- Taco Bell is launching new tacos around the world that can’t be found on American menus.
- They’re designed to win over locals. The chain aims to open 1,000 locations outside the United States by 2022.
- We tried the tacos you can’t get in America and discovered they were some of the best innovations that Taco Bell has ever created.
As Taco Bell goes international, it has a growing fleet of tacos that cannot be found in the United States.
Over the last few years, Taco Bell has ramped up its international expansion, entering countries including China, the Netherlands, Finland, Peru, Romania, and Sri Lanka. Currently, the chain has more than 400 locations in 27 countries outside the US; the chain wants to grow that figure to 1,000 by 2022.
Expansion into new countries means adapting the menu to locals’ preferences. In India, for example, the majority of the population is vegetarian, making a beef burrito a less popular option. In some Asian countries, customers were unsure of the best way to eat a hard-shelled taco, leading Taco Bell to launch with an emphasis on rice bowls.
These tweaks have led to a crop of new Taco Bell tacos that mega-fans cannot find in the US. From tacos with hash brown shells in India to a revamped lava sauce on a fried chicken taco in Southeast Asia, American Taco Bell fans are missing out.
Business Insider had a chance to try five of these international menu items ahead of Taco Bell’s National Taco Day celebration on October 4. Here’s what these revolutionary tacos are actually like:
The potaco was a standout star among the international tacos – and one that needs to hit American menus as soon as possible.
Filled with standard vegetarian fillings (lettuce, tomato, salsa, cheese, and spicy ranch), the hash brown-esque shell is the star of the show. Similar in consistency to a McDonald’s hash brown, the shell is nicely crisp and seasoned. It’s easy to imagine this hitting American menus as a breakfast taco option, filled with eggs and beans.
The Paneer Taco is another attempt by Taco Bell to find new fillings to win over India’s vegetarian customers. Instead of beef or chicken, the taco is filled with paneer, a cheese that pairs nicely with the chipotle sauce.
When Taco Bell launched in Korea, not every customer was won over by the menu. So, the chain leaned heavily on familiar flavours, launching the Bulgogi Taco in 2015.
Bulgogi beef, a local favourite, is folded in with classic Taco Bell toppings in a soft flour tortilla to create a taco that is significantly spicier than what you’ll find on an American menu. While Taco Bell has found that Americans customers like to be able to add their own hot sauce, via packet, many in other countries questioned why they were being served an incomplete meal.
So, Taco Bell turned up the heat to fit local tastes and kept the sauce packets in the US.
Kickin’ Chicken Taco
Taco Bell revamped the popular lava sauce for the Kickin’ Chicken Taco, which will launch in a yet-unannounced Southeast Asian country that does not currently have Taco Bell locations by the end of 2018.
The sauce is great – the perfect level of heat with nacho cheese undertones – but the standout is the full crispy chicken strip. The result, in a flour tortilla, is closer to a Buffalo chicken wrap made in Taco Bell’s kitchens than a typical taco, a classification intended entirely as a compliment.
Taco Bell’s Tico Taco hit menus in Costa Rica in 2012. “Tico” refers to people from Costa Rica or Costa Rican-style food. Costa Rican-style tacos, therefore, would be Tico Tacos.
Taco Bell’s dish draws from how locals prepare their tacos, with shredded instead of ground beef and sweet-and-spicy Lizano sauce. It’s a completely different flavour profile than Taco Bell’s American hardshell classic, and the difference between ground and shredded beef is stark, but it works.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.