If there’s one fast food restaurant that is beloved by everyone, a must-have for late-night munchies with a menu that has a little something for everyone, it’s Taco Bell. The Mexican-esque chain has been around seemingly for forever, though the first Taco Bell dates back to 1962 when founder Glen Bell opened his first Taco Bell in Downey, California. According to the Taco Bell website, Bell’s original customers called the tacos, "Tay-Kohs."
Since then, Taco Bells have popped up all over the country, and have become so popular that they’ve inspired lines in pop songs, plenty of memes, and have even started hosting weddings. But all the love for Taco Bell aside, the restaurant has seen plenty of changes throughout its history. There have been beloved items that never came back, huge flops that no one liked, and just flat-out weird menu additions that made zero sense. So, what did Taco Bell’s menu look like the year you were born? Well, it depends. But no matter what, it was probably delicious.
1962-1970: Taco Bell’s original menu featured a unique item
Obviously, back when Taco Bell first opened in 1962 and for the first few years it was around, the menu was pretty limited. As with most fast food joints, Taco Bell didn’t always have a menu that spanned several pages. But on their original menu, there wasn’t just tacos and burritos, believe it or not.
As Reader’s Digest reports, the original Taco Bell menu featured six different food items, all of which cost just 19 cents. Quite the bargain, isn’t it? But, that’s not all. Not only did the original Taco Bell sell the things you would expect, like tostadas, two kinds of burritos, frijoles, and tacos, it also featured one unique item. For just 19 cents back in 1962, you could get yourself a chili burger from Taco Bell. Honestly, it was probably a pretty good chili burger, considering it was one of only a few items they made.
1970-1974: Taco Bell’s menu stays low key
After the first Taco Bell opened, and more and more franchises started popping up all over the country, the menu obviously started to change. Prices gradually went up from that measly 19 cents, but, for the most part, things remained pretty low-key.
According to Business Insider, in 1970, Taco Bell introduced something called an Enchirito. And, yes, it sounds pretty freaking delicious. The Enchirito was a "burrito topped with cheese, red sauce, and three olives." While the Enchirito remained on the menu until 1993, it was definitely the most popular during the first few years after it was introduced. For the most part, it seems as though the Taco Bell menu didn’t change much from its start, aside from the Enchirito. So, if you were born during that time, the Taco Bell menu probably looked pretty retro to modern eyes, including that yummy Enchirito.
1975-1980: Taco Bell puts the Bell Beefer on its menu
In 1975, Taco Bell attempted to prove that they didn’t just serve tacos. In fact, one menu item launched in 1975, called the "Bell Beefer", looks like an interesting take on a taco.
Yes, during the 1970s, Taco Bell served something called the Bell Beefer, which stuck around until the 1990s when it was discontinued like other Taco Bell items. Honestly, that’s kind of sad, because the Bell Beefer had a ton of potential. Think of it like a taco, but in hamburger form. It was made with taco-seasoned beef, cheese, lettuce, and tomato sandwiched between two burger buns. Basically, the Bell Beefer was like a taco sloppy joe. For some reason, it just wasn’t as popular as other Taco Bell items and sadly is no longer around. But, if you were born in the mid-to-late 1970s, the Taco Bell menu from the year you were born probably featured a delicious Bell Beefer.
1980: Cinnamon Crispas are all the rage on Taco Bell menus
Believe it or not, Taco Bell has been serving dessert options for quite some time. Yes, there are some popular modern-day options, but one of the oldest and most classic Taco Bell desserts actually came about a long time ago, although it wouldn’t be surprising if the restaurant brought them back someday. Called Cinnamon Crispas, this item from Taco Bell’s 1980s menu was both satisfying and unique.
The Cinnamon Crispas, which Delish reports were launched in 1980, were basically cinnamon and sugar-dusted tortilla chips. Apparently, they were seriously loved by just about anyone who tried them. Sadly, the Cinnamon Crispas were discontinued and replaced with a similar menu item, the Cinnamon Twists (via Chowhound). Taco Bell has launched quite a few new dessert items since then, but, if you were an 80s baby, you can bet that Taco Bell’s menu the year you were born featured the beloved Cinnamon Crispas. Your parents might have even ordered them a few times.
1990-1994: Everyone wants chili from Taco Bell
These days, when you think of Taco Bell, you probably don’t think of chili. Sure, the chain restaurant offers spicy food and plenty of ground beef. But, isn’t chili a Wendy’s menu staple, not Taco Bell’s? However, in the early 1990s, it turns out that chili was all the rage at Taco Bell.
As Thrillist reports, Taco Bell introduced the Chili Cheese Burrito in 1990. The item was literally just chili and cheese wrapped in a warm flour tortilla, but fans loved it. Originally, the Chili Cheese Burrito was on the low-end of the cost spectrum at Taco Bell, and was part of the "59-79-99 deal," referring to the number of cents necessary to secure the meal. Sadly, Taco Bell ended the Chili Cheese Burrito’s run in the mid-90s, though fans weren’t pleased with that decision. They were so vocal about their disappointment, in fact, that they convinced the chain restaurant to bring it back years later. Some Taco Bell locations even continued serving the Chili Cheese Burrito for years after it was supposedly discontinued. So, if you were a 90s baby, chances are the Taco Bell menu from the year you were born featured this favorite with a cult-like following.
1995-1997: Bacon makes it onto the Taco Bell menu
Back in the days before social media blew up at the announcement of a new fast food item, places like Taco Bell could launch new menu items in a relatively subtle manner. In 1995, they did just that when they rolled out several new menu items that didn’t exactly scream fast-Mexican cuisine.
As United Press International reported back in 1995, Taco Bell had made a public announcement that it was bringing three new menu items to Taco Bells nationwide, all featuring one beloved ingredient: bacon. Taco Bell launched a chicken club burrito, bacon cheeseburger burrito, and a BLT soft taco. The newer items also made the menu look like it hailed from a Mexican-influenced deli. Whether or not said bacon items were actually good is up for debate, but they clearly didn’t stick around for long, as a glance at the modern menu will tell you.
1998-2002: Taco Bell hits menu paydirt with the Gordita
If there was ever a need for a time machine, it would definitely be to go visit a Taco Bell in 1998. Seriously, the 1998 Taco Bell menu looked amazing, and for one good reason. For a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was all about the Gordita.
According to the Houston Press, Taco Bell launched the Gordita in 1998. The menu item was basically a flatbread-style taco reminiscent of an authentic Mexican gordita. As if that doesn’t sound delicious enough, the menu featured three different Gordita flavors: Supreme, Fiesta, and Santa Fe. Then, in 2001, they introduced the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, a gordita wrapped around a taco for the ultimate in cheesy and crunchy, though it’s admittedly not a terribly healthy Taco Bell item. Fortunately, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch is still available at Taco Bells across the United States. So, if you’re feeling nostalgia for the Taco Bell menu from the year you were born, you know what to get.
2003: Taco Bell releases its Spicy Chicken Burrito
Taco Bell is known for having a good amount of options when it comes to eating, whether your diet is all about meat or even if you’re a vegan (though Taco Bell warns that it can’t guarantee against cross-contamination with animal products). Back in the early 2000s, the fast food chain gave the world what it really wanted with a new kind of burrito.
But in 2003, Taco Bell launched a Spicy Chicken Burrito. "Our customers are looking to satisfy their hunger with new and bold flavors," Greg Creed, the Taco Bell Chief Marketing Officer told Business Wire back in 2003 during the launch. "With our new Spicy Chicken Burrito, we are offering burger-bored consumers another exciting choice in taste at a reasonable price." The burrito featured shredded chicken with plenty of spices, rice, and salsa all wrapped in a tortilla. Unfortunately, it was a limited menu item that only ran until October 12, 2003.
2004: Mountain Dew Baja Blast exclusively debuts at Taco Bell
If you’ve ever been to a Taco Bell then you probably know that one of the fast food chain’s signature beverages is the distinctive blue-green drink known as Mountain Dew Baja Blast. The drink is really only available at Taco Bell, making it extra special for restaurant-goers. The unique flavors of the beverage make it even more of a one-of-a-kind choice. As delicious as the Baja Blast is, it was only introduced at Taco Bell in 2004, when it soon proved to be a popular addition to the menu.
According to QSR, the chief marketing officer for Taco Bell at the time of the launch, Greg Creed, released a statement explaining how the new partnership with Pepsi and the launch of Baja Blast was perfect for Taco Bell. "We continue to reinforce our ‘Think Outside The Bun’ message by offering food, and now a beverage item, that consumers can’t get anywhere else."
2005-2006: The Crunchwrap Supreme is introduced to the Taco Bell menu
Perhaps Taco Bell’s most popular item of all time is the Crunchwrap Supreme. A warm tortilla filled with beef, nacho cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a crunchy tostada shell? Um, heck yes! The Crunchwrap Supreme was introduced in 2005, becoming so popular amongst eaters that the chain restaurant made it a permanent menu item only a year later in January 2006.
Bill Pearce, the Chief Marketing Officer of Taco Bell said in a statement obtained by Business Wire that the Crunchwrap Supreme was the very best of Taco Bell. "Crunchwrap Supreme is the latest incarnation of our popular grilled products… designed to be ‘good to go.’ Crunchwrap’s combination of taste and convenience connected so strongly with our consumers, that there was an outpouring of support for us to bring it back." The original menu offering generally cost less than two dollars, depending on the individual franchise location. Oh, to be able to order from Taco Bell’s 2006 menu.
2006-2012: The Volcano Taco heats things up on Taco Bell’s menu
The Taco Bell menu from 2006 to 2012 was pretty standard, with only a few new inventions. However, one of those newbie menu items, the Volcano Taco, took the fast food world by storm. It you were born in that time period, the Taco Bell menu was probably pretty impressive thanks in large part to the Volcano Taco’s widespread popularity.
According to Mental Floss, between 2008 and 2009, Taco Bell launched the Volcano Taco. The menu item was filled with distinctly spicy nacho cheese. As tasty as that sounds, it didn’t stick around too long, as it was replaced by the Doritos Locos Taco, which remains one of the most popular items on Taco Bell’s menu. As per Thrillist, the Doritos Locos Taco had actually been in development since 2009. The Taco Bell Research and Development team spent over two years nailing the perfect prototype, but, hey, perfection takes time.
2013: A special burrito hits the Taco Bell menu
For the most part, Taco Bell has stayed pretty close to its typical menu offerings of tacos, burritos, and other Mexican-style foods that feature plenty of ground beef and refried beans. But in 2013, Taco Bell finally offered two new and truly different menu items launched during the 2013 Super Bowl. According to Taco Bell’s press release, the commercial spots first aired during the big game and featured the new Cantina Bell Steak Burrito and, for the first time at Taco Bell, churros.
The Taco Bell Cantina Steak Burrito featured thick-cut, flavor-packed steak, rice, black beans, along with hefty toppings like lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, and salsa. Oh, and it was topped with a creamy cilantro sauce, according to Brand Eating. Yes, that probably sounds familiar for any Chipotle fans out there. To Chipotle’s relief, the Cantina Steak Burrito is no longer on the Taco Bell menu.
2014: Taco Bell finally launches its breakfast menu
Taco Bell finally decided to become an all-day restaurant in 2014 when they launched their breakfast menu. Yes, Taco Bell decided to serve up early-morning breakfast to its patrons that year, making the menu pretty expansive. At the time, Taco Bell President Brian Niccol told USA Today, "We’re going to reinvent breakfast. We don’t use buns or burgers or circular things at breakfast — that’s not who we are."
A Taco Bell breakfast isn’t a foreign idea, as it has stuck around since its initial launch. However, there have been some changes. The original Taco Bell breakfast menu featured three main items: a Waffle Taco, the A.M. Crunchwrap, and Cinnabon Delights. Sadly, the Waffle Taco wasn’t a huge hit and is no longer on the Taco Bell menu. The A.M. Crunchwrap and Cinnabon Delights, however, are still on the Taco Bell breakfast menu, along with a variety of newer breakfast burritos.
2015: Taco Bell briefly brought back a fan favorite
In 2013, Taco Bell introduced a new menu item that was almost like a delicious little handheld snack, called the Stuft Nacho (via Mental Floss). The item was pretty simple, consisting of beef, nacho cheese, tortilla strips, and sour cream wrapped in a flour tortilla and folded to look like a giant nacho chip. The item was super popular but was sadly taken off the menu in 2014. The Stuft Nacho was so beloved by Taco Bell fanatics that Thrillist even published a memorial ode to the menu item after it was discontinued.
Fans of the Stuft Nacho got to celebrate when Taco Bell brought back the delectable hand-held snack in 2015, though the joy was short-lived as they discontinued it soon after. While the Stuft Nacho didn’t have a long run on the Taco Bell menu, it was definitely a big deal in 2015, and possibly the most popular menu item at the time.
2016: The beloved Quesalupa appears on Taco Bell menus
As if Taco Bell hadn’t done enough to revolutionize fast food, the chain restaurant took things up a notch with their 2016 menu. That year, Taco Bell’s menu featured a lot of tried and true items, plus the limited release edition of a new creation that was the talk of the town. Sure, Taco Bell had tried new things in the past, with plenty of failed experiments, but nothing quite like this new menu item on the block.
In February 2016, Taco Bell launched the Quesalupa, which was basically a taco but with a hard shell filled with pepper jack cheese. It sounds simple, but it was a huge launch on Taco Bell’s part. Specifically, Taco Bell spent a reported $5 million to announce the Quesalupa during a Super Bowl commercial, which is a pretty big deal (via Eater). The Quesalupa is no longer on the Taco Bell menu, but in 2016, it was the central focus of the chain’s offerings.
2017: A few strange additions appear on the Taco Bell menu
Because Taco Bell is constantly testing new recipes and trying new things, it should come as no surprise that their 2017 menu included new and daring options, according to Refinery29.
For whatever reason, 2017 was the year that Taco Bell decided to forgo taco shells or tortillas for some items and go totally naked. As scandalous as it sounds, in 2017, Taco Bell launched a few new menu items utilizing that word, including a Naked Chicken Chalupa and a Naked Egg Taco. The chalupa was basically lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sauce wrapped in a tortilla-shaped piece of fried chicken. Yes, really. The Naked Egg Taco followed in the same vein. The breakfast menu item was basically a breakfast taco, but instead of having eggs in the tortilla, the egg was the tortilla. It was messy, strange, and overall just not good. Let’s all agree that the naked Taco Bell menu wasn’t the chain’s best look.
2018: Taco Bell broke menu records with nacho fries
Basically, everyone can agree that french fries are one of the most delicious foods in the world. Crispy, hot, salty, with the perfect amount of chewiness in the middle — french fries are the stuff dreams are made of. Add cheese to the equation and you’ve got yourself a winner. That’s something Taco Bell discovered in 2018 when they gave the world nacho fries. In response, the world collectively freaked out. Specifically, Eater reports that Taco Bell sold 53 million orders of Nacho Fries just in three months. Now, nacho fries are basically the ideal of fries everywhere. They are essentially seasoned french fries cooked to perfection and served with nacho cheese dipping sauce. Simple and delicious.
However, as popular as nacho fries were in 2018, they were only a limited-time offering according to CNBC. While the chain brought them back in 2019, their checkered past makes customers worry that the future of the nacho fry remains, sadly, uncertain.