All The Details About Taco Bell's New Cheesy Chicken Crispanada

Ever evolving, Taco Bell has had countless test items rotating on and off its menu since its founding in 1962. For instance, the famed Doritos Locos Taco went through 40 different recipes before it became a staple for the unnamed fourth meal eaten exclusively after last call at any bar that's within walking distance of a Taco Bell. The Taco Bell super fans of the "Living Más" online community have been rigorously tracking leaks and announcements for new Taco Bell menu items out for market testing since 2017, keeping a watchful eye on the almost monthly "experience" periods when new items are rotated in and out of select franchise menus. Earlier this month, the Living Más subreddit heralded the launch of one of Taco Bell's hottest new Mexican-eqsue fast food creations — the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada.

Highly elusive and regionally exclusive, this fried, meat-packed pastry may look like Taco Bell's answer to the Hot Pocket, but it's easily the most buzz-generating item of Taco Bell's third experience of 2023. It's made the local news for the one city currently serving it, it's riled up fans for what other items it may indicate are returning, and it's making all of our tongues anticipate getting singed by its boiling-hot innards. Until we can all experience the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada firsthand, here's all that we know for sure.

What's in the new Taco Bell Crispanada?

Well, cheese and chicken, like it says on the box. MSN's reporters tell us that the Crispanada includes some manner of multi-cheese blend wrapped around shredded chicken, giving the savory pastry a soft, gooey interior. What sets it apart, however, as the flashy name indicates, is that the Crispanada is fried, giving the soft empanada shell a crispy exterior. Empanadas traditionally come fried or baked, with baking generally being the healthier, lighter option. But with Taco Bell's "Live Más" ethos in mind, it only makes sense that the chain's product developers would "think outside the bun" with boiling oil.

The Crispanada comes in two meal packages at two different price points: For $3.49, you can get a Crispanada all on its own, or for a mere five dollars more, it can arrive in a box accompanied by one crunchy taco, a small bag of cinnamon twists, and a medium fountain drink. In either format, the Crispanada comes with a new spicy ranch sauce, which promotional photos show heaped in a small plastic ramekin, leading us to believe that the Crispanada is meant to be dunked into the dressing, cooling the scalding dairy lava inside while still giving it some kick. Nutrition facts aren't yet available for the Crispanada, but for the calorie-conscious, it's a fried pie full of melted cheese meant to be slathered with fancy mayonnaise. You do the math.

How can you get one?

Go to Knoxville, Tennessee. Taco Bell frequently uses single cities for its initial product test markets. Birmingham, Alabama, is where the new $2 Double Stacked Tacos are undergoing market testing right now, for instance, but it's anyone's guess why the birthplace of Ruby Tuesday is where the Crispanada is making its first impressions with customers. Local news outlets have publicly confirmed the Crispanada's availability at two Taco Bell locations so far: one in the neighborhood of Fountain City and one overlooking a shopping center right off Chapman Highway. Chapman Highway is a portion of U.S. Route 441, which stretches from north of Knoxville to Miami, meaning that the latter location offering the Crispanada may have been chosen specifically to catch long-haul road-trippers across the South, which is savvy marketing for one of the most convenient food products on the planet to eat with one hand on the steering wheel.

With typically 10 released in a given year, Taco Bell's Experiences are short-lived. Living Más has the tentative calendar release dates for the remaining seven scheduled this year. The test items for the next three have already leaked. With Experience 4 scheduled to start April 20 (nice) of this year, the Crispanada's days may be numbered.

When will the Crispanada be out for wide release?

Nobody knows, and truth told, it's currently more a matter of "if" than "when." Test items come and go and typically take years in R&D before even receiving limited releases — the trials-by-fire that determine what disappears as an ill-conceived flop and what sticks around as a new staple. The Doritos Locos Taco is one of the standout success stories for Taco Bell. After three years of conception, formulation, and prototyping, the taco with the powder-seasoned snack chip shell was released in select markets in 2012 and went wide after it became the hit that Taco Bell's brain trust predicted it would be. Taco Bell fans reportedly made drives as long as 900 miles to reach a test location for the Doritos Locos Taco, so the bar has been set particularly high for what proves a test item's success.

The Crispanada doesn't seem to be generating the same degree of fast food frenzy as the Doritos Locos Taco, but countless factors are at play in determining whether or not the cheesy chicken pastry will be worth the production and release costs. The late Caramel Apple Empanada dessert lasted for over a decade before being retired in 2019, so perhaps there's room for a new handheld pie on the Taco Bell menu.

Is it replacing the Quesarito?

There's always fan backlash when their favored brand ditches old favorites in favor of some undercooked new hotness, but the demise of Taco Bell's molten cheese-padded burrito can't be pinned on the Crispanada alone. The Quesarito is spending its last month on Taco Bell's menus nationwide with the Crispanada's residency in Knoxville. As of April 20, both items may be going quietly into that good night. The Crispanada's tenure in the scruffy city also coincides with the return of two Taco Bell favorites: the Double Steak Grilled Cheese Burrito and the Bacon Club Chalupa. Both items feature their own healthy helpings of blended, melted cheese, so perhaps the Quesarito's sunsetting has more to do with there not being enough dairy to go around.

Taco Bell's menu is fairly easy to hack, so asking for another tortilla wrapped around your burrito with some cheese in between might be feasible, making the Quesarito less discontinued and more "underground." 

Is Taco Bell going to debut more empanadas?

The Mexican food blog Mexicali Blue mused about this just late last year, so perhaps they've got the Lathe of Heaven in their back pocket and can augur Taco Bell offerings yet to come. If the Living Más leak is reliable, it's a definite no on any more empanadas, at least until August 3 of this year. After that, it's anyone's guess. If Taco Bell now has a workflow in place to produce a sealed pastry shell for the Crispanada, it stands to reason that it could easily do the same for any number of new empanada concepts. Potatoes, a common empanada filling, were infamously stripped from Taco Bell's menu in 2020 but made a triumphant return the following year.

At this point, any prediction for more empanada offerings on the Taco Bell boards is wishful thinking, but it's worth noting that all the ingredients are in place for Taco Bell to branch out into the portable savory pie game. The results of the Crispanada's testing cycle in Knoxville may have implications for the Taco Bell menu beyond its own line item. So if you're someone who believes deeply in living más, you're going to want to vote with your feet in Tennessee.

What's the fans' verdict?

When the Crispanada's first promo image hit the Living Más subreddit, fans announced their excitement in some passionate terms we can't repeat here. Amid all the excitement about alternate filling options was subreddit member Hitmonstahp saying, "I almost don't want it to go national because I know I'll love it, and they'll just take it away," showing just how much Taco Bell's devoted fans suffer from separation anxiety after experiencing their favorite items' disappearance from the restaurant's menu. Other Living Más Redditors waxed nostalgic about the Caramel Apple Empanada, calling out to the Taco Bell gods for the Crispanada to herald their favorite dessert's second coming.

TikTok users and influencers similarly raved about the pie. Several taste testers remarked on the satisfying crunch of the Crispanada's pastry shell. Meanwhile,TikTok food influencer Erin Robinson put out a call to action for her Knoxville followers. Invited to a group taste-testing at Taco Bell's HQ, she called it "by far the group's favorite item," imploring Knoxville residents to ensure the item's success and nationwide rollout, telling them "the country needs you." The buzz is building, but time will tell if the city of the 1982 World's Fair answers the call. May the Sunsphere shine brightly on Crispanada lovers everywhere.