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Taco Bell’s Secret Weapon Has Always Been the Humble Potato

The potatoes are the most versatile item on the Taco Bell menu — hefty enough to be a substantial base, but not so obtrusive that they overwhelm the Quesarito or Crunchwrap Supreme

The naked egg taco, topped with browned potatoes and shredded cheese, on a blond wood table with a black background. Taco Bell

Taco Bell has long been the subject of worship for fast-food connoisseurs who rightfully praise the portably delectable Crunchwrap Supreme, the craftily engineered Doritos Locos Taco, and the comforting Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla. But even aficionados tend to overlook and under-appreciate one specific Taco Bell staple: the potatoes. All of Taco Bell’s offerings that consist of these tasty taters are feats of genius. The Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes are a party in a small bowl; the Loaded Potato Griller is a must-have for those who know the power of putting fries inside a burrito. If you haven’t ordered something with potatoes at Taco Bell, you haven’t lived más.

Take a closer look at the potatoes and you’ll understand why they’re morsels of heaven. First off, their size makes them one of the most versatile staples on the Taco Bell menu — just hefty enough to pile up and be a substantial base of something like the Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes yet not too obtrusive to swap into one of the beloved TBell creations such as the Quesarito or Crunchwrap Supreme; they’re not going to overpower the other components of these delicious delights, but they will enhance them. Fried to perfection, the potatoes’ crispy exterior gives way to warm, fluffy insides will make your mouth water. But the culinary mastery of these spuds goes beyond size and texture, the seasoning similar to that of the classic seasoned beef. Unlike the beef, however, the potatoes’ crispy outsides lock in the signature spices that scream Taco Bell, making a delightful surprise out of the burst of flavor that rushes forth... like a savory Gusher.

Fast food typically has a fairly short window of time to be consumed at top quality, a window these noble taters have widened ever so slightly. Lacking the juiciness of beef or beans, they protect the tortilla, allowing you to leisurely stroll back to your apartment without risking a sloppy tortilla mess. The potatoes might lose some integrity during the journey, but in a brave act of self sacrifice, they will not ruin the meal.

Taco Bell’s potatoes are the building blocks to a number of scrumptious, underrated concoctions. Most notable are the aforementioned Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, a mound of potatoes topped with the TBell nacho cheese sauce and a dollop of reduced fat sour cream. Add a final touch of either Mild, Hot, or Fire Taco Bell sauce and voila, you have a tiny Mount Everest of taste just waiting to be avalanched into your mouth. The potatoes become the ideal vehicle for hot sauce, and cheese.

Along with giving diners a break from the typical TBell selections, potatoes provide functional value for vegetarians, allowing them to explore beyond a standard cheese quesadilla: ground beef can be swapped for beans or potatoes in almost anything. That means vegetarians can also experience the joy of biting into an amended Crunchwrap Supreme or altered Quesarito.

Taco Bell’s potatoes are the ponytail-and-glasses girl from the teen rom-com. In the past, you were maybe too distracted by Seasoned Beef, the menu’s prom queen, even though she — the potatoes — has been there the whole time, quietly believing in you as you defy your parents’ wishes and apply to the University of Full Bellies’ elite stoner food program. By the end of the movie, the choice is clear: It’s potatoes. It’s always been potatoes.

Perhaps this all seems hyperbolic, but I am not the only one who has realized this. A quick search through Twitter and you can see other potato evangelists proclaiming their power. One fan educates, “If you haven’t had a cheesy potato griller from taco bell ur missin out bc that shit slaaaaps!!!!” A fellow potato head from Montana revealed on the condition of anonymity that she was once so desperate for Cheesy Fiesta that she and a co-worker at ski resort once borrowed (without asking) a company maintenance truck to drive an hour to the nearest Taco Bell.

“The cheesy fiesta potatoes and the potato soft taco are both extremely underrated. I think it’s because they’re always overpowered by more popular items (Crunchwrap, beefy five layer, Doritos tacos, etc. (which are also stellar items),” she tells me via Twitter DM. “I get the cheesy potatoes every single time I go to TBell. they’re cheap, delicious, and reliable. I became a vegetarian this June and Taco Bell is my fast food hack. They have the most diverse menu for meatless fast food items. Any meat can be replaced by beans/potatoes.”

It is not just a privilege, but a responsibility to explore all that Taco Bell has to offer. So take our word for it and next time you’re there, go for the Crunchwrap with potatoes or indulge in the Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and Spicy Potato Soft Taco. Or don’t. The potatoes will still be there waiting for you once you finally find your way.

Gabe Bergado is currently the Entertainment Features Editor at Teen Vogue. He lives in New York City. You can follow him at @gabebergado.