The truth about Taco Bell Nacho Fries

You may be a true Taco Bell enthusiast if you can say you've gone through the drive-thru at 2 a.m. Or, perhaps you pick up boxes of tacos for every sporting event you and your friends get together to watch at your house. Taco Bell has been an ever-growing staple on the fast food scene since the first location opened in 1962. So how has a fast food chain lasted so long without ever serving a single fry? We honestly have no idea.

Taco Bell enthusiasts had been clamoring for a Tex-Mex inspired version of fast food french fries for years, and the company finally delivered them to eager eaters in 2018. It was the year that Taco Bell's Nacho Fries hit the market, and quite frankly, Taco Bell lovers did a bit more than rejoice — they went crazy for the things.

They were only around for a limited run, but they reappeared a few times over the next couple of years. Taco Bell announced in January 2020 that the famed Nacho Fries were again returning to menus, and again, followers began flocking to restaurants for the seasoned fries with a cult-like following. But what exactly is the craze all about? We decided to take a deeper look. This is the untold truth of Taco Bell's Nacho Fries.

Nacho Fries are Taco Bell's most successful new product

Taco Bell has truly come out with some incredibly creative menu items. Between Doritos Locos Tacos, Double Stacked Tacos, and the forever famed Crunchwrap Supreme, really, it's hard to believe that something as simple as fries with seasoning could be so ridiculously popular.

Yet, here we are. When Nacho Fries debuted in 2018, Nation's Restaurant News reported that within just the first five weeks, 53 million orders had been sold. Those numbers put them on track to dethrone the top product holding the crown at the time — Doritos Locos Tacos. 

Perhaps it was the long wait Taco Bell lovers put up with, or the genius combination of serving up french fries with nacho cheese sauce, but people went wild. "We're seeing fries in one out of every three orders, compared to one out of every four for DLT," Matt Prince, a Taco Bell spokesman, told Nation's Restaurant News regarding the 2018 launch. Apparently, these little morsels of seasoned potatoes were the Taco Bell dish everyone had been waiting for.

Taco Bell's Nacho Fries were introduced during a value menu revamp

The launch of Taco Bell's Nacho Fries in 2018 seems to have been all part of a larger plan to revamp Taco Bell's dollar menu as a whole, and we're going to go out on a limb and say that it worked. In a 2018 press release, Taco Bell introduced the long-awaited Nacho Fries as a new addition to Taco Bell's value menu for only $1.

Prior to the launch, Taco Bell told CNBC that the 2017 $1 menu had brought in over $500 million sales that year, and they wanted to continue to capitalize on that dollar menu craze. Just a month before announcing the release of Nacho Fries, Taco Bell announced they were introducing 20 dollar menu items over the year. Little did we know what a masterpiece they had up their sleeves. 

Speculation was, as other fast food giants like Jack in the Box and McDonald's were revamping their value menus as well, Taco Bell wanted to be sure they debuted something big to make a splash and to make their value menu stand out.

The Nacho Fries launch helped other products at Taco Bell, too

It's pretty obvious that when a company debuts a brilliant new product, sales on that product skyrocket as consumers love to try the latest, greatest thing. But with Taco Bell's Nacho Fries, their launch actually helped the sales on many other Taco bell menu items, too.

With Nacho Fries taking off immediately, bringing in millions in the first few weeks, Taco Bell certainly had a star on its hands. And that celebrity status certainly helped with business. Because most people never go to Taco Bell for just one thing (and no one goes anywhere to order just fries), general sales of other products rose at the same time. After all, what's an order at Taco Bell without at least a few tacos to go with it?

Thanks to that trend, the overall business saw an uptick. According to YUM Brands, store sales were up by one percent in the first quarter of 2018, ending on March 31. "The $1 fries helped the business," Greg Creed, CEO for YUM Brands told Restaurant Business after Taco Bell's quarter one sales call. Perhaps that's the reason for the intermittent offerings? When Taco Bell needs a sales boost, they know they have Nacho Fries to turn to.

Taco Bell's Nacho Fries are not a consistent menu item

While the popular menu item came back for yet another return at the end of January 2020, the jury is still out as to whether Taco Bell will keep Nacho Fries on their menu permanently. The company's track record sure makes it seem like they'll continue to rip them away from fans and bring them back time and time again.

Following the introduction of the fries in 2018, their availability has been intermittent, at best. After their January 2018 debut, Taco Bell stripped them from the menu and announced they would be back for a limited time in June the same year. Months later, another limited-time debut came in January 2019, followed by yet another release in June 2019

It's no wonder that fans are skeptical of just how long they'll stay on the menu. Will they rip them away, only to bring them back in June 2020? Perhaps that's all part of Taco Bell's plans. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? But fans are getting impatient, taking to social media to express their love for Nacho Fries. One fan on Twitter said, "Please when you bring back my nacho fries, just add them to the menu to stay. Never get rid of them again!" For now, only time will tell.

Taco Bell sold fries internationally first

As if it wasn't hard enough to wait for Taco bell to debut their version of french fries, eager eaters had to watch as friends from other countries enjoyed fries as a side at Taco Bell for years before Nacho Fries made their debut in the United States.

In 2016, Business Insider reported that Taco Bell locations in Japan were serving french fries loaded with cheddar and nacho cheese, beef, sour cream, and green onions — a delicious alternative to typical nachos. But that's not all. Locations in Chile were serving up burritos with french fries stuffed inside and locations in Guatemala had a whole menu devoted to fries. Even Canada had several options to add a side of fries before Nacho Fries made their debut in the U.S. 

Once Nacho Fries debuted, American Taco Bell lovers were thrilled to finally get their turn. American dreams do come true.

Taco Bell's Nacho Fries took years to develop

When you consider that all of the major players, McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and more have had fries basically forever, how is it possible Taco Bell didn't complete their development until 2018? Well, it wasn't as simple as dicing up potatoes and throwing them in the fryer. Taco Bell wanted them to be absolutely perfect, and the chain wanted to make sure they had the right set up to deliver.

According to Nation's Restaurant News, Taco bell started out with a number of test options in a variety of shapes and sizes, but those options never saw the light of day past the test phase. Liz Matthews, global chief food innovation officer for Taco Bell told Nation's Restaurant News that those options were good, but it took years to achieve exactly what they were looking for. "We had a lot of attempts at fries over the years," said Matthews. "We don't give up on things. It was good, but we wanted great." 

In addition, Taco Bell needed to make sure all of their ducks were in a row before introducing the perfect fry to their customers, even after they had the recipe perfected. According to Teen Vogue, they had to make sure their supply chain could handle the number of potatoes that would be needed. And, they had to get new fryers installed in stores. 

But obviously, persistence in the test kitchen has paid off with this forever-famed menu item.

The thickness of Taco Bell's Nacho Fries had to be just right

Rene Pisciotti, one of the head chefs for Taco Bell's test kitchen told Teen Vogue that the ratio of fry to nacho cheese sauce had to be just right, which was a point of difficulty when creating the recipes.

"In the order of importance for consumers, it's gotta be crispy. It's gotta be hot, and it's gotta be well seasoned," said Pisciotti. "So we developed a fry that we made sure was super crispy, stayed hot and obviously is well seasoned." 

The test kitchen debated on the thickness of the fries and the shape, from shoestring to crinkle cut, but they even went as far as debating on how heavy the batter might be to affect the outer coating and the amount of seasoning the fries would get. There needed to be enough surface area for the seasoning, and enough heft to the fries to hold that nacho cheese sauce dip. Plus, if you're going to load french fries with toppings like ground beef or shredded chicken, they need to be substantial enough to survive 

A lot goes in to creating a masterpiece.

Taco Bell's Nacho Fries had two test launches

With something so anticipated as adding french fries to the U.S. market, Taco Bell certainly couldn't just release the product and hope for the best. After several stages of development, Nacho Fries had to be thoroughly tested as a viable menu item.

In 2016, Taco Bell began testing Nacho Fries at their Irvine location in Southern California. According to Brand Eating, the flavor of the seasoning was described as "habanero that wasn't all that spicy" at the time. Brand Eating also reported that the fries were priced to sell, with an order for only 50 cents or 75 cents if the customer wanted to try the nacho cheese sauce with it. 

In 2017, Taco Bell began testing the fries in some stores in West Virginia, and at the time, the stores were selling the product for $1 for both the order of fries and the nacho cheese dipping sauce. After the successful test markets, the fries finally made their way to restaurants with their anticipated nationwide launch.

Taco Bell's Nacho Fries are jampacked with sodium

Of course, most people know that french fries are going to come packed with carbs (hello, potatoes) and a sprinkle, or more, of salt. But it turns out, Taco Bell's Nacho Fries come packed with a whole lot more than your typical order. Just one order of these crazy popular fries contains 630 milligrams of sodium. Yes, some of that is coming from the nacho cheese sauce included in the order, but considering Taco Bell's order of Chips and Nacho Cheese only comes with 250 milligrams of sodium, the cheese sauce isn't really where all of that salt is coming from.

In comparison, a large order of McDonald's french Fries has 400 milligrams of sodium. According to Healthline, the American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium, while the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 2,300 milligrams. There are varying recommendations, but either way, Taco Bell's Nacho Fries puts a pretty big dent in those daily numbers. That amount may be fair for an entire burrito, but is one-quarter of your daily intake worth it for a little snack or side?

Taco Bell's Nacho Fries concept is pretty simple

Sure, in comparison to McDonald's salted fries or Chick-fil-A's waffle fries, Taco Bell's Nacho Fries are way beyond our fast food expectations. But, when you really dive in and take a look, their concept is pretty darn simple.

Nacho Fries are made up of, you guessed it, potatoes as their main ingredient, with vegetable oil coming in second. There are a slew of other additions to the potatoes (to preserve them and make a uniform appearance), which certainly doesn't make their ingredients list simple, but the concept in itself of just adding seasoning to fries sure is. 

The flavor in the seasoning comes from garlic, paprika, onion, salt, aged cayenne red peppers, and vinegar — all flavors typically found in Mexican cuisine. That paired with a cup of nacho cheese that has already been in-house as a menu staple for years? It may have just been totally genius on Taco Bell's part to use an existing product to add their own Taco Bell flair.

Taco Bell has added Buffalo Chicken Nacho Fries

Upon Taco Bell's announcement that their Nacho Fries were returning in January 2020, they came with a new flavor. The announcement of a Buffalo Chicken version of Nacho Fries was the company's first new food launch for 2020.

Prior to introducing the Buffalo Chicken option, Taco Bell has offered Steak Rattlesnake Fries and Reaper Ranch Fries, so this was just the latest feather in their Nacho Fries cap. And each of these options have been spin-offs of the classic Nachos Bell Grande and Nachos Supreme. 

The dish comes loaded in a container complete with seasoned Nacho Fries topped with shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, nacho cheese sauce, cheese, sour cream, and pico de gallo. Again, another brilliant way Taco Bell decided to use ingredients already found in their kitchen to create something crave-worthy. Customers can add guacamole, jalapenos, or spicy ranch to the menu item to upgrade it if desired. Or, if customers want a simpler version, Nacho Fries can be ordered as a side with the option to swap out the nacho cheese sauce for a buffalo dipping sauce instead.

Taco Bell's Nacho Fries can be upgraded

As you hear about Nacho Fries at Taco bell, it's important to remember they may be more than just a container of fries with Mexican-inspired seasonings and nacho cheese sauce. Oh no, they can be so much more, if you know how to order them. Leave it up to Taco Bell to add ways to increase the craveability of this product even further. 

When Nacho Fries first debuted, Taco Bell was willing to upgrade your simple order to Supreme or Bell Grande status. Yep, that means fries with ground beef, nacho cheese, sour cream, refried beans, and tomatoes. 

Now, if you're feeling really wild, you can put in an order for a Nachos Bell Grande and even add seasoned fries to it to combine the best of both the french fry and tortilla chip worlds. You can even add on extras like jalapenos, black beans, and rice to make a whole nacho-fry inspired meal out of it. Or, opt to get your Nacho Fries fix with a box meal with a Beefy 5-layer burrito and a taco. It's a whole world of Nacho Fries possibilities.

You can put Taco Bell's Nacho Fries in a burrito

As if the clamoring for Nacho Fries to debut wasn't enough, Taco Bell fans were eagerly awaiting the ability to add french fries to their burritos as well. The California Burrito, a popular option originating in San Diego, is one of the most beautiful developments of the Tex-Mex movement, stuffing fresh, crunchy fries straight out of the fryer into a burrito. Taco Bell began testing a version in 2017 in a Charleston, West Virginia location, along with Loaded Fries Burritos.

But now, thanks to the introduction of Nacho Fries and their buffalo chicken counterpart, Taco Bell lovers can add Nacho Fries to burritos whenever they want — or at least when Taco Bell actually has them on the menu. The Buffalo Chicken Nacho Fries Burrito comes stuffed with shredded chicken, nacho cheese sauce, buffalo sauce, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, and, of course, Nacho Fries. Taco Bell has also been known to add Nacho Fries to menu items like a Crunchwrap Supreme, 7-Layer Burrito, and Beefy 5-Layer Burrito if you ask nicely. See how wild you can get!