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Aug 1, 2011 02:00 PM

Former Taco Bell Employees, Please Help!!!

Some time ago I started a discussion on how Taco Bell tasted a lot better in the '70s and '80s. The meat was much better, just tastier. I hardly can stand the way Taco Bell taste now. I will only go a few times a year because of that. I did a new discussion because the other was too long and interest by viewers was lost, so here is a new one.

Someone replied that used to work at Taco Bell and noted the shells were fried on premises and fried with coconut oil. So I have part of the equation on how to make tacos like old school Taco Bell, but the big question is what about the meat? The cheese is obvious and lettuce but how about the meat. Some one replied stating that they got 5 or 10 LB bags of ground beef and got the season packages and mixed it with water and cooked it. Great, I can do that with any packaged taco seasoning but none on the market taste like old Taco Bell. I need to know the exact process in which you mixed the meat with the seasoning and water and if you know if anything else was added to the meat like any oils or anything? Also what was in the seasoning.

Today the Taco Bell tacos they serve is a far cry from the old days. I'm 43 so I started going to Taco Bell in the early '70s. I am going to try to fry up some tacos in coconut oil and see how it turns out. If I can get the shells to taste right and of course the cheese and lettuce are obvious, all I need is the meat, which is the hardest part to figure out. I've tried experimenting yet no luck getting the meat to taste like old school Taco Bell. But then again they were greasy as all heck. I don't mind that, I go to the gym 5 to 7 times a week and am in shape. I'm not gonna eat greasy tacos all the time, so it's no matter to me if they are greasy. I just want something that taste great like Taco Bell used to. Now it taste kinda bad almost. Not quite but almost. I do recall that when you received your tacos in the wrapper, the wrapper was drenched in grease. That looked bad to the health driven decade of the '80s therefore Taco Bell changed their recipe for the tacos which made them healthier I suppose but taste bad or close to bad.

Any former Taco Bell employees from the mid '80s or prior who can help out on making the Taco Bell meat like it was during the glory days of the '80s and '70s much appreciated it would be.


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  1. Considering the to-do recently about how less than 40% of Taco Bell meat is actually meat, I think you may find it impossible to replicate.

    4 Replies
    1. re: katecm

      Considering the to-do recently about how less than 40% of Taco Bell meat is actually meat,


      Your assumption is wrong......

      1. re: fourunder

        Ya, Taco Bell's taco meat has more beef than my home made does.


        1. re: fourunder

          Yep, Love it when people take rumors and post them as fact.

          1. re: fourunder

            The lawsuit was withdrawn. That is not a comment on whether Taco Bell uses extenders in its meat products. The ingredient labels make it clear that extenders are used.

        2. I'm not a former Taco Bell employee, but I've been making the 80's Enchirito at home for many, many years. I use a recipe I found here:

          The ground beef mixture cooked in water tastes EXACTLY like old school TB beef. I use this concoction for beefy bean burritos, taco salads, etc. Try it. Be sure and use fresh spices. It does make a difference.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sheilal

            sheilal, thanks for the info. I'm gonna click on the link and check it out.

            1. re: sheilal

              thanks, sheilal. I just made this an hour ago. It doesn't look too pretty but I love the texture. I've always wondered how restaurants get that texture. It's been so long since I've eaten at a taco bell, I don't really remember. But I've encountered the same thing in real deal Texmex places - in Texas.

              Have you experimented at all. I think I might like it even more with a little less flour.

              Thanks again, from an 8 taco per week gal.

            2. I'm older than you and ate taco bell back in the 70s at least and I don't remember the taco shells ever being freshly fried. They have always been that disgusting preformed fake shell.

              Can't help on the meat though. I kinda miss the old bell beefer

              11 Replies
              1. re: rasputina

                rasputina, I tend to have the same memories as you. I don't recall them being freshly fried but many an ex employee says they were. They were just perfectly made like at a factory but maybe they had the taco shell process down to a science at each restaurant so it seemed as if they were not fried on the spot. If I go to a real Mexican food place and they make their shells right there and then they sure don't look like the Taco Bell shells I had as a kid. The ones I had were like perfect from a factory but I can only guess they made them perfect at the Taco Bell location since these employees are saying they made them from scratch. I just recall the tacos being ultra greasy and good.

                1. re: HoundDogz

                  I worked at Taco Bell in 1986 and we had a fryer, we used to fry the shells, the flour tortillas that made the taco bowls (remember them?) and the flour tortilla strips that we made into cinnamon chips

                  1. re: cgarner

                    I knew the flour tortillas were used for the taco salad bowls. Just like the pizzaz pizza wafers. They were both flour tortillas and both fried in coconut oil correct? For that crispy bubbly flaky goodness.

                    1. re: cgarner

                      Agreed, I was a fryer at Taco Bell at two different locations from 86-88 and my entire job was to come in the morning before opening and fry up the shells for the day. We had a rack that held 8 corn tortillas for taco shells and a big rack with three layers for cinnamon crisps (not twists) that I had to cut by hand from the flour tortillas. Also had special racks for the taco grande shells and taco lite (fried flour tortillas, light and crispy but by no means a diet item, LOL). Also had to hand cut the tortilla chips from the corn tortillas and fry them in a big basket and for taco salads we'd just take the flour tortillas for burritos and drop it on top of the oil and then press it down with a stainless steel mold and let it sit in the fryer for about a minute each. We used coconut oil and filtered it out every day after frying was done and added new oil as needed. I think once or twice a week we changed the oil in the fryer completely but I can't remember which it was. That was a hassle because we'd drain out the old oil and then have to scrub the inside of the fryer with a special detergent and rinse well with hot water then drain that out, towel dry it and then fill it with new which was in big 5 gallon metal cannisters.

                      1. re: Wulfgyr

                        Stick around. You will be HungryMans new best friend. :-)

                        1. re: whoeverdroid

                          We need all the voices we can get :)

                          1. re: HUNGRYMAN8

                            Hungary, I come bearing knowadgable ex-taco bell employee
                            (Whisper to hungry) off up your in-laws in trade for knowage. Win win :-)

                        2. re: Wulfgyr

                          But it was worth the end product for sure. Quality is gone from the mindset of any product or service today.

                          1. re: HUNGRYMAN8

                            Whaaat, quality is how good I he CEO feels about his wallet not hiw good you think the food is.

                    2. re: rasputina

                      Back in the 60's as you pulled up you smelled the fresh tortillas frying! They were so good! I make my on corn tortillas and fry them. So much better than those cardboard tasting shells TB uses and stores sell.

                      1. re: Vickipri

                        Energy bars taste like cardboard, those shells are taseless

                    3. I avoid fast food franchises to the extent possible. I don't ever recall TB being tasty. I do believe Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation reported that TB had gone to precooked meat. Everything is preprocessed to the extent possible and shipped in, not only for safety, but to assembly line the process to the max so the high turnover, undertrained, low wage workers cant screw up the food. You may be missing the freshly prepared meat filling of the past.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: dijon

                        dijon, I think you are right. I bet that the switch from freshly prepared meat to the already made stuff they ship to the restaurants is when it started tasting bad. It's not horrible just the Taco Bell of the '70s and '80s was really really good and the stuff now is not so good.

                        I don't eat too much fast foods either but I have to admit I do like fast food places. I'll admit it's bad for me but I love the way it taste. I work out a lot and eating now and then won't hurt me, I just don't go all the time to fast food places.

                        1. re: HoundDogz

                          I know this is an old thread but Taco Bell was my first job. I started out as the summer....Trust me ALL shells were fried on location. Even the nachos and cinnamon crispas (fried flour tortillas with cinnamon sugar).

                          We had a metal rack that you put the tortillas in to make the shape, then an insert that went on top. Fried in coconut oil (pretty sure about the type).

                          This was using yellow corn tortillas not white corn.

                          1. re: Mr_Smee

                            That's why the tacos were so greasy that the paper they were wrapped in were drenched with grease. Funny enough you guys did a great job because the shells were so perfect they looked like they came from a factory. I thought they were greasy because of the meat but since you made them yourselves by frying them that explains the greasiness. If only TB did things the old way they would still be great.

                            1. re: HoundDogz

                              Most likely the grease was from the meat. Unless the shells were freshly fried. We had to drain the meat so I imagine some didn't drain it all the way. There was always a little orange grease though. I remember the greasy wrappers also and the excellent taste.

                              1. re: Mr_Smee

                                Exactly they were excellent, grease and all.

                            2. re: Mr_Smee

                              Oh my! So glad I haven't lost my mind. I was a young girl in the sixties and when Taco Bell opened we were there. From THE BEGINING THROUGH THE 70'S I remember fried shells! My Grandkids said I was losing it! So happy I found this sight even though it late.

                              1. re: Vickipri

                                Welcome Vicki, I am glad to see another person who knows first hand how blissfully tasting Taco Bell USED to be pre-90's. Join us in sharing the truth and the mission to somehow get a real Taco Bell back in business.

                          2. re: dijon

                            I do believe Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation reported that TB had gone to precooked meat.


                            Several years ago, I was involved in a fund raising event where our local Taco Bell donated the ingredients to make walk-away taco salads. The meat came precooked and pre-seasoned in large (5 pound maybe?) bags.

                          3. The first Taco Bell I ever patronized was as a college student in East Lansing, Mich., in the mid-70s. What I remember most about it (in addition to the fact that it was wildly popular with my colleagues at the college newspaper) was that the flour tortillas were dyed orange -- why, I have no idea. It's hard to believe that the food was better back then.

                            I do think there is some variation today in the food served at different Taco Bells. When I worked in downtown Los Angeles in the late 1990s, the Figueroa Boulevard Taco Bell served what I considered the top-of-the-line bean burrito; the refried beans at other Taco Bells were dry and tasteless in comparison. Now that I live in the northeast, there's a Taco Bell in Nanuet, N.Y., that my kids and I have deemed "the worst Taco Bell ever," with horrible service and iffy ingredients. (But the ones in Paramus and Hackensack, N.J., are OK.) Go figure.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: melissa511

                              melissa, the one on Figureroa Boulevard I'm not familiar with but when I used to work in downtown, last I worked there was 2007, I used to sometimes go to the one around the California Plaza area on Grand between 5th and, well I guess 4th Street.

                              1. re: melissa511

                                Fast at toxic hell also gas to do with how long the ingredienthS been sitting made both that it will help much to be first in lines theeze days.