Taco Bell’s New Naked Chicken Chalupa Is A Straight-Up Revelation

Update: Just as we got used to the brave new world of the Naked Chicken Chalupa, we learn a different version is already in the works. According to Brand Eating, Taco Bells is currently trying out a Wild Naked Chicken Chalupa in select markets. It's just like the regular Naked Chicken Chalupa, except that instead of mild avocado ranch dressing, this one has a new "spicy wild" sauce. Just how wild stands to be seen, unless you happen to live near one of the two Kansas City-area Taco Bells trying out the new creation. We'll be waiting. This story was first published on January 24, 2017.
When we heard about the Naked Chicken Chalupa way back in May 2016, we felt a lot of things: confusion, intrigue, hunger. At the time, the Naked Chicken Chalupa was being tested out in select Taco Bells, so we had to wait and hope and pray that we'd also see a nation-wide release.
Then, when it was announced earlier this month that the Naked Chicken Chalupa would get a nationwide release, we also felt a lot of things: excitement, anticipation, hunger. We hardly knew how we'd wait until the January 26 date to finally try it.
Luckily, we didn't have to. On Tuesday, we got to sample the chalupas two days short of its national release. And, spoiler alert: We're obsessed.
Whether you're surprised by that information might say a lot about who you are. There are some people who would look at a piece of chicken shaped like a taco shell, stuffed with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sauce and wonder "Why?" (Or even, "WHY?!") Some, including, it turns out, much of the R29 staff, can look at the same creation and ask, "Why not?"
And indeed, why not? What is not to love about a spicy chicken cutlet, swaddling a creamy ranch dressing, filled with diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and a sprinkling of cheese? All the component parts are good, and would taste good together in other settings (like a regular sandwich). Yes, it's a little weird that it's shaped like a taco, but it's not like there's a part of a chicken you can point to that looks like a nugget. And if you can get over the idea of taco-shaped chicken, you are in for a treat.
Because, spoiler alert, this thing is good. Like, really good. And after eating way too many, we have a theory as to why: it really is all about the chicken. The filling itself is pretty standard, and is the same lettuce, tomato, and cheese you'd get in any Taco Bell dish. While it's still integral to the overall experience, it was the chicken where the dish would succeed or fail. If it was dry, or soggy, or bland, the entire thing would fall flat. Instead, we bit into a juicy, well-seasoned chalupa (with just enough of a spicy kick) that proved, that, at least for this chalupa, the sum is greater than it's parts.
When we passed them around the offices for tasting, results were similarly enthusiastic, particularly if you were a Taco Bell devotee to begin with. Because that might be the weirdest, most magical part of the entire experience: it's so bizarre and different, but under everything, it still tasted very much like Taco Bell. Maybe it was the trifecta of lettuce, tomato, and cheese, maybe it was the spice, but it still felt familiar, like meeting an old friend. If said old friend happens to be a delicious piece of pressed chicken that is also slathered in avocado-ranch dressing.

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