Review: Dollar Cravings Menu from Taco Bell

When I found out that Taco Bell was doing a value menu facelift, I spent way too much time trying to decide what I wanted to review.  In the end I figured, why not review it all… everything.  The commitment to cover the entire Dollar Cravings Menu isn’t too daunting when you figure it’s just 11 bucks plus tax.  What is kind of intimidating is that I’d be consuming approximately 2840 calories for lunch.

Dollar Cravings Menu fullBut is 2840 calories really all that scary?  Nah, I had a slice of cheesecake the other day that was around 1400 calories so how bad could it be?  I guess the fear of growing sick of eating all that Taco Bell is something on my mind.  Because of this I decided to leave most of the products I’ve encountered in the past for the end.  There are 11 items on the Dollar Cravings Menu… a bunch of them were already on the old Why Pay More value menu and some are brand new. We’ve covered at least four of these products on GrubGrade before, but let’s revisit them anyway and tackle this menu in its entirety.    Time to eat! 

Dollar Cravings Menu logoBeefy Mini Quesadilla: Seasoned beef combined with creamy chipotle sauce and a three cheese blend, folded in a freshly grilled flour tortilla.  210 calories.  This is a new item on the Taco Bell menu and one that I was most excited for.  Taco Bell impressed me a lot with their Double Steak Cantina Quesadilla so any new quesadilla on the menu has got my attention.  I’d say this quesadilla had most of its flavor impact from the seasoned beef and maybe that’s because I’m so used to chicken or steak quesadillas at Taco Bell.  The chipotle sauce complemented the beef with some smokiness and mild heat.  I’d likely order this again and say it’s a solid 7.50/10.

Beefy Mini QuesadillaShredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla: Shredded chicken combined with a three cheese blend, folded in a freshly grilled flour tortilla.  180 calories.  Another new item and I was eager to try this one too.  There was less sauce with this quesadilla and I’m wondering if there is chipotle sauce or is it just the shredded chicken marinade of “Mexican spices”.  More impact from the cheese on this one over the beef version, but if you think Taco Bell’s shredded chicken tastes a little funny, as many of you have mentioned, you’ll want to stay away.  Although both beef and chicken versions show to be the same weight, the chicken version didn’t feel as hefty.  I preferred the Beefy… I’ll put the chicken version at a 6.25/10.

Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla Taco BellSpicy Tostada:  A crunchy tostada shell topped with hearty beans, crisp lettuce, real cheese, tangy red sauce and creamy chipotle sauce.  200 calories.  The Tostada has been off and on my local Taco Bell’s menu for years.  This meatless option is exactly the same except for the added chipotle sauce.  The flat, hard taco shell felt like it needed a few more seconds to get a little toastier.  As you might imagine, the Spicy Tostada is difficult to eat… it’s stuck in between wanting to be a bad salad and a meatless taco.  Not really sure what the point was to have tangy red sauce plus creamy chipotle sauce.  I guess the chipotle sauce gives it the “Spicy” name, but if you’re looking for something spicy, you should look elsewhere.  I didn’t care much for this and give it a 4.25/10… it’s probably on this new Dollar Cravings Menu because there isn’t much to it and fits the dollar price point.

Spicy Tostada Taco BellCinnamon Twists: Crispy, puffed corn twists, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.  170 calories.  This is my first chance to kind of mix it up and take a little break from cheese and sauce.  At this point in my meal I began to munch on Cinnamon Twists and ration them throughout.  These light, crunchy puffs of cinnamon sugar acted as my pallet cleanser from here on out.  I’ve had them before back when I reviewed the Volcano Box and gave them a 6.25/10 score.  My impressions haven’t changed much except for this is one of the menu items that seems slightly overpriced.  You get a good amount of Twists, but it weighs nothing… like eating sweet, crunchy air.

Cinnamon Twists Taco BellCheesy Bean and Rice Burrito: Hearty beans, cilantro rice, warm nacho cheese, and creamy jalapeno sauce wrapped up in a flour tortilla.  420 calories.  I figured at this point I should make sure to get the rest of the stuff I’ve never had before out of the way before I fall asleep.  The Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito is a nice vegetarian option and it’s got a decent weight to it.  This feels like the first really good value item so far.  I liked the creamy jalapeño sauce as a welcome change from chipotle sauce.  The cilantro rice lightens flavors up where the nacho cheese and jalapeño sauce don’t get lost… overly seasoned rice would’ve screwed it up.  I will get the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito again and I’d say it was one of my favorites so I’m giving it a 7.75/10.

Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito Taco BellBeefy Fritos Burrito: Seasoned beef, Frito® chips, and cilantro rice wrapped in a flour tortilla and filled with warm nacho cheese sauce.  440 calories.  This burrito is the same size as the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito, but somehow the meatless option was more satisfying for me… maybe it was the “hearty” beans that did it?  The real draw for this is obviously going to be the Fritos.  Unfortunately they lacked a good crunch and couldn’t do much to add to the experience (honestly they seemed stale and not just softened by the surrounding warm ingredients).  The Beefy Crunch Burrito wasn’t exactly perfect, but next to this it was so much better.  I’m sure this will sell well… yet a bit lacking in my opinion so it gets a 5.50/10 score.

Beefy Fritos BurriosCaramel Apple Empanada: A crispy golden pastry pocket filled with chunks of warm apples in creamy caramel sauce.  310 calories.  We’ll call this the “blind spot” in my 20+ year relationship with Taco Bell.  The Caramel Apple Empanada has been on the menu for years, but I’ve never been tempted to order it.  I’m glad I finally had it because I loved it and will give it a 8.00/10.  Great crust, sweet chunks of softened apple swimming in a warm caramel.  Nothing new… yet new to me and it’s delicious.

Caramel Apple Empanada Taco bellSpicy Potato Soft Taco: A warm soft tortilla filled with crispy potato bites, real cheddar cheese, crisp shredded lettuce and creamy chipotle sauce.  250 caloriesWe reviewed the “Crispy Potato Soft Taco” back in 2009 and the old version had Pepper Jack sauce and this version has… you guessed it, creamy chipotle sauce.  The Potato Soft Taco is one of my go-to’s when grabbing a bunch of cheap a la carte Taco Bell grub.  The potatoes are seasoned well, crispy, and might have me thinking that going meatless wouldn’t be so hard with these around.  I like this a lot.  It was hard to distinguish the Spicy Potato Soft Taco from previous incarnations with a different sauce.  I wasn’t the reviewer for the original post from 5 years ago… I liked it more than a 5.50/10… I’d score it 7.50/10.

Spicy Potato Soft TacoCheese Roll-Up: A flour tortilla rolled up with a three cheese blend melted to perfection.  180 calories I reviewed this no-frills item back in 2010 and gave it a 6.00/10 score.  Yes it’s very simple and likely too plain for even a child, but I’ve grown to really like it and make it a regular add-on to many Taco Bell orders.  Like the Cinnamon Twists, the Cheese Roll-Up (57 grams serving size) feels overpriced when you put it alongside a heftier item like the Beefy Fritos Burrito or the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito (each clocking in at 181 grams serving size).  I’m not too phased by the price when I feel this perfect grubbing on the go option is purchased as an accomapaniment to a bigger item on the Dollar Cravings Menu.

Cheese Roll Up Taco BellTriple Layer Nachos: Freshly prepared, crisp tortilla chips, hearty beans covered in warm nacho cheese sauce and topped with a tangy red sauce.  320 calories.  The key words here are “Freshly prepared” because if you don’t eat these chips within 10 minutes they tend to lose the all-around crunch.  I was way too kind in 2009 when I reviewed these alongside two other nacho plates.  If you can eat these while still piping hot you will hurt your mouth and rejoice in crunchier chips.  For just a dollar it might be worth the risk.  The refried beans, nacho cheese sauce and red sauce were all distributed fairly with a decent trio of textures and flavors.  The chips need some work… 5.00/10.

Triple Layer Nachos Taco BellCinnabon Delights 2 Pack: Warm, golden bite-sized pastries filled with Cinnabon® frosting and covered with Makara® cinnamon sugar.  160 calories.  What a nice way to end a meal.  I love these.  8.25/10 is the grade I gave them recently… one of my current favorites.  That creamy sweet frosting center is perfect… the price however is far from perfect.  You’re only getting two Cinnabon Delights when previously they were priced at $1.49 for 4.

Cinnabon Delights from Taco BellSo if we’re going by an overall average of GrubGrade scores, the Dollar Cravings Menu gets about a 6.50/10. The way I see it, there’s plenty of variety so you’re likely to find a few favorites in the mix.  I love value menus and when they’re set up where everything is the same price, I love them even more.  Spending a few bucks to create your own combo is what I wish for at every fast food restaurant.

Pros: Taco Bell has solid desserts... who knew? Really enjoyed the Cheesy Rice and Bean Burrito and will definitely get it again. Eleven choices. Nice variety of choices.

Cons: Half of the non-dessert items feature creamy chipotle sauce so that got a little boring. A few bad value items in the bunch (Cinnabon Delights are awesome, but got a hefty price hike).

Taste: 6.50/10
Value: 6.50/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 6.50/10
Price: $1.00

Overall GrubGrade: 6.50/10

More Info: http://www.tacobell.com/food/menu/dollar-cravings-menu

32 comments on “Review: Dollar Cravings Menu from Taco Bell

  1. […] On Monday, August 18th, Taco Bell will be launching a new value menu nationwide called the Dollar Cravings Menu.  There’s a nice mix of new items and some familiar favorites. There are 11 items on the menu, all for a buck.  ***UPDATE: Here’s my review of the entire menu*** […]

  2. Patrick Bateman says:

    Sir, I commend you for putting your future health on the line for us, the reader.

  3. Raiders757 says:

    The Caramel Apple Empanada has always been awesome. It’s shame you waited this long to try one. When they first came out they were a littler bigger, but they still taste as good as they did back then.

    Thanks for the review as well. Way to take one for the team.

  4. MP says:

    Interesting. My picks would had been Beefy Mini Quesadilla, Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla & Triple Layer Nachos. But now I’d probably try the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito & Caramel Apple Empanada.

    Sodium round-up for that whole meal if consumed all at once:BFB 1030, BMQ 560, CAE 310, CR-U 430, CB&RB 930, CB 2-P 80, CT 200, SCMQ 540, SPST 510, ST 440, TLN 600 = 5630mg.

    • MP says:

      So far I’ve ordered:
      Beefy Mini Quesadilla – Very tasty but paper thin. Mine was nowhere near as stuffed as Ryan’s. It’s the same price as a soft taco & I would get this over that.
      Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito – Nice size & good value. Tasty. The more sauce(s) the better.
      Beefy Fritos Burrito – Nice size & good value. Don’t care for the Fritos but gives it a corn shell taste.
      Cheese Roll-Up – Basically 1.5″ wide & about 3/8″ thick. It’s alright. It’s a little better when it’s microwaved.
      Caramel Apple Empanada – Mostly caramel & crust but tasty.

  5. Mike says:

    Those cheese roll ups are so simple but so addicting. I absolutely love those things when craving melted cheese.

  6. Jonathan Wayne says:

    I think it is a pretty solid menu for the money, it should do very well.

  7. rob says:

    So without the desserts it’s $9 for everything I know what I’m having for lunch.

  8. Ruffy says:

    I know it’s sacrilege to complain about the Beefy Crunch Burrito, but just like with the review above I always felt that the fritos were stale and vaguely soggy even before coming into contact with the rest of the burrito contents. They’re ok, but if they were actually prepared with decently fresh ingredients they’d probably be really good.

  9. Thistle says:

    The cheese roll-up is always the main thing I order there. Two of those + the basic nachos (plain, cheese on the side) and I’m a happy camper.

  10. Joe Cool says:

    How was the aftermath a couple of hours later?

  11. Jeff in Middletucky says:

    I’m beyond pissed that the basic crunchy taco and soft taco are no longer only a dollar, apparently.

    That said, I’ll give this thing a whirl on Friday for lunch, especially those two burritos, which look and sound quite good to me.

  12. […] positive sign came from GrubGrade's chief blogger Ryan, who sampled every Dollar Cravings offering during a single lunch. He rated the food slightly above average overall and concluded, "I love […]

  13. KK says:

    I tried the Beefy Frito Burrito today and the Shredded Chicken mini Quesadilla. The Frito Burrito was pretty good, added some hot sauce to it, will get it again.

    The mini quesadilla was pretty bad though. It came in the foil like above but looked nothing like it. Was so thin it was like hardly anything was in it – then I opened it up and all that WAS in it was on the foil – not that it was much. The tortilla was also stuck to the foil. There was barely any cheese at all – maybe none I didn’t see or taste any, small amount of chicken and a ton of whatever the sauce is. Total waste of a dollar LOL. I do think it was the person who made it but I generally don’t complain and that was pretty bad.

    A quesadilla, anyway, is about the cheese. I notice whenever I have ordered a chicken or steak quesadilla (the regular menu one) in the past I am underwhelmed anyway – there’s usually (again) minimal cheese with LOTS of sauce instead. Kinda pointless if you like an actual cheesy quesadilla.

  14. Ric says:

    I tried the chicken and beef quesadillas, the spicy potato burrito, frito burrito, Tostada, and cheesy bean and rice burrito. Both quesadillas were amazing for only $1. Going by what some others have said, maybe the workers at my store made them wrong cause they were backed with meat and cheese. The beef quesadilla reminded me of the meximelt, I used to get it all the time minus the fiesta salsa but at the stores around here it’s over $2 now. This was pretty much the same for half teh price.

  15. Grant says:

    Still have ZERO idea how a basic taco costs more than half of this stuff. Got the Frito burrito and it had to have weighed 4 times as much as a single cruncy taco. Crunchy tacos should be no more than $.75

  16. Sascha says:

    I’ve tried the two quesadillas and the tostada, and I disagree a bit with your reviews, Ryan. I think I had the exact opposite experience than you, my beef quesadilla didn’t stand out because I think they filled it a bit light on the meat, while the chicken was packed and delicious. I think the beef will be better if they pack it in a bit more. I’d say 6/10 for the beef 7.75/10 for the chicken.

    The tostada, meanwhile, was awesome. I’ve never had a tostada at TB before, and I don’t tend to gravitate towards spicy things, but this was an acceptable level of spice, and the crispy shell, beans and veggies were complementing each other great. 8.25/10 for the tostada.

    And yeah, the empanada is tremendous. Beats anyones apple pie or other dessert by a mile.

  17. TJ says:

    +1 on positive reports on the chicken quesadilla, mine was very cheesy and melty, a steal at the price point.

    • KK says:

      I think I will try the quesadilla again. Mine was such a mess that it HAD to be a fluke. I generally find Taco Bell fairly consistent.

  18. lewbone says:

    I know one thing, if I ate that entire menu for lunch, I would be stuffed way past dinnertime

    I have tried the tostada: loved it
    Both quesadillas: Liked the beef better but both were skimpy
    and the cinnabon bites which were ok, but Id rather spend that dollar on another of the items on the menu
    tried the potato tacos previously, decent, nothing special
    and the cheese roll up, decent but nothing special as well
    Empanada, good, my daughter loves them

  19. […] inside out livin’ mucho mucho más. It’ll push and pull you down, livin’ mucho mucho más. (by way of Grub […]

  20. Logan Rollo says:

    This means the cheese roll ups are going up for me. They are great as an add-on for larger items and, previously, at one local store only cost 95 cents. Also, almost every store in the Montgomery, AL (haven’t tried all of them yet) have stopped rolling the Cinnabun Delights in sugar. All you get is a greasy half-cooked ball of dough that MAY have some frosting inside. I’d say they’ve dropped (locally) to a solid 1.5/10.

  21. rich says:

    Which one has the most food? I used to get two of those quarter pound burritos. Thinking of making a return to taco bell bc I haven’t been forever.

  22. David P says:

    I just can’t justify paying anything for instant diarrhea!

  23. […] John’s might raise some eyebrows… introducing the Fritos Chili Pizza.  Taco Bell put Fritos in a burrito, so why can’t Papa John’s top a pizza with them?  A large is priced at $12 during the […]

  24. […] Beefy Fritos Burrito from the Dollar Cravings Menu has a couple of new flavors.  Spotted in Michigan by GrubGrade reader Sascha, the new Chili Fritos […]

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