I really love a taco kit taco. If I ever do a big crime and wind up on death row, my requested last meal would be three hard-shell tacos made with ground beef and topped with iceberg lettuce, shredded cheese, grape tomatoes, and sour cream. Full-fat sour cream. I’m being snuffed by the state. Who cares.
There are a few brands with taco kits on shelves, but there are three big boys: Old El Paso, Ortega, and Taco Bell. We tried all three and decided which were best based on the quality and flavor of their respective elements—and one brand was a clear winner in my book. For this taste test, I browned ground beef in separate pans by brand, added the seasoning, and cooked according to the package instructions. We didn’t add anything that wasn’t in the box (i.e. lettuce, cheese, or sour cream) so we could really taste the shell, the seasoned meat, and the sauce. We think these are the taco dinner kits you should pick up the next time Taco Tuesday rolls around.
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- Old El Paso Stand ‘n Stuff Taco Dinner Kit
Stand ‘n Stuff taco shells are a revelation. Truly one of the best inventions of the past 200 years (give or take). Not only do these flat-bottomed beauts keep your tacos from tipping over, they’re also wide as the day is long and you can really load them up with meat and fixins. Sheer shell size aside (say that five times fast), Old El Paso’s kits, this one included, also had the best seasoning blend and the crispiest, best-tasting shells. An all-around winner. Taco tip from my kitchen: Instead of heating the shells in the oven on their own, load them up with meat and cheese, and then pop them in the oven to heat up. Melty cheese makes everything better.
Credit: Merc / Instacart
- Old El Paso Hard & Soft Taco Dinner Kit
Unless we were dealing with homemade flour tortillas from a taqueria or really good local market, I’d be hard pressed to pick a soft shell over a crunchy shell for ground beef tacos. That said, I know lots of people prefer flour and they should be able to enjoy at-home taco night too. This Old El Paso kit has both, so mixed-shell-preference families can all get along. As I said above, we preferred the quality of Old El Paso’s shell to the others we tried, and that went for the flour tortilla as well. They both have a fresh flavor, and the crunchy shell doesn’t taste of the oil it was cooked in. It also didn’t have the slight staleness we detected in Ortega.
Credit: Merc / Target
- Taco Bell Taco Dinner Kit
While Taco Bell’s dinner kits are good, the seasoning didn’t quite channel the flavor of the beef you get from the drive-thru (which might be just as well, since I know some people think Taco Bell beef is gnarly—can’t relate!). But the sauce that comes in this boxed kit is spot-on. If you’re in the mood for Taco Bell, this won’t totally scratch the itch, but in the event you don’t already have 400 Taco Bell sauce packets in the door of your fridge, this will almost do the trick!
Credit: Merc / Amazon
- Old El Paso Takis Fuego Taco Shells
Okay, listen. This isn’t a taco kit. It is a box of shells. But I had to include this product on this list all the same because oh my god these are delicious—citrusy, smoky, and pleasantly oily once heated up. AND THEY’RE STAND ‘N STUFF. Since these don’t come with a seasoning packet, I filled the shells with beef seasoned with the mix from the other Old El Paso kit to get the full experience, and ended up typing in my notes, “This might be one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten.” Suck it up, buy some seasoning and sauce separately, and try these shells!
Credit: Merc/ Walmart
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