Taco Bell, compared to most other nation-wide fast food restaurants, has an extremely dedicated following. Like most fast food places, Taco Bell’s menu is regularly changing, adding new items and removing old. This has led to a lot of contention among their fanbase, as cult favorites tend to be the first to get the ax. These include items such as the Beefy Crunch Burrito, the Bell Beefer, the Blackjack Taco – all cut down in (what their fans will claim was) their prime.
But there’s always been one menu item that’s had an especially loud clamor for its return. It wasn’t a taco, or a burrito, or even a real meal in itself – it was a sauce. The Lava Sauce, the foundation of the now-discontinued Volcano Menu, has been widely requested for a return to the proper menu ever since its discontinuation in 2013. It was essentially a spicy nacho cheese sauce, yes, but fans will claim that the spice made the difference. If you were to hear it from a Lava Sauce lover it could elevate virtually any Taco Bell food into a heavenly experience, a kind of claim that we only hear about Sriracha sauce nowadays. Although the Taco Bell fans cried loudly for their sauce back, Taco Bell stayed quiet… Until now.
Now, the legendary Lava Sauce is back and featured in the Volcano Quesarito, a standard Taco Bell Quesarito with Lava sauce in place of the regular cheese. We’ve never had the original Lava Sauce, but the idea of having such a monumental sauce for a limited time was too interesting to pass up. Will Lava Sauce live up to its volcanic hype or be a stone cold flop?
Find out after the jump.
Firstly, for those who don’t bother themselves with memorizing the bizarre Tex-Mex chimeras that Taco Bell churns out, a Quesarito is a combination quesadilla and burrito – a soft burrito wrapped in a layer of cheese sauce, with another tortilla around it all. In the case of the Volcano Quesarito, this cheese sauce is replaced with the Lava Sauce.
The Volcano Quesarito is actually pretty darn good. We’ve never had a Quesarito before, and were surprised to learn just how simple they really were. It’s just beef, rice, sour cream and cheese sauce; the double-wrapped and grilled “quesadilla” aspect is nice, but it’s merely a gimmick.
The Volcano Quesarito’s individual aspects all managed to stand out on their own, for the most part. The sour cream, in particular, worked very well. We’ve established before in the Grilled Stuft Nacho review that nacho cheese and sour cream is an excessively wet combination, but with the heat from the Lava Sauce, the sour cream added a perfect cooling balance. The rice was another favorite – Paula loves Taco Bell’s rice in all applications, and even though Bill isn’t always a fan, we both agreed that it tasted very good in here.
Our primary problem with the Volcano Quesarito was that it was very, very soft and wet. There was no crunch, aside from the grilled tortilla which quickly soaked up excess Lava Sauce. This led to some spilling, and though normally we feel like Taco Bell’s red strips are unnecessary filler, this time they felt like they would have been a huge boost in the right direction.
Taco Bell has had a wide variety of sauce-themed releases in just the past year: Diablo Sauce was released on the same day as a free Biscuit Taco promotion, encouraging tasters to try it on their otherwise limp and flavorless breakfast food; the Dare Devil Grillers were the star of their limited time offer, narrowly overtaking the sauces themselves.
So it’s not unexpected that this promotion would be focused on the return of the sauce, not necessarily the item it’s bundled in. That said, the comparison to the previously-mentioned Dare Devil Sauces did affect our perceptions: the Ghost Pepper sauce still remains one of the spiciest fast food offerings we’ve ever tasted. Would the Lava Sauce stack up to that?
Well, “Lava” was the right word to describe the taste of it – a slow fire that crawls across your tongue, burning everything it touches. It was very spicy, and had a really good cheese flavor to boot. The heat level was somewhere between the habanero and ghost pepper Dare Devil Sauces – not too hot, not too mild, just right.
However, we have to admit that spicy nacho cheese isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. It’s delicious, sure – but is this what Taco Bell fans have been gnashing their teeth over for years? Online “recipes” often suggest combining a cup of nacho cheese and Fire sauce, and that’s not too far off from what this tastes like. Since it’s extremely unlikely that Taco Bell would reformulate it to make it taste worse, it’s likely that Taco Bell fans are once again overstating how great a discontinued item was.
And does Lava Sauce really work on anything on Taco Bell’s menu, like its most ardent fans claim? To test this theory out, we purchased an extra side cup of Lava Sauce along with our Taco Bell standbys, a Beefy Fritos Burrito and a Cheesy Rice and Beans Burrito. (The cup was for tasting purposes – we’d suggest that if you don’t want a cheese overload, just sub out the nacho cheese in your burritos for Lava Sauce.)
Both burritos were indeed enhanced by the addition of Lava Sauce! The Beefy Fritos Burrito was the most enhanced, as the crunchy Fritos and cool rice combined with the flavorful Lava Sauce made an extremely satisfying spice experience. The Cheesy Rice and Beans Burrito wasn’t improved as much, as the presence of nacho cheese in the burrito itself made for a bit too much cheese (if there ever really is such a thing), but it otherwise added a great flavor.
This is all great and fun, but it seems a bit ridiculous to have to custom-order these things. Where is the rest of the Volcano menu? Although Lava Sauce can be added to any menu item, the original Volcano menu had substantially more items and no Quesarito in it. What good is having lava without the volcano? (How else are we going to get our bright red taco shells now?) The promotional Volcano Quesarito Box doesn’t even put Lava Sauce on any of the tacos. How disappointing.
4.5 out of 5 – Worth Trying (Worth Getting Again)
We may never know exactly what it was about the original Lava Sauce that made it so popular, but we welcome its return with open arms. Although it wasn’t exactly everything we were expecting it to be, it’s still an amazing sauce in itself and we will indeed be slathering it on everything we order from Taco Bell in the foreseeable future.