Hola, amigos! If you start looking online for Mexican recipes, you will very likely find a taco recipe. Sadly, most of these are not real, authentic tacos. In fact, a Mexican person would probably not even recognize them as such. So what is a real taco like? Hang on to your sombreros!

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How To Know Tacos So You'll Feel Like A Mexican | My Heart Of Mexico

Tacos are arguably the most popular kind of Mexican food there is. They are a symbol of my home country and a favorite dish of people the world over.

Unfortunately, the sort of tacos that you are eating are likely a far cry from the tacos that people in Mexico know and love.

Authentic tacos don’t taste like most of the recipes you find online, and are nothing like the strange-looking things served in fast-food restaurants.

One thing is for sure, though. Real Mexican tacos certainly live up to expectations and more. They are one of the tastiest foods you will ever have the privilege to try!

So, look over this list of taco requirements. Then, check your favorite taco recipe. Does it live up to the real taco spirit?

How To Know Tacos So You’ll Feel Like A Mexican

1. Tacos should be made with corn tortillas

Tacos are not made with flour tortillas, or spinach tortillas, or any other crazy invention. And they are certainly not made with taco shells! Whoever came up with that idea should be burned at the stake. I’m not kidding, people.

Tacos should be made with corn tortillas | My Heart Of Mexico
Corn tortillas – Source: nutricionsas.com

2. Taco fillings should be tasty

And I mean really extra tasty and savory. In Mexico, most taco fillings are spicy stews. They can be made with meat, chicken, pork, lamb, fish, and even veggies. It can be almost anything, but the filling needs to have a strong flavor. Sorry, but a lean, grilled chicken breast just won’t do.

Stews for taco fillings | My Heart Of Mexico
Stews for taco fillings – Source: http://www.sabrosia.com

3. Taco toppings should be spicy

By that, I mean salsa. Nice, hot, spicy salsa. Onion, cilantro, guacamole, and lime juice are good too. But never, ever use shredded cheese or cream as a taco topping. Never!

Salsas and toppings for tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Taco salsas and toppings – Source: viajerosblog.com

4. Tacos should be a pleasure to eat

A good taco is an explosion of flavor- the soft, warm chewiness of the tortilla, the fat dripping from the meat, the freshness of the toppings, the heat of the salsa. It should taste like a mariachi fiesta in your mouth. Does your taco do that for you?

Mexican Taco Stand | My Heart Of Mexico
Taco stando – Source: thetacotrail.com

5. Tacos should not be confused with other foods

Let’s get this straight, people. Flautas are long, rolled-up thinly and crispy fried. Enchiladas are loosely wrapped and drowned in salsa. Quesadillas are folded in half and the filling usually includes cheese. Burritos are a folded flour tortilla. All these things are delicious, but they are not tacos.

Foods that are not tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Foods that are NOT tacos

Kinds Of Tacos

There are perhaps hundreds of different tacos in Mexico, so it would be impossible to describe them all. So, I’ll just give you a general overview of some of the most popular kinds of tacos.

1. Carnitas Tacos

Basically, these tacos are filled with cooked pork fried in lard. But the main attraction of these tacos are the fillings that are not specifically meat. All of the pig’s parts can be made into tacos- skin, stomach, lungs, snout, ears, cheeks, and so on. Yes, you read that right! These tacos are a true delicacy.

Carnitas Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Carnitas Tacos – Source: vagabundos.mx

2. Beef Tacos

Same as above, the beef is also cooked and fried in lard. Apart from the meat, a lot of the cow’s parts are also made into tacos- liver, tripe, cheeks, snout, ears, tongue, and even the brains and the eyeballs. If you’re not into those delicacies, you can try tacos de suadero. Those are made from the meat that hangs from the breast bone, and they’re quite tasty.

Brains Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Brains Tacos

3. Al Pastor Tacos

These the most popular kind of tacos in Mexico. These tacos are an adaptation from a recipe brought over by Lebanese immigrants. Spiced pork is inserted in a long, revolving skewer and cooked. Then, the tacos are topped with pineapple, onion, and cilantro. Yummy.

Tacos Al Pastor | My Heart Of Mexico
Al Pastor Tacos – Source: http://www.animalgourmet.com

4. Canasta Tacos

Canasta (basket) tacos are humble but delicious. They are filled with homemade, spicy stews and folded into small tortillas. These are usually sold out on the streets from a basket, hence the name.

Canasta Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Canasta Tacos – Source: http://www.chilango.com

5.  Barbacoa tacos

Barbacoa is lamb’s meat wrapped in maguey leaves and cooked over a charcoal fire, in a hole on the ground. Everyone loves a good barbacoa! And the tacos are absolutely amazing.

Barbacoa Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Barbacoa Tacos – Source: mxcity.mx

6. Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita Pibil is porked cooked very much like a barbacoa, except that the recipe calls for a native spice called axiote. Axiote gives the pork a spicy, peppery, slightly sweet flavor and a bright red color. The tacos are served with red onion and habanero sauce. If you are ever in Yucatan, this is the dish to try.

Cochinita Pibil Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Cochinita Pibil Tacos – Source: http://www.vmexicoalmaximo.com

7. Fish Tacos

The people of Baja came up with these tacos, made with floured, fried fish. They also make crab, lobster, and shrimp tacos. They are a must-try when you go to Los Cabos.

Fish Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Fish Tacos – Source: canastacos.com

8. Placero Tacos

Placero tacos are made with chicharron, which is deep-fried pig’s skin. Chicharron is crunchy and tasty, and it’s amazing in tacos. These are topped with queso fresco, avocado and pico de gallo salsa. Perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch.

Placero Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico

9. Native Tacos

These are not just one kind of tacos. They’re tacos filled with native Mexican ingredients. Some of these are a little strange, though. There are maguey worms, ant eggs, roasted grasshoppers, and dried salted little river fish (charales). If you are an adventurous eater, you can’t miss these. They’re very good!

Worm Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico

10. No-Meat Tacos

Yes, there are tacos that do not involve meat, and they are also very popular. There are refried beans tacos, red rice tacos, nopal cactus tacos, and others. There’s also hard boiled egg tacos, and egg and chorizo tacos, too. Oops! Those have meat in them. But don’t worry, my vegan amigos. I’ll keep looking for other options!

Nopales Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico
Nopal cactus with mushrooms tacos

How To Eat Tacos

1. Grab the right salsa

Pairing a taco with just the right salsa is practically an art form, but there are guidelines. Taco experts might disagree with me, but these are my suggestions.

  • Carnitas tacos – green salsa with serrano chilies or guacamole
  • Beef tacos – green salsa with arbol chilies
  • Barbacoa tacos – red salsa with pasilla chilies
  • Canasta tacos – cured jalapenos or green salsa
  • Pastor tacos – red or green salsa
  • Cochinita tacos – habanero salsa
  • Native tacos – any salsa as long as it’s very hot

If your mouth catches on fire from the salsa, check out these useful tips.

Homemade Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico

2. Grab the taco correctly

Pick up the taco with your thumb, index, and middle fingers. Make sure you keep it in a horizontal position. Then, twist your head, not the taco, and bite it with confidence. Some of the filling will spill out, but the taco shouldn’t come apart. Wipe your hands. Repeat.

How To Eat Tacos | My Heart Of Mexico

Well, amigos, you are ready to start eating tacos like a native-born Mexican. Try these, and you will never set another foot in a Taco Bell again. I dare you.

Do you have a favorite kind of taco? Share in the comments!

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30 thoughts on “How To Know Tacos So You’ll Feel Like A Mexican

  1. I love fish tacos..but I don’t think we get authentic flavors here in US. Im craving tacos now after reading your ‘spicy and flavorful ‘ article !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true about the corn tortillas, my daughter in law makes me chicken taquitos with green tomatillo sauce (she is mexican) so good! Love the sauce. Did you know spicy food helps you lose weight?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this post. Before reading this, I knew the tacos I make/eat most of the time aren’t authentic Mexican, but this guide is great… it explains it in detail. With that said, unfortunately (despite trying my whole life), I just can’t handle spicy food very well, so I am glad that variations (Tex Mex etc.) exist… or I would never be able to enjoy anything remotely resembling a taco 😦 Sour cream is a godsend for me lol. Sorry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know where you’re coming from. Despite being Mexican, I can’t handle spicy food well either. But since cream and cheese as toppings are taco blasphemy, what I do is top them with chopped onion, cilantro, and tomato, and lots of lime juice!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. GREAT post! I love tacos. You’d hate me because I’m not the biggest fan of corn tortillas, but I know they are the one and only way to make a TRUE taco…so I double up my small corn tortillas and go for it when I need to! Thanks so much for sharing this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A hundred or so years ago, when I lived in Mexico for a couple of months, I remember buying tacos made with fried papas from a street vendor. I’ve never been able to reproduce them myself, but I’d love to. They were wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That was in Xalapa, Veracruz, and the potatoes were cut into chunks and wonderfully spicy. I was still young and clueless about cooking, so I can’t even come close to identifying the spices.

        Like

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