FOOD: Taco Bell – The Breakfast Crunchwrap Experience

Disclaimer: Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, we weren’t really able to go outside and buy a Breakfast Crunchwrap to take photos of for our article. We’re making do with stock images from Taco Bell itself. Sorry.

Taco Bell is something that is almost, but not entirely, unlike real Mexican food. We don’t like to parrot talking points about “authentic” food here on Eggware.XYZ, but we really do have to admit that Taco Bell is as far detached from Mexican cuisine as Magritte’s pipe was to a real one. But there’s a certain beauty in it: in a sense, it is pure and authentic ‘American’ cuisine, representing everything that makes the modern United States of America the way it is: its cheesy-potatoey strengths, and its blatant disregard for the cultures it has built itself upon.

Most of the most interesting offerings on Taco Bell’s menu are those that don’t try to ape Mexican cuisine, but do their own ‘unique’ things. This is a tradition of theirs stemming all the way back to the Enchirito, a mashup of an enchilada and a burrito in one saucy mess. One of our favorite concoctions is the Crunchwrap Supreme, a kind of rethinking of a burrito that is folded into a hexagon around a tostada. 

The Crunchwrap is what Taco Bell is all about. It’s designed in a way that makes it more convenient to eat than a regular burrito of similar size, and adding a tostada for crispiness is a clever textural component. There’s nothing like it anywhere else. We don’t want to imply that this is good food, or even particularly tasty. It’s just one of the little ‘innovations’ that you get in fast food, the kind that Taco Bell specializes in. Since Taco Bell works with a different palette of ingredients than most other fast food restaurants – tortillas instead of buns, loose ground meat instead of patties – they have more liberty to experiment and create strange concoctions. 

First released as a limited time offer in 2005, the Crunchwrap Supreme was popular enough to be added to their full time menu in 2006 and has been there ever since. And since the Crunchwrap Supreme was so popular, when Taco Bell introduced a new breakfast 2014 they added a Breakfast Crunchwrap to it. This was the most brilliant thing that Taco Bell has ever done.

But why is the Breakfast Crunchwrap so good? Let’s dissect the original Crunchwrap first, so we can understand the Breakfast Crunchwrap better.

The heart of the Crunchwrap Supreme is a tostada, a whole crispy fried tortilla typically used as an edible plate loaded with toppings. By placing the tostada into a soft tortilla, Taco Bell provides a contrast of textures with a soft outside and crunchy middle. The Crunchwrap is then filled with beef, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese sauce and sour cream, folded into a hexagon, and served. This is where the Crunchwrap Supreme falls apart: Taco Bell’s food is not very good and the fillings are terrible. The lettuce is watery, the tomatoes flavorless, the beef greasy and slimy, and the sauces are forgettable. 

With the Breakfast Crunchwrap, we start with the same concept of a crispy inside wrapped in a soft tortilla exterior. The Breakfast Crunchwrap’s big trick is that it uses a hash brown instead of a tostada. This evolution of the Crunchwrap Supreme is so obvious as to be genius. The hash brown, being a fried hash of potatoes, has much more flavor than the dry and unseasoned tostadas Taco Bell uses. The hash brown is thicker, and provides more structure than the thin tostada. The hash brown is a contrast of flavors, being crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, where the tostada is just crunch. It has everything the Taco Bell tostada wishes it was. 

The Breakfast Crunchwrap has scrambled eggs, cheese, a “creamy jalapeño sauce”, and most importantly, your choice of meat: bacon, sausage or steak. With the Crunchwrap Supreme, your only choice is regular Taco Bell meat, the same meat that they ladle into every burrito and taco. We feel that the best meat for the Breakfast Crunchwrap is sausage, bar none. It is a whole sausage patty, not crumbled sausage like their other breakfast offerings, so it is a chewy and tender contrast to the whole hash brown patty. Bacon is good as well, but this is a more “egg-forward” variation. You’ll be getting little nuggets of crumbled bacon mixed into your eggs for little bombs of saltiness. We would honestly suggest skipping the steak. It’s a whole seventy cents extra at our store and the steak is rubbery and difficult to eat because it’s in large slices. For less than the price of getting steak you could get a bacon crunchwrap and add sausage to it! That’s a patented Eggware.XYZ Menu Hack, just for you.

We’re not going to act like the Breakfast Crunchwrap is perfect. First of all, it has zero vegetables in it. This is fine by us, because Taco Bell’s veggies are horrific to eat, but those who dislike shovelling fryolator grease into their mouths might find it a bit overwhelming. And boy, can these be greasy! You can taste it in the hash brown if the oil isn’t too fresh, and if the oil isn’t too fresh, the hash brown loses almost all of its crunch. And what’s a crunchwrap without the crunch? Not to mention, the Breakfast Crunchwrap does not have a lifespan nearly as long as the Supreme. You better pull right over and start eating this thing, because once the hash brown’s crust starts absorbing moisture, it’s a ticking time bomb until the whole thing’s a slimy mess.

The Breakfast Crunchwrap was first added to Taco Bell’s menu in 2014, when they came out with a new breakfast section. It was known as the “A.M. Crunchwrap” at the time, and was alongside a few other things: the infamous “waffle taco”, a waffle folded into a taco shape with a sausage patty and egg; “A.M. Grilled Tacos,” which was more like an egg quesadilla; and breakfast burritos which are still on the menu to this day. The crunchwrap was a clear breakaway hit, and as Taco Bell fiddled with the menu over the years, it remained untouched and unchanged. Boy, isn’t it weird thinking about the early days of Taco Bell breakfast? Remember Mountain Dew A.M.? That was Mountain Dew mixed with orange juice to be an acceptable breakfast drink. Those were heady days, full of possibility… but do we really miss the waffle taco? No, not at all.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the star of the show in the Breakfast Crunchwrap is definitely the hash brown, and you can buy those individually as well. You get one very big hash brown for only a dollar at Taco Bell. This is the bargain of the century. A hash brown at McDonald’s costs two dollars for something that’s sincerely half the size. You could get four times the hashed, browned potato content for the price of one McDonald’s hash brown. It’s almost exactly that same greasy, crunchy fryolator flavor too! Why do we like the Breakfast Crunchwrap so much? It’s not very innovative, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and you can get a very similar food experience by getting a regular breakfast burrito and a hash brown on the side. Well… It’s just good, and we like it. Is that so wrong? We did a whole article on how much we like Little Caesars a few years back and we wanted to express admiration for another greasy, low-down food that keeps us going in the hard times. Taco Bell is a fast food chain that deserves recognition for being stupid and innovative in the laziest ways. It’s better than more chicken sandwiches, that’s for sure.

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