All The Facts About Taco Bell's Quesadillas

The U.S. conception of ethnic foods doesn't always line up with its country of origin — but that's not the case with quesadillas. After all, according to the Mexican Spanish Dictionary, quesadillas are "a tortilla folded in half, stuffed with various foods ... (and) cooked on a griddle or fried." In other words? The Americanized version is relatively close to the popular Mexican dish.

Now, while quesadillas are available at numerous dining establishments throughout the nation, we'd wager any amount — of freshly-cooked quesadillas, that is — that no U.S. business sells more of the folded-over Mexican offshoot than Taco Bell. In fact, considering Taco Bell had more than twice as many U.S.-based locations as the next largest Mexican restaurant chain in 2021 (via Restaurant Business Online), well ... disputing that educated guess seems nigh possible.

Quesadillas may have been absent from Taco Bell's original menu, but that doesn't diminish its status as an irrefutable menu staple in 2022. We can't even recall the last time we visited Taco Bell without ordering a chicken quesadilla (in addition to whatever other outside-the-bun delicacies we craved). Obviously, Taco Bell's quesadillas are undeniably delicious. Yet there's more to the fast food conglomerate's version of this delightfully-simple food item than its mouth-watering nature. With that in mind, we did some digging, and in honor of the fast food item's most fervent fans, we proudly present all the facts about Taco Bell's quesadillas.

Taco Bell's quesadilla comes in three standard varieties

There's no shortage of available avenues to obtain a quesadilla in the 2020s, and the food's ubiquitous modern presence is easily comprehendible. After all, a griddle-cooked tortilla provides an incredibly effective delivery method for whatever fillings you desire. Of course, while there's no limit to what can be cooked inside a quesadilla, the classics (like cheese, chicken, and beef) are classics for a reason. Consequently, as of December 2022, Taco Bell's menu offers three standard quesadilla options to U.S. diners: chicken, steak, and cheese.

Each standard Taco Bell quesadilla contains a three-cheese blend and creamy jalapeño sauce, meaning the only discernible difference between varieties is the additional protein (or lack thereof). That lacking distinction between quesadillas isn't a bad thing, though, since it simplifies the process for restaurant staff — which, in turn, increases the likelihood customers receive their food without delay.

Actually, some key differences do indeed exist between Taco Bell's standard quesadillas — namely, the cost. While the cheese-only quesadilla's lower price ($3.99) is expected given its lack of meat, we were somewhat surprised to see the steak quesadilla cost 60 cents more than its chicken counterpart as of December 2022 ($5.19 for steak versus $4.59 for chicken). Then again, since a 2022 beef shortage led to a 15% price increase for beef by September of that year (via Restaurant Dive), the rationale behind the different quesadilla prices is no real mystery at all.

Taco Bell's quesadillas were introduced nationwide in 2001

When something's existed for an extended period of time, it can be difficult remembering life before that item's introduction. We certainly feel that way about Taco Bell's quesadillas. Frankly, the now-staple menu item is so ingrained in the fast food restaurant's identity that, from time to time, we still need to remind ourselves it wasn't on the original menu (via HuffPost). In fact, while some Reddit users recalled the occasional limited-time quesadilla promotion occurring in the 1990s, Taco Bell didn't offer the griddle-cooked tortilla concoction nationwide until 2001, when it first advertised its then-new chicken quesadilla.

Interestingly, for such a popular item, there's very little information available regarding the initial sale of Taco Bell's quesadillas. Sure, several commercials from 2001 announcing the chicken quesadilla's release can be found (including this one), along with a follow-up from 2002, when the fast food giant first began selling steak quesadillas. But beyond that, we came up largely empty-handed regarding the development of (and thought process behind) Taco Bell's quesadillas. Not that we necessarily need to know all the details surrounding Taco Bell's fateful decision. After all, it's clear the quesadilla won't be disappearing from the Taco Bell menu anytime soon — and two decades after it first appeared? That's really all that matters.

It's fairly easy to replicate at home

Though many of us likely consider ourselves fairly adept home chefs, there's just something about restaurant-prepared food that's hard to top. Now, while some may credit a certain je ne sais quoi to explain restaurant food's supposed superiority, well ... there's usually a fairly quantifiable reason why, say, pizza always tastes better at a restaurant. Consequently, if you're able to discover the precise ingredients and methods involved, you can often replicate many of your favorite restaurant items at home — and Taco Bell's quesadillas are no exception.

Thankfully, when you're craving a Taco Bell quesadilla but can't bring yourself to deal with the drive-thru (or, God forbid, actually go inside a restaurant), the internet has you covered. In fact, numerous copycat recipes are available to help anyone create a top-notch Taco Bell-style quesadilla at home (including one via Food.). Of course, since the key to a successful homemade Taco Bell quesadilla appears to lie in the creamy jalapeño sauce — and Taco Bell isn't exactly forthcoming with its recipe (shocking, we know) — several recipe variations of the creamy jalapeño sauce are available.

We can't say for certain which sauce recipe best resembles the real thing. But given each homemade Taco Bell quesadilla recipe we found utilizes some sort of seasoning-enhanced mayonnaise as the creamy jalapeño sauce, we're confident creating one at home would be a cinch.

A quesadilla-burrito hybrid called the quesarito was introduced in 2014

We can't imagine many folks disagree with the notion that Taco Bell has taken its "think outside the bun" slogan to heart. But the fast food restaurant's commitment to avoiding bun-oriented food items isn't the sole reason it seems to follow the purported wisdom of its catchphrase. After all, Taco Bell has a long history of thinking outside the box as well, and doing the unexpected when it comes to menu items. This includes introducing the quesarito in June 2014, which combined a quesadilla and burrito into one mashed-up masterpiece (via Taco Bell).

Now, if you've never had the unparalleled pleasure of eating a Taco Bell quesarito, well, you can probably envision the experience. After all, a beef, rice, cheese, and sour cream-filled burrito is a delectable delight all on its own; but taking that burrito, and wrapping it inside a quesadilla? It's like manna from heaven.

While we were sorely disappointed to discover the quesarito was removed from menus in 2020 (via Taco Bell), the news wasn't all bad. Because while the item was taken off of menus at its actual restaurants, the quesarito remains available for purchase on Taco Bell's online exclusive menu as of December 2022.

Taco Bell tested Kit Kat quesadillas in 2017

Despite what some may believe, there's no real requirement when it comes to a quesadilla's filling, according to the Mexican Spanish Dictionary. In fact, though many Americans likely presume a quesadilla must include cheese — since the name seemingly combines 'queso' and 'tortilla' — in Mexico City, the food's actually served sans cheese unless requested (via BBC). Given this lack of ingredient restrictions, Taco Bell testing a dessert quesadilla in select U.S. markets in 2017 — the aptly-named chocodilla, which was made with Kit Kats (via USA Today) — is far less bizarre than it appeared at first blush.

Now, we actually remember when Taco Bell tested the chocodilla, which featured Kit Kat candy pieces and melted chocolate grilled inside a tortilla. But given its lacking longevity beyond a short test run, we assumed the Taco Bell dessert item was nothing more than a short-lived experiment. However, according to Taco Bell, the chocodilla is still sold in seven different countries outside the U.S. as of 2022, including Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Spain.

We suppose it's nice that the option to engorge on a chocolate-oozing, non-savory quesadilla still exists around the world. Then again, since we're struggling to wrap our tastebuds around the notion of melted candy inside a grilled tortilla, we're not exactly sprinting to grab our passports to try one.

Numerous quesadilla hybrid concoctions have been created with other Taco Bell items

Taco Bell has never seemed comfortable resting on the laurels of existing Mexican food items. Sure, tacos and burritos and quesadillas (oh my!) make up the core components of its menu. But the consistent addition of absurd (and occasionally limited-time) items — often some mad scientist-esque concoction of two sort-of-stitched together foods — illustrates a clear predilection for innovation. This includes several quasi-quesadilla creations introduced by the fast food chain, such as a smaller, shredded chicken quesadilla melt (found on the menu as of December 2022), and the classic quesarito.

Now, while the quesarito may be the best known example, it clearly wasn't Taco Bell's only attempt to combine its quesadilla with another menu item. In fact, the chain's taken multiple swings at creating quesadilla-like menu items through the years, and even publicly prioritized the improvement of its melted cheese when introducing the quesalupa in 2016 (via Bloomberg).

Like many other items, the quesalupa — a part quesadilla, part chalupa hybrid — has made intermittent appearances on the menu since its initial release (via Taco Bell). In that sense, maybe Taco Bell just can't stop itself from adding melted cheese and a grilled tortilla to menu items. (Not that we're complaining.)

Taco Bell's standard quesadillas aren't terribly unhealthy fast food options

You might not expect a restaurant known for gut-busting indulgences like the steak white hot ranch nacho fries to offer many healthy options to consumers. But just because Taco Bell often embraces the less nutritious side of Mexican cuisine doesn't mean health-conscious diners should avoid the restaurant at all costs. After all, as evidenced by its fairly robust vegetarian menu, Taco Bell can be far healthier than expected at times. So while we wouldn't necessarily call Taco Bell's quesadillas healthy, well, its standard varieties aren't nearly as bad nutritionally as you'd expect from a fast food item.

For starters, each standard Taco Bell quesadilla (cheese, steak, and chicken) comes with a substantial amount of calcium, iron, and protein. Additionally, since its creamy jalapeno sauce is the likely culprit for the item's nutritional deficiencies, asking for light or no sauce can reduce the calorie and fat intake in Taco Bell's quesadillas even further (via Verywell Fit).

Now, we want to be clear that the standard Taco Bell quesadillas make for a somewhat healthier option, not any sort of quesadilla hybrid item. And, according to CNN, the best option may actually be a smaller chicken quesadilla variety, rather than the real McCoy.

Various regional quesadilla versions are available around the globe

To say taste preferences vary by country and culture isn't exactly enlightening. With that said, from an international brand's perspective, that knowledge is downright essential to long-term growth and sustainability. The decision-makers at Taco Bell obviously understand this reality, which helps explain why different quesadilla options (beyond its cheese, chicken, and steak varieties) are offered in different countries, according to its website.

Of course, the presumed logic behind Taco Bell's decision not to offer some of its internationally-sold quesadillas in the U.S. is easy to see. For one thing, the chain's dessert chocodilla — sold in several countries in Central and South America and Europe — was already tested in the U.S. in 2017 (via USA Today). Given the item's fairly quiet disappearance (with no apparent reappearances since then), we can only infer the chocodilla's continued U.S. absence is a product of lacking demand.

Now, the pulled pork quesadilla, on the other hand, which is available in the United Kingdom? We're less understanding about that, and abhor our inability to order it on this side of the pond. Ditto the (not so) stunningly popular kimchi quesadilla sold in South Korea, which, according to former Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol (via Business Insider), accounted for 10% of the restaurant's total sales in the Asian nation in 2016.

Taco Bell offers numerous quesadilla hacks to customize your meal

We're not entirely sure why corporate brands feel the need to try and be cool in the 21st century, but we blame social media. Or maybe social media simply exacerbates the issue. After all, we can't even begin to count the number of times we've witnessed a corporate social media account utterly embarrass itself and embody the Steve Buscemi "30 Rock" meme in real (digital) life. Then again, not all attempts to endear to the modern consumer are eyeroll-inducing — like Taco Bell offering potential quesadilla menu hacks on its website for customers to use, for example.

Secret menu hacks have had a bit of a moment in recent years, so Taco Bell getting in on the action is no surprise. Now, if we're being honest, the fact the chain only provides a pair of possible quesadilla hacks — one for dining in, another for dining at home — felt a bit underwhelming for some reason. But since both potential quesadilla hacks sound fantastic, we're not inclined to be too harsh towards the Bell in this instance.

Additionally, Taco Bell encourages customers to share their own personal quesadilla hacks with the restaurant on social media. Frankly, we can't help but salute Taco Bell's willingness to encourage customer customization — and wish more companies would follow its lead.

It began offering breakfast quesadillas in 2017

When Taco Bell decided to throw its hat into the fast food breakfast ring in 2014, we reacted with little more than a shrug. We don't mean to denigrate the Mexican chain's breakfast menu, of course. Rather, we simply figured it was about time such a large fast food company — the fourth best-selling fast food chain in the U.S. in 2021, in fact (via QSR) — expanded to the early morning hours. Now, while its breakfast announcement was far from unexpected, its lack of a breakfast quesadilla option before 2017 was utterly jaw-dropping to discover.

Our apologies for the momentary hyperbole, but we still can't believe a breakfast quesadilla wasn't among the restaurant's initial A.M. offerings, particularly given the food item's central place on Taco Bell's hierarchy. Of course, since we don't have to live in a time before Taco Bell sold a folded-over tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, meat, and cheese, we might as well recover from the shock and move on.

After all, though a breakfast quesadilla still wasn't on Taco Bell's permanent menu when it was included in the $5 Breakfast Box in April 2022 (via The Street), a standalone bacon breakfast quesadilla is listed on its menu as of December 2022. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

A Beyond carne asada steak quesadilla began testing in 2022

The rise of fake meat over the past half-decade has been fairly astonishing to witness. We're not complaining by any means, but if you'd told us in 2010 that a slew of fake meat products would be both widely sold and taste nearly identical to actual animal flesh by the end of the decade, we can't say we'd have believed you. Clearly, though, fake meat isn't going anywhere, hence Taco Bell's collaboration with Beyond meat to release a steak quesadilla made with Beyond steak in September 2022.

Of course, as is often the case with such things, the Beyond steak quesadilla was relegated to a limited-time release specific to Dayton, Ohio for this initial run. So while us non-Ohio residents will have to wait our turn to sample the Beyond steak, we're willing to wait. Then again, since the new quesadilla hit all the expected flavor notes found in a regular steak quesadilla (according to a review by Business Insider), we just might have to plan a road trip to Dayton ASAP.