Crunch Time: The Best Fast-Food Tacos, Ranked

hard shell tacos


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hard shell tacos

Taco Tournament

Mexican-style fast-food restaurants cover just about every inch of this country. Taco Bell has over 8,000 locations alone — in most cases, it’s easy to grab some fast-food tacos. But nearly all of these chains have a ton of menu items that span more than just tortilla shells and ground beef. Which restaurants should you actually order tacos from? Should you go with corn or flour tortillas?

It’s a lot to consider, so we narrowed it down for you. Here are the seven fast-food chains to order tacos from.

Related: We Tried 13 Taco Bell Burritos – This Is the Best

el pollo loco
El Pollo Loco

Best: El Pollo Loco

There's almost no fast-food chicken better than El Pollo Loco’s. The flame-grilled, citrusy wonderland does everything right. EPL’s Tacos al Carbon are the fast food equivalent of LA-style street tacos, made with thigh meat and served with onions and cilantro on corn tortillas. Plus, El Pollo Loco has that gorgeous salsa bar. While the soft corn tortillas aren’t amazing, this is still the peak of the fast-food taco.

Related: The Most Popular Mexican Fast Food Chains, Ranked

chipotle assembly line
chipotle assembly line by osseous (CC BY)

2. Chipotle

It’s important to note, before I begin, that I am not suggesting you walk into a Chipotle and order tacos like a maniac. Everybody knows that the bowl is the only move. All I’m saying here is that because Chipotle’s proteins are of such a high pedigree, you’re gonna get some decent tacos, whether you order the soft shell or hard shell. They’re probably more than you should be paying for fast-food tacos, especially considering they are not a sure-fire bet to actually fill you up, but these ingredients are nothing to scoff at.

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del taco quesadilla tacos
Del Taco

3. Del Taco

There is, of course, no major difference between most of the big chains’ hard shell tacos, but Del Taco’s ingredients just taste better and fresher. Because Del’s classic hard-shell tacos are composed of only cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, and ground beef, each ingredient needs to be perfect. And Del’s fish tacos? Del’s hot sauce? Forget about it. It’s why Taco Bell has to hide behind those Doritos shells like cowards: Nobody else can keep up.

two tacos
Jack in the Box

4. Jack in the Box

The pride of Jack’s Munchie Menu is an easy choice for the Top 5. It’s just a whole separate craving, ya know? Jack in the Box tacos are another beast entirely, and I’ll love them forever. It’s gotta be the best two-for-one deal in all of fast food. I shouldn’t need to tell you to get extra taco sauce.

baja fresh crispy wahoo fish taco
Baja Fresh

5. Baja Fresh

This place is disastrously underrated. The chicken tacos are just fine, but you really oughta try the crispy wahoo soft tacos, topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, and tangy crema. Bright, saline flavors like this are hard to find in restaurants that also have drive-thrus attached to them. Don’t take Baja Fresh for granted.

Closeup of Three Taco Bell Crunchy Tacos
Taco Bell/Yelp

6. Taco Bell

The Taco Bell Crunchy Taco is a classic, I’ll give it that. It’s probably what people think of when they think of fast-food tacos, and I definitely have to hand the Bell some credit on that one. The issue is, Taco Bell is not a place for tacos. It is a place for burritos wrapped in quesadillas; a place for cinnamon twists and burritos with cheese on the outside of the tortilla. It’s the multiverse of madness in there, and if all you’ve come for is a Tex-Mex style package of old lettuce and ground beef, you’re quite lost.

Moe's Southwest Grill: Frank's RedHot Buffalo Queso Taco
Moe's Southwest Grill

7. Moe’s Southwest Grill

I know there are people who like Moe’s better than Chipotle, and that’s nice for them I suppose, but they are unfortunately wrong. There are a lot of places where Chipotle can’t be found, and in that situation, Moe’s will have to do. You’re still better off getting a bowl — any restaurant that’s eager to stick black beans into your tacos makes me question things.