This Is What Makes Taco Bell's Tacos So Delicious

Taco Bell would never in a million years be framed as authentic Mexican food, but for better or worse, this fast food chain is cheap, tasty, and above all, it has huge swaths of loyal customers who return to it time and time again.

Taco Bell is a fave within a wide demographic of folks — in 2014, the chain described its key consumers as "dudes," "status feeders," edgy cravers," "morning hustlers," and "social explorers." But Regardless of who is buying them, every year, the chain serves up more than 2 billion tacos, so it must be doing something right. 

So what's the secret of Taco Bell's incredible success? We did some digging, and as it turns out they have more than one. We've gotten to the root of what makes Taco Bell's tacos so delicious, so if you're interested, pull up a chair, grab yourself a taco, and read on.

Tacos remain Taco Bell's specialty

While some fast food chains might make a taco or two among other offerings like burgers and sandwiches, Taco Bell emphasizes what it says on their boxes: tacos. 

Since it specializes in tacos (and other Tex-Mex specialties) it's no surprise that it's mastered them, and it shows. Take a look at an list ranking the best Taco Bell menu items, from fast food legend Keith Habersberger's "Taste the Menu" special on Taco Bell to this long list of every menu item ranked by Thrillist, and tacos always come out on top — at Thrillist, it's the simple, classic soft taco that beats out all of the more "exciting" options (which we'll get to in just a second).

Habersberger perhaps explains it best in saying: "It's not Quesadilla Bell. It's Taco Bell." Taco Bell picked a food item to master in a quick, easy, affordable format, and in focusing its efforts on the job at hand, it succeeded.

Taco Bell tacos are made fast

Taco Bell knows what it is and what it isn't: It isn't haute cuisine; it's fast food. And when we say fast, they mean fast.

According to one episode of Food Network's Unwrapped, which gives viewers an inside look of what goes on in various food chains across the US, Taco Bell cooks can make a taco in under seven seconds (faster than it usually takes us to peer into our fridge to see what's in there.). And according to a report on Taco Bell's efficacy published in 2017, it took the chain just 212.7 seconds to serve drive-thru customers, with a fairly laudable 90.4% accuracy.

Now, we're not saying speed is the sole factor contributing to the success of Taco Bell, but if you drive through the drive-thru hungry and emerge with a bagful of tacos in just a few minutes, it's hard not to have a smile on your face.

Taco Bell tacos are reliable

Taco Bell offers some amount of variety, with about 39 Taco Bell menu items to choose from, ranging from nachos to burritos to salads. But at the end of the day, Taco Bell's core menu is one thing above all else: reliable.

As Keith Habersberger says in his Taco Bell episode of his fast food taste testing show Eat the Menu, "Taco Bell is known for using the same ingredients in a lot of different ways." And to prove his point, over the course of this episode, Habersberger places a large bucket on the table where he is feasting, resolving to put anything that tastes pretty much like everything else he's already eaten into the bucket. By the end of the episode, about a third of all menu items are bucketed.

Habersberger is quick to note in the episode that he does not mean this as a jab — quite on the contrary: "That's not bad!" he says. "That's good business."

At the end of the day, consumers can come back to Taco Bell time and time again, an, whether they're opting for their old reliable order or stepping outside of their comfort zone to try something new, they'll still be getting the flavors they've come to know and love.

Taco Bell is nevertheless creative

Even though much of the Taco Bell menu does indeed feel like variations on a theme, the chain nevertheless manages to innovate with some of its offerings. Over the years, Taco Bell has introduced creative choices that deviate from the norm of the rest of its menu, like the Mexican pizza (no surprise, really, considering that Taco Bell often shares space with Pizza Hut). More often than not, these novelty items really take off, becoming cult favorites. 

The chain's fiesta potatoes, for example, have truly taken on a life of their own, and when the chain announced it would be removing the cheesy, seasoned potato wedges from its menu in the summer of 2021, fans of the vegetarian option took the Internet by storm, not only innovating their own homemade copycat iterations of the dish, but also complaining, whining, and generally causing a ruckus until Taco Bell finally agreed to bring the option back.

Taco Bell explores familiar flavors revamped in different ways

Taco Bell's innovative side comes out in some of the most peculiar ways. And when it does, more often than not, it conquers the hearts of its millions of fans. Case in point? The Doritos Locos Taco.

One of Taco Bell's most beloved concoctions, the Doritos Locos Taco takes two snack foods people love — tacos and Doritos — and makes an unholy but wholly delicious mashup of the two. The result, the chain explains, offers the "same crunch, the same texture, the same seasoning on your fingers as a Doritos chip," all wrapped around that familiar Taco Bell filling. 

The success of pairing the Taco Bell taco experience with a touch of nostalgia is clear: Thus far, more than one billion Doritos Locos Tacos have been sold, and the popularity of this unique menu item shows no signs of waning.

Taco Bell has managed the perfect blend of seasonings

If Taco Bell's flavor profile is so laudable — and keeps folks coming back for more — it's perhaps because the chain has truly mastered its blend of seasonings, which spike everything from its beef mince to its black beans. Cooks at home have tried time and time again to replicate the Taco Bell seasoning in their own kitchens, with loads of copycat recipes published all over the internet, usually featuring a blend of onion, garlic, cumin, paprika, a touch of sugar, and, somewhat bafflingly, beef bouillon granules. 

(Actually, seeing as Taco Bell's beef mince is only 88% beef — far more than the 36% one class-action lawsuit claimed, but still — that beef bouillon might be a useful addition.)

When the copycat seasonings don't scratch the itch, some people resort to even more drastic measures: There's even an online market for Taco Bell fans, particularly those living abroad, to buy packets of the seasoning mix online to use at home. Anything to live màs and get more Taco Bell flavor when you're far from your nearest branch!

You can customize your Taco Bell order with more spice, if you want

Taco Bell tacos are pretty nicely seasoned all on their own, but they're not actually all that spicy (unless you somehow get your hands on one of their elusive volcano tacos and the spicy lava sauce condiment that went with it). 

That said, you can up the spice factor of your Taco Bell a bit by using the chain's hot sauce. According to Unwrapped, this sauce was actually first developed by Taco Bell founder Glen Bell to season chili dogs, but when he transitioned from selling burgers and franks to tacos in the early 1950s, he started using the sauce, instead, on his tacos.

And as of this year, you don't need to feel that bad about using the single-use packets. Taco Bell has announced its intention to transition to recycling its packets with partner TerraCycle in an attempt to cut down on landfill and make its tacos more sustainable.

Taco Bell is filling — and thus a good bang for your buck

There's nothing worse than a fast food chain that's ostensibly cheap but that leaves you feeling hungry just an hour later. Luckily, Taco Bell is not one of those chains where you have to buy two meals and an extra side just to feel full. 

Many menu items at the chain contain a good balance of carbs, fat, and protein, making them nice and filling (as the Food Babies' attempt to eat six tacos per person as quickly as possible showed), while others are filling because of calorie count alone. And since most Taco Bell options clock in at under $2 a piece, it's a really good deal when you're super hungry and on a budget.

Of course, if you want to really make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck, there are a few items that are even better value than others: Several of their burritos, for example, clock in at $1 before tax on their value menu.

Taco Bell food is texturally exciting

Flavor isn't everything when it comes to fast food; texture is just as important. Soft foods are typically associated with nostalgia and comfort — it's no surprise that so many classic comfort foods, from mac and cheese to ice cream, are so soft. But crunch is appealing too; in fact, crunchy foods have been scientifically proven to boost mood. 

Luckily, Taco Bell doesn't make you choose between the two.

Many of Taco Bell's offerings, from the gordita to the chalupa to the Crunchwrap Supreme (a hexagonal tostada wrapped in a flour tortilla) offer a unique blend of both soft and crunchy taco shells, all in one taco. The result is super satisfying and delicious to boot.

And this isn't the only way that Taco Bell makes sure that each of its tacos is as much a textural experience as a flavorful one. With its refried beans and cheese sauce, Taco Bell also offers the creamy textures you crave. Or, as fast food king and host of Try the Menu Keith Habersberger says, "They really strive to have that blend of crunch and goo."