Hark! Taco Bell potatoes have risen! [Updated]

Illustration for article titled Hark! Taco Bell potatoes have risen! [Updated]
Photo: Taco Bell

Update, January 14, 2021: Remember last year when Taco Bell, in an effort to streamline its menu, ditched a whole bunch of stuff that everybody loved? While there was much public hullabaloo about the death of Mexican Pizza, the real victims of the Menu Massacre of 2020 were vegetarians, who have long counted on the Bell as one of the only reliable sources of meat-free fast food, and were cruelly forced to say goodbye to potato bites. Well dry your tears, America, because come March 11, Taco Bell potatoes are back, baby!


For those of you who are not “in the know,” just about any dish on the Taco Bell menu can be made vegetarian by asking to substitute the protein with potato bites. And for the vegans in the room: the potatoes are certified vegan by the American Vegetarian Association, so start daydreaming about all the crazy concoctions you can make with potatoes, beans, and sauce packets. Starting on March 11th, all the Taco Bell potatoes you desire can, and will, be yours.

Taco Bell also announced that just like every fast food restaurant nowadays, they, too, are working on a plant-based “meat” option, and have chosen Beyond Meat as their partner. Don’t expect it on menus too soon, though; the company has only stated that it will be tested this year, meaning it could be many, many months til it arrives. Know what would make a great meat-free placeholder in the meantime, Taco Bell? The 7-Layer Burrito. I shall never forgive the monsters who axed it, and I will never stop demanding justice for the most iconic vegetarian fast food item of all time.

Update, July 20, 2020: After sending a frantic email to Taco Bell on Friday about the fate of the beloved 7-Layer Burrito, we have at last received an email confirming our worst suspicions:

“Taco Bell is simplifying its menu to streamline operations,” wrote the unfortunate PR rep who likely woke up this Monday morning to an inbox with tens of thousands of angry emails to respond to. “While some fan favorites like the 7-Layer Burrito, Potato Bites, and Loaded Grillers may be retiring from menus, we’re excited to permanently introduce the $1 Beef Burrito to the Cravings Value Menu and the return of the $5 Grande Nachos Box for a limited time.”

But here’s the problem, Taco Bell: the 7-Layer Burrito has been a fast food staple for vegetarians for decades—to the meatless masses, it’s as iconic as the Big Mac, or a certain very special chicken sandwich. And why in God’s name would you ever 86 one of your most beloved menu items when it requires no special ingredients and takes all of 20 seconds to assemble? Certainly all your locations will still have rice, beans, guac, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and cheese in their kitchens. And considering that over the past year you’ve been bragging that your menu has been vegetarian-friendly long before the rest of the industry became infatuated with fake meat and cow farts... I mean, none of this makes any sense. Then again, nothing in 2020 makes sense.


Aside from the 7-Layer Burrito, a lot of other stuff is getting the ol’ heave-ho. If you have a special place in your heart for any of these items, you’d better get them quick before they’re cruelly ripped from you in August:

  • Grilled Steak Soft Taco
  • Nachos Supreme
  • Beefy Fritos Burrito®
  • Spicy Tostada
  • Triple Layer Nachos
  • Spicy Potato Soft Taco
  • Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes
  • Loaded Grillers (Cheesy Potato, Beefy Nacho)
  • Chips & Dips
  • Mini Skillet Breakfast Bowl

Our Taco Bell contact, who remains firmly in my prayers, did share one bit of happy news: while Quesaritos will be removed from menus in restaurants, they will still be available online and in the app, so they’re not actually going anywhere. They’re just being coy for some reason.


Original post, July 17, 2020: Rumors began spreading this week via r/LiveMas, the self-described “subreddit for all things Taco Bell,” that the beloved faux Mexican chain was planning to update its menu starting August 13.


A Taco Bell employee reported that the Grande Nacho Box was returning, but the big news was that a whole bunch of items were about to be discontinued: Quesaritos, Loaded Grillers, Triple Layer Nacho, Beefy Frito Burrito, Spicy Tostada, Nacho Supreme, everything with potatoes, and, most tragically, the 7-Layer Burrito (though that last item remains unconfirmed).

We’ve lost so much already this year, starting with the Cool Ranch Doritos Loco Taco. Do we have to lose the 7-Layer Burrito, too?


Already the Redditors have planned campaigns to save the potatoes, which, as we should all know by now, are essential to the best version of a Mexican Pizza. Some have suggested using reverse psychology since, as one argues, “If you ask Taco Bell to keep an item on the menu they’ll get rid of it, but constantly bring back things people don’t care that much about as LTOs.”


People of America, it’s time to act. Raise your voices. Soften Taco Bell’s hard-shell heart into a merciful tortilla, expansive enough to hold all seven layers. Now is the time!

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.

Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.


Burners Baby Burners: Discussion Inferno

Taco Bell is very guilty of menu-creep, they have 60 unique items on their menu right now, including breakfast and beverages but not including variations like choice of meat or size of beverage or “supreme” versions (adding sour cream and chopped tomatoes) even when Taco Bell restaurant menus present some “supreme” versions as entirely separate entities. That menu isn’t as insane as Jack in the Box’s, but it’s still overstuffed with entries that have overlapping tastes and styles, as well as unpopular items, and loss-leader items that aren’t profitable. It makes sense that they’d want to cull some items when customers are being more selective about their choices and profits are down.

That said, there’s not much in common with the items Taco Bell’s getting rid of, so let’s look at the likely reasons why (all prices from the West Los Angeles menu):

- Triple Layer Nachos is already covering ground that 3 other menu items cover, but they’re not difficult to make since they are 3 staples of the restaurant on a bed of chips - cheese, beans, red sauce. The most likely reason is that these are only $1 while other nacho options, including just chips and cheese, cost more.

- Spicy Tostada was always my go-to, it’s great nutritional content for your dollar because it has shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, spicy chipotle sauce, red sauce, and beans on a flat tostada corn shell, all for a dollar. These are all things they are going to have on hand forever, the shell being used in the popular crunchwraps. So it’s obvious that the problem is it’s another $1 menu item, it’s also likely unpopular probably because people have no idea it exists, lost in a sea of other options. I would have recommended they increase the price 50% and put some meat upcharge options on the menu to enhance value, as they don’t have much in salad town to offer and it costs literally nothing to keep this sort of item on the menu.

- Beefy Fritos Burrito is an obvious one, it costs a dollar and requires a specialty item be in stock - Fritos corn chips. The item itself is simple, flour tortilla, spanish rice, ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, and Fritos, and comes with a simple $1 pricetag which is likely why it’s getting the boot. It also shares a lot of its recipe with other burritos on the menu that are a better profit for the restaurant.

- Beefy Nacho Griller is not a well-known item in my neck of the woods, it’s ground beef, nacho cheese, red tortilla strips, and a flour tortilla for $1.99, but it also needs special cooking in the form of a brief trip to the burrito grill press. The red tortilla strips and the extra effort which costs employee time are the outliers for this item, which may have been a low-profit loss-leader.

- Quesarito is one that almost certainly just got lost on the board, it’s $3.19 for a relatively standard array of ingredients with spanish rice, ground beef, nacho cheese, shredded cheese, spicy chipotle sauce, sour cream, and 2 flour tortillas, but with a more time-consuming assemble having to fill one small burrito then lay it into a second tortilla filled with cheese. This one likely died because people either didn’t know it existed or it was too many ingredients and assembly steps which means too much cost, or a combination of both.

- Nachos Supreme is a surprise, it’s not only one of the items they’re well-known for, but it’s incredibly cheap and easy to offer since it’s all staple items against a more premium pricetag of $3.59. Chips, nacho cheese, ground beef, beans, sour cream, and chopped tomatoes, the only real expense is the plastic bowl it comes in and that will remain in use after this is gone. I’d guess this is leaving because there are other nacho items that cover similar ground, but the name alone should have been a keeper.

- Finally, the most expensive item and the one that will find a major amount of pushback, the 7-Layer Burrito which started life as a loss-leader cheapie and has crept up to $3.69. This vegetarian staple classic has almost every staple of the restaurant beans, with spanish rice, beans, sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, 3-cheese blend, and a flour tortilla, but also adds the more expensive and less-used guacamole. This one is a mistake to remove, it’s a simple assembly with a high pricetag and a recognizable name, it’s popular with vegetarian eaters, it’s an excellent highlight of the flavors of the brand, and being less filling at 420 calories it invites customers to purchase additional items to bolster its meal value. My guess is if it’s being pulled, you can blame the 3-cheese blend and guacamole being less common items, the lack of meat making it less popular, and the near-$4 pricetag.