Summer 2024 is looking a little brighter–and cheaper–thanks to the return of fast-food value menus. After a long hiatus, top chains are hopping back on this cost-saving trend to provide customers with much-needed wallet relief while simultaneously driving more traffic and revenue to their businesses.

Now, while this is positive news, and I would love to emphatically say that these low-priced lineups are back and better than ever, that’s not entirely true. Many claim to only be around for a limited time, and nothing could ever beat the extensive dollar menus of decades past. But restaurants are trying all the same and presumably doing their best given current inflation levels.

For example, McDonald’s has its $1, $2, $3 Dollar Menu up and running and is now also touting its new $5 value menu, which will officially launch on June 23. Burger King is promoting its own $5 Your Way Meal deal. Wendy’s additionally has a dog in the frugal fight, with a $3 English muffin breakfast meal and its budget-friendly Biggie Bags (plus a free Frosty!).

If you’re looking to venture outside the bun, however, Taco Bell also recently dropped a new lineup dubbed the Cravings Value Menu. The Mexican-inspired chain is known to be pretty affordable. But the ten items on this list are especially low-cost ranging from just $1 up to $3.

When it comes to Taco Bell, I am loyal to the Crunchwrap, my trusty order every time I whiz through the drive-thru. But, I decided to step out of my comfort zone to test out the value menu in its entirety and report back about which items really do allow you to live mas and pay less while still enjoying good, quality food. Let’s see how each burrito, taco, and specialty item stacks up, from my least favorite to the absolute best deal.

Cheesy Roll Up

taco bell cheesy roll up cut in half
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Roll Up):
Calories: 180
Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 430 mg
Carbs: 17 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 8 g

It doesn’t get much simpler than Taco Bell’s Cheesy Roll Up. A simple three-cheese blend rolled up in a standard flour tortilla is probably the simplest item on the value menu. And at a cost of just $1.19 a pop, it’s also the cheapest, making it easy to tack onto any order. You know…just in case. Plus, you can always spruce it up by adding things like Pico de Gallo, fiesta strips, or one of the chain’s many sauces, from sour cream to avocado ranch.

The look: A small, flattened tortilla. The orange and white cheese is faintly visible but only from the ends or if you cut it down the middle as I did.

The taste: Too basic and disappointing. The cheese was possibly melty at some point. But, by the time I got to it, it had stiffened and glued itself to the surrounding tortilla, creating a room-temperature lifeless and flavorless wrap. It seems like something I would whip up in the microwave as a desperate late-night snack and later regret. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, I guess. And, if I’m ever tempted by one of these $1 cheesy treats again, I’ll make sure to have plenty of sauce at the ready.

Taco Bell Just Added 5 Exciting New Items To the Menu

Loaded Beef Nachos

taco bell loaded nachos in an open takeout box
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per Order):
Calories: 450
Fat: 25 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 930 mg
Carbs: 44 g (Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 12 g

Nachos BellGrande has been one of the pillars of the TB menu for decades. It’s a well-rounded, highly-respected choice, but as is the case with nearly everything nowadays, it has shot up in price to an unreasonable $5.99. Not to worry, though. With the new Cravings Menu, you can still get your nacho fix while sparing your bank account with the Loaded Beef Nachos for $2.99. The economical alternative starts with the customary tortilla chips that are topped with seasoned ground beef, beans, nacho cheese, guacamole, reduced-fat sour cream, and red sauce, which is similar to a taco or enchilada sauce.

The look: The nachos came in a flimsy white box, just like what the Mexican pizzas are served in. In terms of the presentation, I would say it’s relatively sloppy. Each sauce is sloshed one on top of the other, unevenly covering the chips. Ground beef sits beneath, and at first glance, the beans are nowhere to be found.

The taste: Inconsistent, yet consistently mediocre. There’s no happy medium with these chips. While some are stale and dry, others are soggy and inundated with an array of sauces. Many even drooped with no backbone or rigidity at all as I tried to bring them to my mouth. The meat is plentiful and palatable enough and the refried beans are in fact present, they just don’t do much to elevate the plate. I think if the nachos were fresher with better-dispersed toppings they would have fared better. Plus, I would remove at least one of the four sauces for some relief in that department. I’m just not sure which one I would give the ax–probably the red sauce since it doesn’t provide the heat I thought it would and didn’t dazzle me in other ways either.

Spicy Potato Soft Taco

an open spicy potato taco from taco bell
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Taco):
Calories: 240
Fat: 12 g (Saturated Fat: 3 g)
Sodium: 470 mg
Carbs: 28 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 5 g

Like the Cheesy Roll Up, Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito, and Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, the Spicy Potato Soft Taco is another reduced-price vegetarian option. However, all of the chain’s items in this category are lacto-ovo vegetarian meaning they don’t include meat or animal byproducts but do allow for eggs and dairy. Containing potato, lettuce, cheese, and chipotle sauce in a flour tortilla, the $1.29 Spicy Potato Soft Taco clearly falls into this category.

The look: A tad squished but the size of a normal soft taco–maybe even a little bigger. On the inside, all ingredients are accounted for although the lettuce is more prominent than the potatoes and the orange sauce is scanty.

The taste: Without a sufficient amount of melted cheddar cheese or chipotle sauce, the taco is dry and in desperate need of some kind of moisture. As the intended star of the show, the potatoes are a highlight, dressed in a garlicky fiesta-style seasoning. However, with only seven of the small cubes included and no real crisp, they don’t work hard enough to lift up the surrounding ingredients. For actual vegetarian customers, this taco may be an admissible substitute. As for me, though–an avid meat eater–it didn’t tickle my fancy.

13 Popular Lay’s Potato Chip Flavors, Tasted & Ranked

Chicken Enchilada Burrito

taco bell chicken enchilada burrito
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Burrito):
Calories: 380
Fat: 12 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 1,150 mg
Carbs: 49 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 19 g

Taco Bell keeps things rolling with the Chicken Enchilada Burrito–one of the three burritos featured on the value menu and one of nine overall. The wrap comes with grilled and marinated all-white-meat chicken, seasoned rice, a three-cheese blend, red sauce, and reduced-fat sour cream in a warm flour tortilla. It lands on the higher end of the price range at $2.49.

The look: Surprisingly bulky and large for a $2.49 burrito. It’s nowhere near the magnitude of Chipotle’s monstrosities–perhaps about half the size–but still sizeable. The interior is somewhat of a jumble of orange and red hues, but I could easily pick out the rice and sauces. The chicken and cheese, on the other hand? Not so much.

The taste: A mess of mostly rice and taco sauce. The grains are well-seasoned with a Mexican flair, and I didn’t mind the red sauce here–although it’s still not spicy in the least. With the sour cream on top of this pairing, its flavor is also spot on and strongly reminiscent of an enchilada. However, you could have convinced me that this was another vegetarian option due to the chicken’s weak influence. I can’t be sure that I happened upon any chunks at all–they must have flown under the radar with their mushy texture and lackluster taste. So, while I can appreciate that this burrito is at least filling from the rice, it needs more balance in order to tip the tastiness scale.

3 Cheese Chicken Flatbread Melt

taco bell chicken flatbread melt
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Flatbread):
Calories: 330
Fat: 15 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 760 mg
Carbs: 29 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 20 g

The fast-food chain was thinking outside the bun yet again when it came out with flatbreads. Since then, the category has yo-yoed on and off the menu–prompting the creation of fan pages on social media asking for it back. Luckily for these enthusiasts, the specialty is currently holding steadfast on the lineup in the form of a 3 Cheese Chicken Flatbread Melt. The $2.49 taco-shaped item is packed with grilled and marinated white meat chicken, a melted three-cheese blend, and creamy chipotle sauce, all on a flatbread, of course.

The look: You have to look closely, but once you do, it’s easy to distinguish the flatbread wrap from a standard tortilla. It’s thicker, fluffier, and covered in more obvious brown spots and edging. Prying it open was a chore. However, inside, I could see a sufficient amount of cheese, while the chicken count was less than generous.

The taste: I’ll start with the flatbread itself. Soft and close in taste to either naan or pita bread, it’s hands down the best ingredient to be had here. Dare I say it’s even better than the chain’s standard soft shells? Possibly. The big but, though, is that the rest of the taco is drab. Once again, like with the soft potato taco, there isn’t enough chipotle sauce. And, even though you can actually taste the chicken pieces here, they’re not juicy and seasoned enough to have a positive impact, rendering the item as a whole dry and forgettable.

The Best Taco Bell Order for Weight Loss

Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes

a bowl of taco bell cheesy fiesta potatoes
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per Order):
Calories: 240
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 520 mg
Carbs: 28 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 3 g

The Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes are typically filed under the sides category, and they are the only item in this grouping to be highlighted on the value menu. The $2.49 order comes with just seasoned potatoes along with nacho cheese and reduced-fat sour cream. Next time, I would be tempted to upgrade them with onions, jalapeno peppers, or even beef to create something like spud-centric nachos.

The look: Close to double the amount of potatoes I found earlier in my taco. I was also unsurprised to see such wide-reaching globs of both sour cream and cheese. One side of the black bowl was drowning in creamy whiteness while the other side was blasted with the bright orange substance.

The taste: The taste of the potatoes themselves didn’t fluctuate from the earlier Spicy Potato Taco. They’re flavorful and tender but could be cooked better on the outside to deliver a satisfying crunch. The medley of nacho cheese and light sour cream dumped on top, however, makes the side dish hard to beat. Despite appearances, there’s actually a perfect sauce-to-spud ratio–not too little and not too much. And, while the sour cream brings a subtle coolness, the nacho cheese works hard to be salty, creamy, and just delicious all around. I know it’s probably similar to processed Cheez Whiz or the like, and might not even contain real cheese, but that doesn’t stop me from giving these potatoes a confident thumbs up (just maybe not two thumbs up).

Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito

taco bell bean and rice burrito cut open
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Burrito):
Calories: 420
Fat: 17 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 940 mg
Carbs: 55 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 9 g

I appreciate the straightforward naming convention Taco Bell employed for this burrito. You don’t have to wonder what exactly you’re ordering because the core components are presented right there in the title: cheese, beans, and rice. However, there is one bonus ingredient that I wasn’t previously aware of, and that would be the creamy jalapeno sauce. The no-frills vegetarian burrito is priced at just $1.49.

The look: Significantly more deflated than the previous Chicken Enchilada Burrito. Mushy beans and cheese-covered rice ooze out from the middle. It’s definitely not a looker, and out of all the value choices, I was least excited to give this one a try.

The taste: This burrito had no business being as good as it was. It resolves to a gooey and cheesy pile of rice and beans swirled together. But, for some unknown reason, it just works. The refried beans add saltiness and earthiness, while the rice works its magic on the consistency side of things and also brings spice into the mix–seasoning-wise, not heat-wise. I can’t say I noticed the creamy jalapeno sauce too much. However, I like to believe it was doing its job silently in the background and that it would actually be missed if it was taken away. Overall, it’s an option that won’t disappoint.

I Tried the Meatball Sub from 4 Popular Sandwich Chains & One Was Pitch-Perfect

Double Stacked Taco

a taco bell double stacked taco
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Taco):
Calories: 320
Fat: 16 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 600 mg
Carbs: 34 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 11 g

Double stacked, unfortunately, doesn’t mean two tacos stacked, one on top of another (disappointing). Instead, it’s referring to the double layer of taco shells. This $1.99 taco, for example, starts with a normal crunchy shell stuffed with beef, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and tortilla strips. Then, the entire thing is wrapped in a soft tortilla that has been slathered with nacho cheese. The famed Gordita Crunch follows a similar format but is enveloped by a flatbread instead of a soft flour tortilla.

The look: It resembles a standard soft taco, but the sturdiness of the crunchy bottom shell helps it maintain its shape. Shredded lettuce and cheese are obvious from the top view, while the ground meat and tortilla strips are tucked away farther from view.

The taste: Well-planned and well-executed. A TB soft taco is a classic, and this creation takes that simple makeup to new heights. The rigidity of the hard shell provides an appreciated change-up in texture and gives each bite a gratifying crunch. Then, the nacho cheese slides in to add pizzazz across the board, fusing well with the seasoned beef and toppings. Drizzle some of your favorite taco sauce (mine is hot) on top for added spice, and you will have a quality taco. My only critique–really more like a comment–is that I think the fiesta strips here are overkill since a crunch is already achieved with the hard shell. Just some food for thought, Taco Bell.

Stacker

a stacker from taco bell cut in half
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Stacker):
Calories: 400
Fat: 18 g (Saturated Fat: 9 g)
Sodium: 1,060 mg
Carbs: 42 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 17 g

Stackers, also sometimes referred to as “The Stack,” were first introduced in 2017 and have quickly become one of the more popular items on the Taco Bell menu–even though they’ve been taken away and brought back like the flatbreads. As a more unique concept, they join items like Mexican Pizzas, Nacho Fries, and Cheesy Roll Ups on the specialty roster. Each Stacker is made up of ground beef, a melted three-cheese blend, and nacho cheese (that’s right, double fromage), all stacked in a grilled tortilla. It’s currently priced at $2.19.

The look: Similar to a quesadilla, but it stands taller thanks to all the tortilla rows. The brown beef and various cheeses seem to be somewhat separated by layer but also frequently intermingle.

The taste: The Stacker looks and tastes like the poor man’s Crunchwrap, and I fully support it. It’s, of course, missing the wrap’s iconic crunchy core and other ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. But, the melty, creamy cheese and spiced meat remain the same. Plus, I think the touch of the grilled tortilla is what drove the reminiscence. Ultimately, it’s uncomplicated yet effective, and I would gladly stack a few of these onto my order during my next trip through the drive-thru.

I Tried 5 Fast-Food Chicken Burritos & This One Was My New Favorite

Cheesy Double Beef Burrito

taco bell double beef burrito cut in half
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!

Nutrition: (Per 1 Burrito):
Calories: 570
Fat: 26 g (Saturated Fat: 210 g)
Sodium: 1,330 mg
Carbs: 63 g (Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 21 g

The last low-priced burrito on our list is the Cheesy Double Beef. It’s loaded up with seasoned rice, a three-cheese blend, fiesta strips, nacho cheese, sour cream, and a double portion of beef. It’s certainly a mouthful to say, and I was hoping it would be just as big of a mouthful to chow down on, especially since it’s the highest-priced burrito set at $2.79.

The look: Similar in size to the Chicken Enchilada Burrito, and just as chaotic. However, here, most of the ingredients present themselves well. There’s a clear beef cluster also speckled with red tortilla strips, orange-colored rice makes up the other half, and pockets of cheese and sauces fill in the rest.

The taste: This is a genuine adult burrito. Although I’m not sure if there is really twice as much meat, it’s plenty beefy, carrying that classic Taco Bell flavoring. The rice is just as good as always, with a formidable yet not overbearing presence. Then, a nice balance of cheese and sour cream permeates every bite, so it never comes across dry. As for the fiesta strips, they land somewhere in between crisp and sodden, though I still think they add rather than detract from the flavor experience. All in all, everything going on inside this burrito is of decent quality. In addition, it undeniably offers the most bang for your buck, which is really what the value menu is all about.

You May Also Like

The #1 Unhealthiest Burger King Order (and What To Eat Instead)

You may be shocked to hear me say this as a health…

How Much Is an Equinox Membership & What Will It Get You?

Equinox has built a reputation as one of the most luxurious and…

This Low-Calorie Wendy's Order Is Genius for Weight Loss

Ah, Wendy’s. From the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger Delux to the Saucy Nuggs…

A Trainer’s 10 Tips for Building Muscle with Lighter Weights

When it comes to lifting weights to build muscle, you may be…