If you're a Taco Bell fan who dreams of whipping up your favorite drive-thru treat from the comfort of your own home, I have good news.
On Jan. 4, the popular fast-food chain debuted a pair of do-it-yourself home kits, providing customers with instructions and ingredients to recreate two of its most popular menu items: the Crunchwrap Supreme and Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla.
Available at Walmart and through Taco Bell's website, the kits cost about $7 each and contain the basic building blocks for both dishes: tortillas, sauces, seasonings, and so forth. All you need to do is pick up some fresh ingredients from the supermarket and you're in business.
But, how does the at-home kit stack up to the real thing? I tried out the Crunchwrap Supreme Cravings Kit and compared it with the actual restaurant version to see whether it's worth your time, money, and effort. Let's dig in.
For the uninitiated, Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme is a flour tortilla layered with beef, nacho cheese, a crispy tostada shell, lettuce, tomatoes, and reduced fat sour cream. It doesn't sound that groundbreaking, but the hexagonal-shaped handheld fast-food treat has earned its status as an iconic fan favorite. The tortilla-wrapped item is instantly recognizable thanks to its six-sided fold—and luckily, the directions on the box clearly outline how to nail it at home. (As a former Subway sandwich artist, I felt well-prepared to take on this challenge.)
This kit is available at Walmart in the United States, but as a Canadian, I had to pay to get it shipped to my house. When it arrived, the goods were in perfect condition, and I was excited to open it.
Inside, I found four 12-inch flour tortillas, four tostada shells—to put the "crunch" in Crunchwrap—and packets of cheese sauce and taco seasoning to flavor your choice of protein.
I was immediately pleased with the size of the tortilla, as it was slightly larger than the typical rounds found at grocery stores. I imagined the extra couple of inches would make all the difference when it came to folding it up. I was surprised to see that the cheese sauce was actually Velveeta. I was expecting more of a queso-style cheese, flecked with red peppers.
In addition to the kit's ingredients, shoppers will have to supply their own choice of meat, sour cream, tomatoes, and lettuce. I opted for ground beef, but you could easily go for beans, chicken, or a vegetarian option to suit your preferences. All told, it cost me $8.58 at the grocery store for the beef, sour cream, tomato, and lettuce, plus the $7 kit, for a total of $15.58 in U.S. dollars. That works out to about $3.89 per Crunchwrap.
Crunchwrap Supreme at Taco Bell
Ordering from my local Taco Bell was not as straightforward as it usually is, as I had to embark to the restaurant after a three-day snowstorm shuttered the city. But once there, after a short five-minute wait, I scurried back to the comfort of my snow-encrusted house, Beef Crunchwrap Supreme in hand, to do the taste test. It cost me $5.79 for the Crunchwrap.
The look: It's not the prettiest Crunchwrap—it looked nothing like the advertisements. My local Taco Bell didn't nail the signature six-fold assembly. I could visibly see the lettuce and tomatoes trying to escape out of the hole. It looks like the grill was too hot, resulting in an uneven toast, with some sections tending toward burnt rather than a nice golden brown. I was surprised by how much lettuce I found once I cut it in half. Predictably, it was very light on beef. It was messy, which made it difficult to enjoy.
The taste: Truth be told, this was my first Crunchwrap ever. Because I cut it in half, my first bite was really flavorful. I got a lot of well-seasoned beef and a bit of cheese. As I worked my way to the edges, though, the tortilla failed to impress, and I was disappointed to find that the concentration of flavor vanished almost instantly. In the end, it was mostly lettuce and tortilla. I opted for some hot sauce to give it some kick, and the sour cream was nearly undetectable. The crunch wasn't really there, either.
Crunchwrap Supreme at home
The at-home kit was straightforward to follow. I started by preparing my ingredients, including the recommended diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and sour cream. After I browned the beef, I drained it and added the Taco Bell seasoning packet along with the necessary water, as directed. I popped the tostada shells in the oven for a quick three-minute warm-up, and I was ready to assemble.
I added a half-cup of beef onto the flour tortilla, then added a dollop of cheese to the crunchy shell and placed that face-down on the meat. I made sure to spread each ingredient evenly for the best distribution possible. On top of the tostada, I evenly spread thick sour cream and added a reasonable amount of both lettuce and tomato. Then it was time to fold. I looked at the box which clearly demonstrated how to do the six-point fold, and then I grilled both sides for about two minutes each.
The look: My homemade version looks awesome, to be honest. I managed to perfectly layer all the elements and toast it up evenly to get a nice deep golden brown. I had to draw on my experience as a former Subway Sandwich artist to get the fold just right. Early on, I kept accidentally doing five-folds rather than the signature six, but it came together easily by my third assembly. My dad put slightly more than the recommended portions in his, and had trouble closing it up. I'd stick to the directions to make sure you don't overstuff it.
The taste: The crunch—from both the browned tortilla and the tostada nestled in between the layers—was the star of the show. Unlike the restaurant version, I could really taste the cheese, though the flavor seemed more like Cheez Whiz than what I'd expect from a Mexican chain. (In hindsight, I would have warmed the cheese.) However, the beef was a little bland. In the future, I'd actually opt to season it on my own rather than using the packet. There was just something missing from the blend, so I added hot sauce to make up for the lack of flavor. My favorite part was the handheld element of the Crunchwrap. I loved how it didn't fall apart at all, and it was easy to eat. Overall, it was a pleasant at-home dining experience—my mom and dad agreed!
So, is the at-home Crunchwrap as good as the restaurant version? Actually, I dare say it's much better. That's probably because I took the time to evenly spread out each ingredient, thoughtfully fold it up, and grill it to perfection. That attention to detail made all the difference. Taco Bell's version felt slapped together and heavy on the lettuce. For that reason, I'd choose to make my own next time that I'm craving a Crunchwrap.
Value-wise, it might be better to skip the drive-thru and cook up four Crunchwraps at home for relatively cheap. While you could purchase tortillas, tostadas, cheese sauce, and taco seasoning separately, I don't think you can beat $7 for the branded kit. The fact that it comes with huge 12-inch tortillas and the perfect amount of everything makes it worth the price. Of course, there's the added price of the beef, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, which kicks up the price tag a bit. Still, at $3.89 per homemade wrap, it's cheaper than the drive thru (at least where I live, anyway).
All together, I think the kit has (almost) everything you need to have an awesome Taco Bell-themed night with friends or family, which will all come together in under 20 minutes or so. I'd do it again!