REVIEW: Taco Bell’s “Double Stacked” Tacos

Another day, another…liberal application of reduced-fat sour cream from a caulking gun.

The Taco Bell corporation is a mysterious fig. Sometimes, we feel like they are dropping innovation bombs the likes of which other fast food chains can only dream of competing with, like when they wrap tacos in gigantic Doritos shells, or make taco shells entirely out of deep fried chicken.

Sometimes though, it seems like Taco Bell is so intent on keeping the new ideas coming, that they…forget to have new ideas. Sometimes this works, like when they reassemble a bunch of the ingredients they have on hand into something new, like the fan-favorite “Beefy Crunch” burrito that’s stuffed with Fritos corn chips. Other times? You get…this. From the press release:

Twice the flavor is twice as intriguing, and that’s what Taco Bell delivers with its new $1 Double Stacked Tacos, available nationwide on December 22. With both a hard shell and a soft tortilla, and available in three flavors – Cool Habanero, Spicy Sweet and Nacho Crunch – this taco will inspire serious order envy.

At just one dollar, it’s impossible to argue with the value Taco Bell is providing here…and it’s impossible not to order one of each of the new taco varieties.

Cool Habanero.

The “Cool Habanero” varietal features a crunchy corn taco shell, filled with ground beef, reduced-fat sour cream, lettuce, and shredded cheese. Then, for good measure, they wrap that whole sumbitch in a flour tortilla, with a layer of melted cheese and habanero goo in between the two tortillas.

Cool Habanero, exploded view.

We were pleasantly surprised with the heat from this taco, about on par with Taco Bell’s now-legendary “Lava” sauce. It didn’t deliver quite the heat levels I was expecting from a habanero, and the other ingredients (particularly the sour cream) cooled the fire quickly.

Nacho Crunch.

The “Nacho Crunch” Double Stacked Taco is perhaps the least inspired of the bunch: Beef, lettuce, shredded cheese, and a sprinkling of red crunchy tortilla strips for extra crunch. The double-stacked gimmick is in effect here as well, with a layer of nacho cheese sauce sandwiching the crunchy corn taco shell and the flour tortilla together. This is Taco Bell’s ingredient re-working at its most cynical; you can almost imagine Taco Bell Test Kitchen chefs saying, “I don’t know, man. More cheese? And, uh, tortillas?” Though it’s a value at $1, there just doesn’t seem to be much reason to order this taco, apart from price.

Spicy Sweet.

The “Spicy Sweet” Double-Stacked Taco is the one we kind of love to hate, and the only one of the three that breaks new ground in conspicuous taco consumption. A crunchy taco with seasoned beef, lettuce, shredded cheese, with a liberal application of Taco Bell’s new sweet Thai-style chili sauce, wrapped again in a soft flour tortilla, with the melted cheese and habanero sauce glueing the whole situation together.

If you’re into the whole “palate-confusion” thing, this is the taco for you.

The combination of the spicy habanero sauce and the sweet chili sauce creates a sort of Asian-fusion thing (is this Taco Bell’s first foray into this sub-sub-genre of taco-making expertise?) that’s not unlike sucking on a Jolly Rancher while someone presses spicy taco meat into the corner of your mouth. It’s a surprisingly pleasant experience, and, really, is the only Double-Stacked Taco of the bunch that’s worth your time and your dollar.

All in all, there’s not a lot to love in this roundup of new tacos from Taco Bell, other than the almost unbelievable price point. With the exception of the “Spicy Sweet” taco, this collection is mostly more of the same-old, same-old from Taco Bell, combining existing ingredients into unnecessary new products, just to have something shiny and new on the menu board. While not bad, per se, there’s no reason to make a special trip for this limited time offering.

BONUS: Listen to the audio tasting notes (and a fair amount of throat-clearing) from this review:

Written by Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is the author of "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as a frequent contributor to Serious Eats,, Eat Rockland, Down East Magazine, The L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and more. When not poisoning his body with garbage and then posting sardonic commentary about it on the Internet, he also owns and operates the 'Wich, Please food truck, named's "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015.

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