REVIEW: KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets

KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets Plated

I am still shocked by how ubiquitous meatless has become, especially at fast food restaurants. As the quality of meatless proteins has improved, the cost has also come down enough to make it more commercially viable. Plus, with the social media popularity of #MeatlessMonday, you’ve got a lot more people seeking out a meatless option when going through the drive-thru. KFC recently rolled out its entry into the meatless market: Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets.

Starting with regional testing in 2019, KFC has taken its time to tweak the nuggets to be uniquely KFC. After trying the Beyond Chicken Tenders last year and being fairly underwhelmed, I was worried these nuggets would be more of the same. Thankfully it seems KFC and Beyond spent three years of research and development to deliver an absolutely delicious product. While these particular items seem to be the most expensive of the fast food meatless options (12 nuggets cost $13.99), considering their special nature, it makes sense. They are a one-of-a-kind product that can’t be found in stores like most other fast food meatless items can.

It has been quite some time since I went to a KFC. With the plethora of fried chicken options available, the chain never seems to fall into our rotation. If these Beyond Chicken nuggets become a standard menu item, that will change.

The first thing I noticed was the strong, familiar smell of KFC while opening the box. This was a promising sign. As I mentioned, I was worried these would be just a deep-fried version of what you can get in the store. Thankfully, they weren’t.

KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets Closeup

The breading has that unique flavor of 11 herbs and spices, accented with grease that makes these about as authentically KFC as possible. The “meat” was what we’ve come to expect from meatless items: firm and, sometimes, tough. I think your mileage will vary when it comes to these nuggets, and it’ll depend on the location. One of the difficulties with meatless is they are easy to overcook. I know the store employees are doing their best, but just know your nuggets might end up more on the tough side.

For me, these ended up being a home run. I don’t mind the firmer texture of the meatless proteins. The breading is the absolute star and, when paired with the KFC Sauce, it hits all the right notes.

KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets Split

Much like other meatless fast food products, these aren’t going to fool you into thinking they are real meat. But they are absolutely worth trying if you go in with that expectation. They aren’t a cheap option, but their uniqueness justifies the price tag for me. They are also extremely filling and were easily split between myself and my husband. I’m already planning my next outing to get them and maybe see if I can substitute the popcorn chicken on the Famous Bowls with the Beyond Fried Chicken.

Purchased Price: $13.99
Size: 12 Pieces
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 960 calories, 54 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 2880 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 72 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Bacon & Cheddar Omelet Bites

Dunkin Bacon  Cheddar Omelet Bites Tray

I’ve eaten many an egg bagel in my day, but eggs shaped like little bagels?! What is this madness?

Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, Dunkin’ got me to try its new Bacon Cheddar Omelet Bites mostly because of the shape. Seeing egg bites with a donut hole somehow filled the massive hole in my ever-aging heart.

It takes a lot to get a dedicated Bread Head™ like myself to order eggs without some kind of carb surrounding it, but I had to find out if these were as good as they looked.

As it turns out, I’m a fan. Sure, the expectation of the menu picture didn’t quite match the reality of what I got, but I still found the presentation to be pretty fun.

Dunkin Bacon  Cheddar Omelet Bites Both

The bites come in a serving tray with a fork, but have enough structural integrity to hold in your hand if you wanna be a weirdo and eat them like the holed out treats that preceded them.

The egg is cooked sous vide, and it made me realize that I’ve never had eggs that way. I’m not sure I’ve ever had anything sous vide, and I honestly don’t even know if I’m using it right in a sentence – I uh, I don’t know how to write sous vide. … Sue me. I’m what the French call, “les incompetents.” I’ll just be an uncultured dummy and use the English translation, “under vacuum.”

Guess what? “Under vacuum” eggs taste pretty damn good.

Dunkin Bacon  Cheddar Omelet Bites Fork

They had a slightly mushy almost potato-like texture that might not be for everyone, but I genuinely enjoyed it. It was as if they took the filling of Pillsbury Breakfast Scrambles (the savory Toaster Strudels) and rolled it into a patty. The flavor was very similar to me, but it was also right in line with what you know and love from Dunkin’ or most other fast food breakfast menus.

The cheddar and bacon definitely pop. The cheese is blended perfectly into the egg, so there’s no ooze to worry about. I’d say the bacon leans towards that artificial “bacon bits” taste, but it’s fine. Those are good too.

Dunkin Bacon  Cheddar Omelet Bites Single

I’m glad they used this gimmicky shape, because I’m not sure I would have gravitated towards them without it. I’ve seen omelet bites at other places like Starbucks, but never gave them a second thought.

So yeah, these are fun and satisfying. They’re a really good source of protein also, which I appreciate.

Dunkin’ is also selling an egg white and veggie variety. I might try them at some point, but I’m definitely going back for the Bacon Cheddar bites. Even though they stand on their own, I’d like to see if I can try to slide these between two little biscuits. It might end up being an overwhelming starch bomb, but I know it’d be delicious. Hopefully they release more of these with some crumbled sausage next time.

After the speed bump that was the Mini Pancakes, it’s good to see Dunkin’ innovating the “mini” food game once again. You’ll never go wrong with a Munchkin, a mini bagel ball, or a couple of these new Omelet Bites.

Purchased Price: $4.14
Size: 2 Bites
Purchased at: Dunkin
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 280 calories, 19 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 185 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 7 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of total sugars, and 17 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Wings

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Wings Box

If you had told me a year ago, or heck, even just a few days ago, that I’d be “winging” in 2022 by reviewing chicken wings from Taco Bell, I would have said you were out of your gourd (or gordita, as it were). But if you squint, I guess there’s a strange sort of synergy to it. In recent years Taco Bell has been expanding its roster of alcohol-slinging “Cantina” locations, and what’s a more appropriate bar food than wings?

My first impression was that these Crispy Chicken Wings… looked like chicken wings. That’s maybe not the most profound musing, but cut me some slack, this was the first time I’d ever purchased, nay, even conceived of the idea of a food item from Taco Bell that was not slathered in cheese, beans, sour cream, or some combination thereof. I don’t know, I would have felt more at home if they’d at least slapped a gratuitous Doritos Locos logo on there or something.

I began by searching for the advertised “Mexican Queso seasoning.” I was eventually able to divine some, dare I say, cheetle-esque orange dust, but these wings are pretty standard-looking (albeit crispy). I would describe the coating as more ambiguously savory than particularly cheesy, but my main impression of its taste was, plain and simple, “fried,” which I consider to be a compliment!

Digging in deeper led me to a discovery even more surprising than the fact that Taco Bell is offering chicken wings in the first place, which is the fact that Taco Bell chicken wings are actually quite good.

My wings were tender and flavorful, the meat practically falling off the bone without the grittiness or stringiness that can plague lesser chicken items. I was pleasantly surprised that each wing offered a couple satisfying mouthfuls of meat that didn’t require me to gnaw at the bone for scraps like a hyena. I mean, of course I did that too, but it was for fun, not out of necessity!

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Wings Spicy Ranch

These wings are served with a side of Spicy Ranch sauce, and while I can see how that creamy tingliness could elevate the experience for some, I personally found it a bit overpowering and was glad to let the moist meat stand on its own two chicken feet. The extra oomph of the crispy coating definitely helped, and between that and the substantial meat-to-bone ratio, the experience almost felt more like eating a hunk of fried chicken than a wing specifically. But maybe that’s just because one of my wings was so misshapen and chunky that it looked more like the state of Texas than anything that had once allowed a bird to fly.

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Wings Texas

All in all, I had a blast with these wings (a Mountain Dew Baja Blast, to be precise). As long as you make it to your local Taco Bell before their week-long Chicken Run – which started on January 6th — is over, I think you will too.

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: Five chicken wings per box
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 750 calories with Spicy Ranch sauce/530 without, 54/31 grams of fat, 10/6 grams of saturated fat, 230/205 milligrams of cholesterol, 1970/1770 milligrams of sodium, 26/23 grams of carbohydrates, 3/2 grams of fiber, 1/0 gram of sugar, and 40/39 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Chipotle Cheddar Chalupa

Taco Bell Chipotle Cheddar Chalupa Shell

Taco Bell has always been different in how it approaches new items. Sometimes it takes huge swings with things like the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco. Other times, it finds a way to remix a few ingredients and package it as a new item. The Chipotle Cheddar Chalupa falls squarely into the latter.

It consists of a deep fried flatbread shell, seasoned beef, tomato, lettuce, creamy chipotle sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese. To be entirely honest, I was a little underwhelmed when I first ordered it. A change of cheese and substituting sour cream with chipotle sauce didn’t seem like it would make much of a difference. After the first bite, I was eating my words.

Taco Bell Chipotle Cheddar Chalupa Sauce

The creamy chipotle sauce is the same one used in the Spicy Potato Soft Taco. It’s creamy, smokey, and offers just a little bit of heat without being painfully spicy. It was a pleasant surprise when I took a bite of the chalupa and realized it was the same sauce. Using shredded cheddar cheese instead of the shredded three cheese blend added a little more sharpness, but it didn’t stand out like the chipotle sauce. The chalupa shell will always be one of the best food items Taco Bell has ever added to not only its lineup, but the fast food landscape.

Taco Bell Chipotle Cheddar Chalupa Filling

I honestly don’t know why I thought I would be underwhelmed with the item considering my deep love for the long discontinued Baja Beef Chalupa. The simple swap was absolutely delicious and made me want to get it again or, at the very least, remember the customization for next time. Although, when this item eventually is no longer offered, the cost to customize a chalupa to this recipe will run me a dollar more.

I would love to see Taco Bell bring back a few variations to standard menu items on a more permanent basis (like the Baja or Nacho Chalupas were). At the very least, it should be a 1 for 1 swap that doesn’t cost more to remove a sauce and add another.

The Chipotle Cheddar Chalupa isn’t going to change the world, but it does an excellent job of adding a new twist to a standard product and to shake me out of my Taco Bell rut. I tend to stick with the same three items when I go to Taco Bell, so it was a nice reminder to explore outside the norm. Even if it’s as simple as swapping sauces.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 420 calories, 28 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 610 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Papa John’s NY Style Pizza

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Whole

Papa John’s has been busy lately with a bunch of new offerings, including the Triple Bacon, Shaq-a-Roni, and Epic Stuffed Crust pizzas, all of which earned generally positive reviews from my esteemed colleagues of culinary critique. Now comes the NY Style Pizza, which launched nationwide on December 27 and will be available through March 13, 2022.

I’m sure this will shock you to your core, but no, Papa John’s did not successfully replicate true New York-style pizza. Yes, these are foldable and (somewhat) oversized as Papa John’s advertises, and I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt that it is also hand-stretched as the website claims, even though I was not there to witness that. But if you tried serving this at a pizzeria in New York City, then a brouhaha, fracas and/or kerfuffle would probably ensue. Perhaps even all three.

Usually, my main qualification to do a review on this site is simply that I have a functioning mouth, but in this case, I do bring some pizza credentials. I grew up in New York (actually New Jersey, but we decided long ago as a state that it’s better to just say New York), so I’ve had my share of authentic New York pizza. And now, as a resident of Texas, I’m used to be being both disappointed and amused when I try New York pizza around here. Truthfully, some local joints come reasonably close, and maybe even closer than I give them credit, but I do deduct authenticity points when someone says, “Here’s y’alls pizza.”

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Slice

With that said, this isn’t bad — it is still pizza after all — and it’s a bit better than I thought it would be, especially considering it’s made using the standard Papa John’s crust, sauce, and cheese. To me, the two things that define New York pizza are the crust being both chewy and crispy with a few of those big air bubbles and the cheese having some stretch and snap along with an unhealthy amount of grease/oil.

Papa John’s fared well on the first requirement, and I think they probably did as well as they could using their regular crust, which I’ve always found to be a little too thick and chewy. This pizza fixed both of those issues, and it comes close to the overall thinness of New York pizza. The outer crust doesn’t quite hit the mark as far as the right balance of crisp and chewy, but it did contain a few modest-size air bubbles and faintly reminded me of New York crust.

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Crust

The shortcoming here is the standard Papa John’s cheese, which has very little of the stretchiness, snap, or general oiliness you might get with a New York pizza. The toppings (I went with pepperoni) were plentiful, so bonus points for that, and even though the slices were a little smaller than most New York pizza I’ve had, they did fold quite well.

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Fold

I didn’t expect to get anything close to real New York-style pizza when I ordered this — and I didn’t — but if you temper your expectations based on what a big chain can deliver using its standard ingredients, and you don’t have many other options in your area, then this is a serviceable pie.

Purchased Price: $13 with one topping
Size: Extra-large (16”)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Detailed nutritional information not available on the Papa John’s website, but it does say each cheese slice has 310 calories.