Taco Bell’s new Naked Chicken Chalupa is good.
The Naked Chicken Chalupa replaces the shell of a taco with a fried chicken patty. The patty is wrapped around lettuce, tomato and shredded cheddar cheese with a bit of white sauce. That’s it.
I decided to try Taco Bell’s new creation at a busy time – 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday night. There were four cars ahead of me at the 38th and Dodge location, and three more pulled up behind me before I ordered. The line moved quickly, though, and I was home well before 2 a.m. I ordered two Naked Chicken Chalupas and a Nachos BellGrande, declining any sauce.
Unwrapping the chalupa, I was surprised by how small it was for $2.99. Taco Bell had somehow managed to pack 440 calories, according to its website, into a 5-inch-wide shell. That shell, however, was delicious. The outside was crispy and flavorful while the inside was juicy and white. The seasoning had a bit of a kick, reminiscent of KFC’s chicken. KFC and Taco Bell are both owned by the same company, Yum! Brands, so this was not surprising.
The white sauce dripping from my bite mark (avocado ranch sauce, according to Taco Bell’s website) was creamy and garlicy. The sauce didn’t overpower the piece, a problem I’ve encountered on other menu items. The lettuce somehow stayed crisp between the moist chicken shell and thick sauce, and the tomatoes were satisfyingly juicy with a good crunch.
The cheddar cheese was unmelted, unceremoniously heaped on top of the chalupa like on so many other Taco Bell dishes.
While small, the moist and spicy Naked Chicken Chalupa was the perfect complement to the crunchy saltiness of a Nachos BellGrande, a favorite of mine. The refried beans, sour cream and nacho cheese on the nachos were not duplicated on the chalupa, keeping each ingredient from getting dull throughout the meal.
Taco Bell’s bean burritos are, in my opinion, better after a night in the refrigerator, so I saved the second Naked Chicken Chalupa for the morning. Things did not go well. While the lettuce did inexplicably have some crispness left, the rest of the chalupa had turned to mush. The tender chicken shell became chewy. The tomatoes lost all resistance, practically chewing themselves. The chicken’s juices had seeped into the breading, stealing the crispiness that being fried had given it. The cheese had melded into a solid block. Only the sauce remained the same, teasing me with memories of what had been. The sauce’s angry coldness cut through me.
I am disappointed by the quick drop-off in quality overnight, but the Naked Chicken Chalupa was still excellent fresh. I will certainly order it again and may add it into my permanent rotation if Taco Bell decides to keep it on the menu.
Almost in defiance of the old joke that Taco Bell only remixes the same four ingredients, Taco Bell has proven that it truly does “think outside the bun” with the addition of the Naked Chicken Chalupa. Taking inspiration from its sister brand KFC was a brilliant move that I hope continues in Yum! Brands’ future; I’m excited to see what a Pizza Hut and Taco Bell collaboration may look like. One thing is for certain, though: yo quiero Taco Bell.