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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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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.