After two years of much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the dearly departed Mexican Pizza returned to Taco Bell menus on May 19. The comeback was heralded by celebrities including Doja Cat and Dolly Parton, as well as at least one beloved Takeout contributor. But now, four days since the pizza’s return, some T-Bell customers are asking: Has the Mexican Pizza... changed?
As of today, numerous Taco Bell fans have taken to the tweets to argue that the newly returned Mexican Pizza seems off. “The Mexican pizza is NOT as good this time around,” tweeted one customer. “Just got my hands on #mexicanpizza and they changed the crust—no longer flaky goodness,” tweeted another.
It’s an Uncanny Valley situation, like when a shell-shocked soldier returns from war. The soldier looks like his old self, and mostly acts like his old self, but he’s not the same man. So, did Taco Bell secretly tweak the Mexican Pizza’s formula? There was only one way to find out.
First, let’s review the timeline:
1985: Taco Bell introduces the Mexican Pizza. Per CNN, it’s originally dubbed the “Pizzazz Pizza,” which is very cute.
1994: I am born into a family that, given the opportunity, would eat Mexican Pizzas for every meal. I can’t confirm this, but I suspect that my parents skipped the baby food and fed me pureed Mexican Pizza until I could chew solids.
November 2020: The beloved menu item is eliminated as Taco Bell culls its menu during the height of the pandemic. My family weeps.
May 2022: The menu item returns for $4.49 a pop, looking just like the pizza we know and love. My family rejoices.
I present this timeline because it’s integral to my core argument: that the Mexican Pizza’s formula has probably evolved quite a bit over the years, but there’s no significant difference between the last Mexican Pizza I ate in 2020 and the Mexican Pizza I sampled today, on May 23, 2022.
I popped out to grab my Mexican Pizza from a Taco Bell location near The Takeout’s office. It’s clear that the brand is leveraging the pizza’s return as a major marketing opportunity, from the banner outside that read “MEXICAN PIZZA IS BACK” to the touchscreen ordering kiosks that
suggested demanded I add a Mexican Pizza to my meal. I did as I was told, selecting the beef Mexican Pizza instead of its meatless bean-based counterpart.
A few minutes later, I received my prize: seasoned beef and refried beans smashed between two Mexican Pizza “shells”—basically two tostadas—and topped with tomatoes, a three-cheese blend, and Taco Bell’s signature Mexican Pizza sauce. I should note that my pizza was a little saucier than normal (see above), but that wasn’t going to hold me back from embracing my old friend.
Before I took my first bite, I considered the so-called “changes” that some customers noticed. My sister told me she received a surprisingly large pile of refried beans on her pizza when she tried it over the weekend. My brother agreed, noting that his pizza also seemed cheesier than Mexican Pizzas past. A columnist for The Olympian, a newspaper in Olympia, Washington, wrote that it all comes down to the shell. “This shell has less of the lip-smacking flavor of the original, and the texture has changed a bit as well,” argues the writer. “The taste was a bit more flour-heavy, and while the crunch was still there, it was not as pleasurable as the original.”
With all of this in mind, I took a bite. It was just like I remembered it, from the familiar tang of the sauce to the melted cheese tendrils that lined the bottom of the box. (As a kid, I learned to scrape these off of the box with my fingernail.) Nothing seemed out of place. I took a few more bites, and still couldn’t identify the inconsistencies everyone was talking about.
I reached out to Taco Bell to confirm the formula was the same, but I never heard back. My best guess: the Mexican Pizza’s shell did change slightly—but it happened long before the pizza was originally eliminated in 2020. I’ve been eating these things almost weekly for years, and I noticed a change in the shell sometime between 2016 and 2018. The once-crunchy shell had become flakier and a bit greasier—but it wasn’t a major enough change to deter me from regular MP consumption.
My conclusion: The 2022 Mexican Pizza is the same iteration as the 2020 Mexican Pizza. Sure, the entree’s formula may have changed slightly during its 30-year lifespan—but a little tortilla tweak won’t deter the true fans. Real ones know.