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Did you hear that?

That was the sound of cheers when Taco Bell announced that its Mexican pizza would reappear on its menu less than two years after its removal. But soon after, Taco Bell fans once again let out an audible gasp as the dish sold out everywhere and the fast-food chain removed it from its menu again.

In September 2020, Taco Bell announced it would discontinue its popular Mexican pizza because it no longer met the brand’s long-term environmental impact goals. All told, the packaging of Mexican pizza generates more than 7 million pounds of waste paper each year.

But even the strong opposition on social media from eco-conscious millennials – whose generation was just starting out when the dish was introduced in 1985 – was so swift and strong that the brand couldn’t ignore it. A Change.org petition garnered more than 170,000 signatures begging Taco Bell to bring back Mexican pizza.

On May 19, the beloved dish returned to the car-free zone. Taco Bell lovers rejoiced. But on May 31, Taco Bell announced in a letter to fans that it was once again pulling Mexican pizza from its menu, hoping to bring back the popular dish in the fall.

With fall still feeling like a long way off, Taco Bell fans were curious: Can you make a drive-through Mexican pizza at home? To find out, Yahoo Life delved into what Mexican pizza is and how it’s made.

A culinary contradiction – it’s neither Mexican nor pizza
Nothing in Mexican food culture looks or tastes like the cult classic that is Taco’s Bell.

If you want to get up close and personal, you can check out tlayuda, a fried tortilla topped with beans, chicken and cheese, often served with guacamole.

In fact, MaMah, a YouTube channel with nearly half a million subscribers, posted a video of real Mexican mothers trying Mexican pizza on May 25. In the video, three women share their different reactions to tasting the dish. The moms were stumped: one even compared it to “fried chili,” a breakfast dish made with tortilla chips and sauce, topped with a fried egg, tomatoes and cheese.

Another said, “It’s not pizza. It’s bean fritters,” which is probably the most accurate description.

“I understand why they cry about it. I don’t mind eating it. It’s really good,” said one of the women. “I just wouldn’t call it pizza.” The main complaint: the enchilada filling, which to taste testers was clearly canned or jarred.

Mexican pizza’s unsung fans – South Asian-Americans
Unless you are part of the community, you may not know how much Mexican pizza is loved by South Asian Americans such as Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani-Americans. In fact, it was Krish Jagirdar, an Indian-American, who started the Change.org petition to bring back Mexican pizza. In an interview with NPR about the triumphant return of Mexican pizza, Jagirdar said that like many Indian-American families, fast food as a child was frowned upon at mealtimes.

“The one place we were allowed to go, the place we used to go, was Taco Bell,” he explained. “Mexican pizza …… is very popular among Indian-Americans.”

According to Jagirdar, it’s that heavy spice content that draws South Asian culture to Mexican pizza. It’s kind of like Indian fast food, but still obviously part of American culture,” he said, explaining that there is even a vegetarian version of the dish that is popular in many South Asian households. Vegetarian, a diet in which potatoes are added to a bean layer instead of seasoned ground beef.

When Taco Bell decided to bring the dish back, they even got in touch with Jagirdar and told him they appreciated all he had done to promote the revival.

So, can you make it at home?
To make the Mexican pizza at home, I enlisted the help of Ryan Manning, owner of MX Taco in Orlando, Fla. When the Mexican pizza returned in mid-May, he immediately took to social media to post his thoughts on the dish and add it to his menu as a specialty.

His version is not “cheffy” and is definitely something you can make for lunch in 10 minutes – about the same amount of time it takes to get through the car. It uses canned black beans, lightly mashed with a fork, flour tortillas, ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning, chopped cheese, tomatoes and – sorry, taste-testing mom – canned enchilada filling. Manning’s Mexican Pizza Recipe
To make Manning’s Mexican Pizza at home, first add vegetable oil to a hot pan and then add flour tortillas. Next, spoon a few tablespoons of salsa over the top, then cover the sauce with the chopped Mexican three-cheese mixture and top with fresh tomatoes. Cover the pan and let the cheese melt over medium heat for about five minutes while working on the bottom.

In a separate hot pan, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil and another flour tortilla. Sprinkle with the mashed black beans and seasoned ground beef – or potatoes if you’re having vegetables – to crisp up the sides of the tortilla a bit, then use a spatula to place the sauce and cheese tortilla on top of the beans and the beef layer.

Slide the Mexican pizza onto a cutting board or plate and cut into quarters. Chef Manning added some pickled jalapeños and fresh cilantro on top, just to add some flavor and color, but it was optional (though more delicious than nothing).

I had it for lunch and was completely satisfied. In fact, I want it again today. The trick to hacking is to slightly fry the flour tortillas in oil so they bubble and crisp up around the edges. If you want to make a gluten-free version, use corn tortillas instead of flour.


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