Wendy's Taco Salad: What To Know Before Ordering

Everyone loves a good taco Tuesday (or Wednesday or Thursday), but what are you to do when there's no Mexican restaurant around? A pit stop at the grocery store will allow you to pick up everything you could possibly need to host an at-home taco night, though the shopping trip is only the first of many steps that go into the meal. Once home, you'll have to spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen to get all the fixings ready for your taco dinner, which, of course, entails dirtying up a hefty amount of dishes as well. The prep work and post-meal cleanup combo is one that can really put a damper on your midweek fiesta. Surely there's got to be an easier way to get your weekly taco fix?

Cue your local Wendy's, which you may be surprised to learn has just the thing when it's a taco-themed meal you've got on the brain. The eatery has had a delicious taco salad on the menu since the 20th century (via Philly Voice), and while it's undergone a few changes over the years, the current version has won over the hearts of many Baconator and spicy nugget lovers, and might soon be your new favorite thing to order from the fast-food chain as well. Curious about the history of this Wendy's staple, and what makes it so delicious that customers are choosing it over a Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger?

The history of Wendy's taco salad

The first Wendy's opened in 1969 and was met with immediate success — so much so, in fact, that the chain opened a record-setting 1,000th location less than a decade later (via Wendy's website). While widely known for serving up hamburgers made with fresh, never-frozen beef, the eatery veered in a different direction in 1982 when it added a taco salad to the menu. An advertisement (via YouTube) for the dish listed its ingredients as lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, and chili, the combination of which followed in the footsteps of Wendy's iconic square-shaped burger patties and became an instant hit.

The taco salad remained a favorite for patrons during its nearly 30-year run, but was eventually replaced by the Baja Salad, which Brand Eating reports was one of four premium salads added to Wendy's menus in 2010. The meal consisted of a spring mix topped with fresh pico de gallo and guacamole, as well as a blend of cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, seasoned tortilla strips, and of course, the chain's famous chili. However, it didn't do nearly as good of a job capturing the hearts of Wendy's customers. Many remained loyal to the OG taco salad, spending years advocating for its return. Their efforts finally paid off, and in 2016, Wendy's announced the return of its beloved taco salad just in time for that year's National Taco Day celebration (via PR Newswire), and it has stayed cemented on the menu ever since.

Here's how Wendy's taco salad is made today

The undeniable popularity of Wendy's taco salad was clear proof that the chain had done something right when it was first created so many years ago, and when they brought it back, they knew they needed to stay true to its original recipe. "We love how nostalgic and passionate our loyal taco salad fans are and look forward to introducing it to a new generation of fans with the same build and quality ingredients," Wendy's vice president of brand marketing, Carl Loredo, said in 2016 when the salad made its return (via PR Newswire).

Just like the taco salad from 1982, the current version on Wendy's menu includes a bed of chopped romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, and a bowl of its "perfectly seasoned and positively irresistible" signature chili on the side that contains red kidney beans, pinto beans, and ground beef (via Wendy's). Customers are also given tortilla chips, sour cream, and salsa, which the chain promises are of the highest quality. "The taco chips are made from whole grain corn. The signature salsa is made with roasted tomatoes, jalapeño, and ancho peppers," Wendy's Culinary Innovation team member Emily Kessler told The Square Deal. "And it's all served on the side, giving customers the option to top or dip their salad as they choose." As for dressings, the chain has four to choose from: pomegranate vinaigrette, Caesar, and both a regular and southwest ranch.

How much does a Wendy's taco salad cost?

Wendy's is one of the best places to stop when you're looking for good, quick food at a reasonable cost. Their 4-for-$4 and Biggie Bag deals are both great options that won't break the bank, and for the times that you're looking to get in a few extra veggies, their famous taco salad is a relatively cheap order as well. While cost does vary by location, Fast Food Price reports that the average price for any one of Wendy's salad options rings in at $6.99 before tax. Some Redditors feel that this is a bit too much to shell out for a fast-food salad, but in terms of the chain's taco salad specifically, it's actually a pretty good deal considering everything that comes with the meal. As Twitter user @luka_beth pointed out, ordering a taco salad from Wendy's essentially gets you a three-course meal: the salad itself, as well as chips and salsa, and a bowl of chili, which Fast Food Price says goes for about $3 alone. We're not sure about you, but we certainly think all that food for just $7 is a steal.

Like most eateries, Wendy's has a mobile app and rewards program that patrons can use to save a bit of money when ordering from the chain. No space on your phone to download yet another restaurant's app? No problem. Wendy's also lists a few deals on its website and will even send coupons straight to your digital or real-life mailbox.

Is Wendy's taco salad nutritious?

Ordering a salad from your favorite fast-food spot is a bit of a catch-22, as the seemingly "healthier" options are oftentimes actually some of the worst things on the menu in terms of nutrition. This, unfortunately, is the case for Wendy's taco salad. The fan-favorite is the most calorie-laden salad option at the chain, with a total of 690 calories (via Wendy's website), but that's not all. To make matters worse, the meal also contains 34 grams of fat, 68 grams of carbs, and more sodium than 160 Lay's potato chips (via Eat This, Not That!), which is certainly not ideal.

The upside of ordering a taco salad from Wendy's is that all of its components are packed separately, making it easier for you to put together a slightly healthier meal. Skipping the chips and sour cream are two ways you can lower the dish's calorie count, and pouring less chili on top of your veggies can help as well. Wendy's taco salad is also big enough to split into two separate meals, which would each ring in at a more acceptable 345 calories each.

Does Wendy's taco salad taste good?

There's a reason why fans were so upset when Wendy's stopped serving its iconic taco salad back in 2010 and were subsequently overjoyed by its return — it really is that good. "The Wendy's taco salad is truly a gift. It should be celebrated," Twitter user @katedesu47 wrote, and we couldn't agree more.

The chain proudly states on its website that they use fresh, seasonal produce for its salads, which are made fresh every single day. The taco salad also includes some of the standard fixings like sour cream, cheddar cheese, and salsa to create an "unstoppable blend of savory flavors" (via The Square Deal), but it's the addition of Wendy's signature chili that really puts this dish over the top. "Wendy's chili has a great base of meat and spices, plentiful beans and onions, especially if you add some of their Hot Chili Seasoning," Philly Voice wrote. "It has a thin viscosity, almost like a soup, which usually doesn't work for chilis. When poured over the iceberg and romaine lettuces, it's a perfect cornerstone to the dish." Brand Eating, meanwhile, applauded the tortilla chips for adding a "nice crunch factor" to the taco salad. Overall, the Wendy's taco salad certainly seems like a great meal to order from the fast-food chain, whether you're celebrating Taco Tuesday or not.