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What Are Street Tacos + Homemade Street Tacos With Chicken & Pico

May 18, 2021 5 min read

What Are Street Tacos

Tex-Mex, or Americanized tacos, are pretty tasty, but nothing compares to the grilled, corn tortilla-based antojitos you run into on every street corner of Mexico City. Learn more about what preparations put the "street" in street taco and how to make authentic street tacos with chicken at home. 

What are street tacos?

Street tacos and street food are a central piece of modern Mexican culture, with stalls lining the streets of every major city in Mexico. 

Mexicans refer to this street food as antojitos, or "little cravings," as they consider them a snack or small meal, not the main course. For that reason, most Mexican street food is small, making it easy to hold and eat as you walk the streets. 

The most significant difference between street tacos vs. regular tacos is their size. Street tacos have a small corn tortilla base making them easy to grab and go. Usually, taquerias double up the corn tortilla so it doesn't tear or rip easily. 

Do street tacos have corn or flour tortillas?

By our street tacos definition, traditional tacos should always have a corn tortilla, not a flour-based one. Corn is the most prominent Mexican crop, next to sugar cane, and a centuries-old staple. 

Why do street tacos have two tortillas?

Plenty of authentic Mexican food vendors serve their tacos on two tortillas, but they often give patrons a choice to have a single or double tortilla taco. Many of the traditional stewed meats have quite a bit of juice to them, so double tortillas are always the safer route to take. 

The vendors typically double up the tortillas to be as mess-free as possible because customers are usually walking about!

If you don't like a taco mess, consider investing in a taco holder or two - they're great for building and serving your tacos mess-free. 

How to make street tacos

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cooking Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 25 mins 

Servings: 4 

Ingredients

Chicken street tacos

  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 20-22 mini corn tortillas
  • Pico de gallo
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • fresh lime juice
  • hot sauce, optional
  • sour cream, optional

Chicken marinade

  • 4 Tbsp orange juice, freshly-squeezed
  • 2 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ Tbsp lime juice, freshly-squeezed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
  • 1½ Tbsp ancho chili powder or chipotle chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place all of the chicken marinade ingredients in a large-sized, zippered bag - orange juice, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, minced garlic, ancho or chipotle chili, oregano, paprika, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Seal the bag and shake to combine. 
  2. Open the bag, add chicken thighs, seal the bag, and gently squeeze it to disperse the marinade evenly. 
  3. Place the sealed bag in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 1 hr. 
  4. Once the chicken thighs are well-marinated, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. 
  5. Oil the grill with canola or other high heat cooking oil or spray. 
  6. When the grill is ready, remove your chicken from the zippered bag and place it on the hot grill. 
  7. Cook the chicken for 4-5 mins without moving or disturbing the meat. Flip the chicken with long-handled tongs, then cook for another 4-5 mins. Use an oven thermometer to ensure your chicken thighs reach a minimum of 165°F. 
  8. Remove the cooked chicken from the grill and transfer it to a large plate. 
  9. Let the chicken thighs rest for 5 mins.
  10. Slice or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. 
  11. Preheat a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop over medium heat, or use your still warm BBQ grill. Warm your tortillas for 1-2 mins per side, then remove them from the heat. 
  12. Layer two warmed mini tortillas and top with the chopped chicken, pico de gallo, cilantro, hot sauce, and sour cream. Squeeze a tiny bit of extra lime juice on top.
  13. Serve warm and enjoy your traditional Mexican tacos!

Authentic Mexican street tacos recipe - nutrition information

Serving size: 3 mini tacos 

Calories: 241 kcal; Carbohydrates: 8 g; Protein: 33 g; Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 161 mg; Sodium: 786 mg; Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 1 g.

Mexican Street Tacos Recipe - FAQ

Can I use other types of meat?

We love to grill chicken thighs as they stay super moist and flavorful as they cook, but feel free to use either chicken breast or other meat as you please - just be sure not to overcook them. 

Do I need to let the chicken thighs rest?

You don't want to skip the short meat-resting phase in this Mexican chicken street tacos recipe. Otherwise, your meat's delicious juices will end up on your cutting board instead of in your tacos. 

Can I use other tortillas?

Corn tortillas make a big difference in the flavor of this dish in keeping it authentic. If you can't find corn tortillas or don't like the taste, you can substitute them with wheat-based or gluten-free tortillas instead.

What is pico de gallo?

Pico de gallo is fresh Mexican salsa made with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and onion. It adds a fresh crunch to your street tacos to help lighten the heavily spiced proteins. 

Here's a simple pico de gallo recipe to make your own at home. 

Pico de gallo

Ingredients
  • 1 c. white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 med. jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • ¼ c. fresh lime juice
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ lbs ripe red tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ c. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Directions
  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine your onion, jalapeno, lime, and salt. Let the ingredients sit for ~ 5 mins, as you chop the tomato and cilantro. 
  2. Add the tomatoes and fresh cilantro to the bowl and stir well. Taste, and add any extra salt as needed. 
  3. Let the mixture sit for ~ 15 mins or more in the fridge to let the flavors develop. 
  4. Keep your pico in the fridge for up to 3 days in a sealed or covered container. 
  5. Serve and enjoy your fresh pico de gallo!

Mexican tacos vs. American tacos

As Mexican immigrants brought their tasty cuisine North of the border, the recipe began to morph. While plenty of spots in America serve more authentic Mexican fare, we also have food that could be considered Mexican-American fusion or Tex-Mex. 

Mexican street tacos are small and served on corn tortillas, whereas American ones may be larger and often served on wheat tortillas or crispy corn shells. Toppings on Mexican street tacos are simple, containing just fresh cilantro, diced onion, and perhaps some cotija cheese or queso fresco. 

American tacos usually contain shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. Usually, American tacos include ground meat, whereas Mexican proteins often include marinated grilled steak, barbacoa, chorizo, carnitas, and plenty more. 

Final notes & storage tips

These Mexican street tacos can last up to 4 days in the fridge if you keep the toppings unassembled until you're ready to eat. The chicken freezes well for up to 3 months and needs a quick pan-fry to defrost and remove some of the excess liquid. 
Enjoy making street tacos at home and tasting like you're really at a Mexico City street stand with these Mexican chicken tacos!


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