Read This Before You Order A Soft Taco From Taco Bell

Taco Bell's soft tacos have been on the menu for over 50 years now, so they're nothing new (via Taco Bell Fandom). The ingredients are simple: They mostly just contain a flour tortilla, seasoned beef, lettuce, and cheese. Despite having prevailed as one of Taco Bell's top menu items for so long, we bet there's a lot you don't know about soft tacos.

According to Brand Directory, Taco Bell was the sixth most popular restaurant in the U.S. in both 2021 and 2022. The only burger restaurant that currently beats out Taco Bell in terms of popularity is McDonald's. Many people seem to be looking for alternatives to burgers when they want fast food, and soft tacos certainly fit into the non-burger category. 

There's much to know about the history of Taco Bell's soft taco: Some trivia will give you a better appreciation for this classic. Plus, there are several Taco Bell soft taco hacks that will help you enjoy them even more. 

Soft tacos weren't on the original Taco Bell menu

If you had visited the first Taco Bell when the restaurant originally opened in 1962, you would have only found five items on the menu: Frijoles (beans with cheese), tostados (similar to today's tostadas), chili burgers (later called Bellburgers), burritos, and tacos (via Newsnation). However, the original tacos at Taco Bell were crunchy, not soft (via Huff Post).

Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, capitalized on the crunchy taco shell, which was likely invented by Mexicans (via Smithsonian). However, it wasn't until 1970 that Taco Bell added a soft taco to its menu lineup. 

The crunchy taco was the top item on the menu before Taco Bell added the soft taco. However, fans were truly enamored with the soft taco as an alternate offering. During its first two years (1970 and 1971), the soft taco became the best-selling menu item at Taco Bell and every other fast food restaurant in the USA (via Taco Bell Fandom). 

The soft taco only contains a flour tortilla, ground beef, lettuce, and shredded cheese. It was simple, but fast-food-goers were impressed. Nobody was offering wraps yet, so nothing like the soft taco was available from major fast food chains at the time. 

Flour-based tacos are an authentic Mexican food

You may think "real" Mexican tacos consist of a soft corn tortilla. However, Mexico has a variety of regional cuisines, so tacos from each area are different based on the immigrants who settled there and the ingredients that are available to you. 

According to the Mexican author Gustavo Arellano, Mexicans have been consuming tacos for a long time, particularly in terms of stuffing food into tacos (via Atlas Obscura). Additionally, according to Arellano, some people assume that flour tortillas are recent inventions, but the origins are quite complex (via Splendid Table).

Corn tortillas have been around for centuries in Mexico, but flour tortillas are common in the Northern part of Mexico. There's a possibility that Jews who moved to the New World in the 1500s may have created flour tortillas as a kosher, lard-free alternative to corn tortillas (via Food52). Although, Arellano says it's also a possibility that flour tortillas came to Northern Mexico and the Borderlands with the Spanish Moors. 

Whatever way flour-based tacos came to Northern Mexico, contemporary Northern Mexicans still use flour tortillas in their cuisine, so flour-based tacos are still very much authentically Mexican.

Soft tacos are the second most popular item at Taco Bell

Brand Eating released a list of the top five menu items at Taco Bell, and Thrillest confirmed the list by emailing the Taco Bell corporation. Taco Bell's top seller is the original crunchy taco. While the soft taco was the most popular item for the first two years it was on the menu, the novelty wore off eventually, demoting the soft taco to the second position. 

The popularity of crunchy tacos over soft tacos may have everything to do with the fact that crunchy tacos are crunchy rather than soft. Smell and taste researcher Alan Hirsch, M.D. told Mental Floss that people often enjoy the crunchiness of hard tacos. He says that when we hear the sound of crunchy foods, we want to eat more. 

According to gastrophysicist Charles Spence, Ph.D. we assume foods are fresher when they are crunchier. Thus, items such as apples and celery, which are crunchy, contain several vitamins and nutrients, especially when they are fresh.  

So, even when we're eating junk food like chips, our brain is convinced we're eating uber-healthy food and urges us to eat more. The same goes for tacos. People simply buy more crunchy tacos than soft tacos because their brain convinces them they need more, pushing soft tacos into the second most popular position on the Taco Bell menu.

The seasoned beef in soft tacos isn't 100% beef

The truth about Taco Bell's "seasoned meat" is that around 12% of the ingredients aren't really comprised of any meat. Sure, 88% of the "seasoned beef" is real cow meat (via First We Feast). But it's the 12% that makes people pause. 

If you make taco meat in your own kitchen, you're likely to add many of the ingredients Taco Bell puts in its seasoned beef. These ingredients include salt, chili pepper, tomato powder, sugar, onion powder, other spices, smoke flavor, and even cocoa. You might even add oats (as Taco Bell does) to your hamburger meat since they help lean meat stick together.

However, there are a few other ingredients in the "seasoned meat" that might not be as familiar. It contains cellulose (fiber found in plant cell walls), maltodextrin (a thickener and filler), soy lecithin (an emulsifier and flavor protector), disodium inosinate & guanylate (a naturally-derived flavoring), and sodium phosphates (a thickener and preservative). It also contains more familiar ingredients like yeast, citric acid, dextrose, lactic acid, and cornstarch. Luckily, all of these are safe ingredients in small amounts.

The soft taco is not as healthy as the crunchy taco

When people try to make a healthier choice at Taco Bell, they often go for the soft taco, assuming it's healthier since the flour tortilla is not fried like the crunchy taco shell is. However, the truth about Taco Bell's soft taco is that it has more calories, sugar, and sodium than Taco Bell's crunchy taco

The soft taco has 180 calories, while the crunchy taco has 170 calories. Eating a soft taco will provide you with 500 milligrams of sodium in comparison to the crunchy taco's 300 milligrams of sodium. The soft taco also has over 1 gram of sugar, while you'll find less than a gram in a crunchy taco.

The soft taco is better if you're looking for a higher protein, lower fat option. The soft taco has more protein: 9 grams in comparison to the crunchy taco's 8 grams. And the soft taco has 9 grams of fat, compared to the crunchy taco's 10 grams.

Ordering your soft taco fresco style gets you more veggies

If you're looking for a healthier way to order your soft taco, ordering it "fresco style" will result in a soft taco with more veggies, less fat, less cholesterol, less sodium, and fewer calories. Ordering anything fresco-style at Taco Bell means that the only toppings on the protein in the taco are lettuce and tomatoes, sans the cheese.

The original soft taco comes with lettuce and cheese, so ordering a soft taco fresco style adds tomatoes and subtracts cheese. According to Taco Bell's nutrition calculator, simply taking away the cheese eliminates 20 calories, 3 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of protein.

Tomatoes are normally a soft taco supreme option (along with sour cream). However, adding tomatoes to your original soft taco adds a gram of sugar. So, if you need to eliminate sugars in your diet, you might consider ordering it without tomatoes or cheese. 

The tortillas come from the Mission tortilla company

According to a Taco Bell employee, the fine print on the labels on Taco Bell's tortilla boxes indicates the tortillas are from Mission (via Reddit). Taco Bell confirms that its tortillas are from Mission in the FAQ about the ingredients. It's probably only a coincidence that both companies have a bell as a logo, right?

According to Mission, it's the top tortilla company in the U.S. Mission tortillas is certainly an excellent brand, and it prides itself on being authentic. However, Mashed only considered it the fourth-best tortilla brand when we ranked tortillas from worst to best since the brand doesn't have as strong a commitment to healthy ingredients as some other brands. 

If you want to make soft tacos at home that are similar to Taco Bell's, Mission's Soft Taco Restaurant Style Flour Tortillas are probably the best ones for doing so if they're easily available in your area. 

The tortillas used in the soft taco have been to outer space

Taco Bell uses Mission tortillas. NASA quickly adopted the same Mission tortillas for its longer missions aboard the International Space Station (via Business Insider). NASA opted for tortillas because it didn't pose the same problems as bread, which tends to crumble in space. 

However, the shelf life of tortillas was still an issue. NASA tried to make its own tortillas, which lasted for about six months. Taco Bell's tortillas can last for almost up to a year without becoming bitter or reducing in quality.

Not having to restock tortillas mid-mission was helpful. Plus, NASA was happy to leave the tortilla business (via Grunge). Of course, Taco Bell's tortillas won't last for space missions that are longer than a year. 

NASA reports that it plans to one day solve the tortilla longevity problem by having future astronauts grow their own high-yield wheat to make their own tortillas. For now, it's Taco Bell's tortillas to the rescue.

You can order the soft taco vegetarian or vegan

If you walk into a Taco Bell and use the kiosk to order, there's a magical new option called "Veggie Mode," which allows you to instantly find the veggie options on the menu. However, under the tacos section of the menu, you will likely only see the spicy potato soft taco. Having only one soft taco option on the menu can be disheartening, but you're always welcome to hack the Taco Bell menu. 

Anything Taco Bell has on the menu is fair game for your soft taco. However, if you're using the online menu or kiosk to order a soft taco, you're a little more limited than if you're ordering in person. According to Taco Bell, its tortillas are vegan. Vegan ingredients you can add or substitute for meat include black beans, hash browns, jalapeños, onions, potato bites, premium guacamole, red strips, seasoned refried beans, seasoned rice, and tomatoes. It also offers several AVA-certified sauces, including breakfast salsa and red sauce. 

All of its hot sauce packets are also vegan. According to Taco bell, vegans can order any vegetarian item "fresco style" to ensure it's vegan. In addition to the vegan ingredients, Taco Bell says vegetarians can add eggs (during breakfast hours), reduced-fat sour cream, and the three-cheese blend. The avocado ranch, creamy chipotle, creamy jalapeno, nacho cheese, and spicy ranch sauces are also vegetarian.

Taco Bell once introduced a BLT soft taco

In 1995, Taco Bell announced three new menu items featuring bacon, including a BLT soft taco. That year, other major fast food chains like McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and Arby's rolled out sandwiches with bacon. So, it seemed like an obvious step for the booming taco chain. 

The BLT soft taco was only 99 cents, but unlike burgers with bacon, people just didn't go for tacos with bacon. Taco Bell's chicken club burrito and bacon cheeseburger burrito also didn't do well, as evidenced by none of these menu items sticking around for long (via Mashed).

 It wasn't long until all three of these bacon-based menu items slipped back quietly into the night. Taco Bell customers in 1995 just weren't ready to embrace bacon in their Tex-Mex. However, today, bacon is popular in everything from soap to lip balm. In 2022, Mashed suggested that bacon jam is an ingredient you should be putting on your taco but aren't, so maybe we're ready to try it again in the 2020s.

There are a lot of ways to hack Taco Bell's soft taco

There are many ways to hack Taco Bell's soft taco. Do you see a new crunchy taco that looks good, but you prefer soft tacos? No problem. Just ask for it as a soft taco instead (via YouTube). And you can always customize with upgrades and add-ons from the menu.

Are you missing the Cheesarito? According to Tasting Table, to get a Cheesarito, you should simply order a soft taco minus lettuce, plus taco sauce and scallions (if available).

The Tasting Table also explains how to get a soft taco with a kick but without added calories from sauces. A spicy, healthy soft taco is can be consumed by ordering a soft taco with jalapeños.

An Overloaded Potato Soft Taco is a vegetarian twist on the soft taco that doesn't rely on beans. To get it, substitute the meat in the soft taco for potatoes. Ask to substitute romaine lettuce for iceberg lettuce (if available). 

Then, ask to add four ingredients: Premium Latin rice (or seasoned rice if not available), guacamole, pico de gallo, and chipotle sauce. Alternatively, you can order the spicy potato soft taco (which already has the potatoes and chipotle sauce) and just add the romaine, rice, guacamole, and pico de gallo (via Thrillist).

Taco Bell organized a soft taco-eating contest in Puerto Rico

Taco Bell hosts the Why Pay More! Challenge in Puerto Rico with $100 for every taco eaten going to the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico. The challenge? Contestants are to eat as many tacos as possible in 10 minutes.

The reigning champion soft taco eater is the world's top competitive eater, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. His earlier world record was 53 tacos in 10 minutes (via Major League Eating). However, in 2017, he broke his own world record by eating 126 tacos in eight minutes (via YouTube). That figure works out to one taco every eight seconds, which is a staggering number of tacos to cram into your mouth and down into your stomach at one time. Nobody was going to come close to beating him, but they certainly tried.

Chestnut says he does training exercises to prepare himself for his eating competitions, which involve working his muscles to push food down and belching exercises. He also runs to work on breathing control, so he doesn't choke on his food (via Mashed).

There's a proper way to reheat your soft tacos

Sure, you can eat your leftover Taco Bell soft tacos cold from the fridge, but you don't have to. However, there are wrong and right ways to reheat your soft tacos. The wrong way is to heat all the ingredients together because the lettuce shouldn't be reheated, and different ingredients require different reheating times and methods.

The first thing you should do is separate the tortilla from the other ingredients. La Academie offers three methods for reheating your tortilla. If you're using the microwave, wrap the tortilla in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds. If you're heating it up in the oven, you should wrap the tortilla in foil and heat it for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

If you prefer to grill it, you will need to grill the tortilla in foil for five to eight minutes. For a grilled taco, reheat the tortilla in butter in a pan on the stovetop instead (via Reddit). Then, cook the meat and cheese mixture on top of the stove or for one to two minutes in the microwave.

You can get cheap tacos by subscribing to the taco-a-day program

In January, 2022, Taco Bell announced a nationwide taco-a-day subscription program. Depending on the location, you could get a subscription for a taco a day for only $10 (via CNBC). 

A soft taco costs $2.29 (depending on location), which would normally make eating a soft taco every day for 31 days cost $70.99. So, getting a taco subscription could save you $70.99. Even better, you can choose from crunchy, soft, spicy, or Doritos Locos in original or supreme varieties.

Of course, Taco Bell is betting people who order a free taco every day will order more than just a taco during their visit, so they ultimately end up making more money than they otherwise would. Chances are, you won't want to eat Taco Bell every day of the month. 

Jeremy Schneider of NJ Advanced Media tried eating a taco every day with his subscription By day 30, he was sick of Taco Bell, even though he loved the food served by the chain. Luckily, if you only use the subscription for five days of the month, you've still saved money.