It is clear that here at Mashed, we love Taco Bell. However, for many of us, Taco Bell is usually an indulgence that is saved for after a night out or for Superbowl watch parties. Those Extreme Nachos don’t mess around!
Yet, in an attempt to be known for something other than having greasy burritos and sugary cinnamon twists, Taco Bell released its Power Menu, which features items under 510 calories and over 20 grams of protein. As of right now, the Taco Bell Power Bowls are the only item under this category, coming in a regular and veggie variety.
But in all the glory that the chain paints this series, how does the Taco Bell Power Bowl actually stack up? Is it really healthier than other menu items, and does it even taste good? Most of all, during your next Taco Bell run, is it worth choosing over your usual Crunchwrap Supreme? Keep on reading to find out!
What is the Taco Bell Power Bowl?
Taco Bell’s Power Bowl is described as the culmination of heroic forces, including grilled chicken, seasoned rice, black beans, real cheddar cheese, vegetables, Avocado Ranch Sauce, and guacamole. That’s pretty good marketing for what is essentially just a high-protein rice bowl.
It reminds us a bit of Chipotle’s classic rice bowls, where customers can select their choice of base, protein, beans, and salsa, amongst a handful of other options.
Unfortunately, where Taco Bell and Chipotle’s bowls differ is that the Power Bowl only has two choices of protein: chicken and steak. Chipotle is known for having a variety of different protein options, ranging from carnitas to barbacoa to sofritas, their plant-based protein option. As of now, Taco Bell has limited choices.
If you’re trying to make this vegan, however, you can double up on beans and cut out the cheddar cheese and the avocado ranch sauce.
How much is a Taco Bell Power Bowl?
The other Power Bowl option, steak, costs 20 cents more than the chicken, but still costs less than its $7.50 Chipotle counterpart (via Real Menu Prices).
Fast Food Menu Prices describes the Power Bowl as "inexpensive, but not cheap." Though the price fluctuates depending on what ingredients you add to it, it is an overall good price for its size and quality. The review also notes that Taco Bell had some "Happier Hour" deals that might make other meals a better steal between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (via The Daily Meal). Since The Daily Meal’s review was written, the price for the Power Bowl has gone up from the $4.99 price range it originally had, but nonetheless, it is still a great choice compared to similar options at other chain restaurants.
How does it taste?
According to a Brand Eating review, the chicken Power Bowl is an upgrade to the Cantina Bowl that was around a few years ago. The reviewer notes that the chicken was dry in some places, but liked the addition of the black beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole. They note that this is a solid menu item, but wouldn’t say that this dish would attract anyone other than Taco Bell fans, which may or may not be the chain’s objective with this high-protein option.
Fast Food Menu Prices likens the Power Bowl to a burrito bowl, rather than a salad. However, the review also mentioned that it is a great lunch item and also gave it high scores for taste, texture, and nutrition. The reviewer gave the bowl a 5/5 rating for "Are they worth it?" This signifies that the Power Bowl is definitely worth a try, even if you’re a skeptic.
When was it released and is it a permanent staple?
According to the fast-food chain’s website, the Taco Bell Power Bowl was nationally released in July 2014, but it was first tested the year before in Dayton, Ohio (via QSRweb). President Brian Niccol, who was the president of Taco Bell at the time, called the creation a huge success that does not sacrifice great flavor for its nutritional content.
As stated before, the Power Bowl served as an upgrade to the Cantina Bowl that was preexisting on the menu and was released as an effort to offer additional "healthy" options at the chain. Taco Bell modifying the earlier menu item to include more protein was a move to attract millennials with interests in fitness and those with busy lifestyles in general, according to QSRweb.
While some sources indicate that the Power Bowl will only be in restaurants for a "limited time," but it’s unclear when exactly Taco Bell HQ plans to take it off the menu.
Nutritional info for the Taco Bell Power Bowl
Taco Bell’s website states that a chicken Power Bowl is 470 calories, and it’s packed with protein and fiber. The steak option is 15 calories more, but offers the same mix of carbs, fiber, and protein.
However, Women’s Health does rank the Power Bowl as the second-healthiest menu option at Taco Bell. Lindsey Janeiro, the nutritionist featured in this article, describes the meal as something that won’t "leave you lethargic and unmotivated to bring your A game when going back to the office for the afternoon." However, this order recommendation is without the chicken, steak, or sour cream.
Additionally, it is rather high in sodium, containing 1,200 milligrams of sodium, or 50% of a person’s recommended daily intake.
So while you might not indulge in a Power Bowl every day, it is a protein-packed meal that is easy to grab whenever you’re in a time crunch.