Taste Test: Taco Bell's Newest Doritos Taco Should Spice Up Chain's Bottom Line

Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco was the most successful product launch in the company's history, with more than 100 million units sold in the first 10 weeks and more than half a billion to date. The company's CEO even claims that the product has created thousands of jobs. So when the fast-food chain launches a new flavor, as it's set to do on Aug. 22, people take notice.

We decided to hold a taste-test of the new flavor in advance of its official launch.

First, a note on the flavor: It's "Flamas," a chili-lime Doritos flavor. This will be the third iteration of the Doritos Loco Taco, which launched in 2012 with the Nacho Cheese flavor and added Cool Ranch to the lineup earlier this year.

Now, Taco Bell (YUM) hasn't officially announced the new flavor yet, choosing to treat the reveal as a big mystery on social media. But in truth, it's the worst-kept secret in tacos. As Foodbeast points out, there's photographic evidence of the Flamas flavor at a test location. And Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed has repeatedly confirmed that Flamas would be the new flavor. So unless Taco Bell is orchestrating the greatest bait-and-switch in taco history, you can expect the new flavor to be announced as Flamas in the next week or so.

Still, company representatives wouldn't confirm the flavor, exhorting me to guess the flavor based on my taste test.

So I tried it out. It's Flamas, and it's delicious.

Taco Bell representatives came by with samples of all three Doritos Locos Tacos, and I was joined by three DailyFinance colleagues in taste-testing them. The verdict was unanimous: This is the best of the Doritos Locos Tacos.

Flamas brings something to the Doritos Taco line that's been missing: Spice. The bright-red shell has a satisfying, lingering heat to it, and while it's a bit too salty, there's a real flavor here that shines through the sodium.
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The heat was a nice surprise, as Taco Bell has always seemed a little reluctant to make its food too spicy (the hottest of its hot sauces, "Fire," is still less spicy than most mass-market hot sauces). While Flamas isn't going to send you rushing for a glass of milk, it definitely lives up to its name.

The original Nacho Cheese flavor came in second in our taste-test. Cool Ranch, which is my favorite Doritos flavor, remains the most disappointing of the three, with the characteristic Cool Ranch flavoring overwhelmed by the excess salt.

But as impressed as we were, Flamas is a somewhat risky choice for the next flavor of what has become Taco Bell's signature dish. If this is the first you've heard of it, you're not alone: Flamas Doritos are largely sold only in Hispanic neighborhoods; we were unable to find them in stores near our office in downtown Manhattan. Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch account for 75 percent of Doritos sales.

Still, even though the new flavor is a relative unknown, we hope that won't cause customers to overlook it, as it's a strong addition the Taco Bell menu.

Taco Bell's Cool Ranch Dorito Taco is Just the Latest 'Frankensnack'
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Taste Test: Taco Bell's Newest Doritos Taco Should Spice Up Chain's Bottom Line

It's not unusual to see Oreos appear in other snack foods. Most ice cream shops and brands offer some variety of the cookies and cream flavor. And Oreos also appear (alongside several other snacks) as an optional mix-in for the McDonald's McFlurry.

But there was something bizarre about seeing them as a topping on a doughnut, which is exactly what Krispy Kreme began offering a few weeks ago. There are two varieties of the doughnut, both of which include both Oreo cookie crumbles and a dollop of Oreo's signature filling. They're available at select locations through April 21.

Krispy Kreme hasn't posted calorie count information for the doughnuts, and frankly, we're afraid to ask.

Cookies and pastries we can understand. Cookies and pizza are a bit harder to fathom. But in 2007, Oreos teamed up with Domino's, to create what it dubbed a "dessert pizza."

Fortunately, this was not a standard Domino's pizza topped with Oreos; rather, you got a thin crust covered in vanilla sauce, crumbled Oreo cookies and frosting. It was dreamed up by a Domino's employee in a contest to create a new product offering and even got an advertising campaign.

Photo: YouTube.com

Sometimes Oreos go inside other snacks. Sometimes, other snacks go inside Oreos.

That's the case with this weird variety, which replaces the classic Oreo filling with one flavored like the traditional Halloween candy. The limited-edition cookie appeared on shelves last fall for the Halloween sales season -- though it was not the first time Nabisco offered a seasonal Oreo variety. The company sold candy cane Oreos during Christmas from 2008-2010.

Both limited-edition varieties can still be found on eBay, where a package of candy corn Oreos sells for the princely sum of $34.95.

Yes, that makes three entries for Oreos, which deserves a lifetime achievement award for its string of roles as best supporting snack food.

Pizza and beer have always been brothers in arms, so it was only a matter of time before some adventurous brewery found a way to mash them together.

Tom and Athena Seefurth of Illinois invented this concoction in 2006 by topping a pizza crust with tomato, oregano, basil and garlic and then rinsing the "essence of pizza spices" into the brewpot. The result, Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer, does in fact taste like pizza, with the oregano flavor particularly pronounced.

You're probably not going to down several pizza beers in one sitting -- it's not what you'd call a session beer. But if your local bar happens to have a bottle, we'd recommend giving it a try.

Chicken and waffles is a traditional dish that may very well qualify as a Frankensnack in its own right. So it was only natural that Lay's would seek to imbue that unique flavor into its potato chips.

We got a chance to try these, and were greeted with a strong taste of syrup. It's not exactly a taste you expect (or particularly want) to find in a bag of chips.

The variety was introduced in a contest to pick the next flavor of Lay's chips, and it's going up against "cheesy garlic bread" and "Sriracha." The latter is a wildly popular hot sauce and early reviews are good, so we fully expect it to beat out the chicken and waffles flavor and arrive soon at a grocery store near you.

Photo: Lay's Facebook

In the mood for a burger, but feel like they haven't packed enough calories into the bun?

Sometimes referred to as a "Luther Burger" -- after R&B singer Luther Vandross -- the doughnut burger is just a beef patty sandwiched between a couple of doughnuts (or, if you're watching your calories, one doughnut split in half). Unfortunately there are no national chains offering this, but a couple of local establishments have them. One doughnut shop in Orange Country, Calif. offers a cheeseburger doughnut alongside other weird menu items like pizza doughnuts and sushi doughnuts. And the Gateway Grizzlies, an Illinois minor league baseball team, offer a bacon cheeseburger on a split Krispy Kreme doughnut, earning them the title of "baseball's best burger" from Sports Illustrated.

And if there are no restaurants or doughnut shops near you offering a version of this beast of a burger, don't despair: You can make one yourself -- Paula Deen has a recipe, of course.

Photos: Devilicious Donuts, Facebook

Pizza Hut first recognized that the crust could be more than a handle when it introduced the Stuffed Crust Pizza in the 1990s. That wasn't exactly a Frankensnack -- they were just putting cheese in a part of the pizza that had previously been cheese-free.

But innovation doesn't sleep, and last year the pizza chain took the crust to a whole new level, introducing the Crown Crust Carnival pizza to its Pizza Hut Middle East stores. One featured a crust that incorporated chicken strips, while the other had mini-cheeseburgers circling the pie.

The Huffington Post also points out that Pizza Hut UK previously offered a hot dog stuffed crust. Clearly, America has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to crust innovation.

Photo: YouTube.com

Most Frankensnacks are essentially novelty foods, released on a limited-time basis in hopes of getting some curious diners who want something adventurous. Typically, they don't turn into best-selling menu items.

But the Doritos Locos Taco is the exception: The original nacho cheese flavor sold 100 million tacos in its first 10 weeks, and now accounts for a quarter of all Taco Bell taco sales.

So of course Taco Bell is releasing a second such taco featuring the second-most popular Doritos flavor, Cool Ranch.


Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.
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