The Origin Story Of Taco Bell's Iconic Gordita

Taco Bell has seen a lot of items cycle in and out of its menu over the past several decades. There's Taco Bell's sloppy joe-inspired Bell Beefer burger, an original menu item which vanished in the 1990s, and most recently the company has introduced the brand new Cantina Chicken menu. Heck, Taco Bell's nacho fries have reappeared multiple times, and now seem to be a permanent menu fixture. But sometimes, an item shows up and just never goes anywhere because people enjoy it too much. Such was the case with the Gordita. Well ... one version of it, anyway.

Taco Bell introduced the Gordita — which bears little resemblance to an actual Mexican gordita — in 1998. At the time, it was basically a loaded flatbread taco, with three versions: Supreme, Fiesta, and Santa Fe. These versions stuck around in some form for a couple of decades, but it was in 2001 that the Gordita ultimately evolved into the product you probably know from the menu today: The Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

Taco Bell's gordita was pretty far from authentic

No one is going to be particularly surprised that Taco Bell's version of the gordita wasn't exactly authentic, not having much in common to the popular street food eaten throughout central and northern Mexico. A true gordita is kind of similar to a Venezuelan arepa, a small, round corn cake made from masa dough and stuffed with various fillings like meat, cheese, and beans. They also typically have an opening on one side both used for stuffing and to cool the finished product down. That small, round shape is where the name comes from, as "gordita" translates to something like "little fat one."

Taco Bell's version, meanwhile, was essentially just a bigger, wider taco using flatbread as the shell, all versions of which involved beef. The Supreme was essentially a carbon-copy of the Taco Supreme: Ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream. The other two have recipes that are harder to pin down. The Santa Fe involved corn, black beans and Santa Fe sauce, while the Fiesta featured lettuce, a three-cheese blend, and fiesta salsa. At least some version of the Gordita lasted until around 2019, but its successor still lives today.

The cheesy gordita crunch is the company's only surviving gordita

The final version of the Taco Bell Gordita bears even less resemblance to an actual gordita than any of its predecessors. The Cheesy Gordita Crunch, which has been a menu staple for over two decades now, is basically a ground beef taco with lettuce, cheese, and spicy ranch. This is then coated with more cheese to adhere a warm flatbread shell to its exterior. Nothing about it screams "gordita" — but it's undeniable that it's delicious, with the crunchy taco and soft flatbread serving as textural counterpoints, and the multiple layers of cheese definitely living up to its name.

It's not entirely clear why the original three versions of the Gordita ultimately vanished while the Cheesy Gordita Crunch remains; Taco Bell isn't exactly public with its reasons for discontinuing products. The culprit is most likely low sales, though — the same thing that kills a lot of fast food menu items.