A drive-thru staple for college students, office workers, and busy moms and dads, Taco Bell is one of the country’s most iconic and cherished fast food chains. More than 40 million people eat in a Taco Bell each week and according to Food Beast, the restaurant chain "serves about half the population of the United States at least once a month." Those visits total up to more than 2 billion tacos and 1 billion burritos served each year!
While the Taco Bell logo may feature a familiar ringing bell, few people realize that bell is actually a nod to the iconic restaurant’s founder, Glen Bell, who opened his first Tex Mex restaurant — Bell’s Drive-In and Taco Tia — back in 1954 in Downey, California. Since then, the chain has grown to more than 7,000 restaurants across nearly 30 countries.
In addition to its standard menu of Crunchy Tacos and Burrito Supremes, part of the appeal that draws regulars into The Bell — and keeps them coming back —is a constantly rotating menu of innovative and ground-breaking new foods. Some, like the Quesarito, join the chain’s menu full-time, while others shine brilliantly for a moment and are then gone in a flash, never to be served again — like the dozen amazing foods that follow, all of which are in desperate need for a comeback!
Taco Bell’s Enchirito
What happens when you combine a burrito with an enchilada? If you do it in Taco Bell, you end up with the legendary Enchirito — a soft flour tortilla filled with ground beef plus a hearty helping of cheese and refried beans. The rolled tortilla is then smothered — similar to an enchilada — with red or green sauce, onions, olives, and even more cheese.
The exact origin of Taco Bell’s Enchirito is unknown, although several Taco Bell franchise owners take credit for its creation. All we know for certain, is that advertisements for it date back as early as 1967 and the name was trademarked in 1970.
According to HuffPost, the Enchirito, which was adored for its rich, savory flavor and unique tin-platter serving vessel — was one of the top selling items to appear on the Taco Bell menu for decades, until is was unexpectedly pulled from menus in 1993. It enjoyed a fairly lengthy resurgence, returning to menus in 1999. But in 2013, the iconic staple was killed for good, phased out by the mega-size Smothered Burrito (which has since come and gone as well).
Fortunately, Taco Bell does have a secret menu — items that aren’t officially for sale but that you may be able to get if the people manning the kitchen know how to make them. Since the Enchirito is among the most widely requested secret menu items, you might just get lucky and be able to score one today in some locations!
Taco Bell’s Grilled Stuft Nacho
Designed for one-handed eating and dining on the go, the Grilled Stuft Nacho — with it’s intentionally misspelled name — was introduced in 2013. A tie-in to the company’s already popular Grilled Stuft Burrito line, Taco Bell’s Grilled Stuft Nacho started with a flour tortilla that was filled with seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, zesty jalapeno spices, strips of crunchy red tortillas, and sour cream. Once filled, the tortilla was folded into the shape of a triangle, creating what looked like a giant tortilla chip.
While some questioned the wisdom of encasing chips that could quickly become soggy in a nacho-shaped shell, Taco Bell regulars were immediately smitten—especially with its unique seasoning.
"The key ingredient in the Grilled Stuft Nacho is the cheesy-jalapeno [flavoring] on the inside," wrote the Taco Bell fan and news site Living Mas. "This sauce has only ever been released with the Grilled Stuft Nacho and is indescribably delicious," they said.
Although it was popular, the Grilled Stuft Nacho was retired in the summer of 2015, making room for newer creations to join the menu. Living Mas quickly launched a social media campaign urging the company to bring the item back. The site was joined by a similar petition on Change.org, also demanding its return. So far, both have sadly been unsuccessful.
Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco
There’s no underestimating the power of a good idea. Case in point: one day back in 2014, a Taco bell exec was scrolling through social media and happened upon a picture of a waffle folded around eggs. Inspiration struck and before long, Taco Bell wasn’t just rolling out a breakfast taco — it was starting a whole new early morning breakfast service … a first in the company’s 50+ year history (via Bloomberg Businessweek).
The star of the new breakfast menu was of course the Waffle Taco, which featured a warm, fresh waffle wrapped around a hearty sausage patty that was then topped with fluffy scrambled eggs and cheese and served with a side of sweet syrup for dipping. Following its announcement, Slate proclaimed "The Waffle Taco may be the buzziest thing to hit the breakfast industry this year."
While breakfast is still a mainstay at Taco Bell, the chain announced the departure of the Waffle Taco in the spring of 2015. Bustle, for one, was bummed. "Who doesn’t love a good waffle in the morning?" they wrote. "This genius idea shouldn’t go to waste!" As with many of TB’s most popular eliminated foods, petitions were created and fans spoke out across social media, but to this day, Taco Bell management has been mum as to when — or if — the Waffle Taco will ever return.
The Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
In early September 2020, Taco Bell dropped a bombshell, stating that their beloved Mexican Pizza — a staple on menus for more than 32 years — was being discontinued. A delicious fusion food, it contained "everything you love about Mexican food — boldly seasoned ground beef, spicy tomato-chili sauce, and smooth and savory refried beans, served on a flat crispy tortilla shell topped with melted cheese, just like your favorite Italian pizza."
A favorite for decades with Taco Bell fanatics, the announcement brought about a petition to save the Mexican Pizza with over 150,000 signatures as of this writing, along with memorials across social media.
As sad as it is to see the Mexican Pizza go, however, Taco Bell did have a good reason for the item being dropped from their menu. In a statement, the chain wrote "One silver lining of saying goodbye to the Mexican Pizza that might help you rest easy is that removing it from our menus helps us work towards our commitment to leave a lighter footprint on our planet." It turns out, the packaging the pizza was served on led to accumulations of over 7 million pounds of waste in American landfills each year. So even though your taste buds may feel deprived, at least this is a change we can support — hopefully while a more Earth-friendly serving container is being developed!
Taco Bell Beefy Crunch Burrito
Sometimes described as the McRib of the Taco Bell empire, the Beefy Crunch Burrito is one of Taco Bell’s most popular retired menu items, and one Taco Bell die-hards are always hoping will make a comeback.
The Beefy Crunch Burrito itself is a traditional warm flour tortilla-style burrito, filled with seasoned ground beef, rice, sour cream, and nacho cheese. The thing that makes it unique however, and the twist that’s made it such a fan favorite, is the hefty serving of Flamin’ Hot Fritos which are also wrapped into the burrito as it’s being made. The corn chips add a crunch and create an unparalleled flavor that few other Taco Bell products can rival.
Introduced in 2009, The Beefy Crunch Burrito has since repeatedly come and gone in limited runs, always performing well but never making it onto the restaurant menu full-time. The burrito is so popular, it’s inspired a Facebook led protest page called the Beefy Crunch Movement which has 70,000 followers, all of whom adamantly support its mission of "bringing back one of Taco Bells most popular and amazingly tasty burrito ever."
Taco Bell’s Firecracker Burrito
Pop Rocks candy — those tiny chunks of flavored sugar which are infused with carbon dioxide and crackle and pop when they come into moisture on your tongue — were invented in 1956 by a chemist trying to create instant powdered soda. Instead, he created one of the most notorious and controversial candies ever developed. And, in 2017, the Pop Rocks phenomenon got even crazier when Taco Bell launched the Firecracker Burrito which included an optional, Pop rocks-esque packet of spicy "Cayenne Popping Crystals."
Without the candy, The Firecracker Burrito was already delicious — a traditional cheesy or spicy burrito stuffed with rice, nacho cheese, sour cream, beef, and red tortilla strips and wrapped in a bright red tortilla. If you were brave, you could add a dose of fiery chipotle sauce. And for a burrito experience unlike any other, you could also opt for those "Cayenne Popping Crystals," which were designed to be sprinkled over your burrito as you ate it. FoodBeast reported that the crystals added "a sweet-spicy flavor along with a fizzy texture to the burrito" and said the creation was definitely worth sampling.
Sadly, Firecracker Burritos were only tested regionally in California and never made it to the national menu. But like other foods America wasn’t always ready for and has since warmed to, we think this the Firecracker Burrito’s comeback time is here, with a potential for newfound popularity that’s literally explosive.
The Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa
Realizing that they may have finally stumbled upon a way to make Mexican-food even more craveable, Taco Bell unveiled one of their wackiest — and most beloved — creations ever in 2017. The Naked Chicken Chalupa did the previously unfathomable and eliminated flour and corn taco tortillas entirely. In their place, consumers got a taco shell made with all-white-meat chicken that had been breaded, dusted with Mexican seasoning, and fried. The finished chicken was then shaped like a taco and packed with fresh shredded lettuce, diced ripe tomatoes, cheddar cheese and a creamy avocado ranch.
It was the kind of out-of-the-box creation that had never been seen in fast food before, and the public was in awe. During its initial launch, The Bell sold more than 25 million Naked Chicken Chalupas, according to USA Today. GQ raved about the concept and execution while HuffPost called it "delicious, crispy and flavorful" and told readers to race to their nearest Taco Bell and order one immediately.
The Naked Chicken Chalupa has returned to Taco Bell menus repeatedly after its launch, both in its original form as well as in a "Wilder" extra spicy variation, as well as related offshoots like the Naked Chicken Chips and Quesadillas. Still, none has stuck around long term — a fact we’re hoping will change in 2021.
Taco Bell’s Bell Beefer
In its early days, Taco Bell served up classic Tex-Mex fare like it does today, along with American standards like hot dogs and burgers, according to the Daily Meal. So, it’s no surprise that at some point in the chain’s early days, an employee decided to try putting some ground, spiced taco meat on a hamburger bun, Sloppy Joe-style. From this, the fabled Bell Beefer was born. Sold from the mid-1970s until the early 1980s, the Bell Beefer featured the afore-mentiolned mild, spiced ground beef on a warm, hamburger bun topped with diced tomatoes, onions, strips of lettuce, and a mixture of three different cheeses.
Bell beefers were a big hit with the Taco Bell crowd, especially in their heyday when Sloppy Joes were also at the peak of their popularity. And like Sloppy Joes, the Bell Beefer became less and less popular during the changing times — and tastes — of Reagen-era America.
Still, even today, more than 30 years after their primary success, there are countless people still campaigning for the Bell Beefer’s return. There’s a Twitter hashtag — #BringBacktheBeefer — dedicated to the cause, along with a Facebook page where people regularly campaign for its return, reminisce on eating the retired sandwich, talk about secret recipe hacks for recreating it in their own kitchen, and even lament the loss of the "best thing Taco Bell ever made."
Taco Bell Nacho Fries
French Fries are one of the most ordered menu items in fast food restaurants today. In fact, Americans eat more than 16 pounds of fries every year, according to food industry magazine Mobile-Cuisine. That breaks down to more than 2 million tons of fries served every year, they report.
With their sheer ubiquity on menus of all types, it only made sense that Taco Bell would want to get in on some of that fry action. That’s why, in January of 2018, the chain introduced their first foray into fries with Nacho Fries — large fry-shaped chunks of potato which were "crisped to perfection, coated in bold Mexican seasoning, and served with a dippable side of warm Nacho Cheese sauce."
Nacho Fries were an instant hit and the biggest debut for any product in Taco Bell history, according to the company. The initial, limited-run launch for Nacho Fries was so successful that Nacho Fries returned to the menu a few months later in June of 2018 for another limited outing. It was followed by a return in 2019 as well. In each, the Nacho Fries were also accompanied with big, explosive Hollywood style trailers which further helped to amp up anticipation for the Fries’ launch and return engagements. Sadly, while the savory, delectable Nacho Fries are absent from Taco Bell’s menu currently, we’re hoping for another big, splashy blockbuster comeback in the not-too-distant future!
Taco Bell’s Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes
Before Nacho Fries took the world of Mexican fast food by storm, Taco Bell fans were scarfing up another ‘tater-ific treat in droves: Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes. Sold for less than $2 an order, this super popular side featured chunks of slightly spicy seasoned, diced potato topped with nacho cheese sauce and sour cream plus optional creamy jalapeno sauce, guacamole, or diced onions.
Vegans and vegetarians were especially fond of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes as they were on the few naturally meatless products on the restaurant’s menu. Still, even though they were popular, need to "simplify the company’s menu" during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the elimination of not just Fiesta Potatoes from The Bell’s menu, but all potato items including other popular dishes such as the Spicy Potato Soft Taco and Cheesy Potato Loaded Grillers.
Reaction to the cuts was overwhelmingly negative, as we reported at the time. Petitions sprang up on Change.org and Eater decried the loss, saying the beloved Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes were the best thing on the chain’s menu. Reporting on the menu change, Business Insider revealed that they’d been told a new "Vegetarian Panel" would be reviewing options and looking at how Taco bell’s menu might change in the future to better serve plant-eaters’ needs. No word as yet if that means Fiesta Potatoes might make a comeback, but we have our fingers crossed.
Taco Bell Cap’n Crunch Delights
Although you may only think of it as a haven for satisfying late night cravings for beefy, cheesy dishes, Taco Bell has also been serving up unique and tasty desserts almost since the time the chain opened. Cinnamon-coated tortilla chips called Cinnamon Crispas were among the chain’s first dessert options. They were eventually replaced by similar tasting Cinnamon Twists, which are still on the menu today. Cinnabon Delights are another current mainstay on Taco Bell’s dessert menu. These cinnamon roll-like, doughnut hole-sized dough balls are fried and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. They also pack a secret — sweet, rich vanilla frosting-like filling which is packed into each one.
Cinnabon Delights are so popular with Bell fanatics that in 2015 the chain decided to introduce a variation that could also be eaten all day long, including for breakfast. Cap’n Crunch Delights were made out of strawberry-flavored dough that was similarly shaped into donut-hole sized bites and fried. However, instead of being rolled in cinnamon and sugar after leaving the fryer, these delicious bites were rolled in crumbled chunks of Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. And instead of the frosting tasting filling found in the Cinnabon Delights, these balls were filled with a cream designed to taste like cereal milk.
Reaction to the cereal-flavored Delights was positive with Thrillist calling them "Delicious" and HuffPost proclaiming they were "delightful." Still, the Cap’n eventually sailed off for different waters — and these amazing Delights were discontinued from Bell menus nationwide.
The Taco Bell Caramel Apple Freeze
Inspired by Taco Bell’s beloved Caramel Apple Empanada — cinnamon spiced apple pie filling wrapped inside a warm, flakey empanada shell that’s been fried and then lightly dusted with sugar — the Caramel Apple Freeze was introduced as the taste of fall in 2018. The slushie-like drink was everything you’d want in a traditional caramel apple, minus the annoying stick.
Imagine a tart, tangy, green apple flavored mixture of crushed ice and syrupy flavoring, blended together and poured over a layer of sweet, buttery caramel sauce. Most Taco Bell goers found the drink instantly refreshing and not too sweet, thanks to the crisp tartness that helped to offset all that sugar. Available for just a buck during happy hour at Taco Bell, many considered the Caramel Apple Freeze’s unique taste the perfect alternative to the mix of sodas, freezes, and Mountain Dew variations already on the chain’s menu. The Insider wrote that the Caramel Apple Freeze tasted like "fall in a cup" while Taste of Home decried "[Taco Bell’s] latest product announcement "might be the greatest ever."
In what should be considered a crime against humanity, the Caramel Apple Freeze was only available for a limited time and has never returned to the Taco Bell menu. Even more outrageously, Caramel Apple Empanadas have also been erased from the chain’s menu, leaving us doubly deprived of all that cinnamon apple goodness both products provided.