There are roughly three foods for which I’ll risk debilitating heartburn. My mom’s Old Settlers’ Baked Beans, which are packed with enough bacon to cancel out the moral of Charlotte’s Web; pepperoni-stuffed breadsticks from a nearby pizza joint, which reliably result in well-earned indigestion; and Taco Bell, the slightly broader food category for which I’ll always throw caution to the wind. I’ll eat Taco Bell at any time of day or night, and I’ll accept the ensuing heartburn like a badge of honor. So when I learned that Taco Bell is testing White Hot Ranch Fries, a spicy new Nacho Fry variant—also available as a fry-stuffed burrito—I volunteered my guts as tribute.
There are currently 75 Taco Bell restaurants testing the White Hot Ranch entrees; fortunately for Chicago-based Takeout team members, all 75 test locations are located in various Windy City suburbs. I ventured to nearby Skokie for my taste test, but before we get into that, allow me to paint you a gorgeous, stomach-burbling picture. Taco Bell’s White Hot Ranch Fries start with a bed of the chain’s seasoned Nacho Fries. Then the fries are topped with nacho cheese sauce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and something called White Hot Ranch sauce, a buttermilk/ghost pepper concoction. Finally, the fries are topped with your choice of protein: seasoned beef, black beans, or marinated steak, although certain locations may not carry all three. For a more portable option, you can order the White Hot Ranch Fries burrito, which packs all of the same ingredients into a snug flour tortilla.
I ordered both the ground-beef-topped White Hot Ranch Fries and the black-bean-stuffed White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito. I tried the burrito first, mostly because I didn’t have a fork on me and didn’t want to end up with a blob of molten cheese down my shirt. (I did take a few bites of the loaded fries before eating the burrito; I wanted to make sure I captured their essence before they cooled.)
At first bite, I got notes of Taco Bell’s Cheesy Potato Burrito, which contains the same nacho cheese and sour cream. A few bites in, the White Hot Ranch sauce crept up on me. While I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as “white hot”—I didn’t reach for my Diet Coke until about halfway through the burrito—the heat is definitely there to keep you on your toes. Fortunately, the buttermilk in the sauce balances the ghost peppers for a pleasant effect that’s a little smoky, a little sharp, and really tasty.
Stuffed with black beans, cheese, sour cream, fries, and sauce, the burrito was also filling, which, for me, is really saying something. I can usually eat at least two Taco Bell bean burritos before I feel full, but this thing left me oddly satisfied. And while I really enjoyed every bite, I did have two minor complaints: first, the White Hot Ranch sauce didn’t serve up enough Ranch tang for my Midwestern sensibilities; finally, the burrito’s many saucy ingredients—sour cream, nacho cheese, and Ranch sauce—overpowered the beans and fries a bit. I could have done with about 1/3 less wet stuff.
Full from the burrito but committed to my craft, I headed home to grab a fork and dig into the fries. Upon first glance, these fries were loaded down, baby. Each fry was doing some serious heavy lifting under all those toppings; fortunately, the fries held up well after my 20-minute drive home, with little sogginess to speak of.
I enjoyed the White Hot Ranch Fries burrito, but I really, really enjoyed the White Hot Ranch Fries in their purest form. Eating the fries with a fork made me the master of my own destiny as I topped each fry with the perfect amount of cheese, sauce, and ground beef. The tomato also really came through in the fries, brightening up the dish in a way that wasn’t as noticeable in the burrito. My only disclaimer: these fries are MESSY. The following activities are decidedly not White Hot Ranch Fries–approved:
- Operating a motor vehicle
- Riding a carousel
- Off-roading in a four-wheeler
- Herding cattle
- Cradling a baby who hates cheese
- Standing within 30 feet of anyone wearing a wedding dress
Other than that, go nuts. While I was too full to finish both entrees—I am prideful, but I am not a masochist—I enjoyed them both. Of course, the heartburn set in about 20 minutes after my White Hot Ranch feast, which means I’m writing this review with a grimace on my face and hate in my heart. But I’m glad I did it, and I’d do it again. With any luck, White Hot Ranch Fries will grace additional markets in no time.