Taco Bell Mexican Pizza: The Real Thing Is A Far Cry From The Photos

When you go to a Taco Bell to get a Mexican Pizza, you have certain expectations -– whether it's the first or 101st time you've eaten one. No one wants their expectations dashed by an employee in a rush. However, it's easy to forget that everyone is expecting an idealized Mexican Pizza and not one slapped together with very little thought. We went to Taco Bell and ordered both an original and a vegetarian Mexican pizza, with an eye to whether we were getting what we expected from the experience.

We analyzed everything from the pizza crust and the filling to all the toppings to determine if the Mexican Pizza we got was the Mexican Pizza we expected. We viewed it both through the lens of someone trying one for the first time after seeing an ad as well as comparing it through the lens of past experiences with the pizza. It certainly didn't look like the idealized Mexican Pizza from the ads, but how did the whole experience compare?

Differences in the pizza crust

The crust on the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza in the ads looks yellowish like a corn tostada, so you could easily assume that it's a corn tortilla. However, if you look more closely at the ingredient list for the pizza shell, it has both bleached wheat flour and ground corn. The fact that there's wheat flour mixed with corn is more evident when you order it. The surface has more of a fried bubbled look than in the ad. The flavor lands square in the middle of the flavor of a fried flour and corn tortilla with more of a pastry texture.

Realizing that the crust for the Taco Bell pizza isn't corn may be disappointing for people who need to eat gluten-free. However, we think the unique combination of wheat and corn flour in the tortilla is part of what makes the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza experience so different than just eating a Taco Bell tostada (not that you can find tostadas on the menu anymore). We found the pizza crust to be the same or perhaps even better than our past experiences with it since it was crisp and tasty.

Differences in the meat and bean filling

We ordered both a regular Mexican pizza with meat and bean as well as a vegetarian Mexican pizza with just beans inside. In Taco Bell ads, the filling is thick and goes all the way to the edge of the crust. The reality was quite different. For both the vegetarian and meat pizza, the filling was slapped onto the bottom crust haphazardly, without attempting to ensure that the filling would go all the way to the edge.

The pizza came cut into four pieces, so some pieces had more filling than others. Some pieces were stuffed full of filling, while others barely had any, especially the closer you got to the edge of the pizza. So if you end up buying a Mexican Pizza to share around the table, chances are that not everyone is going to get decent pieces. However, it's easier to hide skimping on the filling when there's an extra tortilla on the top to hide the poor production job.

However, when it came to comparing the flavor to past experiences, we'd say it seemed more flavorful than we remembered, with the meat having a distinctive Mexican seasoning flavor rather than tasting just like salty meat. We had a difficult time detecting any beans in the original one, but there were a few. 

Differences in the Mexican Pizza sauce

The Mexican Pizza sauce in the ad looks more like red ketchup or hot sauce than anything else, so we appreciate that it tastes better in real life than it looks in the ad. However, the ad shows far more pizza topping on the crust than we got. In fact, the employee who made our vegetarian Mexican Pizza seemed to have missed the tortilla altogether, with most of the sauce ending up in the box rather than on the pizza.

Once you taste it, you realize that it's not just hot sauce squirted on top of the pizza, but this sauce has a distinctive flavor. It's also more of a brownish than reddish color, and a lot thinner than in the ads. You can find pieces of diced tomatoes and diced green chili peppers in the sauce, and it also has a slight sweetness to go along with its savory Mexican flavor profile. Overall, it's a decent-tasting sauce when combined with all the other flavors on the pizza, but it would be helpful if more of the sauce landed on the pizza than in the box.

Differences in the tomato toppings

If we got tomatoes at a fast food restaurant that looked like the tomatoes in a fast food ad, we'd be shocked. So we didn't have high expectations for the tomatoes on our Mexican Pizza. Of course, the ad shows bright, juicy red ripe pieces of diced tomatoes. But the reality was far less appetizing. While there were a couple of reddish tomatoes on our Mexican pizzas, the majority were pink and barely ripened. Since we purchased this Mexican Pizza in the middle of the summer when it's high season for juicy, ripe tomatoes, we were a little disheartened. If this is as good as the tomatoes get at Taco Bell, it's kind of sad.

We barely noticed the flavor of the tomatoes when chomping down on a slice of pizza. However, we made the mistake of separating a couple of pieces of diced tomatoes from the pizza to analyze them, and they were disgusting. They actually tasted fishy. Why even bother putting tomatoes on the menu when they're that bad? Luckily, the flavors in the meat and sauce covered over the nasty flavor of the fishy pink tomatoes. We may think twice about getting tomatoes on our Mexican Pizza next time.

Differences in the cheese toppings

The cheese on the Mexican pizza product listing on Taco Bell's website barely looks melty. However, when Taco Bell made the announcement on Instagram in 2022 that Mexican Pizzas were back on the menu to stay, the cheese was beautifully stringy like an idealized pizza. So, that's what we were hoping for when we dug into our Taco Bell Mexican pizza. Luckily, the blend of mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey Jack, and American cheeses on the pizza had gotten hot enough to melt somewhat. So the cheese was stringy when we lifted a piece from the pizza.

Overall, the cheese experience was a good one. It looks better than in the website product listing but not quite as gooey as the Instagram ad. So it was a happy medium. And they didn't seem to have skimped on the cheese at all, which is probably the most important thing when it comes to the cheese content of a pizza of any sort. However, the cheese didn't seem to add a lot of flavor to the pizza -– mostly texture.

How it compares to our memory of Taco Bell's original Mexican Pizza

The original Taco Bell Pizza that came out in 1985 included extra ingredients that aren't on today's Mexican Pizza –- black olives and green onions. With all those toppings, it looked a lot more like a real pizza. The olives were gone by the early 1990s, so we barely expect to see those. However, green onions have been a part of the Mexican Pizza experience at Taco Bell in relatively more recent history. Unfortunately, green onions disappeared from everything on the Taco Bell menu after an E. coli outbreak at Taco Bells on the east coast in 2006. While green onions may not have been the culprit in the outbreak as originally thought, the chain has kept them off the pizza ever since as a precaution. Since onions are among the foods most likely to be recalled, it might not be a bad idea. 

Somehow, we still expect to see green onions and maybe even olives on our Mexican Pizza. If you look at pictures of copycat Taco Bell Mexican Pizzas, a lot of them still have olives and green onions on the pizza, and sometimes even a drizzle of sour cream. But, alas, there has been no vegetable representation except tomatoes atop Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza since 2006. Still, we can't help but be a little sad every time we get a Mexican Pizza without at least green onions on top.

How the taste compares to the expectation

If you just look at an image of Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza, you'd expect the flavor of corn tortillas with beef, beans, hot sauce, cheese, and fresh ripe tomatoes. The visual doesn't promise a pizza bursting with flavor. Luckily, the experience is far more flavorful than you'd expect, which is why people keep ordering this classic menu item. Rather than the crust tasting like a corn tortilla as you'd expect, it has a crisp, pastry-like flavor that straddles the world of wheat and corn tortillas. The meat and beans are more flavorful than expected, with the meat having a mixture of Mexican seasonings that combine well with all of the other flavors of the pizza.

The sauce is better than Taco Bell hot sauce, but it has an unexpected sweet taste that gives it a flavor that's perhaps somewhere between the Mexican and Italian tomato sauce world. It's not something you'd want a bottle of to take home with you, but it works in conjunction with all the other flavors on the pizza. The cheese tastes exactly as you'd expect it to taste. However, the fishy and barely-ripened flavor of the tomatoes was far below the low bar we generally set for fast-food tomatoes.

The verdict: overall visual and taste comparisons

Taco Bell's Mexican Pizzas have been imitated, but there's nothing quite like them. However, we have certain expectations based on past experiences and seeing ads for the product. Overall, the pizza didn't look much like the ads. The filling seemed like an afterthought and barely covered some of the pieces of the pizza. The sauce on our vegetarian pizza was mainly in the box rather than on the pizza. And the chain isn't sourcing high-quality tomatoes for its pizza. We feel that the tomatoes would have been better left off the pizza altogether.

Somehow, the pizza still tasted good despite having major flaws. But it just wasn't anything like you see in pictures of Mexican Pizzas. We thought we'd get a better pizza by visiting at the end of lunch when the location wasn't very busy. We could understand under-filled pizzas with sauce tossed willy-nilly when the employees are working like robots during a lunch rush. However, it's a little disappointing to have the same subpar experience when the location isn't very busy. At $5.99, the Mexican Pizza is currently the most expensive item at Taco Bell, so you'd expect it to be a little more robustly filled with higher-quality ingredients and to have been made with care worthy of the premium price tag. Despite our mediocre experience, we'll still keep ordering Mexican Pizzas at Taco Bell in the future since they're one of the better menu items.