7/12/2012 04:04:00 PM

Taco Bell Vs. Chipotle: Taste-Testing Taco Bell's New Cantina Bell Menu

Cantina Bell steak burrito left, Image of Chipotle Steak burrito right by Flickr/compujeramey
A week ago today, the new Cantina Bell menu dropped nationwide at Taco Bell, created by upcoming Top Chef Masters competitor Lorena Garcia. This new 'healthier' ingredient-driven menu is a pretty obvious attempt to compete with fast casual giant Chipotle, particularly if you look at the new Cantina Bell ingredients list: lime-marinated chicken, cilantro rice, fire-roasted corn salsa and "real" black beans. The CB menu is available two ways - a burrito and a burrito bowl (salad) option which are available in either chicken, veggie or steak varieties. We sampled the chicken Cantina Burrito Bowl at Taco Bell as well as the steak Cantina Burrito to see how it stacked up against Chipotle in terms of taste and value. Check out our findings below.

Cantina Bell Burrito Bowl

Cantina Burrito Bowl with Chicken ($5.99 in NYC)  vs. Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl ($7.81 in NYC + $2.07 for guac = $9.88)
Overall we were impressed with the presentation and general flavor of the new Cantina Bell Burrito Bowls, in fact most Zagat staffers who glanced the dish remarked something along the lines of: "Wow that looks really nice...for Taco Bell." Here's a breakdown of each ingredient compared with Chipotle.

Chicken: Cantina Bell's lime-marinated chicken is surprisingly tender and palatable, and doesn't have that faux-smoke taste that Chipotle's chicken (and most of its other meat) does.

Corn salsa: Cantina's Bell's "fire-roasted" corn salsa was a tad slimier and less fresh tasting than Chipotle's corn salsa, but overall its flavor was pleasant.

Guacamole: The guac on the Cantina Bell salad was very acidic and not as fresh-made tasting as Chipotle's, but passable as far as pre-made guacs go.

Beans/rice: The black beans and rice in the bottom of the Cantina Bell salad actually tasted like beans and rice! But we have to say again that Chipotle's version is slightly tastier.

Cantina Steak Burrito ($5.99 in NYC) vs. Chipotle Steak Burrito ($8.27 + $2.07 for guac in NYC) = $10.34
The Cantina Bell steak burrito's overall flavor fell somewhere in between that familiar "Taco Bell taste" and Chipotle's, thanks mostly to the similarly-flavored rice and beans. Presentation-wise, the burrito wasn't quite as aesthetically appealing as Chipotle's. Below we break down the items inside (that were not already mentioned above).

Steak: Like the chicken, the steak in the Cantina Bell burrito lacked the faux smoky flavor of Chipotle's (a plus) but this steak is definitely not as high quality meat-wise. Also, overall the Cantina Bell items, especially its meats, were noticeably less salty than regular Taco Bell fare.

Tortilla: The grilled tortillas used to wrap the Cantina Bell burrito didn't seem to be a significant upgrade from the ones Taco Bell uses on the regs. They were super chewy, floury and gluten-y, whereas Chipotle's taste slightly more homemade and less processed.

Overall verdict: For practically half the price, the Cantina Bell menu is a definite value, but you do get what you pay for, and the overall quality and taste of Chipotle still has a slight edge over Taco Bell.


  1. no mention of the sauce? Chipolte sauce blows taco bell's out of the water!

  2. I'm not following your math....
    $8.27 + $2.07 = 10.34
    $7.81 + $2.07 = $9.88

    1. What part of the math confuses you? The addition is correct. The total represents an equivalent food product with guac. I'm not following your not following....

    2. Chipotle generally charges for guacamole

  3. No mention that Chipotle uses much higher quality meats that are raised in much better conditions, antibiotic free, vegatarian diet vs the substandard overly processed stuff at taco bell. No surprise given Zagat thinks KFC is the best fried chicken in America

  4. The thing is, for me this isn't about Cantina vs. Chipotle, since there are no Chipotles in my area. It's about Cantina vs. reg TB menu, and in that case it's a win for me.

  5. I went yesterday to try Taco Bell's Chicken Cantina Bowl. I compared it to Chipotle"s. This is a joke the Cantina Bowl is Taco Bell, no one who likes Chipotle's products is going to switch. Plus they make it up on the side at Taco Bell like their other products. No containers of steaming veggies or non- fat black beans and you pay less but the volume at Taco Bell is half the size.

  6. I went to Taco Bell to check out the Chicken Cantina Bowl compared to Chipotle. What a joke the Cantina bowl is 1/2 the size of Chipolte. And for flavor just like regular Taco Bell. Plus no Steam table where you see the fresh steaming veggies and black beans and brown rice. The Guac is poor and at Chipotle I get extra veggies and great rice. NO Chipotle regular will ever switch to Taco Bell for the price. Plus my burrito bowl often lasts for 2 meals too much to finish at one time.

  7. I'm pretty sure Chipotle uses high fructose corn syrup in their dough as well as their sauce - why else the secrecy with their ingredient list? Taco Bell's ingredients are published openly on their website. Chipotle does not disclose their ingredients. For this reason alone I choose Taco Bell over Chipotle, not to mention Chipotle is overpriced compared to Taco Bell.

  8. how can you compare taco bell to chipotle? They arent even comparable. Chipotle uses high quality meats- and fresh ingredients.I tried the taco bell burrito, and it tasted like everything else that comes out of taco bell- like dog food!