August 03, 2020 | Updated October 15, 2020
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Tacos gobernador, governor’s tacos, is one of those modern classics of Mexican cuisine. Interestingly, it’s the second such seafood classic from Sinaloa, a state known for good seafood; the other is aguachile, a modern take on ceviche.
It is also one of the many Mexican dishes that combines shrimp and cheese, a combination I have learned to love over the years — breaking from the “no cheese and seafood” rules I grew up with.
You can make these tacos on a griddle or a grill, and there are variations to tacos gobernador all over the Pacific coast of Mexico. The original is from Sinaloa, and legend has it that in 1987, the chefs at Los Arcos in Mazatlan invented these tacos to impress the governor of Sinaloa, who was visiting them.
But even searching for the original recipe from Los Arcos turns up variation. Some versions claiming to be the original include celery and, oddly, machaca, which is finely shredded dried beef. Most do not, however, and I suspect this could be a mix-up in conversations between cooks: Machaca de camaron is a term in Pacific Mexico for chopped shrimp. I’ve seen cooks from other parts of Mexico miss this and add the dried beef.
All variations of tacos gobernador that I have seen and eaten, and there are a lot of them, include the following:
- Shrimp. Usually medium or large shrimp, cut into pieces.
- Cheese. Always melty cheese, usually queso Chihuahua or asadero or Oaxaca. Most are easily available in Latin markets, but mozzarella is a very good substitute.
- Always onions, usually white. Sliced or chopped.
- A bit of chopped garlic.
- Chiles of some sort. I’ve seen chipotles in adobo, but mostly I see roasted, skinned and seeded poblanos, cut into rajas, strips. Green bell pepper is a decent substitute.
- Often dried Mexican oregano and/or fresh chopped cilantro.
- Sometimes tomato, sometimes not. Apparently not at Los Arcos.
- Butter is the fat, although I actually prefer lard and I’ve seen olive oil.
- Corn tortillas are traditional, but I’ve seen tacos gobernador served on flour tortillas in Baja.
Regardless of the exact combination you choose, it’s a good one. The cheese adds heft to the taco, and the little edges that brown or even burn are one of the highlights. Even with all that, tacos gobernador are still light enough to make a half dozen disappear.
Making these is a bit more like making a quesadilla than a traditional taco. You warm the tortillas, then add some cheese, and, once it starts melting, add the remaining filling and fold the taco over to get it to stick. You are shooting for an open quesadilla, as you can see in the picture.
Be warned: Tacos gobernador are as messy as they are delicious. Eat with plenty of beer and some hot sauce. Extra points if you can spot why I chose the particular hot sauce you see in the pictures…
- 2 poblano chiles, skinned, seeded and cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons butter, lard or olive oil
- 1 white onion, sliced thin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 small, hot chiles, chopped (optional)
- 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 pound peeled shrimp, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1/2 pound shredded melty cheese (see notes above for options)
- Corn tortillas
- Roast the poblanos and set them in a plastic bag to steam the skins off. Skin, then remove the tops and all the seeds. Slice them into strips crosswise. You can dice them if you prefer.
- Heat the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chiles if using, diced tomato, shrimp, oregano and salt and toss to combine. Saute until the shrimp turns pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the cilantro and turn off the heat.
- Heat tortillas on a comal, griddle or large frying pan, or on a grill. Set the tortilla down, then add a generous portion of shredded cheese on it. As soon as the cheese starts to melt, spoon some filling into the center and fold the taco over. Press down with a spatula to set the taco, let it char just a bit on that first side, then flip to brown the other side. Serve at once.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Yikes! I’m in the middle of making these and I realize the recipe doesn’t say when or how to add the poblanos. I added them with the onions.
I love this recipe, it’s become a regular in the taco Tuesday rotation.
This is an awesome recipe. I leave out the cilantro and use a couple of jalapenos. Also sprinkle some Chef Merito carne asada seasoning on in right before serving. It is amazing.
Hello! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It definitely rings true to the tacos I ate while living in Baja. So happy that I can recreate that magic with this recipe. Thank you!
Such a simple and perfect meal. The gooey cheese with the tomatoes and peppers really makes it. It is a frequently used recipe here.
Man o man were these good! Sort of a seafood quesadilla, only more complex.
Spot on as usual Hank! These are simple and easy to put together on short notice. Makes for a nice addition to the rotation. Lots of room for personal interpretation and improvisation. I live on the Chesapeake bay and thought this might lend itself well to a crab meat version (yes cheese and crab). At any rate I suggest anyone that is considering these just make them you won’t be disappointed.
Curt where are you on the Chesapeake? I’m in Scientist’s Cliffs on the western shore.
Would love to hear how that blue crab version turned out!
Hi Jesse sorry for the long delay I am on Kent Island south of the Bay Bridge. Still haven’t made them with crab I was just revisiting the recipe to make them with shrimp and I saw your comment. I’ll give an update when I get out crabbing later this spring.
As soon as the wife and I read the recipe we ran out and picked up everything we needed for these tacos. They were unbelievable! Pretty sure we’re going to have them again this week!
Trying this soon – is it just me, or does everyone read this as “Tacos Governator”? I think Arnold should pose eating some of these!
You’re definitely not the only one.
Thanks for the recipe! I had these my first day in Mazatlan and spent the rest of the trip trying them at every restaurant I could find them. Brings back great memories. Off to the store to buy some shrimp!
Looks delicious, can’t wait to try a batch of these. On the subject of shrimp and cheese (and garlic, lots of garlic) I’m a big fan of the Circe pizza on offer at Jupiter in Berkeley, California.
What even is the hot sauce in the picture? Lol
Totally agree about the cheese and seafood thing,we’ve been making enchiladas con queso from Paul Prudhomme`s cook book when it came out in the early 80`s.Although it calls for mud bugs we use shrimp and the sauce is h. cream with jack cheese.One of our all time favorites!
Watching a show and the guy mentions tacos. Then I was instantly craving tacos. Checked email and bam this here. Fucking Amazing!
The hot sauce is made in Sinaloa “The best hot sauce for seafood.”
Dave: Ding! Ding! Winnah winnah taco dinnah!
Love cheese on my shrimp.