How Long Can Taco Bell Sit Out? [+Best Storage Practices]

When you get the mega munchies late at night, Taco Bell is a quick cheap solution to those cravings.

You can get a lot of food for very little money. Sometimes, you even have leftovers. What do you do with them?

Taco Bell food, like any fast food containing perishable ingredients, should be handled carefully when left out. According to food safety guidelines, it should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, as it falls into the danger zone for bacterial growth between 40°F and 140°F. In environments above 90°F, such as a hot car or outdoors in summer, this time reduces to just 1 hour. To ensure safety and maintain the quality of the food, it’s best to consume or refrigerate Taco Bell products within these time frames.

Continue reading for suggestions for storing and reheating specific food items from Taco Bell, facts about Taco Bell’s history, and how they source their supplies. 

Fast Food Serving Times

Taco Bell is fast food. It is designed to be prepared and eaten quickly. 

According to the Taco Bell employee handbook, prepared foods should be served within 15 minutes or discarded.

Of course, we all know that when you have leftovers, you want to find a way to save them and eat them later. 

The USDA recommends that no perishable food be left sitting our for more than 2 hours before being refrigerated or frozen to prevent any harmful bacterial growth.


For the best tasting Taco Bell foods, you should eat them while they are still hot from the restaurant, Ideally within 15 minutes of receiving your order.

Eating Taco Bell That Has Been Sitting Out

If you have left your tacos or grilled burrito sitting out for several hours or even overnight, you may wonder if it is safe to eat it.

When you search this information on the internet, you will find a lot of conflicting information and personal experiences.

What all of these points of view boil down to is you SHOULD discard Taco Bell that has been left out for more than 2 hours.

However, many people report eating leftover Taco Bell meals as old as 18 hours with no ill effects.

You should note that most of these reports of eating leftover room temperature Taco Bell come from university students who are low on cash and trying to stretch every dollar.

Young people are more likely to take risks than older people, even risks like chancing food poisoning from improperly stored leftovers. 

Storing Leftover Taco Bell

Some food items from Taco Bell will keep better than others. Nachos and crunchy taco shells are likely to become soggy when kept for any length of time.

Also, beef tacos will not store well because the grease and liquid from the ground beef will cause the tortilla or the taco shell to become soggy and disintegrate.

Fresh vegetables like lettuce and tomato also don’t keep well because they become wilted and unappealing due to the initial heat and oil from the meat in the dishes.

Finally, sour cream and guacamole on tacos or nachos will not keep well and definitely won’t reheat well. 

For the best result, remove any fresh produce or toppings like lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole before storing leftover Taco Bell.

Then keep your leftovers in an airtight container like a zip-top bag for up to 2 days before reheating.

Burritos and quesadillas that are made with chicken, steak, or vegetarian ingredients will be the easiest to keep and eat later.

These fillings tend to have less liquid than ground beef, so the tortillas do not become soggy.

Reheating Taco Bell Leftovers

Some people eat leftover Taco Bell at room temperature or directly from the refrigerator.

While it is not necessary to reheat food from Taco Bell before you eat it, you may find that it enhances the flavor and texture to reheat it in the oven or toaster oven.


For the contingent of college students who are stretching every dollar as far as they can, reheating leftovers in the microwave is an obvious solution. However, it does cause tortillas and taco shells to have a chewy texture. 

 Try heating tacos in a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat to crisp up shells that have become soft in the refrigerator.

A toaster oven or a conventional oven heated to 350 degrees will also help return some crispiness to taco shells.

Chicken-based items and vegetarian options are likely to keep and reheat better than beef items because they have less grease.

You can reheat chicken quesadillas or grilled burritos in a skillet or toaster oven with medium heat. 

Taco Bell

Side dishes like rice or refried beans will keep easily and reheat well in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Does Taco Bell Compare To Authentic Mexican Food

The short answer is no. However, the advent of Taco Bell started an obsession with tacos of all varieties in the United States that continues in popularity even now.

Glen Bell started taco Bell in 1962 in California. Glen had previously run a hamburger stand before opening a taco stand called Taco Tia. By 1970 Taco Bell had 325 publicly held restaurants.

The first significant difference between a Taco Bell taco and authentic Mexican food is that Mexican food is typically served with corn tortillas, not flour tortillas or fried corn shells.

Glen Bell invented the fried taco shell in order to make serving tacos more efficient.

Tortilla chips are a distinctly American invention, created in Los Angeles in the 1940s. When the first machine-made tortillas came off the line, some were misshapen.

Instead of disposing of them, the owner fried them and made chips for their Mexican food restaurant. Now they are a staple of the Ameican-Mexican food menu.

Queso served as a melted cheese dip with chiles for added spiciness, is popular at Taco Bell and most other Mexican restaurants in the U.S. While it is delicious, it is not a Mexican dish. 

Breakfast Burritos, a combination of scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese, and meat, are also a distinctly Texan creation.

Taco Bell’s breakfast burritos are further examples of the long line of non-Mexican foods on the Taco Bell menu. 

How Taco Bell Sources And Prepares Meat

Taco Bell makes a solid effort to acquire meat from USDA-approved sources that are environmentally sound.

They are committed to transparency in their food acquisition and preparation processes, so this information is freely available on the Taco Bell website.

Taco Bell cooks and seasons its 100 percent USDA ground beef at a central location.

Then they drain excess fat, package the meat with water, and ship it to individual restaurants, where staff heats it before serving the guests.

Taco Bell participates in the United States Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. They work with businesses, agricultural experts, and environmentalists to ensure that the beef they sell has the smallest possible impact on the planet. 

Similarly, Taco Bell’s chicken is all supplied domestically from companies like Tyson foods, where you probably get your chicken from as well. 

Vegan and Vegetarian Taco Bell Options

Up to ten percent of the items on the Taco Bell menu are vegetarian or can be altered to be vegetarian with some simple changes.

Furthermore, Taco Bell is the first fast-food restaurant to have food certified by the American Vegan Association.

The most popular vegetarian options are the bean burrito, the black bean crunch wrap supreme, the black bean quesarito, the cheese quesadilla, and the cheesy bean and rice burrito.

Vegan and Vegetarian Taco Bell Options

You can substitute fresco topping or tomato for the cheese to make these options vegan.

Food Safety And Certifications

Taco Bell ensures that the UDSA and FDA approves all of its food. Due to recent concerns about allergens in foods, Taco Bell has removed many foods from the menu with artificial colors or flavoring, making 95 percent of their menu all-natural.

Drinks and co-branded items still have artificial flavors and colors.

They recommend that gluten-sensitive diners choose crispy corn taco shells instead of flour tortillas.

However, the food safety portion of the website notes that foods manufacturing plants may process gluten as well, so those with Celiac disease should consider dining elsewhere.

Also, while Taco Bell doesn’t serve any foods that have common allergens like tree nuts or shellfish, they don’t control the processing plants where the ingredients were created and packaged.

Therefore, there may be traces of these allergens in the prepared food.

Food Ingredients And Nutritional Information

Taco Bell strives to provide all of its customers with all the information they need to make good decisions about their food.

They list the ingredients for every food item and nutrition information for each item on the menu

They even offer a nutrition calculator so you can add up all the information for a meal you plan to have so you can understand how it impacts your diet. Find it at this link and see how Taco Bell can fit with your dietary needs.

Final Considerations

Taco Bell often gets a bad rap for its fast-food taco flavor. However, these inexpensive tacos inspired a whole nation of taco lovers and an industry of fast food Mexican-esque restaurants. 

You should eat food from Taco Bell as soon as possible after buying it for the best taste. If you still have leftovers, refrigerate them within 2 hours.

Place the leftover tacos and burritos in an air-tight container or a zip-top bag. If you remove the produce like lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole, you will find that they reheat better.

Ground beef tacos and burritos are the least likely to keep well due to the moisture content in the ground beef. It will make the taco shells and tortillas soggy.

Food items made with grilled chicken, steak, or vegetarian style are more likely to keep and reheat well.

Heating leftover crunchy shells on the stovetop in a skillet will help return some of the crunchiness.

Otherwise, you can heat any leftovers in the oven or toaster oven. Be sure to remove any wrapping with foil before reheating anything in the microwave.

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