Celiac Disease / Gluten Free Restaurants / Reviews / Uncategorized

The Fanciest, Most Gluten-Free Taco Bell Dinner EVER

So I got a super interesting invitation this week. The good people of Taco Bell invited me to an undisclosed location to partake in their new Cantina Bell menu created by celebrity chef, Lorena Garcia. Having put Taco Bell on my no-way-in-hell list, I politely emailed back to say, “I don’t know if you know this, but gluten is totally my bitch. Thanks, but no thanks.” It turns out that was precisely why I was all up in that invite.

Apparently, I can eat at Taco Bell again. Or at least, starting July 5th, I can eat at Taco Bell again. My six-year-old could not be happier.

After my rage against the Dallas airport Taco Bell post-diagnosis where I accidentally ate up some gluten, I swore I would never make a border run again. My mother-in-law has been sneaking burritos to my daughter, so this has actually been quite a battle in our house. Alamo-ish, I would even say.

But now? Whooooo! Not since my college days of massive hangovers where the only help came via bean and cheese burritos, have I been so excited about my next Taco Bell run. Maybe it’s because I got to meet the actual chef; who convinced me she’s all about simple, natural (read=no gluten in the beef) ingredients, and taking the Bell one step into the healthier zone. Garcia is nothing if not passionate, and as she explained not only her inspiration (her mother’s recipe), but how she managed to work with a fast food giant that already had so many methods firmly in place, I became truly impressed at this two-year-long collaboration that resulted in 8 new ingredients being added to the line, and gluten-free options for me, the gluten-free. Here’s Lorena putting those ingredients to work —

Of course, you won’t get a watermelon mojito, nor a gorgeous place setting, and most likely you won’t be enjoying the view from the top of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Los Angeles when you order your cantina bowl. You will, however, get citrus-herb marinated chicken, black beans, guacamole that no longer comes from a very cool looking “guacamole gun” but from actual Haas avocados, fire-roasted corn salsa, pico de gallo, all on a bed of romaine lettuce. And if you’re not gf, you can add on the cilantro rice and creamy cilantro dressing. It just occurred to me that ordering the gf version is also handy for those cilantro=soap people. You can also enjoy these sides, a la carte.

The first question on my mind, that apparently has been asked by everyone who has been introduced to this new menu, is how it will stack up in an actual restaurant. Sure it looks lovely, what in these ramekins, but what if I walk into the Taco Bell on Vine? Rest assured, the test market TBs  passed the test. Lorena herself (via video) is training the team members to keep the hot stuff hot, the cool stuff cool, and how to arrange it so it looks like this —

Of course I’ve been to a Taco Bell on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, so I know that there are locations where you’ll be lucky to get out of there alive, much less with an aesthetically pleasing cantina bowl. However, I’m on board.

Celiacs who miss Taco Bell, rejoice. In a few short weeks you too will be able to enjoy a cantina bowl, and for under $5. And non-Celiacs who can’t get enough of the old school, don’t worry. As Taco Bell moves in a new direction, they’ll hang on to those gorditas.

Will you be checking out Taco Bell on July 5th?

33 thoughts on “The Fanciest, Most Gluten-Free Taco Bell Dinner EVER

  1. Wow finally! just this week I was thinking to myself about how much I miss TB! Under $5?? this will DEFINITELY my go-to while on the road

  2. Miss fancy-pants, being invited to be the taste-tester for Taco Bell! Lucky.

    I actually grew up on Taco Bell. Kinda. It was a treat really, to be able to get a taco AND a seven-layer burrito.

    So how many GF options will actually be on their menu? Their fresco bean tostadas & burritos are vegan & my kids love them. I’m interested to see what they have up their sleeve. Good changes, for sure!

  3. A step in the right direction! Sadly, not corn free. Curse you, corn! I think I need to accept that Mexican – or iterations thereof – are simply not options for me. 😦

    • You can ask them to leave the corn off. I was assured that their employees will be taking special orders. DO IT.

      @Janae — they kept the other new menu items under wraps. But I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

  4. I think it’s cool and all but I’m gonna wait until someone covertly tests for cross contamination at a Taco Bell out in the middle of Podunk, Oklahoma before I begin to believe–no offense to the fine young men and women who sustain the fast food industry–that they’re keeping anything actually gluten-free.

    Maybe if all of the GF options come hermetically sealed from an offsite prep facility. Maybe.

    • AMEN joelmw and to those of us who are sick for days at the slightest cross contamination…. I’m happy that there are more GF options, but sadly realize, there is no way in heck I can eat at a Taco Bell due to the level of cross contamination. Now my celiac sister can, but me, no. PS. I am so sensitive that I just DREAM of being able to eat at Casa Gallardo. Or practically any restaurant other than PF Changs.

  5. It would be awesome if all Taco Bells would start carrying this and they actually pay attention to the cross contamination issue… but why exactly is the cilantro rice not gluten-free? You would think they could make that gf. 😦

  6. I’m going to test it in-store in Austin next Friday. Although, I’m not super sensitive to cross-contamination so everyone probably has to sort that issue out for themselves. They assured me that the ingredients are kept in their own separate area, but yeah, hands on everything could screw that up.
    And I’m not sure about the rice. I got an ingredient list and the only suspect thing I saw was autolyzed yeast extract. Which, if it’s only from yeast, is fine. But every now and then has gluten? Either way, being warned away from it is enough to make me skip.

    • I keep meaning to do a write up, but it doesn’t seem post worthy to write the following: I went to Taco Bell in Austin, Texas. The cantina bowl — while it did not make me sick, at all — was not quite as appetizing as my photo of the bowl above. I think this is to be expected, but you should go in expecting smaller portions, for sures. Also, while the TB employees were super stoked about this new addition, and very nice, they could not school me on the cross-contamination issue.
      Like I said, I did not get sick, but now that I’m realizing my body may not be taking to this cross-contamination thing too well, it’s concerning.
      Anyone else have it?

  7. Hi! Thank you for the review. In order for the Cantina Bowl to be gluten free – do we request it without celantro dressing and rise? 😉

  8. But why oh why does every new gluten free thing at fast food restaurants have to be based on salad? Some of us with fructose issues –like me–can’t eat lettuce without getting sick.

  9. I just came across this today. I also checked out TB’s nutritional info. They’ve updated the page completely listing Allergens and Sensitivities by type, including Gluten and MSG. According to the TB, both the rice and the dressing are GF. I’ll have to try this out sometime.


  10. I recently went to TB, no one on the staff had a clue what gluten might be.I specifically addressed the new Cantina bowl, the staff said they did not know the nutritional information and the manager would need to get copies but was not able to until “next week”. Sad management, TB is a prime destination for quick meal on the go for those of us with gluten issues. I won’t eat anywhere that does not inform the staff of the ingredients or management that doesn’t allow access to information vital to consumers.

    • That sucks. It’s totally true that no matter where you go, you’re totally at the mercy of the employees on duty. Some are stellar, and some either haven’t been trained or really don’t care. It’s a huge bummer.

  11. Cantina bowl should be called the Slop Bowl.

    Pretty dang gross. Not appetising in appearance or taste at all. I strongly considered giving it back but since thats really the only gluten free thing I had no choice but to eat it.

  12. I just posted this at another website. By the way, I specifically informed the gentleman taking my order in Spanish and in English that I was on a gluten free diet and asked if it contained gluten, wheat, arina de trigo, etc. He said no.
    ” SolaVozNovember 5, 2012 4:33 AMI justvwoke up to horrible heartburn after having the Cantina Bowl with steak and thought of looking up whether is was gluten free. I’m a newly pregnant celiac (5 months pregnant) and can feel immediatley when I’ve been glutened. Funny thing is that I am not feeling that pain like I’m being punched from the inside out and the immediate intestinal bloating I immediatley get (it feels like I can’t expand anymore and hurts like hadies). However it’s been only 5 hrs and reading all this I’m praying I got a contamjnant free bowl and am just reaping the effects of the onions and peppers which I know better to also avoid. I am pain free (besides heartburn of course) but woke up extrememely itchy on my legs as well.) I ate really late @ about 11:15 and it’s 4:23am as I post. I had yoghurt after and now again to help with heartburn and am crossing my fingers. I also had tamarind nectar afterwards. Still, I’m Spanish and perfectly capable of making the same dish from scratch if I get a hankering although I also didn’t bloat from the beans strangely enough. Well enough rambling and to all who were glutened I sent up a prayer for a quick cleansing and freedom from pain and harm to your villi. :-(“

    • it was delicious btw and looked just like the add. Even my 4 yr old loved it. It was that close to homecooking though I think the rice was parboiled.

  13. Thanks for the info about Taco Bell. Recently eliminated wheat from my diet and found I’m cured of my IBS, skin problems and arthritis so will be bookmarking your site. So many things to learn about cross contamination ( wondered why I had an episode and was able to trace back to French fries in same fryer as chicken nuggets…. Grrr. Thanks for your website

    • I wouldn’t eat it then. I wonder if they prep it on the same equipment? Or someone is just confused? Either way, I would avoid that particular Taco Bell. Bummer.

  14. Pingback: Gluten What Is Gluten Free At Taco Bell | my gluten free diet

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