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El Pollo Loco, Taco Bell, And Del Taco Face Off In Our Blind Bean, Cheese, & Rice Burrito Battle

Does anything slap as hard as the combination of beans, rice, and cheese wrapped in a warm tortilla? Few fast food menu items can compare to this simple masterpiece, especially when you consider value. Every drive-thru operation that serves bean, cheese, and rice burritos will sell them to you for under S3 — a steal! Even as a side order, a burrito is a straight-up meal, few value menu items can say the same. A side order of fries is just a box of carbohydrates, an order of nuggets is all protein (and oil), mozzarella sticks, and jalapeño poppers are just cheese (gulp, plus more oil), but with a burrito, you get it all!

Not enough for you? Buy a second one, you’ll still land under $5.

Because I live in Southern California, I can get a great burrito at whatever the closest taqueria is, but not everyone is so lucky and we feel for you. We know that sometimes fast food is as good as it gets. So who makes the best version of this burrito in the fast food universe? We set out to find out by ordering the legendary BRC burrito at three popular fast-food chains.

PART I — Methodology

Burrito Blind
Dane Rivera

Compared to our previous blind taste tests, this one was incredibly simple. A bean, cheese, and rice burrito holds heat better than any other fast food dish, and two of the three chains we selected for this contest were in the same strip mall parking lot, so it only took me 15 minutes to collect all three.

Once home, my girlfriend split the burrito in half (for photo purposes) and served me a burrito at random. Rather than just a few bites, I ate a whole half before moving on to the next. Not for any reason in particular besides the fact that I love bean, cheese, and rice burritos.

Here was this challenge’s tasting class:

  • Del Taco — Bean and Cheese Burrito with Rice
  • El Pollo Loco — BRC Burrito
  • Taco Bell — Bean, Cheese, and Rice Burrito

To break down the individual elements I rated each component (beans, rice, cheese, tortilla) on a 5-point scale and added them up for a total score. Let’s get to the tasting!

PART II — The Tasting

Taste 1

Burrito Blind
Dane Rivera

Beans: 3. The beans have a good meaty flavor, but the texture here is muddy. Think a very thick bean broth with very little texture.

Cheese: 2. Too salty, almost American-cheese-like. It has no depth.

Rice: 1. It might as well be nonexistent. Not only is it flavorless, it adds little if any texture.

Tortilla: 5. This is my sort of tortilla. It’s gummy, buttery, thin, and a bit greasy.

Taste 2

Burrito Blind
Dane Rivera

Beans: 2. This has the opposite problem from Taste 1, the beans here are too dry. While the texture is fluffy and tender and the flavor is great, it’s too easy to taste each individual bean, there is nothing binding them together.

There also isn’t nearly enough here, the ratio of this burrito is totally off.

Cheese: 5. Creamy, salty, almost nutty, this is Monterey Jack cheese, a classic and the only correct cheese for a burrito.

Rice: 4. There sure is a lot of it here. It’s textural, with some nice umami from the tomato sauce, but its overuse makes this burrito a bit drier than it should be.

Tortilla: 2. I can tell it would be a good tortilla if they bothered to heat it up on the flat top. Seriously what happened here? Did they microwave this?

Taste 3

Burrito Blind
Dane Rivera

Beans: 5. This is the real deal, fluffy, tender (I’m tasting oregano and garlic in there), flavorful, and there is a lot of ‘em. This is the perfect ratio of beans.

Cheese: 3. It’s more complex than Taste 1, but it’s not Monterey Jack. It’s nutty and has a bold present flavor, but there isn’t enough in here.

Rice: 2. It’s white rice, which is fine from a textural standpoint, but it doesn’t have the nice tomato complexity that Spanish rice offers. It’s not flavorless though, it’s almost buttery, which is something.

Tortilla: 4. Fluffy, and gummy, but a bit thicker than I like my tortillas. At least it’s been warmed on a flat top!

Part 2: The Ranking

3. Taco Bell (Taste 1)

Burrito Blind
Dane Rivera

Total Points: 11

Sorry to Taco Bell fans but this burrito is doing the bare minimum. It’s practically a dead ringer for one of those frozen gas station microwaveable burritos. It gets the job done in a pinch but it’s not worth looking forward to, and that’s sad.

I’ve heard rumors that Taco Bell’s beans aren’t real beans, but some freeze-dried powder stuff that they add water into. I wouldn’t doubt that given how bad the beans were here.

The Bottom Line:

This burrito failed to deliver on beans, and considering that’s a pillar of this dish, we’re ranking it at the bottom.

Find your nearest Taco Bell here.

2. El Pollo Loco (Taste 2)

Burrito Blind
Dane Rivera

Total Points: 13

El Pollo Loco has some great individual ingredients, but the execution here is what held the burrito back. There weren’t enough beans, there was too much rice, and although the cheese was good the burrito came across as a bit too dry.

Maybe that’s a quality control issue, but considering how easy it is to put together a burrito, there is really no excuse for the lack of execution here.

The Bottom Line:

Great flavors, poor execution.

Find your nearest El Pollo Loco here.

1. Del Taco (Taste 3)

Burrito Blind
Dane Rivera

Total Points: 14

Look at that! Our first blind taste that ranked in order, each burrito in this taste test was better than the last culminating in this great but not perfect bean, rice, and cheese burrito. While the simple change of cheddar for Monterey Jack cheese and white rice for Spanish Rice would’ve made this a perfect 20/20 burrito, all of the individual flavors here deliver enough to give this the top spot.

It helps that Del Taco infuses this burrito with green salsa, adding a mild chili flavor into the mix that makes this burrito taste better than the competition, ingredients be damned. Anticipating this, my girlfriend made me try the competing halves with their respective hot sauces/salsas.

I tried El Pollo Loco’s avocado salsa and Taco Bell’s mild sauce on each respective burrito and while it enhanced the experience of both, my ranking remains the same. I’ll give El Pollo Loco points for having the best salsa, but it wasn’t enough to knock it up from second place to first.

The Bottom Line:

The best bean, cheese, and rice burrito you’ll get from an American fast food drive-thru. Hands down.

Find your nearest Del Taco here.