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SPOTTED: Taco Bell Testing A Plant-Based Naked Chicken Chalupa

Ring the alarms and tell a friend: Taco Bell is testing a new plant-based Naked Chicken Chalupa shell! Spotted at a Taco Bell location in Irvine, California, The Crispy Plant-Based Shell is a take on their own hit innovation a few years ago that changed the whole game.

This time it’s made from a pea protein-based proprietary blend, which is then breaded and shaped into a one of a kind Chalupa form and crisped up. This shell is certified vegan by the American Vegetarian Association, so you know it’s valid. The tasty shell is then filled with delicious deets like lettuce, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, and a rich, tangy avocado ranch sauce to complete a mouthwatering mouthful. 

The new Naked Chicken Chalupa with Crispy Plant-Based shell will be testing at the Taco Bell location on 2222 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, California, from now until June 27, 2021.

Created in partnership with Taco Bell.

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Fast Food

Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa Returns After 2-Year Hiatus

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

After an attempt to get into the fried chicken sandwich competition went haywire for Taco Bell, the fast food titan is switching to one of its more hypeworthy items as an answer to the ongoing “Chicken Sandwich Wars.”

Following a two-year absence from menus, the coveted Naked Chicken Chalupa is making a reappearance on menus nationwide starting on May 20th. (Taco Bell Rewards members can get it a day early on their app).

Taco Bell is spinning the chalupa as an answer to the “Chicken Sandwich Wars” this time around, using ad campaigns to say that all of the chicken sandwiches (which may include their own) are pretty identical, and that their unique taco creation stands out.

The fried chicken taco shell was one of the wildest innovations to come from Taco Bell, and appears to be the first of more fried chicken items to come later in the year. Taco Bell did also test chicken wings in 2020, so there’s a chance we could see those popping up nationwide in the near future as well.

For those who haven’t tried it, the Naked Chicken Chalupa is a taco-shaped cutlet of white chicken meat. It gets fried and filled with lettuce, cheddar, diced tomatoes, and an avocado ranch sauce.

Like all other Naked Chicken Chalupa appearances, this will be a limited time offering.

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Fast Food Now Trending

Taco Bell Lowkey Brought Back The Naked Chicken Chalupa For A Limited Time

Taco Bell just gave us all a quick surprise to start off 2019 with.

In addition to their new Dollar Grande Burritos making the rounds, the fan favorite Naked Chicken Chalupa is also now available for anyone wanting to get a taste of the fried chicken taco shell once again.

Much like last time, the Naked Chicken Chalupa is being served up in its “Mild Style,” which includes all of your standard taco fixings (lettuce, tomato, cheddar) and avocado ranch sauce. It’s being priced at $2.99 for an individual Chalupa or for $5 as part of a box with a Crunchy Taco, a Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos, and a medium fountain drink.

Taco Bell representatives have confirmed that this hyper-limited run of the Naked Chicken Chalupa will only last through mid-January. After that, we’ll have to wait and see for its next possible return.

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Culture Fast Food Features

Why Items Like The Naked Chicken Chalupa Could Someday Hit The Permanent Menu

The Naked Chicken Chalupa was one of Taco Bell’s most successful product launches, and yet, it was only available for a brief six weeks before disappearing.

It’s back now, but will only be available for a couple of months. Even with such initial success and hype over the Naked Chicken Chalupa, whether it will ever become a permanent menu item or not is still in the air.

hype fast food item

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

It turns out that fast food chains in general, including Taco Bell, have complex systems that determine whether an item can stay for good or come back in periodic intervals. Taco Bell’s Manager of Product Development, Rene Pisciotti, broke down his company’s process:

“Everything that goes on menu for permanency or LTO (limited time only) has to serve a purpose. It has to fill a consumer need or gap. What we [also] need to make sure is that the consumer experience is the same with that product day in and day out. If there’s any jeopardy of it being different, not being made right or executed properly, unfortunately we have to take it out of consideration for permanency. The second consideration is where this product lies from a sales standpoint. Meaning, if I buy that, am I choosing to buy something different, or am I buying that alongside what I usually order. If they can both live in harmony, that’s fine, but if there’s an impact to ingredients and their quality, then it becomes problematic.”

With the Naked Chicken Chalupa, Pisciotti’s biggest concern is that the fried chicken shell makes it a tough product for Taco Bell staff to make. The extra labor and ingredients make it a little more challenging, but if the demand rises and operators can consistently punch them out, the Naked Chicken Chalupa could merit consideration for a spot on the permanent menu.

sonic signature slingers

Photo courtesy of Sonic Drive-In

Taco Bell’s not the only chain going through some considerations with their most buzzworthy items.

Sonic Drive-In just brought their Signature Slingers onto the national menu for a short period, and the next steps for them is to consider whether it’ll be a permanent item or not. Culinary Director Scott Uehlein told Foodbeast that the Slinger will “have to earn its way” into that spot.

For the Slinger to hit the full-time menu, it needs to sustain sales once the advertising campaigns around the mushroom-blended burger subside, Uehlein said. That will establish proof that the burger can be successful on its own, making it worthy of consideration for a continual duration on the menu.

The Slinger is unique for Uehlein’s team because of how groundbreaking it was upon launch. Nobody in fast food had considered a blended burger up to that point.

Uehlein said that the Slinger will have some extra, in-house considerations when the team decides whether to give it an indefinite spot in their lineup.

Photo courtesy of California Tortilla

While Taco Bell and Sonic tend to launch items for a limited run prior to permanent consideration, other businesses look at current items to see if they should be continued or not. This is the case for California Tortilla, an East Coast fusion burrito chain. CEO Keith Goldman’s menu concept merits the more continuous cycle of LTOs, as his restaurants bring in flavors from all over the world, like Korean BBQ or Chicken Tikka Masala.

Goldman is continuously rotating new LTOs through his lineup every 12-18 months to keep customers excited, but also utilizes it as a testing ground for permanency. “About 60 percent of our current menu was a limited-time item,” he divulged. He does have some criteria outside of success that are evaluated when he’s thinking about making an item permanent.

Simplicity in operations and recipes is a big one, so that staff across all of his locations can replicate the product perfectly. Seasonality can also be a factor for Goldman, who runs a Bangkok Shrimp option on his menu throughout the summer for something customers can look forward to annually. It helps him build customer loyalty while maintaining a constant stream of new customers enticed by the latest limited-time offering.

Across these three chains, a consistent pattern of success, functionality, and ease of operations exists when considering whether to make hype fast food items permanent.

Nonetheless, customer demand continues to be a huge factor on all accounts, so if your favorite item keeps leaving and coming back, just know that there is hope for it to stay on the menu for good one day. The chains just have to figure out how to manage demand, and flawlessly incorporate them into their systems first.

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Fast Food News Restaurants

Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa Returns Nationwide, But For Just A Few Weeks

Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa was the talk of the fast food world when it debuted over a year ago. Gracing menus for six short weeks, it was one of the most successful launches the chain has had to date. Building on that success, Taco Bell is now finally ready to release their creation to the world once more.

naked chicken chalupa returns

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

This time around, there’s a couple of flavor additions that can be added onto the Chalupa. You’ve got the standard “Mild” version, which comes with the hype fried chicken shell, lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar, and avocado ranch sauce. However, there’s also a “Wild” variant on the official menu, which swaps the avocado ranch for a cayenne and brown sugar-based “Wild Sauce.” The OG and the new Chalupas hit menus nationwide starting Thursday, May 10th.

Additionally, Taco Bell is also testing a nacho cheese version of their Naked Chicken Chalupa. While that test is limited to Cleveland, Ohio, anybody nationwide can get their own version by swapping out the avocado ranch for nacho cheese on the regular Chalupa.

While it’s dope that we’re finally getting the fried chicken taco shell back on the menu, it will only be for a short run. Taco Bell representatives have confirmed to Foodbeast that all of the options will only be around through mid-July. They’ll be looking at this release, though, to see if the Chalupa performs well enough to merit consideration for a permanent menu spot.

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Fast Food News Opinion Restaurants

We Bid Goodbye To Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa… For Now

And just like that, it’s gone.

Taco Bell announced that their hit new item, the Naked Chicken Chalupa, would be pulled off of menus sometime this month as the limited-time offer for this creation comes to an end.

It’s been a short but sweet ride for the Chalupa, which generated a TON of social media and site traffic. On Foodbeast alone, talk about the Chicken Chalupa generated nearly 500,000 video views. Worldwide, the total video hits across Facebook and YouTube alone of this unique fast food item easily exceeded 4.5 million.

Don’t be shy. It’s time for you to try the #NakedChickenChalupa.

A post shared by Taco Bell (@tacobell) on

The item was also a huge success for Taco Bell. While they don’t divulge sales-specific numbers, we were told that the Naked Chicken Chalupa joined the ranks of the Quesalupa and the Doritos Locos Taco as one of the most successful product launches of all time.

It wasn’t just the regular taco itself though that was a massive hit. Taco Bell also stated that more people hacked this menu item than any other limited-time offering from the fast food chain, which includes our own hacks that combined In-N-Out with this unique item. One person even took their love of the Naked Chicken Chalupa to the next level and got a tattoo of it.

While it’s a shame to see such a hyped and talked-about fast food item go so soon, there’s no need to fret. Taco Bell did confirm to us they are “confident” it will be back on the menu some time in the future.

A post shared by foodbeast (@foodbeast) on

Until then, so long, Naked Chicken Chalupa. You will be dearly missed for however length of time you’ll be gone.

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Fast Food

Taco Bell’s New Naked Chicken Chalupa Is Their Next Big Hit

Taco-Bell-Naked-Chicken-Chalupa-STK-05

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.

Taco-Bell-DLT-Stk-01

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. 

A video posted by Eric (@poweredbyicecream) on

Even KROQ’s own Beer Mug seemed to enjoy it.

A video posted by Kevin & Bean (@kevinandbean) on

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.

A photo posted by Mike Chau (@mikejchau) on

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