When I approached the register to purchase my Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos, the cashier paused, then gave the promotional poster beside us a good, hard look before keying in the order. “Sorry,” she said. “I haven’t rung one of these up yet. But I’m so interested in them!” To say I vociferously agreed with her would be an understatement.
The Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco has been swimming in my prefrontal cortex for months, ever since the product first made its debut in test markets. Today is the day, finally, when we can all determine for ourselves whether this is more of a sandwich or a taco—but more importantly, whether it’s delicious enough to keep on the menu long after the Chicken Sandwich Wars draw to a close.
There are two varieties of Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco: the regular version, which comes with creamy chipotle sauce, and spicy, which comes with both creamy chipotle sauce and a couple of pickled jalapeño slices. Let me first state what should be obvious, for anyone following along in our chicken sandwich sampling saga: You’ll want to go with spicy. You should pretty much always go with spicy. It tends to come with a more generous helping of sauce, which helps to jazz up notoriously blah fast food buns, and in this case, the jalapeño slices also add a nice textural dimension to an otherwise very straightforward menu item.
The flavors and textures of Taco Bell’s latest offering will not surprise you, but they will satisfy you. Looking at the promotional photos of the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco, I’m willing to bet that you can conjure a good idea of what that tastes like, right? It’s not a curveball like the Ch’King or the Apple Pie Hot Dog. You know more or less what creamy chipotle is going to be. You’ve tasted pickled jalapeños before. You know what breaded chicken tastes like. Then, of course, there are the textures: the crunch of the veg, the yielding bite of the chicken, the richness of the ample sauce. The puffy, pliable, pillowy bread it’s all wrapped in is a downright triumph. More puffy flatbread in fast food, please!
Taco Bell is clearly excited to be adding crispy chicken to the menu. A press release says the chicken is marinated in jalapeño buttermilk, seasoned with Mexican spices, and rolled in a tortilla chip coating. None of those flavors were evident to me; maybe the 11-minute drive home stripped the chicken of its complexity, but it tasted like thinly breaded chicken, no more no less. It was no longer crispy (that’s a thick sauce to contend with!), but perfectly fine. And ultimately, it doesn’t have to be any more than fine, because the creamy sauce, jalapeño slices, and that magical bread made for a delicious experience for right around two bucks.
Some of our readers who have already tasted the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco in its early test markets pointed out that the size is a little unsatisfactory; it’s certainly smaller than one of Taco Bell’s classic tacos. You can down this thing in three to four bites, I’d say. But every fast food joint needs its equivalent of a McDonald’s Snack Wrap, for those moments when your cravings outpace your appetite. Another benefit of the Chicken Sandwich Taco is that it’s a pretty tidy little package. It can easily be held in one hand and eaten with minimal spillage.
If we can go ahead and place the Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco alongside other fast food chicken sandwiches, then it is a strong contender. Not only for its flavor and texture, but because many other fast food sandwiches are a slog, leaving you struggling to finish the last few bites while they’re still at their piping-hot best, while this taco-wich is over before it has a chance to disappoint. In a flash, it has provided you with a decent amount of heat, a fleeting bite of crispy breading (eat it quick!), and a low-commitment experience you’ll mostly forget until you pass your next Taco Bell drive-thru and think, “Yep, I could go for one of those right now.” I still don’t know if it’s a sandwich or a taco, but it’s definitely what I was hoping for. Too bad it’ll only be available for a limited time.