The Naked Chicken Chalupa opened a new frontier for Taco Bell. Before is release, their meats were generally grilled chicken/steak or ground beef and were easily deployable into any of their myriad of combination foods. However, the Naked Chicken Chalupa introduced fried chicken to the menu for the first time.

Though that initial foray was a fried chicken shell, it makes sense that Taco Bell decided to stick with fried chicken and find more uses for it on their menu. They then introduced Naked Chicken Chips, which was basically a chicken nugget with dipping sauces; a staid choice for a fast food chain not known for its restraint (Also, it’s kinda weird that they call their fried chicken “Naked” when it’s coated. Grilled chicken should be naked, fried chicken is “clothed”, if you will.)

Next up, Taco Bell introduced the Crispy Chicken Quesadilla. I was initially confused by the pairing, because it seemed to me that putting fried chicken into a quesadilla would render it not crispy, not to mention any potential flavor clash. I was disinterested enough that I actually didn’t plan on eating and reviewing it. However, one afternoon I made a trip to a combo Taco Bell/Long John Silver’s, planning on trying a new shrimp item from LJS. When I asked if they had it, the poor woman behind the counter looked at me like I had two heads. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I pivoted to the quesadilla to salvage the trip.

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The Naked Chicken Quesadilla is the standard Taco Bell quesadilla, which is a three-cheese blend and creamy jalapeno sauce on their tortilla, with their Naked Chicken wedged in as well. The Naked Chicken Quesadilla is $4.19 on its own or available in a box with a Doritos Locos Taco, a crunchy taco and a soda for $5.99, both prices before tax.

When I got to my table, I grabbed the quesadilla package and was underwhelmed. It seems like most fast food places are putting more effort into their packaging to make the food look more appealing. The Naked Chicken Quesadilla came in a flat plastic sleeve and looked limp. After I tore the top away (per their instructions), I pulled out the quesadilla and, to be honest, the tortilla looked way too brown, as if it had spent too much time in the steamer. In addition, it was damp from spending time in a sealed container. I will admit that it smelled pretty good though. You can’t beat the aroma of fresh fried chicken combined with a hot tortilla.

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My first bite was full of cheese and spice, their standard quesadilla ingredients. At first I thought it contained a spicy nacho cheese, but I realize now the spice was the creamy jalapeno sauce. That was a great addition and I may want to add it to other foods in the future.

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The problem with the Naked Chicken Quesadilla is that it wasn’t crispy at all. The tortilla was soft from sitting in a closed pouch for a few minutes, producing enough steam/humidity to make it damp. I also didn’t get a bite of chicken. As I continued to eat, I should note that this was really spicy from the jalapeno sauce. I didn’t even add any hot sauce myself, but I had to periodically take breaks to cool my mouth.

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A lack of crunch after the initial bite was a persistent problem. Even after I reached the chicken, it didn’t stand up to the other ingredients. The chicken breading got soggy because it was stuck in a tortilla, surrounded by cheese. The chicken pieces were quite thin, so the flavor of the chicken also didn’t stand up to the cheese.

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The quesadilla itself was very thin because the chicken and cheese didn’t provide much heft. Eating the chicken alone, it was fine. I’d judge the quality as a decent frozen chicken tender that you’d find in a supermarket; certainly not something you’re salivating over but it didn’t ruin the meal.

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Lack of a textural differences in my bites made this a pretty boring eating experience. The tortilla stayed damp even after exposure to air and was floppy, which ruined the only chance for a crunch other than the chicken. Breaking my usual process, I actually stopped halfway through the quesadilla to eat something else because of the sameness of every bite. It also didn’t help that the chicken distribution in the quesadilla was not even, and that first half I ate was rather chicken light.

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To be fair, the Naked Chicken Quesadilla improved after I picked it up again. The second half was slightly better because it contained more chicken so I wasn’t just eating a damp over-cooked tortilla and cheese, but it still wasn’t great. I somehow got a few bites with actual crispy chicken (and I’m honestly not sure how that happened), and those were pretty nice.

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If you’re a fan of quesadillas in general, you’d probably get more mileage out of the Naked Chicken Quesadilla than me. I don’t generally like cheese forward food, so maybe this was never going to be a winner for me, but the execution really didn’t do it any favors. Like I mentioned, the second half was an improvement on my initial taste, even including two bites with actually crispy chicken! So there is a chance if I’d eaten this in reverse order, I’d have had a more favorable opinion. However, lack of consistency is a problem. Unless you really like quesadillas, I don’t think I’d order this. If you really wanted to get it, I’d recommend ordering a cheese quesadilla and chicken on the side to alternate your bites; you’ll probably come closer to what Taco Bell intended.

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