REVIEW: Taco Bell potatoes are back, and so is my happiness

Taco Bell's cheesy fiesta potatoes are back, loaded with glistening cheese, sour cream and, of course, the popular chain's signature potatoes. 

At long last, I have been reunited with Taco Bell potatoes. After months of potato-less monstrosity for vegetarian and vegan fans, Taco Bell has finally done what is right — and plans to do more in the future. 


Taco Bell CEO Mark King announced the potatoes’ return in January in a since-deleted video wherein a Zoom filter turns his face into a potato. He said not only were potatoes coming back in March, Taco Bell would be partnering with Beyond Meat for plant-based meat alternatives in the undetermined future. As someone who addressed both of these things in a prior opinion piece, I finally felt heard. 


It was a chilly, cloudy Thursday afternoon as I drove to the local Edwardsville Taco Bell. This day — March 11 — had been marked on my digital calendars for months as “TACO BELL POTATOES RETURN!!” As I drove, I pondered: Will the potatoes taste the same? Do they cost more? Would that honestly stop me?


After placing my order and waiting my turn, I was handed the iconic brown paper bag I used to know and love. As the drive-thru worker handed it to me, they said, “These potatoes are fresh, so be careful, they might be hot.” 


I took this not as a warning, but an invitation. I knew the drive-thru worker was serious when my windows began to fog.


Typically, I drown my Taco Bell items in Diablo sauce, but I kept my saucy tendencies to a minimum for the sake of this review to more accurately capture the taste of the potatoes. With that in mind, I began with the item I missed most: the spicy potato soft taco (which, to my relief, is still just $1). 


In my experience, the key to a good Spicy Potato Soft Taco is the chipotle sauce distribution; you don’t want a thick glob all in one bite, but it also shouldn’t be spread too thin. Upon inspection, the sauce appeared consistent, as did the potatoes, but the taco was just a little lettuce-heavy for my taste (I like just enough lettuce to trick me into thinking it’s healthy, but no more). 


I found this to be an easy fix as I removed some lettuce and prepared for the moment of truth. My immediate reaction upon first bite was that the potatoes tasted exactly as I remembered: warm, soft, seasoned and delicious. I think I even said, “It’s like they never left,” out loud, because that’s genuinely how it felt. 


While the Spicy Potato Soft Taco is simple and wonderful, the cheesy fiesta potatoes really allow the taste of the potatoes to take center stage. For those unfamiliar, Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes are a bowl of Taco Bell’s seasoned potatoes topped with nacho cheese sauce and sour cream. Much like the spicy potato soft taco, the key to good taste with this item is in the ingredient proportions; there’s a reason they aren’t the “sour-creamy fiesta potatoes.”


Much to my delight, these Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes lived up to their name, with just the right ratio of cheese sauce to sour cream. Drizzled atop a warm potato bed, the flavor combination brought a wave of nostalgia to my taste buds. However, the potatoes themselves were the true star of the show, holding as firm as my faith in their return and not becoming soggy under the toppings.


With both items down, I felt as if the final puzzle piece in my heart had finally found its place. The only way it could have been better is if it included a loaded potato griller, which Taco Bell corporate sadly didn’t bring back with its spud-centered siblings. 


Given the hype I built in my mind around the news, I had some hesitation about trying Taco Bell’s potato items again for the first time in months. Fortunately, this visit eased my concerns and set a potato-filled precedent for my future.


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