Tacos are the ultimate in Mexican street food, offering hungry foodies delicious parcels of meat and veg wrapped up in small tortillas and drenched in salsa. But while we all know what a taco is, what you might not realize is just how many different types of tacos there are!
In Mexico, every town and city across the country offers its own unique take on the taco. Yes, the concept is the same, but in Baja California, you'll find crispy fish tacos are the staple, while in Mexico City, it's steamed tacos de canasta that's on all the menus.
To inspire your own home cooking (with the help of a tortilla press), here's our guide to the most authentic types of tacos in Mexico!
Al pastor tacos are a pillar of the Mexican taco scene, and you'll find these pork-meat filled tacos being sold everywhere from street food carts to gourmet restaurants. Al pastor tacos need slow-cooked pork that's been cooked on a kebab rotisserie spit after being marinated with chilies. The pork is served on soft tortillas, with roasted pineapple on top.
Al pastor meat might seem extremely Mexican today, but it was actually introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. The al pastor cooking style is a take on Middle Eastern shawarma, making al pastor tacos the ultimate fusion food!
Al pastor tacos are also known by other names, with varying regional differences. In Puebla, they are known as tacos de Arabes (Arab tacos), while in the north, they are commonly called tacos de trompo and are flavored with smoky paprika.
Tacos de canasta is often said to be the original street taco, and you'll find them being sold for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the side of the road or in dedicated taco canteens. They are a staple of Mexico City, where they were made popular as cheap street food sold from baskets (tacos de canasta means basket tacos).
Tacos de canasta are traditionally steamed and are filled with simple ingredients such as potatoes and beans. Tacos de canasta are also known as sweaty tacos, perhaps because they can be incredibly greasy.
Another popular Mexican favorite, are tacos de cazo (bucket tacos). This isn't one particular type of taco, but rather a style of cooking the meat filling. A Mexican 'cazo' is a large, metal bucket. This metal bucket is held over a fire and used to slow cook meats in lard, or their own fat, for a decadent, tender finish.
Tacos de suadero consists of tender cuts of beef, slow cooked in a cazo. Suadero meat is some of the best, but traditionally, a cazo is used to cook up the leftover parts. Tripas tacos use up the tripe, and other innards, while buche tacos are made up of a pig's stomach!
If you're looking to try more unusual parts of an animal, then you'll find plenty of options in Mexico. Adventurous foodies will want to search out tacos de lengua, or tongue tacos.
Beef tongue braised in garlic is one of the best tongue taco options you'll find, but there are plenty more lengua taco options too.
The taco ingredients don't stop with tongues and innards because cabeza tacos offer yet another adventurous option to try. Cabeza meat is the meat from the head of an animal that's been slowly steamed and tenderized.
You'll be able to try pork cheeks, eyes, brains, and a whole lot more when you bite into a cabeza taco.
Otherwise known as fish tacos, tacos de pescado is a Baja California favorite that has become popular worldwide.
The original fish tacos were cooked up using cheap, leftover shark meat, but they proved to be a hit with surfers and tourists who took the idea back across the USA border.
Today there are countless varieties, from crispy fried cod to salmon tacos topped with avocado!
Tacos de asada are some of the meatiest street food tacos you can find in Mexico, but this is one dish you can try cooking at home yourself too.
Tacos de asada consists of carne asada, which simply means grilled meat. Most tacos de asada refer to beef cuts, and you can use everything from cheap beef skirts to prime ribs. The beef is grilled and seasoned and chopped up into small, taco sized portions.
Tacos de carnitas is a Mexican classic that you can find across the world. Carnitas originated from Michoacan, and the term means 'little meat.' Pork is slow-cooked in its own fat until it's literally falling apart.
It's the ultimate pulled pork recipe, and with a little spice and seasoning (and some authentic corn tortillas), you have tacos de carnitas.
Tacos de barbacoa is prepared using beef cuts that are slow-cooked to perfection. The beef is seasoned with a mixture of chilies and other Mexican spices before being cooked in a barbecue style (barbacoa means barbecue).
The meat is chopped up and then placed into corn tortillas before being served with lime and other garnishes.
If you're a fan of spicy sausage, then you're going to be a big fan of Mexican chorizo tacos. This is another recipe that you can easily cook up at home, as you can find different types of chorizo in most stores.
Chorizo is a type of sausage that's seasoned with chilies or smoky paprika. You fry up the chorizo, then add a few garnishes. However, you don't need to add much as the sausage meat is already delectably seasoned and incredibly flavorful on its own!
If you're looking for a spicy taco filling that's drenched in sauce, you'll want to try tacos de tinga. This flavorful favorite consists of shredded chicken or beef, slow-cooked in a spicy, often zesty, sauce.
Tacos de tinga is best served with lime or lemon and tastes excellent with added guacamole, salsa, or spicy sauce. Tacos de tinga is said to have originated in Puebla, one of Mexico's foodie capitals, but you'll find them everywhere these days.
Crispy chicharrón is a Mexican comfort like no other. You take pork rinds and offcuts, and you deep fry them for a crunchy finish. Tacos de chicharrón are simply soft tortillas, loaded up with crispy, crunchy chicharrón.
You can add some salsa verde alongside some zesty lemon or lime garnishes to add a little extra boost to the tacos!
Tacos de dorados isn't quite like your average taco. For starters, the name means 'Golden Tacos,' but they are also known as taquitos or flautas.
Tacos de dorados aren't open, but they are rolled up and often deep-fried for a crispy finish. The rolled-up taco is first stuffed with fillings, be it seasoned meat, beans, cheese, or potatoes. The fried taco is then served on a plate with added sauce or cheese spread over the top. While traditional tacos are easy to eat with the hands, this is one meal that you might need a knife and fork to enjoy!
This is an extensive list. You may not have know the variety of tacos out there. But with these traditional and not-so-traditional-taco dishes, you can impress your friends with your knowledge of Mexican and international cuisine.
Want to learn more about different types of Mexican dishes? Check out our enchilada vs burrito and chimichanga vs burrito article!
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