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How to Make the Most Delicious Tacos

More than just fun to eat, tacos are fun to make, because they offer a ton of creative options. So long as you're filling or topping a tortilla, you're making a taco. But which filling should you use? And what type of tortilla is best? Here is your guide to making the most delicious tacos at home.

 

Double Decker Tacos photo by DIZ♥_resized

Double Decker Tacos photo by DIZ♥

Choosing the Right Shell

While fast food restaurants have helped popularize crunchy, pre-formed shells, there are other fine options for the outermost layer, including soft corn or flour tortillas, and even opting for lettuce instead.

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Hard Corn Shells

These are best for ground meats, holding up well to warm, wetter fillings. Children tend to like them best, too; try this popular, quick & easy kid-pleaser:

Cowboy Tacos

 

Cowboy Tacos. Photo by Wyattdogster

Cowboy Tacos. Photo by Wyattdogster

Soft Tortillas - Corn

Across much of Mexico, the standard is a corn tortilla, about the size of a bread-and-butter plate. Those tortillas are sometimes doubled up, ensuring that toppings won't crash to the ground if the top tortilla cracks. You can avoid that messy situation by purchasing fresh homemade tortillas from a local bakery or tienda; major supermarket chains usually stock a range of regionally-produced white and yellow corn tortillas.

Corn tortillas are traditional for fish tacos and street tacos, and taste great with grilled meats. They're also gluten-free!

Fish Tacos

These tacos start by making beer-battered, fried cod. Serve these delicious fish tacos with all the fixings, including fresh pico de gallo and a squeeze of lime.

Also delicious on soft corn tortillas:

Soft Tortillas - Flour

Flour tortillas are sometimes dismissed as inauthentic, but that's the grain that reigns in Sonora: Depending on how you're planning to complete your taco, the softer texture and milder flavor might serve you well.

Lime Chicken Soft Tacos

Try substituting cilantro for the oregano in this zesty dish.

 

Lime Chicken Soft Tacos. Photo by Dianne

Lime Chicken Soft Tacos. Photo by Dianne

Can't decide between hard and soft tortillas? Use both in this copycat double decker taco.


Warming up Your Shells: No matter which tortilla you choose, it's best to warm it up before proceeding with your taco project. You can fry a tortilla in a skillet; briefly warm it over a stove's gas burner (using tongs for safety's sake); microwave it beneath a damp paper towel, or wrap it in aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.


Low-Carb Options

Inventive veggie shells help you skip the carbs without sacrificing taco goodness. Here are two faves.

Lettuce Leaf Tacos

Halfway between a lettuce wrap and a taco lies this delicious dish, which also skips the beans for a low-carb home-run.

 

Lettuce Leaf Tacos. Photo by Molly

Photo by Molly

Or try Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats for even more veggie with your taco.

Taco Fillers

At a traditional taqueria, meat choices typically include slow-cooked pork; grilled beef, chicken or sausage; and simmered beef cheeks. But home cooks aren't bound by tradition in the taco sphere: So long as your base and tortilla are in harmony, almost any combination of meat (or non-meat) and cooking method is A-OK.

Pork/Carnitas

To get traditional shredded port, you have to cook it for the better part of a day, but these very highly-rated traditional roast pork recipes are well worth the wait.

Beef - Carne Asada

Flank steak marinated in lime, soy, cumin, cilantro and a host of other flavors produce this traditional taqueria flavor. Try making one of these top-rated recipes.

Beef - Tacos de Lengua

Beef tongue is very tender when slow cooked overnight. Find it at any Mexican market, ask the butcher.

Chicken

This versatile meat is delicious, whether you use ground, roasted, or grilled chicken. Browse our big library of chicken taco recipes.

Chicken Taco Filling

Throw three ingredients into your slow cooker before work, and dinner's ready when you get home! (Hint: Substitute homemade taco seasoning.)

 

Chicken Taco Filling. Photo by naples34102

Photo by naples34102

Fish Tacos

Delicious options abound using shrimp, tilapia, cod, halibut, mahi mahi, salmon - or any white, flaky fish, either fried or grilled. They're traditionally served with cabbage slaw and a creamy sauce. Explore a world of fish-taco options.

Fiery Fish Tacos with Crunchy Corn Salsa

These beautiful, colorful tacos -- made with grilled tilapia -- just might bite back!

 

Fiery Fish Tacos with Crunchy Corn Salsa. Photo by SunnyByrd

Photo by SunnyByrd

Vegetarian Options

Fill your tacos with these healthy alternatives:

Accompaniments

A can't-miss compliment to your tacos is beans, whether pinto or black; mashed or whole; fresh or refried. Peruse our library of Mexican bean recipes to find dozens of options, both for filling your tacos, and for serving alongside.

Refried Beans Without the Refry

Hint: Slow cooker!

 

Refried Beans Without the Refry. Photo by CookinBug

Photo by CookinBug

Absorbent brown or white rice is also a great addition to a saucy taco. But for the best texture, be sure to include crunchy fillers too, such as crisp diced onion, sliced radish, chopped cabbage, or pickled vegetables.

Garnishes

To add color or crunch, top your tacos with finely diced vegetables and cilantro. Then pile on crumbled or shredded cheese. Try pepper jack, cojita, queso fresco, cheddar, or Monterrey jack.

Top with a hefty dollop of guacamole, crema (Mexican sour cream), or sour cream. Or, if your taco needs a final boost of fiery flavor, try one of these delicious options:

Salsa

Salsa, which should always have at least a hint of heat, is what unifies a taco's ingredients and gives them character. Cooked tomato salsa is ubiquitous, but fresh pico de gallo, salsa verde, and fruit salsas (including peach and mango salsas) are equally excellent salsa picks. And it's highly acceptable to use more than one salsa on a single taco.

Salsas come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common varieties are:

  • Salsa roja (red sauce), is the most common variety, usually made with cooked tomatoes, onion, garlic, and other herbs like cilantro.
  • Pico de gallo (also called salsa fresca) is made with raw tomatoes, lime juice, and other raw ingredients such as chilies, onions.
  • Salsa verde (green sauce) is usually made with cooked tomatillos.

Browse our vast salsa library o'recipes!


Related:


Browse our big library of taco recipes.

 

About Hanna Raskin

Not just a grits eater, but a one-time grits roller (a sport involving an inflatable tub and 27 cases of instant grits). Devoted to queso, chopped liver, Cuban toast, soft-shell crabs, and the roads that lead to them.