With more than two billion customers annually at more than 7,000 restaurants around the world, nearly everyone has a favorite (or at least favored) item at Taco Bell—but what is a taco lover to do when their go-to item gets discontinued? While their menu hasn’t had too many changes over the years, some of them have still caused waves.
Former Taco Bell employee Shaun Quinn describes the process as a cycle. “It’s the circle of life. The popular items stay around and the underperforming items get retired,” said Quinn, who worked at the restaurant as shift lead throughout high school and college. Despite many of these items’ removals definitely being for the best, a few of them to get the axe were considered beloved favorites. In this list, we’re going to reminisce (and cringe) over those nixed items—exploring and discussing the good, the bad, and the beefy.
Nacho Crunch Grilled Stuft Burrito
Taco Bell’s limited-run Nacho Crunch Grilled Stuft Burrito was introduced in 2005 and lasted only a year. It consisted of two portions of beef or chicken, nacho cheese, beans, green onions, tomatoes, sour cream, and crunchy red tortilla chip strips. If you’re like me, you don’t remember the burrito itself, but instead recall this hilarious advertisement for the item starring Dave the “fun guy.”
Perhaps one of the most controversial Taco Bell cancellations was Verde Sauce. Its delicious absence remains a touchy subject to many people and even Taco Bell has admitted to missing it. “It honestly surprised me when Verde Sauce was removed from the menu,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t the most popular, but it definitely had a following.” The sauce was pulled from the menu in 2016, but actually remains available for purchase on Amazon and at Walmart. For some, it must lack authenticity (or at least novelty), as individual packets of the sauce still run for $15 to $20 online.
The beloved Bell Beefer was available for about two decades into the mid-’90s. Often regarded as Taco Bell’s effort to break into the hamburger chain market, the sandwich was essentially just a sloppy Joe covered in taco toppings. Served on a bun, the Bell Beefer boasted taco meat, lettuce, diced onions, and Taco Bell’s mild sauce. A “Supreme” version of the burger was also available, adding diced tomatoes and their three-cheese blend. Despite the item’s popularity decreasing in the ‘80s, the Bell Beefer still has a fanbase requesting its return—however, Quinn believes it doesn’t belong on the menu. “It just seems wrong,” he said.
Fully Loaded Nachos
Many of you probably remember the Fully Loaded Nachos, which was around in 2008 and 2009. Served in a tortilla-chip bowl, this “Fully Loaded” item was known for its large servings. “These were huge,” Quinn said. “I think people often bought them for their value in that respect.” Extra chips, double ground beef, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, red tortilla chip strips, refried beans, their three-cheese blend, and Taco Bell’s nacho cheese sauce were all piled on top on one another for this hearty snack—complete with a chip bowl at the bottom that effectively caught and collected all of the delicious nacho debris.
Black Jack Taco
This discontinued taco was available briefly in 2009 as a Halloween promotion. Aptly named for its black shell, the Black Jack Taco quickly made headlines for its color qualities not at the table, but on the toilet. Let’s just say the if this taco was a combo, it would be a number two. Other than its color, this beef taco was pretty basic, with just lettuce, Baja sauce, and Taco Bell’s famous three-cheese blend.
Those who have been loyal to Taco Bell for more than three decades might remember the item that preceded Cinnamon Twists—none other than Cinnamon Crispas. Consisting of lightly fried tortilla with a heavy dusting of cinnamon and sugar, Crispas cost only 39 cents. Despite their removal from the menu in the late ‘80s, the sweet snack was popular enough that many cooks have posted their own recipes for it online.
Volcano Taco and Lava Sauce
Similar to the Black Jack Taco, the Volcano Taco is often remembered for its unique color—bright red. The taco was complete with ground beef, lettuce and lava sauce—a controversial taco bell item with notoriety for its ability to cause indigestion. The Volcano Taco was marketed as Taco Bell’s spiciest taco ever, with help from its destructive sauce. “They were spicy,” Quinn said. “But that did not stop people from ordering them.” The sauce was discontinued in 2013, but brought back two years later due to popular demand on social media. In 2016, it was removed from the menu for a second time and hasn’t re-appeared, despite some outrage.
The retired Enchirito is still so popular, it has an up-to-date Wikipedia page. This borderline Frankensteinian hybrid of an enchilada and a burrito was initially introduced in the late ‘60s and was massively popular into the ‘70s and ‘80s. The product, consisting of a tortilla filled with ground beef, onions, and pinto beans; then, smothered with red sauce and cheese; and finally, topped with four or five sliced olives. It was discontinued in 1993, but many of you might remember its return to the menu in 2000—sans the olives and in a different container. It remained a menu staple until the Taco Bell released the Smothered Burrito in 2013, returning the Enchirito to the menu graveyard for good—supposedly. “The Enchirito was one of my favorite items,” Quinn said. “It’s probably for the best that I can’t order those anymore.”
Seafood Salad was Taco Bell’s disconcerting attempt to combat other fast food restaurants’ Lent-friendly options like the Filet-O-Fish. This cringy commercial from the product’s marketing campaign’s 1986 launch gives an idea of the picture they were trying to paint. Served in a tortilla bowl, the salad was topped with shredded cheese, tomatoes, olives, shrimp, whitefish, and snow crab. “I love the smell of Taco Bell, even now after working there,” Quinn said. “That being said, I don’t like the idea of that smell combined with the smell of cooked fish. I’m glad I wasn’t around to serve these up.” Understandably, the product was met with a sense of incredulousness from customers and flopped quickly.
The Sizzlin’ Bacon Menu
In 1995, Taco Bell found itself in the middle of bacon craze—a fad that burger chains could work with easily. As a response, they launched three new bacon-based menu items as a part of their new, competitive Sizzlin’ Bacon Menu. The items, complete with traditional Taco Bell staples combined with bacon and ranch, were the Bacon Cheeseburger Burrito for $1.79, the B.L.T. Soft Taco for 79 cents, and the Chicken Club Burrito for $1.99, respectively. However, customers quickly began to complain of both undercooked and overcooked bacon, and questioned the role of ranch in a taco. Unsurprisingly, all of the products failed in the early 2000s.
No matter your background or preferences, nearly everyone has found themselves in a Taco Bell at one point. While some of us proudly have the app on our smartphone, others shamefully slip through the drive-through for an indulgent late-night snack. No matter how you want to spin it, one thing is for sure—its menu may change, but Taco Bell isn’t going anywhere. According to Quinn, even years in the Taco Bell kitchen hasn’t deterred his occasional cravings.
“I worked there for a long time and I still want their food sometimes. Not many fast food employees can say that about where they worked,” Quinn said. “It definitely has a role in American culture and a very devoted fanbase—but I think it’s well-deserved.”
For now, just be sure to enjoy your favorite items while they last because you never know when they might disappear forever. If you don’t believe me, just read this petition shamelessly begging for the return of the Verde Sauce.