Taco Bell has reinvented its menu many times over the years, Sometimes, that means saying goodbye to longtime fan favorites.
One such item many customers still miss desperately today is the taco salad – featuring a crunchy fried tortilla bowl filled with classic TexMex taco ingredients like ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheese, salsa, and more.
This crave-able and filling dish, unfortunately, disappeared from Taco Bell locations nationally back in September 2020.
Devotees wonder if it will ever make a comeback – even for a limited time. So, does Taco Bell still sell the taco salad that enthusiasts reminisce fondly about? Let’s explore this concept further.
The Rise and Fall of the Taco Salad
In the late 1980s, when salads started trending as a healthier fast food option, Taco Bell introduced the taco salad – essentially a fried tortilla bowl filled with typical taco ingredients like ground beef, tomatoes, shredded cheese, beans, and more. Some locations added regional ingredients like avocado.
The combo of Tex-Mex flavors in salad form became an instant hit. For over 20 years, the signature crunchy taco salad bowl remained a staple menu item.
Customers loved its solid flavors and added fresh veggies. At its peak popularity, it was estimated that Taco Bell sold around 300 million taco salads per year.
However, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Taco Bell started simplifying and condensing its menu, focusing more on core tacos and burrito options. The taco salad, unfortunately, got cut.
By September 2013, it was removed from all locations. Fans hoping this was just a temporary change would be disappointed to see in the years since the salad hasn’t resurfaced.
Taco Bell’s Menu Changes Over the Years
Taco Bell boasts over 20 menu item innovations per year, so even favorites tend to cycle out for new creations. Some other discontinued offerings lost to changing tastes include:
- Double Decker Taco – soft and crunchy tacos with beans, sauce, and cheese between
- Santa Fe Gordita – flatbread filled with rice, cheese, chicken
- BLT Soft Taco – bacon, lettuce, and tomato taco
On the flip side, some new ingredients and modern takes on classics now rule the menu:
- Vegetarian options like black bean crunch wrap, black bean quesadilla
- Nacho fries
- Breakfast menu with breakfast crunch wrap, breakfast quesadilla
The Current Menu Landscape
In 2023, when you walk into a Taco Bell, the featured categories are tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, sides, breakfast, and combos.
Vegan and vegetarian options now have dedicated menus. However, amongst the 50+ offerings, you won’t spot any salads or taco salad.
Some of the closest alternatives would be:
- Bean burrito or cheesy bean and rice burrito
- Soft taco or crunchy taco supreme
- Nachos supreme with typical taco salad toppings
But the classic fried tortilla taco salad bowl itself is gone.
So if Taco Bell no longer sells their signature dish, what’s the deal according to the brand?
Does Taco Bell still have a fiesta salad?
On their public communications to inquiring customers, Taco Bell says regarding salads that they are “Always streamlining our menu to feature fan favorites,” referencing why salads disappeared from their repertoire completely.
For health-conscious customers looking for lighter options, they point to lower-calorie items like:
- Chicken mini quesadilla
- Veggie power menu bowl
- Chicken burrito
- Soft taco with chicken or steak
Seems those took the place of salads and the taco salad. So, in essence, they removed to keep their menu more straightforward and focused on core tacos and burritos that outperformed salads sales-wise.
The Fate of the Taco Salad
Taco Bell decision over 10 years ago in 2012 to eliminate taco salads resulted from a few factors converging:
- Increasing competition from other Mexican chains expanding nationally in the early 2000s like Qdoba, Chipotle, and Moes’s Southwest Grill offering build-your-own-style bowls and salads
- Desire on Taco Bell’s part to simplify kitchen operations with less ingredients to prep
- More Americans reducing red meat consumption associated with health risks, resulting in falling sales of beef-heavy dishes
- Higher food costs making the salad less profitable especially with add-ons like guacamole and salsa
- Changing tastes as more millennials wanted vegetarian and fusion-style items
The chain followed consumer behavior metrics closely and likely saw salad orders declining year over year. So they decided focusing elsewhere made the most strategic sense business-wise.
Does Anything Compare to Taco Bell’s Taco Salad Today?
Loyal taco salad enthusiasts still lament its loss as a satisfying meal that packed lots of Southwestern tastes into an edible tortilla bowl. Competitors haven’t really replicated the dish either.
The closest options would be:
- Taco salads at TexMex family chains like Chuy’s, Chili’s, Chevys, El Torito, On The Border
- Build your own style salads at brands like Qdoba, Chipotle, Barberitos
- Local taco shops sometimes offer variations
However, the crunchy fried shell, ground beef, and richer flavors paired specifically with Taco Bell ingredients gave their version a unique, craveable quality passionate fans still miss to this day.
What Fans Are Saying
Across Reddit threads and Facebook groups dedicated to Taco Bell, the taco salad keeps popping up with devoted followers asking if it will ever return. Here’s a sampling:
“No other fast food salad compared to the absolute deliciousness that was Taco Bell’s taco salad. Still hoping it will come back one magical day.”
“That salad was my go-to order for YEARS! Can’t believe with all their new menu experimenting they haven’t even tested bringing it back as a seasonal item after all this time.”
“I drive by my old Taco Bell, look into the window and imagine seeing that beautiful fried yellow tortilla shell filled oh so neatly with all the fixings. Sigh. But reality hits and you realize those days are gone.”
Customers praise aspects like the crunch and flavor of the shell interplaying with the cooler lettuce, salsa, and cheese contrasts. It offered a satisfying medley of tastes and textures.
Many suggest Taco Bell do limited trial runs of the taco salad regionally or nationally for a few months to access demand. Surely diehard fans would spread the word quickly!
The Future for Taco Salad Lovers
Will Taco Bell ever answer the call of a vocal contingent of customers and restore the taco salad to its menu?
It seems unlikely as a permanent fixture given its 11+ years off menus along with Taco Bell’s evolution toward showcasing newer innovations.
However if interest continues to surge on social media and customer comments, the brand may test out short term pilot runs.
Trend experts think we could see variations of fusion salads and bowls gain more traction industry-wide too as people look for lighter choices with some healthier ingredients and more global spice influences. Perhaps this evolution would make updated salad offerings more appealing to Taco Bell.
For now though, no set plans seem imminent for the taco salad’s big comeback on their national menu.
But fans can still find some substitutes and contact Taco Bell requesting its return! Where there’s loyal customers seeking an old favorite, there may be hope yet.
Taco Bell’s signature taco salad features a fried tortilla shell bowl filled with classic taco fillings like ground beef, lettuce, salsa, beans, and cheese, which unfortunately disappeared from all locations over ten years ago in September 2013.
The company removed it to streamline offerings, focusing more on core tacos, burritos, and quesadillas as American tastes changed, favoring lighter options.
However, fans still lament the loss of its crave-able crunch, bold Tex-Mex flavors, and overall satisfying combo.
While Taco Bell shows no signs yet of resurrecting the taco salad nationally, customer requests are flowing in monthly, and substitutes at other chains point toward persistent interest.
Perhaps specialty limited-time offers could answer the call for those longing to indulge in this tasty blast from the past once again.