7 Times Taco Bell’s Menu Pushed the Boundaries of Science

7 Times Taco Bell’s Menu Pushed the Boundaries of Science
Exhibit A: A tostada made out of Cheez-it. (Image: Taco Bell)

Earlier this month, Gizmodo reported on a new high-tech drive-thru Taco Bell that the Tex-Mex chain opened in Minnesota; at “Taco Bell Defy,” you order via a mobile app, scan a QR code when you drive up, and have your food delivered via a series of tubes, never interacting with another human being. But that isn’t the first time the restaurant chain pushed the envelope, for better or for worse — the company’s slogan was literally “think outside the bun” until 2012.

Taco Bell’s attempts at innovation have left the company with a lot of hits, from the daring Nacho Fries, to the iconic Baja Blast. But with the hits come the misses: The forgotten Taco Bell menu items that were too weird to survive. Here’s a look back at some of the more questionable menu items the chain has offered in recent years.

The Big Cheez-It Tostada & The Big Cheez-It Crunchwrap Supreme

Image: Taco BellImage: Taco Bell

Let’s just get these off the table. This week Taco Bell announced a new collaboration with Cheez-It, and it’s just abominable. The two new menu items include a tostada which swaps out a fried tortilla for a huge Cheez-it and a Crunchwrap Supreme with the cheese-flavored cracker smack dab in the middle. “There are few things that everyone can agree on… but the iconic flavours from Taco Bell menu items and Cheez-It snacks appeal to all,” said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s Chief Food Innovation Officer. I’m not so sure about that.

The Naked Chicken Chalupa

Image: Taco BellImage: Taco Bell

The Chalupa is a staple on the Taco Bell menu, and features beef, lettuce, cheese, and tomato all cozily nestled in a deep fried flatbread. The Naked Chicken Chalupa was a wildcard (I’m not sure I mean that as a compliment) that subbed the fried flatbread for a fried piece of chicken. Unlike the OG Chalupa, the Naked Chicken Chalupa had no beef in it since Taco Bell decided that would be too much.

Chicken Wings

Taco Bell officially shifted into “Huh?” territory when it released chicken wings coated in a nacho cheese-style seasoning blend and served with a side of ranch. The release left the general public scratching their heads, and sent the internet into a tizzy over how weird the offering was. It’s not completely out of left field considering Taco Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands also owns KFC, but its called Taco Bell for a reason, and my mind doesn’t exactly jump to chicken wings when I’m thinking about prominent examples of Mexican food.

The Naked Egg Taco

Image: Taco BellImage: Taco Bell

Taco Bell began dabbling with breakfast in 2014. But while breakfast burritos can be a staple in breakfast culture, you know Taco Bell, and they presented us with this: the Naked Egg Taco. Fried potatoes, two types of cheese, and bacon bits inside of an actual fried egg.

Naked Chicken Chips

There’s a clear theme at Taco Bell of taking a regular food item (i.e. Chalupa shells, see Slide #2) and replacing it with fried chicken. Ergo it was only a matter of time before Taco Bell targeted the tortilla chip. The Naked Chicken Chips were a weird one: triangular-shaped chicken nuggets that you could dip into cheese sauce.

Triplelupa

Image: Taco BellImage: Taco Bell

For those who must order three Chalupas at a time, may I present to you the Triplelupa? The Triplelupa is a variant of the classic Chalupa featuring three conjoined Chalupas which created a Venn diagram of overlapping flavours: cheesy, cheesy chipotle, and chipotle. Granted, each of the three Chalupas weren’t full sized, but it was still an absolute behemoth of an item.

The Mexican Pizza

Image: Taco BellImage: Taco Bell

It has legions of devoted fans, but this needs to be said: the Mexican Pizza is lacklustre. The concoction consists of a layer of beef and refried beans and beef sandwiched between two fried tortillas with cheese, tomato, and Mexican pizza sauce (whatever that is) on top. It all sounds like a halfway decent piece of grub, but it quickly turns into a soggy mess if you wait more than 45 seconds to eat it. However, I seem to be in the minority here as everyone — including popular rapper Doja Cat — loves the Mexican Pizza and went absolutely feral when it was rereleased this past May after being discontinued in November 2020.

Bonus Item: Conan O’Brien’s Taco Bell Inventions

In 2015, late night host Conan O’Brien visited Taco Bell’s official test kitchen to sample its new innovations — and offered a few of his own, including “La Cona,” burrito fillings stuffed into an ice cream cone, and the “O’Taco,” which featured cabbage, mashed potato, corned beef and beer. Check out the video above to see inside the Taco Bell lab and get a look at Conan’s culinary inventions.