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February 21, 2024

Taco Bell to sell new Choco Taco-inspired dessert, reviving the ice cream treat invented in Philly

The fast food chain is partnering with Salt & Straw, whose take on the classic concept blends sweet and spicy flavors

Food & Drink Desserts
Choco Taco Bell Lauren Jennings/Visalia Times-Delta; USA TODAY NETWORK

Klondike discontinued the Choco Taco desserts in 2022, to the chagrin of longtime fans. Taco Bell, which previously sold the ice cream treats at its stores, now plans to offer a new version made by ice cream company Salt & Straw.

Klondike's sudden discontinuation of the Choco Taco was a crushing blow for its longtime fans when the company decided to axe the dessert in 2022. 

Now they're poised for a comeback — sort of — as Taco Bell is teasing plans for a variation on the ice cream treat that it previously carried at its stores. 

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The original Choco Taco was famously invented by Northeast Philly native Alan Drazen, who was an employee at the family-run Jack & Jill Ice Cream company when he came up with the patented concept in 1983. Serving ice cream in the form of a staple Mexican food — which was exploding in popularity in the U.S. at the time — turned out to be a massive success after Taco Bell started selling the novelty dessert at its stores in 1989.

That partnership continued until the fast food chain stopped stocking Choco Tacos in 2015. They were still sold out of trucks, at supermarkets and in freezers owned by Klondike's parent company Unilever — which had acquired the right to manufacture them — but they became more of a legacy treat that was overshadowed by the company's other ice cream bars, cones and sandwiches. 

Taco Bell now wants to get back into the ice cream taco game. The company is preparing to sell a new version of a Choco Taco made by Salt & Straw, an Oregon-based ice cream chain that created its own twist on the dessert about a decade ago — calling it the "Chaco Tacolate." 

Salt & Straw recently participated in Taco Bell's Live Más LIVE innovation event, where the fast food giant unveils new menu items, and announced that its repurposed "Ice Cream Chocolate Tacos" will be sold at Taco Bell stores this summer and online for nationwide shipping. A release date hasn't been revealed. 

The West Coast chain's take on the Choco Taco leans into the trend of "swicy" desserts that mix sweet and spicy flavors. 

Unlike the discontinued Choco Taco, whose waffle cone had a filling of vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream, the waffle cones on the upcoming version will be filled with cinnamon ancho chile ice cream. They'll be dipped in chocolate and topped with toasted brown rice instead of peanuts, which had been used on the original Choco Taco. Taco Bell said it partnered with Salt & Straw to develop a taco shell that won't get soggy, allowing the dessert to be distributed and sold across the chain's footprint.

Diehard fans of the original Choco Taco may consider the new version blasphemy, but Salt & Straw thinks people will find it both nostalgic and fresh. 

"The ice cream is slightly spiced and has significantly more butterfat and less air than anything you've had before," Salt & Spice head chef Tyler Malek told Today. "We use an especially dark chocolate that still holds a rich flavor even after being frozen. On the very top of the taco, we wanted a bit of crunch, so found a rare blend of toasted brown rice that has that effect while also adding an evocative, almost toasty characteristic."

The new desserts at Taco Bell will come with three custom sauce packets and a tangy cheesecake dip.

Klondike previously acknowledged that discontinuing Choco Tacos was a disappointment to longtime fans, who began hoarding them and attempting to make their own at home. In response to the backlash, Klondike suggested it may bring Choco Tacos back in the future, though no plans have been announced. Jack & Jill still owns the patent, so the company also is free to sell or license the Choco Taco to another manufacturer. That hasn't happened, either. 

For now, fans can take solace knowing that Taco Bell and Salt & Straw hope to fill the void left behind by the original Choco Taco.