I love Taco Bell, and I love spicy foods. Alas, those two things have never really intersected. Fire Sauce, while crazy delicious, is startlingly mild. Four years ago Taco Bell introduced the supposedly hotter Diablo sauce, which brought a whole bunch of smokiness to the Taco Bell sauce game, but not enough heat for me. Now, we can welcome the next level up: Reaper Ranch tortilla chips, which promise to “set the snack world ablaze.” As someone who very much enjoys Taco Bell’s other hot sauce-flavored chips, I cautiously welcomed news of this addition to the canon.
Now, having tasted them, I can say with certainty: Structurally and texturally, the chips are spectacular. They’re a bit heftier than most other store brand tortilla chips, with a nice crunch that would probably hold up very well with any dip or as part of a nacho-type situation. I also liked the fact that they weren’t covered in a glut of chemical-tasting powder that stuck to my fingers. It feels like a premium chip, and I appreciate that Taco Bell, of all places, was willing to go the extra mile to make a top-notch snack. But all of that thought and care would be for naught if this was yet another chip with all bark and no burn.
Ladies and gentleman, I am pleased to announce that at long last, Taco Bell has brought the heat.
The Carolina Reaper currently holds the record as the hottest pepper on earth, measuring 2.5 million units on the Scoville scale (for reference, a jalapeño registers 8,000 units). This is a pepper that, honestly, should probably not be consumed by humans. Wisely, Taco Bell has decided to temper it with ranch, and very good ranch at that. I expected this to taste like Cool Ranch Doritos, since Taco Bell and Frito-Lay have long been collaborating on Doritos Locos tacos. But this ranch had a cleaner, tangier flavor that reminded me of one of my favorite chips, the criminally underrated Rap Snacks Migos Sour Cream With A Touch Of Ranch Potato Chips. The cooling flavor of buttermilk-ranch was the perfect opening act on the tongue, setting the stage for the Reaper’s entrance.
The Reaper first made itself known as a slight smokiness in the back of the throat, before moving forwards, tingling the tip of my tongue. Quickly the flavors began to swell, and there it was: the raging heat of the Carolina Reaper. Incredibly, it did not taste like pain or like an unfortunate bar bet that needed all my strength to power through. The ranch provided enough balance that I could still taste the chip, and could discern some of the peppers’ non-spicy flavors.
I had kept a glass of milk nearby as a bit of a joke, thinking I wouldn’t touch it. As I made my way through the bag, I ended up drinking two. I’ll pick up a quart the next time I’m grabbing these chips, and yes, there will be a next time.