How Taco Bell dishes got their names


Published January 28, 2014

| The Daily Meal

How Taco Bell dishes got their names

How Taco Bell dishes got their names

From Gorditas to Chalupas, there are some wild words on that menu.


Should you find yourself ordering a taco in Mexico City, you’ll be handed a small corn tortilla, folded with grilled or braised meat, chopped onions and cilantro, a sprinkling of fresh white cheese and maybe a thin salsa. No lettuce, and most likely no tomato. 

You’d also be hard-pressed to find a hard-shell taco in Mexico, but they’re Taco Bell’s top seller. As for the ground beef mixture, the closest you’ll get in Mexico is picadillo, which is usually sweeter and contains raisins. The word taco translates to a wad, or plug, but also can refer to any light snack. 


A real gordita is a small pouch of corn-based dough, or masa, filled with meat or cheese, sealed, and deep-fried. It’s pretty similar to an English pasty or a South American arepa. There’s also a version called gorditas de migas, where fried pork is mixed in with the dough. 

Not so at Taco Bell, however, where a gordita is a warm flatbread, folded like a taco and filled with meat, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and cheese. The word translates to ‘little fat one,’ which makes a lot more sense when it refers to the Mexican version. 


Nachos were invented by a (now-legendary) maître d’ named Ignacio Anaya, who whipped up the first batch for a group of hungry U.S. military wives at a restaurant called the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico, near Fort Duncan. He fried up some tortilla chips, topped them with some shredded cheddar and sliced jalapenos, and served them as canapés. He named them after his nickname, Nacho, and the rest is history. But what you’ll see at Taco Bell (and at many bars and restaurants) today bear little resemblance to the original: the giant mound of chips and toppings is not only overrated, it’s a purely American invention. 


Chalupas are a popular dish in south-central Mexico. To create an authentic chalupa, chefs take a small ball of corn masa and form it in a mold, so the resulting thin, crunchy, and shallow cup, which is then deep-fried, resembles a small boat. Fillings like shredded meat, cheese, onion and salsa are added. 

Once again, the version sold at Taco Bell couldn’t be more different: a deep-fried wheat-based flatbread is folded up like a taco shell, and the usual taco fillings are added. As for the name? It’s a small boat typically found in the canals of Mexico City’s Xochimilco neighborhood. 

Check out more famous Taco Bell food names.

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