Review: Taco Bell's Yellowbird Nacho Fries Nail The Sweet/heat Balance

Taco Bell is bringing back a fan favorite item yet again in the latest release of its nacho fries. For this extra spicy promotion, the brand is teaming up with Austin, Texas-based hot sauce maker Yellowbird to bring a new sauce to the nacho fry game. The all-new spicy habanero ranch sauce comes served as a dipping sauce on the side of the fries (or any item you want), but the real star is the brand new Yellowbird nacho fries item that comes topped with the nacho cheese, the spicy habanero sauce and steak.

Even if you don't live in Texas, you are likely to have tried Yellowbird from your local grocery store's hot sauce aisle. The brand is one of the best hot sauces you can buy, so this limited time partnership should be exciting to fans of Yellowbird's habanero hot sauce.

The run goes from April 13 until April 27 and is the ninth time nacho fries have returned to the menu since the item's inception. Described by the company as a "versatile, fruity, acidic hot sauce," Yellowbird's spicy habanero ranch will be available during that time window in the Yellowbird Nacho Fries as well as on the side as a dip option for any other item. And, once the promotion is over, you won't have to say goodbye to the fries. At least not yet.

We tried the Yellowbird Nacho Fries in multiple forms to see if the new sauce brought the heat and were pleasantly surprised by the results. Here's our thoughts.

What's in it?

The concept for Yellowbird Nacho Fries starts with Taco Bell's beloved nacho fries and then loads them up with shredded cheese, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream, tomatoes, and, of course, the Yellowbird spicy ranch. As advertised, the dish also comes topped with steak. Although for no extra cost you can get the steak substituted out for chicken, so we tried one of each option.

Other proteins you can swap in by customizing your order in the Taco Bell app or in the store include the classic seasoned beef, black beans, or refried beans.

We also attempted to order just the nacho fries with a side of the habanero sauce for dipping, but mistakenly received a side of regular nacho cheese with our order and no extra Yellowbird sauce. This didn't prevent us from dunking our extra fries in the pool of Yellowbird sauce that tended to build up on the containers of the other items, though.

Cost of the item

As first seen in Taco Bell's official statement, the cost of the Yellowbird Nacho Fries are frequently cited at $4.99 with an asterisk. Similarly, the cost of the nacho fries by themself were listed at $1.99, and an extra cup of the Yellowbird habanero ranch is set to run you $1.00. These prices are listed as a baseline, but may not necessarily reflect the actual prices of the items where you live.

For example, we purchased the items in New York City from a Taco Bell in Brooklyn. At this location, the Yellowbird Nacho Fries ran us $5.99 per order. The nacho fries on their own cost $2.79. At the Taco Bell we ordered from, you could also add Yellowbird sauce to any item for $1.00. 

Taco Bell's Yellowbird Nacho Fries are loaded with sodium

Everything you might assume about the nutritional value of the Yellowbird Nacho Fries is probably true. While, the total calorie count per item may be a little lower than you expect, sitting at 490 calories. But that doesn't mean this new item is anywhere close to a healthy Taco Bell option. In fact, it might end up being part of a group of foods you might want to reconsider ordering

For starters, the speciality item contains 1240mg of sodium. This is over half of the recommended daily sodium intake. The total fat count isn't much more encouraging, equalling out to about 38% of your average daily value. These nacho fries are not the worst thing you can get on the Taco Bell menu, but the high sodium values are worth mentioning to anyone looking to indulge. 

The Spicy Habanero Ranch sauce packs punch of sweet heat

Upon trying the Yellowbird sauce for the first time, you are met with a sweetness that is immediately appealing. This is followed up by a serious, but not outrageous, heat that kicks in after the sauce has gone down. It is a shockingly complex flavor to be featured on the Taco Bell menu and is a great fit to accompany the returning Nacho Fries.

On the whole, we were definitely a big fan of using the Yellowbird Spicy Habanero Ranch as a dipping sauce for these fries and wish that the restaurant hadn't gotten our order wrong, because we would have loved a whole cup of that golden goodness. Between the coating on the fries and the sauce, there was a noticeable but pleasant heat factor going on that will leave your mouth tingling just a bit. 

The loaded nacho fries got a bit soggy

Unfortunately, the main course wasn't as much of a hit. The Yellowbird Nacho Fries certainly aren't bad, and they are largely tasty for the same reason as the nacho fries dipped in the habanero ranch sauce. That sweet heat element is still prevalent and the spice is even tempered by the addition of sour cream and the rich Taco Bell nacho cheese sauce. The tomatoes go largely unnoticed but the attempt at putting a veggie in there is commendable. We also found that adding the regular hot sauce to the item added another layer of flavor, and not so much heat at all. 

All that being said, the nacho fries were pretty loaded and couldn't stand up to the weight of all the ooey-gooey toppings, especially if you choose to add more sauce. Taco Bell's fries aren't too crispy to begin with and, despite still being warm when they arrived, it was clear this would require a fork to properly dig into. 

The steak was better than the chicken

Speaking of steak, when it came to the meat options we tried, the steak was the clear winner. This makes sense, since this is how the item comes by default, but it was still a noticeable difference. Where the steak had a simple, savory flavor, the grilled chicken tasted bland in comparison. While both the steak and chicken were a bit dry, this was evened out by the otherwise wet nature of the loaded nacho fries as a whole. 

Frankly, it felt as if the meat was the most superfluous element of the item. We don't think vegetarians will be missing out on any of the good stuff by opting to substitute beans in this one. In fact, that might make it better. And if you're vegan, don't think for one minute you can't enjoy Taco Bell as there's several options

Final Verdict

Overall, the new Yellowbird habanero ranch hot sauce at Taco Bell is a successful limited time addition to the menu, even if the Yellowbird Nacho Fries themselves didn't blow our minds. If you are a fan of Taco Bell's nacho fries already, this loaded dish is a no brainer but it won't convert any haters.

If you dig Taco Bell, but wish the chain had more flavorful and actually hot sauces, then it's also worth giving the Yellowbird sauce a try. Getting a cup as a side to Nacho Fries or your favorite Taco Bell item is probably the best — and most cost efficient — way to try this limited time condiment. Above all, it makes for a great dipping sauce that is loaded with flavor.