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- Recipes: Making Tortillas | My Favorite Tacos | Meats for Tacos | Fish & Seafood for Tacos | Salsas | Moles
Let me start by saying that the concept of taco recipes is something of a misnomer, because, well, as the great Mexican chef Gabriela Camara notes, “everything can be a taco.” That means you can put anything you want in a taco.
I’ve been inspired by scores of Mexican cookbooks, both in English and in Spanish, as well as the Mexican chefs I have known, especially my friends Patricio and Cinthia of Nixtaco, here in the Sacramento area.
After having made hundreds of tortillas and countless taco recipes, after reading all those books and talking with all those chefs, here are some guidelines for the best tacos no matter what is in them:
- Good tortillas, flour, corn or whatever. It’s important. (Here’s an essay I wrote about the importance of mastering the tortilla.)
- A centerpiece, usually meat or fish but it can be mushrooms or a vegetable.
- A mix of textures — crunchy, crispy, soft, dense, etc.
- Different colors, ideally. Not necessary, but nice. Remember people eat with their eyes first.
- Something spicy and something tart. Salsa and lime are usual here, but you could in theory do horseradish and vinegar if you want to.
- Fill generously but not so much you can’t eat the taco.
Oh, and one more thing. Like sandwiches where I grew up in New Jersey, once you pick up a taco, you never set it down. This is why real-deal tacos are always small. They are antojitos, little cravings, not giant discs that are a meal in itself.
A word on the term “street taco.” It’s generally an American name for a small taco that isn’t made in the American style, i.e., with chopped lettuce, pre-shredded cheese and diced tomatoes. A street taco will typically be on a corn tortilla, and is normally very simple, with the meat in question, plus white onions soaked in lime, cilantro and whatever salsa you like.
A proper taco night has lots of options for you to choose your own adventure. Maybe more than one meat or fish or whatever. Definitely chopped herbs, usually cilantro. Definitely a crunchy thing, usually radishes. Often crumbly or shredded cheese. And always salsas, ideally at least two.
Here are a bunch of my salsa recipes you can choose from.
Let’s start with the tortilla.
Your call, flour or corn. Flour is more common on Mexico’s northern tier, as well as in our states that border that region. Corn is the rule everywhere else.
Homemade Flour Tortillas
How to make really good Sonoran style flour tortillas from scratch.Read More
How to Make Corn Tortillas
How to make corn tortillas at home.Read More
How to Make Masa Harina
If you want to go even farther, here’s how to make your own masa harina, the powdered masa to make corn tortillas on a weeknight.Read More
How to Make Nixtamal
And here is how to make nixtamal, which is how you prepare corn for grinding into masa for tortillas.Read More
And here are my personal taco recipes. They range from meat and fish to vegetables and even wild mushrooms. They’re what I do, and they can guide you to many great taco nights in the future!
Deep Fried Ribeye Tacos
I had these in Hermosillo, Sonora, and they were so good I just had to recreate them at home with venison.Read More
Turkey Breast Tacos
Wild turkey breast tacos with roasted poblanos and jack cheese. Simple, easy to make and delicious.Read More
Taquitos or tacos dorados, these are small corn tortillas filled with a little chicken or whatever, then fried to set them into a cigar shape.Read More
Duck or goose confit tacos, with all the trimmings. A great use for legs of any sort of waterfowl.Read More
Tacos al Carbon
Tacos al carbon are just carne asada tacos cooked over charcoal, and these Sonoran-style tacos, made with beef or venison, are perfect for a backyard barbecue.Read More
Specifically designed for skinless goose breasts, this is a great thing to make with your Canada or snow geese.Read More
Deer Tongue Tacos
Classic tacos de lengua, using whatever tongues you have available: beef, elk, bison, deer, pig, lamb. All are good. You braise the tongue, then chop it and then sear it just a little so you get a combination of soft and crispy.Read More
Another version of tacos de lengua, where you smoke the tongue first, then braise and chop it.Read More
Classic Northern Mexico arrachera tacos, made with skirt steak from an elk. Use any flank or skirt steak here.Read More
Seared or grilled venison tacos. Make sure you chop the venison better than in this picture, so it will not all pull out when you eat it!Read More
Ultimate Pheasant Tacos
If you hunt pheasants, or any white meat bird, you need to make these. Yes, you do.Read More
Meats for Taco Recipes
These are recipes for fillings for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, sopes… hell, they’re all great just poured over rice. As a general rule, 1 pound of taco meat will make around 8 to 10 tacos.
Chicharron en Salsa Verde
Arguably the most common, loved, humble taco filling in Mexico. It’s pork (or duck) cracklins’ simmered in salsa verde.Read More
Chilaca Pork Stew
Roasted chilaca or poblano (or Anaheim) chiles with pork and tomatoes. Mexican comfort food.Read More
A Sonoran version of classic picadillo, this is my version of ground beef tacos.Read More
Not a full taco filling in and of itself, but homemade chorizo forms the basis of the best breakfast burrito or taco, along with cheese and eggs.Read More
The green version of Mexican chorizo, this is from Toluca near Mexico City.Read More
Shredded Turkey Yucatan
Slow simmered turkey legs, shredded and sauced in a Yucatecan sauce. Fantastic on a taco.Read More
Wild Turkey Leg Carnitas
Another way to go with wild or domesticated turkey legs. Slow cooked in broth and fat, then shredded and crisped up. You need this in your life.Read More
Maybe the ultimate venison taco filling, this is slow braised shoulder, neck or shank, shredded just like you get at Chipotle, only better.Read More
Birria, traditionally done with goat or beef, is fantastic with venison. It is a specialty of Jalisco.Read More
Similar to the barbacoa recipe above, but specifically designed for jackrabbits and hares. This is a Yaqui Indian recipe from Sonora.Read More
Venison Carne Guisada
Texans will be familiar with this one, although my specific recipe is from Durango, Mexico.Read More
Use this recipe for any meat, or even big mushrooms. It’s a classic for a reason.Read More
Pork Chile Verde
Here’s the green version of chile colorado, and it’s just as good.Read More
Fish and Seafood for Taco Recipes
Lobster tacos are a thing in Baja, and this is my version of this fantastic taco.Read More
Tacos gobernador is a classic shrimp taco of Mexico’s Pacific Coast, originating in Sinaloa.Read More
These are elaborate sauces for various meats. There are many kinds, and all are excellent on a tortilla!
Venison Mole Chichilo
Skip the masa dumplings in this recipe and just serve the shredded venison on a taco. You won’t be sad.Read More
A light, bright mole great for not only tacos, but even as a salsa for chips.Read More
Mole Amarillo, Mexico’s Golden Sauce
This is the yellow mole, perfect for white meats or pork. It’s a lighter, more tart sauce that really becomes special if you can get the yellow chiles.Read More
The ultimate mole, mole negro is the Queen of All Moles. Make a big batch and save some for tacos.Read More