From the place that brought us tacos with shells made of Doritos and other fun experiments in quick ‘n cheap Mexican-inspired cuisine comes their latest taste innovation, the Naked Chicken Chalupa. Here’s what they show you:

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The description from Taco Bell’s website is as follows:

With a shell made entirely of crispy white meat chicken, we’re shaking up everything you know about tradition. Filled with fresh vegetables, cheddar cheese and Spicy Ranch sauce, the Naked Chicken Chalupa is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Hurry in and get one before they’re gone.

In a sense, this is very much like the sister product to Taco Bell’s sister restaurant KFC’s famed Double Down (which I guess would make them cousins, really).

Incidentally, you might think that this review is coming a little bit late, as the Naked Chicken Chalupa is now on its way out (or has fully departed) Taco Bell restaurants all across the United States. And you’d be right, though not quite for that reason. While the Naked Chicken Chalupa has reached its twilight in the States, up north of the border here in Canada, it’s just getting started!

Well, minus a couple of weeks. My nearest Taco Bell tends to be closed on Sundays, and scheduling to visit while taking in The LEGO Batman Movie or Logan has simply not gone according to plan, so I made a bit of an extra trip during a set of errands yesterday to finally get Naked while the getting was good.

But was it worth the wait and anticipation? Read on to find out!

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Here are the two Naked Chicken Chalupas I ordered, side by side. Why two? Well, we’ll get to that in a minute.

For those worried about my calorie intake, do know that I didn’t order anything else for my meal, and I only average about two meals a day, if that. It may not be the healthiest way to live versus the three squared, but I think I’m okay when it comes to the rare occurrence I get to splurge on something like this.

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Trying my first Naked Chicken Chalupa, I found that the key ingredient — the chicken shell — to be juicy with a crispy coating. The meatiness was modest, neither too thick nor too thin, which is probably good for something acting as a delivery device for the other ingredients within. It has to fold, after all.

With that said, the tomatoes, lettuce, and cheddar cheese all seemed fresh, offering a welcome cool contrast to the hot fried shell. On that note, I strongly recommend using the paper holder to eat this, as the chicken shell is (or should be; it certainly was in my case) a freshly-fried piece of breaded meat, so it’s pretty hot and a bit greasy. Once it cools down a bit, though, it’s fine to touch on its own — just be warned ahead of time.

Bringing it all together is the Spicy Ranch sauce. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m rather finicky about my Ranch sauces, though it seems I’m finding there are more and more I like as time goes on. As it happens, this is one of them. It attempts to bind the veggies and cheese with the outer shell, and while it might not succeed as well as hoped on a physical level (bits of tomato, lettuce, and cheese spilled out throughout the meal), it does so from a flavor perspective. It’s creamy and has a bit of a kick to it, yielding something of a slow but not terribly hot burn.

As a point of note, I can’t handle spicy-hot foods the way I used to, but I found this to be overall rather manageable.

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So now you’re probably still wondering what the deal is with that second Naked Chicken Chalupa, aren’t you?

Well, here’s the secret: When sharing my plans to try this out with my cohorts from Mega Visions magazine (please give it a look; we have hedgehogs to feed), I was told that it was even better if you add in some grilled chicken and steak. I wouldn’t normally have done so on my own volition, but with an endorsement like that, I figured I had to give it a try.

And since I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back to Taco Bell before the promotion ended? Two Naked Chicken Chalupas, and a late realization that I could have prefaced this whole thing with “I suppose you’re wondering how I ended up like this…”

Anyway, as to what these two added meats on top of my veggie-filled meats brought to the table? Well, for the grilled chicken… not much. Whether it’s because I was already tasting chicken from the shell or it was simply drowned out by the bolder flavor of the steak, I barely even knew it was there. In fact, I had to scrutinize my Chalupa just to be sure that they hadn’t left it out. Nope, it was there alright.

The steak, on the other hand, added a welcome contrast that nonetheless blended in with everything else in a really good way. There was a slightly smokey flavor added, and of course, just an overall greater sense of meatiness that, despite being surrounded by it, the regular version seems to lack. So if you try one of these and feel it’s missing something, consider getting some steak added. Strictly speaking, it’s not a necessary addition, but is a very welcome one all the same.

My final verdict is that I like this, even more than the Dorito shells. As I said, I don’t get to eat at Taco Bell all that often, but if this stuck around, I could see it quickly becoming my regular go-to item.

If you decide to go out and get one yourself, know that I paid $4.99 for each Naked Chicken Chalupa. For the addition of steak and chicken, that was an extra dollar each.

To find out more about the Naked Chicken Chalupa, visit Taco Bell’s website. And if you want just the one with some fries, they have a coupon to help you out with that.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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