporating traditional, familiar, and everyday tastes and textures from Indian cuisine into its line of Mexican-inspired, American-originated fast food.

As Taco Bell has helped spread far and wide a knowledge and appreciation for tacos and burritos, two of the best-known elements of Indian-based food outside of the Eastern Hemisphere are chicken tikka masala and paneer. Chicken tikka masala consists of marinated chicken pieces, cooked in an Indian-style tandoor oven, and served in a curry-like sauce made from tomatoes and cream. It was popularized in the U.K., where Indian food has been a staple for decades, but it's still associated with India, where Taco Bell uses it as the main ingredient in its Tikka Masala Burrito, along with rice, the usual starch or side dish served with the entrée. As for paneer, it's all over the Taco Bell menu, particularly in a Mexican-spiced version used to fill tacos and other items. Paneer is a soft, mild cheese (used in Indian dishes such as palak paneer — spinach and cheese), and it can be found in Taco Bell India's Kickin Paneer Gordita, for example.

The name is different, but the food is the same

Mexican, or Mexican-inspired food, has a lot to offer and is thus popular around the world. But Taco Bell's unique take on it turned Mexican flavors presented through an American lens into a name brand. As the chain has grown in India, the local menu has incorporated many of Taco Bell's signature if not quite traditional items. Foods that Taco Bell helped invent or popularize appear on the Taco Bell India menu, but under different names or with slightly different ingredients. On the subcontinent, Taco Bell sells a series of wraps under the "star" name, Vegstar or Chickstar, depending on whether the chief filling inside is made from vegetables or chicken, respectively. The Vegstar and Chickstar would look quite familiar to American Taco Bell customers because they're just permutations of the Crunchwrap Supreme, but with different names and slightly different ingredients. The Chickstar, for example, is made with breaded chicken nuggets.

In the U.S., Taco Bell generally has a "Box" on the menu, be it the My Cravings Box or another one named for a featured or limited edition menu item, like the Nacho Fries Box. Taco Bell India doesn't call its similar extra-large combo a My Cravings Box nor does it use the name of its star component. Rather, there are two standard Big Bell Box options consisting of a taco, burrito, Mexican Fries, Cinnamon Twists, and a beverage, one vegetarian and one with meat.

Would you like a drink with that?

Taco Bell India is part of the larger, international Taco Bell operation, a company that acts as a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, a fast food holding corporation that also owns and controls KFC and Pizza Hut. According to Nation's Restaurant News, Yum! Brands was once part of PepsiCo. but separated into its own company in 1997. It still enjoys a close working relationship, though, as all three restaurants widely serve PepsiCo products like Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Sierra Mist.

At Taco Bell India, Pepsi products similarly dominate the soft drinks menu, but in a much more limited fashion. The average American Taco Bell might sell 10 or more Pepsi-affiliated carbonated beverages, but in India, thirsty customers can pick Pepsi or Mountain Dew. Non-Pepsi products 7 Up and non-branded iced tea are available, along with a locally popular orange soda called Mirinda. Taco Bell India further sells a line of juices branded by Real Fruit Power and five kinds of shakes — chocolate, cookie crumble, caramel, strawberry, and mango. And curiously, while soft drinks at Taco Bell India are all one cares to drink, they aren't advertised as "bottomless," but rather with the more formal and less suggestive phrase "unlimited refills."