Taco Bell likes to keep things fresh. I’m not talking about their food, of course. That would be ridiculous. I’m referring to their constant stream of new menu items that can range from mildly delicious to head-scratchingly bizarre. I’m looking at you, Black Jack Taco.
I appreciate their moxie, though. It takes some creativity to take five core ingredients and find different ways to repackage them as a new product. Their latest attempt has resulted in two new products: Taco Bell Tortadas. One is Salsa Roja flavored, and the other is Bacon Ranch.
I had the exact same thought that Marvo did when he wrote his Week in Reviews post — Taco Bell had made up the word “tortada.” It’s not like it would be the first time. Again, like Marvo, I immediately ran to Google and was surprised to discover that, no, tortada is a real thing. This mildly disappointed me, because I really wanted to say that Taco Bell making up the word tortada is tortarded. Reality is fucking with my puns. You could say I’ve been punished.
There. I feel better now.
“Pie” or “tart,” which are the English translations of the word “tortada,” are not the first words that come to mind, looking at Taco Bell’s Tortada. I’d say they look more like pita pockets. They should have called them Torpitas! No, no, that’s terrible. That’s tortarded.
I decided to try the Salsa Roja variety, since Bacon Ranch has already been covered by other blogs, like Brand Eating and We Rate Stuff. Branching out into the world of bacon and ranch is a fairly new thing for Taco Bell, so I’ll throw them a little props for expanding their ingredient list. I will say, though, that anything “Bacon Ranch” doesn’t exactly scream “Mexican food” to me. Of course, Taco Bell in general doesn’t scream “Mexican food” at all, so hey. Go for it, guys. Don’t let hundreds of years of an entire country’s well-established culinary cultural heritage hold you back.
Salsa Roja sounds decidedly more authentic. Taco Bell describes it as “A warm flour tortilla loaded with fire-grilled marinated all-white meat chicken, crisp shredded lettuce, fiesta salsa, flavorful salsa roja, and a blend of three cheeses â€“ cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella, all grilled together hot and toasty.”
Sounds tasty. Fiesta Salsa AND salsa roja? Taco Bell knows the way to my heart is through multiple condiments. For any of you extreme gringos out there, “salsa roja” translates to “red sauce.” Try not to fall out of your chair in shock. With a translation that vague, the flavor could go dozens of different ways. Fiesta Salsa is often used in Taco Bell’s “Fresco” menu, which is a collection of items that supposedly won’t cause your arteries to immediately clog, unlike the rest of their menu. So when you think Fiesta Salsa, think less picante and more pico de gallo.
At $3.29, the Tortadas are one of the more expensive items on Taco Bell’s menu, but when you pick one up you’ll find it has some surprising heft. The smell is enticing; there’s nothing quite like the scent of warm tortillas, and the Tortada adds a hint of cheese and spice to really make it inviting.
There’s the innards, right there. As you can see, there’s no shortage of chicken. I really expected the lettuce to be limp, since it is apparently cooked with the rest of the ingredients, but I found it to be an interesting, crunchy contrast to the meatiness of the chicken, which was indeed plentiful, and surprisingly tender. The cheese was indeed melty, although I didn’t really detect any pepper jack. It just tasted like general cheesy gooeyness. The Fiesta Salsa also added a nice texture contrast and a fresh burst of tomato and onion.
What’s most surprising about this Tortada is that the ingredient that gives it its name, the salsa roja, is almost undetectable. You can detect a little bit of spicy kick that must come from the sauce, but you can’t really distinguish its flavor in the food. I found this most disappointing, because I was really looking forward to getting a good taste of the salsa roja. I thought it might have a nice enchilada sauce flavoring, but instead I got pretty much nothing.
The Taco Bell Salsa Roja Tortada is a decent-sized meal and has decent flavor, but it doesn’t live up to the chain’s ambitious description of their new menu item. The chicken is tasty, the Fiesta Salsa adds a nice, bright flavor, but all the cheeses taste the same and you can’t taste the salsa roja at all, which, if the name is any indication, is supposed to be the star of the show. It’s a tasty, fulfilling meal, and seems like it would be a good choice if you’re eating on the go, but it just doesn’t live up to Taco Bell’s claims. My salsa roja hopes were Tortadashed.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 Tortada (268 grams) – 480 calories, 130 calories from fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 14 grams of total fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,860 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugars and 30 grams of protein.)
Item: Taco Bell Salsa Roja Tortada
Size: 1 Tortada
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tender, plentiful chicken. High portability. Tortada puns. Fiesta Salsa brings bright flavor. Moxious fast food maneuvers. Miraculously crisp lettuce.
Cons: Salsa roja not actually detectable in Salsa Roja Tortada. Finding out tortada is a real word. Cheeses are indistinguishable. People who think Taco Bell is actually Mexican food.