Yesterday, Taco Bell released their newest item: The Naked Chicken Chalupa.
The idea was pretty simple, take a piece of breaded fried chicken and fold it so that it doubles as a taco shell. Once it’s shaped, the fried chicken shell is filled with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, and an avocado ranch sauce.
Doesn’t sound half bad at all. You get a taco, and you get fried chicken.
As soon as it launched, social media blew up and immediately took to posting photos of the new fast food item. A simple idea that’s been making waves across the sea of “likes.”
There was another simple idea Taco Bell had a few years back that also took off like gangbusters: the Doritos Locos Taco.
The concept was also pretty simple. Taco Bell took a regular corn taco shell and dusted it with the spices and seasonings found in Doritos chips. Flavors included Nacho Cheese, Fiery, and Cool Ranch.
Could Taco Bell’s newest entry to the world of fast food compared to the now-iconic Doritos Locos Taco? You bet your fried chicken-loving ass it could.
Here’s a little history behind it:
Avid Taco Bell enthusiasts might have seen the item around before this nationwide launch, albeit under a different nom de guerre: The Naked Crispy Chicken Taco. The then “taco” was briefly seen at select test locations where it caused quite a buzz.
More than a year later, it’s been retitled and given a wider release. On paper it may have seemed that way, but this was not an overnight process.
A spokesperson for Taco Bell said this unique iteration of their chalupa took three years to come into fruition. The inspiration behind the menu item came from a random food idea and a single text message.
What if we made a taco shell out of chicken milanese?
Steve Gomez, Manager Product Development, and the rest of Taco Bell’s Food and Innovation Team took the concept and ran multiple tests and prototypes of the pitch. As the item built momentum in the chain’s test kitchen, Gomez said the item was met with overwhelming success.
I’ve never felt that amount of excitement and internal love before.
The chain tested it in San Bernadino in 2015 and Kanas City in 2016.
Here’s why it could easily crack off.
Unlike some of Taco Bell’s other trending items (Cap’n Crunch Donut Holes, anyone?), the Naked Chicken Chalupa has the potential to be a blank slate for many future innovations. The proof is in the protein.
The company could easily go the DLT route with the concept and dust it with the same prolific flavors flying off Taco Bell countertops.
Taco Bell could also draw inspiration from regional fried chicken cuisines the same way Kentucky Fried Chicken did for both Nashville Hot Chicken and the more recent Georgia Gold Chicken. A Naked Buffalo Chicken Chalupa, coated in buffalo sauce and topped with bleu cheese crumbs, could easily be done. The numerous possibilities could be LIT.
On another end of the fast food spectrum, a breakfast menu item could be created by filling the insides of the chicken shell with scrambled eggs and bacon, or smothering it in country gravy.
What do people actually think so far?
A lot of folks seemed to go into the experience with low expectations, only to be pleasantly surprised by the overall taste of the Naked Chicken Chalupa.
Even KROQ’s own Beer Mug seemed to enjoy it.
Our very own Managing Editor Richard “Reach” Guinto, a connoisseur of fried chicken and casual eater of fast food was one of the first to try the Naked Chicken Chalupa ahead of its launch.
Here’s what he had to say:
It’s genius in how it toes the fine line between stoner foodie wet dream and clever innovation. The fact that fried chicken can now serve as a vessel for food opens up more delicious possibilities for Taco Bell. And I, for one, cannot wait to see what iteration of a Naked Chicken Chalupa comes out next. *cough*cough*Do a breakfast version*cough*cough*
Thanks, Reach! Have a lozenge.
Mike Chau, one of the kings of the New York City’s food beat and father of @FoodBabyNY also tried the new item.
So what could the guy who’s eaten almost everywhere in New York had to say about the item?
Admittedly I don’t eat fast food that much anymore, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was pretty greasy as you might expect from fast food fried chicken, but it had great flavor and a nice kick of heat.
Only time will tell how well Taco Bell’s newest addition will actually do. From an analytical standpoint… it’s going to be the fast food chain’s next big thing.
Disclosure: Taco Bell is a sponsor of FOODBEAST.com