REVIEW: Taco Bell New Cantina Chicken Menu

Taco Bell’s new Cantina Chicken Menu features three major new ingredients:

  1. A slow-roasted chicken with a mix of Mexican seasonings, including garlic, onions, and chilies.
  2. Avocado Verde Salsa that features tomatillos, green chili peppers, and avocado pulp.
  3. Shredded purple cabbage.

Okay, the addition of purple cabbage makes it more like 2.5 major new ingredients, but the purple stuff is a welcomed addition that not only brings color but also a pleasing crunch to those menu items with it.

Cantina Chicken Crispy Taco

This was my favorite from the new menu, which features slow-roasted chicken, three-cheese blend, creamy jalapeño sauce, and three-cheese blend grilled on the outside of a white corn tortilla shell. Sure, it looks like the white corn tortilla shell got bear-hugged by the grill press because it was almost split into two when I pulled it out of its wrapper, but it’s still delightful.

There are few ingredients, but what made the difference for me was the cheese grilled on the shell, which gave it a different crunchy texture and a notable cheesiness that also let the jalapeño sauce and the mild flavors of the slow-roasted chicken come through. It was a nice cheesy chicken taco with a slight kick from the jalapeño sauce, and the addition of the Avocado Verde Salsa gave it a mild avocado flavor, making it taste even better.

Price: $3.79*
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 290 calories, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.

Cantina Chicken Soft Taco

The soft taco version doesn’t contain the exact same ingredients as the crispy taco. It’s stuffed with slow-roasted chicken, avocado ranch sauce, lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, pico de gallo, and cheddar cheese.

Peel back that flour tortilla, and you’ll see a rainbow of ingredients I don’t find quite as tasty as the crispy taco version. There are a lot of different flavors here, more so when the Avocado Verde Salsa is added, but among those flavors, it’s hard to notice the chicken. Maybe mine didn’t have much, or maybe there’s too much of a rainbow of ingredients. It’s a fine tasting product, but it was kind of a letdown after tasting the crispy taco one first.

Price: $3.99*
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 210 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.

Cantina Chicken Burrito

This menu item has double the slow-roasted chicken than the soft taco version, avocado ranch sauce, creamy chipotle sauce, lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, pico de gallo, and cheddar cheese in a flour tortilla. So basically, it’s a thicker, meatier, and saucier Cantina Chicken Soft Taco, but it tastes better than the smaller menu item.

With more chicken stuffed inside, the protein and its seasonings are more noticeable than with the soft taco. What’s not noticeable is the cheddar cheese, but that was expected with the inclusion of two sauces. With more space in a burrito-sized flour tortilla for additional chicken, there’s more of a flavor balance, even with the inclusion of the Avocado Verde Salsa, which kind of makes it taste like there’s a little guacamole in it. Overall, a solid tasting product.

Sometimes, I make fun of Taco Bell with these split burrito shots by saying it’s always a sea of brown, red, and white, but the purple cabbage here adds some desperately needed color. But let’s be honest, the number of folks who cut Taco Bell burritos in half is tiny. Raises hand.

Price: $7.59*
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 540 calories, 30 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1170 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein.

Cantina Chicken Quesadilla

The simplest of the Cantina Chicken menu features the chicken, creamy chipotle sauce, and a three-cheese blend in a folded and grilled flour tortilla. This seemed the perfect vessel to showcase the new slow-roasted chicken and Avocado Salsa Verde because there’s little in the quesadilla to get in the way if you don’t dip it into the included guacamole and sour cream containers.

However, without the new sauce or any of the dips, the quesadilla’s flavor doesn’t really tickle my taste buds. But even with them, I can’t say I enjoyed this as much as the other offerings on the Chicken Cantina Menu. Adding the guacamole and sour cream overwhelms the ingredients in the quesadilla, and the new sauce enhances the avocado-ness of the guacamole. While the menu item is fine, I’d pick any other Cantina Chicken Menu item over this one.

Price: $7.99*
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 570 calories, 32 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1330 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 29 grams of protein.

Cantina Chicken Bowl

Finally, we have the priciest of the bunch but also the most filling. It comes with slow-roasted chicken, seasoned rice, black beans, Avocado Ranch sauce, reduced-fat sour cream, lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, pico de gallo, guacamole, and cheddar cheese. I’m a fan of any bowl Taco Bell dumps multiple ingredients into, and I’m definitely a fan of this one.

But with mostly the same ingredients as previous bowls, it all tastes too familiar, even with the new chicken and the squeezing of an entire Avocado Salsa Verde pouch all over it. Because it contains a generous helping of guacamole, the new sauce kind of blends in with the avocado, making it less noticeable. But I did like the purple cabbage in this. I know. Praising purple cabbage seems weird, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, it does add color and crunch. Despite tasting similar to previous Taco Bell bowls, I’d repurchase it.

Price: $9.99*
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 490 calories, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1150 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Cheesy Chicken Crispanada

While others were gearing up for the Super Bowl, I was busy with my own personal Super Bowl, the Taco Bell Live Más LIVE event, which featured a whole lot of product news, including the announcement of the limited-time-only Cheesy Chicken Crispanada, a delightful bit of wordplay whose combination of “crispy” and “empanada” lives gamely up to the legacy of such hero portmanteaus as the “quesarito.” But is its taste equally impressive?

As a quick, handheld, Mexican-inspired comfort food packed with carbs, meat, and cheese, this offering fits perfectly into Taco Bell’s menu, but that familiarity has the downside of rendering it not particularly exciting.

Though this is a savory snack (unlike Taco Bell’s previous empanada, the no-longer-available Caramel Apple variant—RIP), the fried dough coating glistened in a way that reminded me of sweet treats like zeppole or beignets. My first bite of the crispy corner had a surprisingly deep, almost nutty flavor. I had expected the outer shell to be little more than a vessel for what was within, so I was intrigued that it had such a distinctive character. And that snap when I bit into it certainly lived up to the crispiness promised by the name!

Of course, I couldn’t get the whole picture without tasting the inner contents. Unfortunately, I also couldn’t taste the inner contents without burning the heck out of my tongue (and my hand when I accidentally allowed some of the molten filling to leak out, but that can probably be chalked up to user error).

This delicacy was fittingly, as the kids would say, pretty fire. (For my fellow olds, that means it was good!) The seasoned shredded chicken swims in a sea of cheeses, of which my discerning palate could pick out two different types: orange and white. Taco Bell’s press release, helpfully, is a bit more specific—the blend contains cheddar, mozzarella, and “Monterey pepper jack.” (I thought “Monterey Jack” and “Pepper Jack” were two separate things, but eh, I’ll bite my already-burnt tongue.) The press release also sings the praises of the presence of garlic, tomato, and onion, but honestly, I didn’t notice those at all. Oh, and if you want to add some additional hot flavoring to that hot temperature, the Crispanada comes with a side of Spicy Ranch sauce.

This all tastes pretty yummy, so perhaps my biggest complaint is that the filling didn’t, well, fill the entire empanada. It was primarily slathered onto one side, leaving most of the meal hollow. That airiness, combined with a portion on the more diminutive side, means that if you’re trying to make a meal of this, you’ll probably want to order two. You could also just opt for the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada Deluxe Box, which, in addition to its namesake, nets you a Chalupa Supreme, Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, medium fountain drink, and an order of Cinnamon Twists.

Ultimately, this item isn’t revolutionary, but it doesn’t really need to be. Those who generally like Taco Bell’s cheesy, chicken-y confections will enjoy it, and those who don’t… well, at least they can look forward to everything else announced at Live Más LIVE, like Baja Blast gelato!

Purchased Price: $4.49
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 280 calories, 15 grams of fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries

Taco Bell’s new Grilled Cheese Nachos Fries applies the same technique used with the chain’s popular Grilled Cheese Burrito — put cheese on the exterior, wrap the whole thing in parchment paper, and smoosh it with a grill press for a few moments to turn the white and orange cheese into brown grilled-ness.

But does this fast food kung fu make these loaded Nacho Fries better than regular loaded Nacho Fries? I think it slightly improves it in some ways, but it’s not enough to make me declare on the internet that they all must be grilled henceforth.

The menu item comes with seasoned fries topped with seasoned beef, chipotle sauce, nacho cheese sauce, and a blend of mozzarella, Monterey pepper jack, and cheddar that gets the brunt of the grill press. If you wish for something with a little more heat, there’s a spicy version that includes jalapeño peppers, and if you want something less ground beefy, there’s also a steak variety on the menu. I went with the cheapest and mildest option.

The grilling makes the fries that have cheese seared onto them sturdy enough to withstand the chipotle and nacho sauce’s attempts to make everything soggy. But I wouldn’t say the grilled cheese makes them crispier. The grilling also turned what would’ve been a bunch of individual fries into a slab of spuds that looks like a burnt cheese aircraft carrier. Of course, your results may vary.

While the seasoned beef, chipotle sauce, and nacho sauce have a difficult time compromising the toasted layer’s integrity, they overwhelm the grilled cheese’s flavor. But I’m not going to complain too much about that because those three ingredients, plus the fries’ potato flavor, create a tasty combo. When I got a bite of the fries with just the toasted cheese and very few other ingredients, I noticed some of the same mild cheesiness that I’d tasted with the Grilled Cheese Burrito. The creamy chipotle sauce stood out the most for me flavor-wise, and it added a very slight kick. Its smoky, peppery taste negated the need for one of Taco Bell’s sauce packets.

While Taco Bell’s Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries are a limited time offering, I imagine they’ll be back eventually because it’s a clever variation of its loaded fries offerings. While I enjoyed it, I wished the toasted layer added a bit more crispiness and flavor.

Purchased Price: $4.99*
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 530 calories, 35 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 1250 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Toasted Breakfast Tacos

I’m not a morning person, so please forgive me that my head was foggy enough that I forgot to grab breakfast salsa packets with these new Taco Bell Toasted Breakfast Tacos. Sure, it was 9:45 in the morning when most people’s brains are functioning somewhat properly, but mine was not.

These new Toasted Breakfast Tacos come in three varieties — bacon, sausage, and potato. Each also comes with fluffy scrambled eggs and shredded cheddar cheese in a toasted tortilla. There isn’t a way to determine which is which by smelling them because they all have a scent similar to everything else with a grilled flour tortilla from Taco Bell. Well, excluding the Grilled Cheese Burrito.

Taco Bell Potato Toasted Breakfast Taco

I purchased all three varieties and was surprised that the taco I liked the most was the potato one. The versions with sausage pellets and bacon bits were fine, but both reminded me of other breakfast burritos I’ve had. Heck, the chain’s Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burritos are similar to these, except they have nacho cheese sauce instead of shredded cheddar cheese and less tortilla origami. I guess having just potatoes instead of meat was a nice change of pace for my taste buds. Or maybe it’s my body telling me that I need to cut back on processed meats.

Taco Bell Sausage Toasted Breakfast Taco

Oh, much like Taco Bell’s regular tacos, eating just one won’t be filling. You’re going to have to order at least two or three. So try all three as I did, or try one with a much more filling Breakfast Crunchwrap. Oh, also, it’s been a minute since I’ve had Taco Bell’s eggs, but they have better flavor and texture than I remember.

Taco Bell Bacon Toasted Breakfast Taco

While I didn’t have Taco Bell’s Breakfast Salsa, I had some McDonald’s Picante Sauce of an unknown age sitting in my fridge because I’m a condiment packet hoarder. Adding it upgraded the tacos’ flavor, but they don’t NEED any breakfast salsa if you have morning brain fog and forget to grab salsa because they’re adequate on their own.

With all that said, I wouldn’t say any of Taco Bell’s new Toasted Breakfast Tacos are outstanding, with or without salsa, even the potato one. They’re very basic products on the breakfast menu at an inexpensive price point, and if you want to make them not-so-basic and a little more expensive, you can customize them to your heart’s content. But I imagine these three are just the foundation for future variations. I could see a steak and egg variety or maybe one with Nacho Fries.

Purchased Price: $1.79 each*
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Bacon and Sausage), 7 out of 10 (Potato)
Nutrition Facts: Sausage – 230 calories, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 9 grams of protein. Bacon – 230 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 550 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 11 grams of protein. Potato – 220 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of sugar, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, 8 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Vegan Nacho Sauce

Fast food chains consistently making a popular item available for a limited time only to whip up more adulation upon its inevitable return isn’t new, but what is new for the latest go-round of Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries is what you can now dip these perennial pleasers into…Vegan Nacho Sauce! This limited time offering launched on October 12th, but writing this just a few weeks later, I can confirm they weren’t kidding about the “limited” part. Many locations have already stopped selling Vegan Nacho Sauce, and I struck out at multiple places before locating the dang thing.

When I finally discovered some, the plant-based-elephant in the room was its viscosity, which could be best described as “sludgy.” My traditional idea of nacho sauce is on the liquid-y side, while this looked more like unnaturally dark orange plastic in a cup. When I glommed a big blob onto the end of a fry and held it out to take a picture, it even stayed in place the whole time, which felt somewhat freakish. I guess it’s a good thing that no one could look at this vegan variant and accidentally mistake it for the dairy-based original?

After my picture was taken, my first bite was taken too, and it was a bit confusing. Why was I getting spiciness? And was that a hint of Old Bay? I replicated my experiment repeatedly, and — oh, yep, okay, it became clear that all that overpowering zest was coming exclusively from the Nacho Fries.

That was a bit disappointing. Isn’t the whole point of dipping sauce to liven up the taste of something that’s too plain on its own not to fade into the background itself? Lapping up a solo gob of sauce brought a faintly funky flavor, slightly and pleasantly earthy, but decidedly not bad. People who brag about being vegans can have a bad reputation, and often, so does vegan food itself; I Googled “vegan cheese tastes like,” and the first word that auto-filled was “vomit,” but while Taco Bell’s newest offering kind of looks like that, it certainly doesn’t taste like it. Its flavor was mild, with a creaminess despite the rubbery looks and a comforting warmth, not as strident or synthetic as I’d feared. Just as it doesn’t look especially like dairy cheese sauce, though, it doesn’t taste much like it either.

This is the part of the review where I’d usually tell you whether to buy this product or not, but unfortunately, if you’re in an area where it’s no longer being sold, that choice might have already been made for you. So what I’ll say instead is that I think it’d be worth it for Taco Bell to give the Vegan Nacho Sauce another more permanent chance. I might not personally be rushing to buy it again, but I’m sure plenty of people who are more into vegan dining would. So come on, Taco Bell, learn from McDonald’s. If the McRib can go on a whole farewell tour before popping right back onto the market, Vegan Nacho Sauce can too!

Purchased Price: $3.80
Size: Small (size is for the fries, and the sauce is served on the side)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (fries with sauce) 310 calories, 17 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 780 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.