Hold onto your napkins, cause the fast food challenge had to be done… and from it came the vegan naked chicken chalupa from Taco Bell!
You will need to thaw the chicken cutlets in the fridge overnight before making them into shells. Once thawed, place one chicken cutlet between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and use a flat heavy tool like a panini press, the side of a bowl, or a meat tenderizer to flatten and spread the cutlet to a round/oval tortilla-like shape. Be careful not to tear or puncture the flattened piece! It's easiest to drape the flattened cutlet over a rolling pin and secure the excess plastic wrap together underneath to shape these into shells. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or until frozen solid.
When you're ready to batter and fry the frozen shells, heat oil in a large pot or deep fryer to 330°F to 350°F. It should not go any hotter or you'll cook the outside too fast! You should have a frying thermometer attached to your pot the entire time to monitor the temperature. This is a full deep fry, not a shallow fry so ensure you’re using a vessel deep enough to submerge the shells in oil. The amount of oil may vary if you’re using a deep fryer.
Combine the nondairy milk with apple cider vinegar and hot sauce in a bowl. Add in the cornstarch by mixing it with a small amount of the milk just to make a slurry so there are no lumps.
In another large bowl, combine flour and all the spices together.
Batter and fry one shell at a time, leaving the others in the freezer and only batter the shell once the oil has reached at least 330°F.
Coat one frozen shell with the liquid dredge, then coat in the flour and spices, then submerge in the liquid dredge again, then coat in the dry ingredients once again. Carefully place in the oil. Use a pair of metal tongs to hold one end if it looks like it's starting to bend or open up too much. After about 1 to 2 minutes it should be fried enough that it will keep its shape. They take 4 to 4 1/2 minutes to get golden brown all over.
Remove the shell carefully with the tongs, allowing any excess oil to drip over the pot. Quickly transfer onto a wire rack that's been placed over a baking sheet. Do not place on paper towels. Then continue frying each shell one at a time.
To assemble the naked chicken chalupas, spread a generous amount of avocado ranch on the inside of the shell, then place a small handful of lettuce, top with vegan cheese and diced tomatoes. Serve immediately.