Make us your home page

Taste test: Taco shells

Earlier this spring, our family hosted two lovely exchange students from France. Each night of the two-week visit, I prepared a special meal in hopes of convincing them Americans don't just eat fast food. One afternoon, I prepared an entire Thanksgiving meal, complete with marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Toward the end of their stay, the teenage girls wanted to prepare a special French meal for me. With a little help from the translating app on my phone, I managed to get the ingredient list and I was shopping for groceries. Halfway through the supermarket, I realized the recipe was far too complicated to prepare that late in the day. So, I abandoned the veal stew for that night and went to my go-to dinner — tacos. I always have ingredients on hand for a hearty taco-making meal. If not, I can find everything on one shelf at the store. While I usually fry my own corn tortillas, I am glad to have the option of purchasing store-bought shells in a pinch. This week, our panelists tried six brands of hard taco shells from local grocery stores. After initially tasting the shells right from the box, we heated them in the oven and got much better results.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent


(out of 100)
Great Value 77Taco Bell 65Trader Joe's 59

Walmart's store brand of taco shells got high marks from judges for their light, crispy texture and the balance of corn and salt flavors. "This isn't just for tacos," said one judge. "I would use these as a top on chili." Another said she liked the authentic yellow color. "These have enough corn flavor to add to the tacos without overpowering the filling," she said. "And there's plenty of room for filling."The fast-food-maker's taco shell brand (actually made by Kraft Foods) was light and not heavy on salt or corn flavors. But judges appreciated the shell as a blank canvas for spicy tacos or dips. "It's really good overall," said one panelist. "It smells like a Mexican kitchen when it's warm," said another judge. "It's inviting and toasty."Judges picked the Trader Joe's shells for their consistent color, corn taste and crispness. "They are kind of basic," allowed one judge. "But I could serve these with no reservations." Another said he especially liked the flakiness and the "sparkly sheen of the shells when they come out of the oven."

they buy?
All four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$1 for a 5.8-ounce box of 12 shells from Walmart.$1.28 for a 4.5-ounce box of 12 shells from Walmart.$1.99 for a 5.5-ounce box of 12 shells.

Also Sampled: Old El Paso ($1.38 for a 4.6-ounce box of 12 shells from Walmart, 55 points); Garden of Eatin' ($2.99 for a 5.5-ounce box of 12 shells from the Fresh Market, 36 points); and Ortega ($2.19 for a 5.8-ounce box of 12 shells from Winn-Dixie, 44 points).

Panelists: Jeff Jensen, public information officer for the city of Treasure Island; Wayne Conery, retired restaurant manager; Jill Dunn, realtor Yes-Homes, Keller Williams Realty; and Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to [email protected] Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving sizeTwo shellsThree shellsTwo shells
Fat/Fiber6g / 2g7g / 1g7g / 1g
Sugars/Sodium0g / 160mg0g / 0mg0g / 0mg
Carbs/Protein16g / 2g21g / 2g14g / 2g

Taste test: Taco shells 03/28/16 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2016 10:57am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Plan your weekend: Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, MarineQuest, Florida Orchestra pops in the park, rodeo


    Plan your weekend


    Music weekend: Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and Bruno Mars all in one weekend? We have a playlist of a weekend coming up. Thursday brings Bruno's sold-out 24K Magic World Tour to Amalie Arena. The next day brings the country power …

    Bill Clark and Danelle Dasouqi admire the chalk art on the side walk during the final day of the three day Chalk Art Festival in Clearwater Beach. JIM REED/STAFF
  2. Ticket window: Harry Potter movie concert, Andrea Bocelli, Ed Sheeran, Iliza Shlesinger, Alan Parsons Project on sale this week

    Music & Concerts

    Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:

    British singer Ed Sheeran performs during the Italian State RAI TV program "Che Tempo che Fa", in Milan, Italy on March 12, 2017, 
AP Photo/Antonio Calanni
  3. 13 things to do in Tampa Bay on Oct. 19


    Bruno Mars: Get your Uptown Funk on at the Grammy-winning pop star's 24K Magic World Tour. 8 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $41.25-$131.25. (813) 301-2500.

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25:  Bruno Mars performs onstage at 2017 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)
  4. In a world of pop queens, Bruno Mars is the king. He plays Tampa on Thursday

    Music & Concerts

    For a few years now, pop music has been completely and utterly dominated by women. Taylor! Beyoncé! Adele! Katy! Gaga! They're everywhere! And they're all goddesses, each and every one!

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22:  (Editorial Use Only) Bruno Mars performs onstage during Bruno Mars: 24K Magic World Tour at Madison Square Garden on September 22, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Atlantic Records)
  5. What's new in theaters: 'The Snowman,' 'Only the Brave,' 'Boo 2! A Madea Halloween'




    Unlike Frosty, The Snowman (R) isn't a jolly, happy soul. He's a serial killer who murders after snowfalls, keeping him busy in Norway where an alcoholic detective (Michael Fassbender) specializes in — wait for it — cold cases.

    Michael Fassbender is an alcoholic detective searching for a killer in The Snowman.