Fast Food Review: Cantina Tacos from Taco Bell

You should never confuse Taco Bell with authentic Mexican food… ever.  So when the fast food Mexican mega-chain goes for a taste of legit Mexican tacos, we will all point and laugh.  Even though I say this, I take Taco Bell for what it is and have been known to go for a taco or three at 2am.  For a cheap, quick taste of quick-serve Mexican grub… for a lot of people, Taco Bell is the only game in town.  Here’s Taco Bell’s attempt at a “real” taco with the introduction of Cantina Tacos.

It’s no surprise that chicken and steak are two of the available options for the new Cantina Tacos.  A newcomer to the bunch is (thankfully not shrimp) carnitas or as the gringos say “shredded pork”.  Each taco was an overpriced $1.69. I say overpriced because there are far heavier menu items on the cheap Taco Bell value menu.  There’s not too much to say about each one of these so watch how creative I’m about to be…

  • Chicken Cantina Taco: Two corn tortillas, filled with marinated all-white-meat chicken and doused in chopped onions and tasteless cilantro.  (Nurition Info: 170 calories, 2.5g fat, 25mg cholesterol, 350mg sodium, 27g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugar, 11g protein)

  • Steak Cantina Taco: Two corn tortillas, filled with marinated steak and doused in chopped onions and tasteless cilantro. (Nurition Info: 180 calories, 2.5g fat, 15mg cholesterol, 270mg sodium, 26g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugar, 9g protein)

  • Carnitas Cantina Taco: Two corn tortillas, filled with new slow-roasted carnitas shredded pork and doused in chopped onions and tasteless cilantro. (Nurition Info: 200 calories, 2g fat, 35mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 26g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugar, 9g protein)

See what I did there? So yeah, when the only variable is the meat, there’s not much else to talk about.  Sadly, the diced onion and cilantro mix barely gave off a taste. I can usually taste cilantro from the parking lot of most Mexican restaurants and I was shocked at how little impact it had with the Cantina Tacos.  I guess the onion/cilantro mix is there for texture and moisture because the tortillas are quite bland and dry.  What can I say about the proteins involved?  The marinated steak pieces were abundant, but way too chewy and rubbery.  The chicken was OK and just made me think of every other chicken item I’ve had at Taco Bell.  The carnitas were a tasteless mush and virtually unidentifiable.

In closing, let’s find some redeeming qualities with Taco Bell’s new Cantina Tacos.  Each of my tacos came foil-wrapped and pretty piping hot.  Also, each taco comes with it’s own fancy lime wedge… which is actually nice because you can add a hint or pour it on.  I was afraid Taco Bell would create some funky lime sauce or something.  Another redeeming quality… not soaked in cheese or cream sauce so it’s pretty low cal/low fat.  I generally like the simpler menu items, but didn’t find myself enjoying the latest creation from Taco Bell.  The few positives aren’t enough to change my overall opinion.  Cantina Tacos are quite mediocre and not worth a buy.

Pros: Lime wedge. Not a ton of fat and calories.

Cons: Tasteless cilantro. Overpriced when compared to the value menu. Rubbery steak. Carnitas mush. Not filling... must double or triple up to make a dent in your appetite.

Taste: 5.00/10
Value: 5.75/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 7.50/10
Price: $1.69

Overall GrubGrade: 5.25/10

More Info: TacoBell.com

52 comments on “Fast Food Review: Cantina Tacos from Taco Bell

  1. Jessica J says:

    They could have tried harder with these new tacos. I want more toppings! I can’t believe they have so few items on them!

    • Ryan says:

      They are trying to duplicate a more authentic Mexican taco… which is usually void of the typical shredded lettuce, cheese etc.

  2. Agreed! I went for lunch. And the only way this survives is by selling the nutrition. As for apperance, taste, fullness, uniqueness…don’t bother. Why not a shredded beef option like most “cantinas”?

  3. Justin says:

    These sort of seem like a rip off of Del Taco’s Tacos Del Carbon. The problem is that they didn’t add that California Chili sauce which knocks it out of the park. Also, Del Taco is a lot cheaper, and better quality than Taco Bell. I feel that Taco Bell is starting to get kind of greedy. The Gorditas used to be halfway reasonably priced. Every time I go now, it always seems like they keep inching higher and higher…it’s almost $3 for a steak gordita now.

    It’s almost a better value to go to Qdoba or a real Mexican restaurant now. Who is Taco Bell kidding? I wish Del Taco would expand more and get one near me!

  4. ChrisLad says:

    Well I’m glad I didn’t waste the trip to Taco Bell. Seems like only the lime wedge was good. The carnitas being bad is too bad. The steak portion does look generous. It’s unfortunate these are priced for what you get.

  5. Franzi says:

    Mhhh this one looks yummy. I love tacos but there is no tacobell over here in Germany :(

  6. maxchain says:

    I just had a couple of these. I keep trying to convince myself that I don’t hate them, but that’s probably mostly because the Gordita I had with ‘em served its purpose as damage control. If I ever get anything in those nasty tortillas again, shoot me.

  7. J.B. says:

    Well I just had the chicken and the steak and it was remarkably unremarkable.
    I think it is time for Taco Bell to start firing some people.
    Before I could even eat it, the tortillas were crumbling and falling apart.
    Then it was so utterly bland that I had to put some Del Taco Inferno sauce that I had lying around and some other taco sauce just to give it flavor.

    Taco Bell used to be about good food at low prices with decent quality and they have just moved away from that. That shrimp taco thing was a huge failure also.
    I went to Del Taco for the first time a month ago and they are going to mop the floor with Taco Bell if that company does not get its act together.

  8. Justin says:

    Just tried one, Del Taco’s stuff is much better. The California Chili sauce is what makes those versions good. This…the cilantro and onion mix looks like it came out of a box off a truck, mushy and nasty.

  9. Katie Ann says:

    The Taco Bell nearest here must be doing something wrong, because the steak filling didn’t look ANYTHING like that. It seriously looked like canned dog food. But this TB is pretty awful most of the time anyway, so I’m not too surprised. I’ll probably try them again at another one, because I usually like their steak stuff.

  10. Nick says:

    I just had all 3. I thought the steak was by far the worst. No flavor at all. The pork and chicken ones were decent, but needed more meat. They’re a rip-off at $1.69 each.

    If they were $0.99, I might get the pork ones again, but as we all know with Taco Hell, after a month, they’ll raise the price to $1.99. I’m sticking with the 5 layer burrito and double beef burrito with lava sauce.

  11. Natalie says:

    At Taco Bell in AK, each taco is $1.99. 2 for $3.79.

  12. Justin says:

    That’s high. In Michigan, they are $1.49, 2 for $2.79.

  13. Bensly says:

    Tampa is $1.49 each, $2.79 for 2, $4.99 for 3 with a drink.

    Tried all three, very little taste. Best flavor I could compare them to is the frozen Taquitos you can find at your grocery store. When you microwave them. Which isn’t very good. Wouldn’t make a repurchase on these.

  14. Rachel says:

    $1.69 each?? Wow. Making onion/cilantro that has no taste is pretty impressive as well. I’ll stick to my usual 3AM post bar chicken baja chalupa.

  15. Evan says:

    I had a feeling you would I post a review for these today.

    The worst part about these was the tortilla. So dry and bland.

  16. Carrie says:

    I had the chicken last night with my husband, and the shell was falling apart in my hands. No wonder they give it a double shell! The lime taste was overpowering, and I didn’t even use the lime wedge. The shell was so nasty I had to spit it out. I could not force myself to eat this. We don’t have a DelTaco in PA, and I’ve come to love Taco Bell but this was truly horrible. It’s $1.69 here and I don’t doubt the price will rise. Their bacon/club chalupa is much better, though $2.99.

    I really miss the simple chicken soft taco for .99 – now that was a tasty taco!

  17. mandy_Reeves says:

    hmm…I really wanna get these next pay day. Weight watchers points values are 3 for the chicken and steak and 4 for the carnitas.

    Worth a shot, in my opinion.

  18. Rus says:

    I had all 3 the other day and they were absolutely dreadful, I have no idea why Taco Bell even bothered to add these to the menu, it’s like they want to repulse their customers on purpose. Would not recommend these at all. Terrible.

  19. sir jorge says:

    wow,they are really trying to go for it now

  20. Renee says:

    I just had all three and they are not good at all. Actually, I had two, the chicken and the steak. The third is still sitting here, about to be eaten but I’m dreading the thought. The tortilla is half cooked and falling apart. I ordered it without onions, so I didn’t get any cilantro either. Just a small portion of meat that didn’t even fill the taco. Its absolutely disgusting. I love taco bell, and I’m angry that I paid over $5 for this meal which came with a large Pepsi. The chicken is the same chicken they use in everything else, and it doesn’t do anything for an authentic taco. At least at the taco trucks they put tomato or avocado on there. This was very poorly done and a waste of money.

  21. kristi says:

    i agree – not too impressed. i think they are going for looks. i saw a lime rejection chart through the window, wish i could see it close up. said to throw out any limes that looked like the photos. idk about you, but i really don’t care how my limes look! especially when the finished product (the taco itself) isn’t that big of a deal.

  22. Sandra says:

    I actually really enjoyed the steak ones oddly enough….maybe my taco bell is better but idk.

    I really liked how light and just…fresh it felt in my mouth.

  23. Stephanie says:

    There’s a taqueria by my house that sells 79 cent tacos much like these. Only the tortillas are made fresh daily by a little, old, Mexican woman, the cilantro/onion mix has a ton of flavor and the meat is incredibly juicy and well seasoned. 3 tacos and an endless cup of horchata for under $5! Taco Bell is going to have a huge fail with this one.

  24. ClockCat says:

    I tried one. The steak one.

    It tasted…like nothing. Seriously. I felt like I was eating an extremely bland tortilla shell. I added some of the lime juice and all I tasted was bland tortilla with lime.

    Also, it wasn’t even the size of one of those cheese rollup things they sell. It was smaller than a regular taco. I don’t know how they pulled that off.

  25. Fran says:

    I went to Taco Bell today to get my yearly fix of junk food and saw these on the board. I had already tried El Pollo Loco’s carnitas and found them to be much inferior to the ones I had at a local Mexican restaurant (which was only frequented by Mexicans, which is a good indication that the food is good) so was a bit weary of trying these. I’m glad I didn’t try them now and stuck with my usual number 6. Not only that, but it’s not too hard to make carnitas at home. I’m no fan of non-fried corn tortillas anywho. I do love lime cilantro sauce and have a feeling that it would take a ton of it to make these taste okay. But then again, it’s just fast food. What can you expect :(.
    I foresee that these confusions will end up either removed from the menu or will go on sale. Even then, I don’t think I’d try them.

  26. Raiders757 says:

    I go to Taco Bell to eat on the cheap. In other words, I never buy anything priced over a $1. When I saw this review, I was thinking they may have finally made something to pry my money from my cheap greedy hands. Then I read the review. Tasteless cilantro?!! That is a huge let down. How is this even possible? Leave it to a fast joint to find a way to create tasteless cilantro and onions. That almost seems impossible. I”m just bummed about this. I might still try one though.

  27. Big Time Eater says:

    Hey:

    I had all three of these:

    They aren’t all that bad. Squeeze on the lime (whcih is actaully quite sweet), and then some fire sauce and then we’re in business.

    The two layers of corn tortilla was quite wasteful.

    The carnitas has quite a nice taste to it.

    In the end, these are novelty items and if anyone ever wanted to eat “healthy,” they would go to a more upscale mexican restaurant

    Either way, these are no where as bad as the Pacific shrimp tacos (which I thought were decent, if not overpriced) or the Black Jack taco.

    If you have money to burn and you are a taco bell fan, give these a try (just the pork) and then forget these ever existed.

    ($1.49 each here in NYC, with a 3 taco plus a medium drink for $5 meal)

  28. Q says:

    I just tried these yesterday. You’re right, there’s no flavor to the cilantro at all. At least the onions gave a bit of crunch here and there.

  29. Spike says:

    There’s a taco truck across the street from the Taco Bell in our neighborhood.

  30. Hadji Chuck says:

    DO not buy this Carnita. It is trash. Most f-ing worthless under stuffed, what onions? Got ripped off big time. Had three chicken for the 5 bucks. what trash! This crap selection should bankrupt Taco crap from sewer hell or make them eligible for an Obama bailout. I dont eat this sh-t often but when I have an urge I try this crap and thats what I got just like the federal government, screwed. Felt good I guess.

  31. Lisa says:

    I liked the pork tacos’ They do taste authenic, almost like a homemade tamale. I do think they are a little pricey, but I like them, actually better than the hard taco’s. They cant touch Taco Casa on the hard shell Taco and priced at 99cents a bargain!

  32. karla says:

    its fast food idiots, it’s not going to taste good, unless you have horrible taste buds and is used to eating fried, lard crap!

    • Ryan says:

      Uh oh. Shouldn’t be referring to my GrubGrade family of readers/commenters as “idiots”.

      OK everyone, on my command… UNLEASH HELL!!!

    • Robby says:

      Yeah, let’s just ignore other quality items at Taco Bell, McDonalds, Jack in the Box, and Wendy’s.

  33. Mike says:

    I actually didn’t think the carnita tacos were that bad. No, they’re not as authentic as what you’d find at a taqueria, but I appreciate the attempt.

    Now if only they’d bring back the Bellbeefer and the Cheeserito…

  34. Ivane says:

    Damn, I was thinking of trying these, but after reading all the comments on how terrible they seem to be, I’m scared to! LOL…I dunno, we’ll see!

    • Hey, Go ahead and try them. Forget all these negative comments. These people don’t have a clue as to what real tacos are suppose to taste like. I just polished off 6 of them, 2 of each kind. I LOVED them !! Excellent, excellent !!!

  35. Jessica Leigh says:

    I tried the chicken version today, and it wasn’t so bad, but probably not worth ordering again. Here it is only $1.49 each, which is a bit of an improvement. I understand why there are 2 corn tortillas because they literally fell apart and I made a huge mess, losing part of the tortilla and some onions in my lap. I thought the lime was a big plus, and actually wished I had a bigger piece of lime, or two pieces. The onions and cilantro was surprisingly a bit tasteless, even though I was a bit worried the onion would be overpowering when I first saw it. It added a different texture, but that’s about it. I wish there was tomato added, like a pico de gallo or something like that. I was really excited about the new green chile sauce, but my store doesn’t have it yet. I think that would have made this much better, and I might consider ordering the combo with the three if I had this sauce in my local store in Mount Airy, North Carolina.

  36. Suzanne says:

    I’ve never heard such a bunch of whiners in my life.

    For $5 you get three of these, and a drink.

    They are perfectly good semi-authentic tacos… not like a taquería, but certainly better than the NORMAL taco bell tacos.

    • Raiders757 says:

      No offense, but I can understand. I am lucky enough to have a family run authentic taqueria near me, despite living in South Eastern Va.

      After tax, TB’s deal comes out to a little over $5.50. I can get the the same thing for a little over $7, and quality is a huge leap. Still, I tried the new TC Cantina Tacos today, and they weren’t all that bad. A little small for the price, but tasty for what it was.

  37. Shannen says:

    I just tried these for lunch today….and I agree whole-heartedly with your review. For me, the meat wasn’t as bad as the super dry & bland tortillas. I’d much rather have spent my money on some crunchy tacos.

  38. Pete says:

    It would seem as though a lot of the people on here who are making negative comments have yet to try true authentic mexican tacos. So if you are one of these people and you were expecting some soft shell tex-mex knock-off of the original, then yeah, you will be disappointed. But for me, I thought that the Cantina tacos were decent for a fast food attempt at the real thing. I think what was really lacking from these tacos preventing it from being a success for me was the slight crispness of the corn tortilla. At authentic mexican restaurants, they only use one tortilla to hold all the stuffing. By pan frying the tortilla for a few seconds, it becomes firm and is able to hold up no matter what juices and sauces you decide to dress up your taco with. If the tortilla would’ve been there, I think these tacos would’ve been a good.

    • Raiders757 says:

      The authentic taqueria near me makes their corn tortillas from scratch, and they always use two. It’s obvious that Taco Bell is trying to recreate the tacos you’ll find being served from taco trucks in Southern California, which most do use two tortillas as well. (Many would claim the opposite of you, if there weren’t two tortillas.)

      I personally think this is the best thing Taco Bell has ever came out with, and wish they weren’t for a “limited time only”. My only complaints, are that the onions and cilantro were very lacking in the flavor department, and that they are a bit overpriced for what you get(but not by much). This is the first menu item in over a decade that has made me willing to part with my cheap under a dollar ala-carte style of ordering at Taco Bell. It’s about time they tried to do something right for a change.

  39. Jamie says:

    simple opinion the tortillas were like crepes in texture not what I want wrapped around my taco and everything else had no flavor at all. was a total waste of money and left me still hungry.

  40. jeannette says:

    I loved the Cantina’s. They need to bring them back. C’mon, you all are comparing taco bell to authentic Mexican…it’s fast food You want the real thing, then go to a restaurant when you have time to sit and wait and pay more money. For fast food these are great!! Are you going to compare McDonald’s to Chili’s, TGIFridays, etc??

  41. Todd says:

    I’m with Jennette – bring them back!
    It’s one of the few things Taco Bell has that’s low cal/fat and actually tastes good (I thought they were great).
    I’ve been dieting and working out since July and have lost 47 lbs so far, and part of that was having two of these every other day.
    Compared to the crap I’m SUPPOSED to eat for lunch, these things were a damned taste explosion, and at two of these at less than 350 cals TOTAL, sweet Moses BRING THEM BACK!!!

  42. Sara says:

    BRING THE CANTINAS BACK!!!

    omg some of these people on here aggravate me. I don’t understand how anyone can sit there and complain about a fast food place when in this country it is widely accepted to eat Mcdonalds (did anyone see that ladies post about how the food doesn’t mold? GROSS!). Yes, I do think they were a bit pricey, BUT they were wonderful. It was a huge step for Taco Bell in the healthy direction and thanks to little whiners like these, they took them back. UGH makes me sick.

  43. R. Shackleford says:

    these were so disappointing. I went there on a late night Taco Bell run, they were more expensive than usual Taco Bell, and despite being inebriated, I didnt even eat the whole thing! it was terrible.

  44. […] see the need for Taco Bell to attempt to try and mimic a fast-casual concept like Chipotle with its Cantina Tacos or the currently testing Cantina Bell Menu.  The Cheesy Gordita Crunch is a good example of […]

  45. Michael says:

    Actually it isn’t all that healthy considering the sodium content. The bowls and burritos have at least 1600g per item. Yea it may look healthy but if you look at the nutritional aspect of the menu it is just more empty calories