Mmm ... tacos.
July 21, 2006 1:09 PM   Subscribe

What are you favorite taco recipes?

Inspired by this article, I'm looking to make some tasty homemade tacos this weekend. How do you like them?
posted by monju_bosatsu to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I don't really use a recipe for tacos, but I have learned that it is best to fry the corn tortillas into semi-rigid shells. When I was a kid we bought the taco shells - yech, and as an adult I always just made them in a warm-yet-soft corn tortilla. Now we heat about 1/2 an inch of oil in a pan and drop in the corn tortillas, flip once, and then fold in half and let cool on a paper bag. Then we keep them warm on a dish under a clean dish towel.

Also, at my house (and we have 'taco night' about once a week), we do a self serve thing where all the potential fillings are out and people chose what they want in their own tacos.

Finally, tomatillo salsa is suprisingly easy to make and very tasty.
posted by serazin at 1:15 PM on July 21, 2006

My wife thinks I'm nuts about my taco cravings. However it can be said that taco recipes are like candy recipes; there's all kinds of styles and types. I seem to do fine with supermarket taco seasoning (I've never been able to substitute the 'zing' for that seasoning with kitchen ingredients). However I think some diced onions are important, as well as some diced peppers. These go in about halfway during the cooking, and are not overcooked so as not to go limp and lose their flavor. My grandmother has sometimes mixed in pinto beans... that's not bad as long as there's not too many of them (then it just turns into a beefy mess of beans).

Anyhow I too am interested in this thread and might try some of the variations.
posted by hodyoaten at 1:15 PM on July 21, 2006

I basically get store bought seasoning and follow the instructions but I add the following:

- lots of onion.. I mean lots. Get this in there early so it has the chance to cook.

- Chili powder to taste. Maybe some cayenne and paprika to balance out the flavour.

- Pepper. Fresh ground, lots of.

- Salsa! I dump it in the mix when its time to add the water (still add a bit of water...) and then reduce as per usual.

This results in a thicker, spicy-as-fuck, and much tastier mixture.
posted by utsutsu at 1:21 PM on July 21, 2006

What are you asking me for? Ask this guy. Or this one.
posted by ND¢ at 1:22 PM on July 21, 2006

I absolutely love frying up some potatoes with cayenne, onions, and peppers, melting some jack cheese over the top at the end, mixing it all up, and putting it in warm flower tortillas with some tomatillo salsa, tomatoes, and lettuce.
posted by clcapps at 1:25 PM on July 21, 2006

I use ground beef, and I season the ground beef with the following (also works with chicken):

whatever 89 cent pack of taco seasoning you find at the store
red pepper flakes
onions (diced)
Mrs. Renfro's red salsa OR Dave's Hurtin' Habanero OR Dave's Insanity if you really like heat

Mix all of the above in the saucepan while you're browning the ground beef. After that's done, drain the beef, squeeze a lime into the mixture, and add either a little more heat if so desired.

If you really like the heat dice a habanero pepper and toss that in while browning the beef as well. top with shredded pepper jack, serve with lettuce, beans and sour cream on the side for those who want such things in their tacos, and off you go.
posted by pdb at 1:25 PM on July 21, 2006

Mac and cheese tacos.

I wish I were kidding. They're so good. Make some mac and cheese. Fill a taco shell (homemade or otherwise) with it. Throw a little cheese on top, and put it under the broiler just until the cheese gets all crusty and nice. Just make sure that there's a minimum of cheese sauce, or else the shell will get all kinds of soggy.

Probably not what you were looking for, but tasty, all the same.
posted by god hates math at 1:26 PM on July 21, 2006

My girlfriend is a big fan of my chicken soft tacos. These are knife and fork tacos, not the kind you eat with your hands. The filling is super simple. Boil some chicken w/ a couple of cloves of garlic and a couple of black peppercorns. Cool the chicken down and shred it. Then sautee some onion, and bell pepper, add the chicken and some tomato puree, and let it come up to temperature. Soften corn tortillas in some (not too hot) oil, add filling, wrap nice and tight (think enchiladas or flautas), and top with a dollop of sour cream or Mexican table-cream. Very easy and tasty.
posted by Gilbert at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Get a pound of beef brisket. Brown it. Steam it for a couple of hours with 2 cut-up onions, a dozen coarsely chopped cloves of garlic, some Mexican oregano, a bay leaf, some salt and pepper, until it's fall-apart tender. Let it cool (maybe in the refrigerator overnight) and shred the beef finely (by hand, or with a couple of forks). Chop, very finely, 1 red onion, 1 habanero chile, 1/2 bunch cilantro, and 6 radishes. Mix freshly squeezed lime and orange juice, 2:1 by volume. Soak the onions in just enough of this juice to cover for about 10 minutes and discard the juice. Add another cup of the juice to the shredded beef; mix in the onions, chile, cilantro, and radishes. Salt to taste. Let the flavors mix in your fridge for about an hour, the serve cold with warm corn tortillas and fresh guacamole.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:30 PM on July 21, 2006 [5 favorites]

1.5 pounds or so of ground beef (15% fat content).
Ketchup (I know this sounds weird but it comes out good and the end product tastes nothing of ketchup)
Taco seasoning (1 packet per pound of beef)
1 good sized white onion cut up pretty fine
Good salsa (eg: Emerald Valley or other from the refigerated section)
Some chopped garlic (the stuff in jars is fine)

The basic idea is to add ingredients slowly over time. Don't just dump it all in the pan at once.

Take the whole lump and put it in the pan and brown one side. Turn over and start browning the other side. Cover the top with a load of ketchup and some of the taco seasoning.

Once the bottom has browned a bit, bust up the lump of meat into smallish chunks and stir about for a minute. Add the onion, garlic and more of the taco seasoning.

Once the onion starts break down, add the salsa.

Keep it on med - high and simmer for a good 20 minutes slowly adding the rest of the seasoning over this period. (if you start some good mexican rice at the same time as the meat it should be just about done as well).
posted by Riemann at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2006

I make tacos at least once a week. My kids love them. Lately I have been using lean ground turkey, and they can't tell the difference. I use soft flour tortillas, not the crispy corn shells. The flour tortillas are so easy to heat in the microwave. Put a damp paper towel over the stack of tortillas, cover with plastic wrap, and nuke.

I use a taco seasoning pack from the grocery store to season the meat. If you are frying up more than a pound of meat, buy an extra spice packet. You will need it for flavor. I also saute chopped onion with my meat, and sometimes add a can of drained Rotel mexican tomatoes. I second the idea of serving Monterey Jack as well as Cheddar cheese. Jack cheese is delicious with burritos and tacos.

I also make chicken tacos in the crockpot. It's so easy and delicious. You can add extra ingredients that you like to the crockpot. Such as chopped tomatoes and peppers, salsa, green chiles, or Rotel Mexican tomatoes.
posted by LoriFLA at 1:54 PM on July 21, 2006

Best answer: OMG. Tacos are my hands down favorite food--in fact I just took my last bite of a mahi mahi taco when I spotted this question. I'm sorry monju, but I cannot limit my passion for tacos to a single recipe, so get ready to scroll.

_My Favorite Comfort Food Taco_

*The Meat*
Buy a chuck roast. You're basically gonna make pot roast and make your own taco shells. Simple as can be.

(1) Put roast in dutch oven or other covered cookware you can put in the oven.
(2) Sprinkle some taco seasonings (I buy it in bulk at the co-op and use about 2T, but you could also mix your own blend to taste with some chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and cumin). Slice up an onion and strew about. If you have a stray carrot or celery stick, through that in too, but not required.
(2b) Omit the seasoning (except veggies) during cooking and cook later)
(3) Pour in about a cup of water, cover and cook at 200 degrees for 4-6 hours until meat is meltingly tender.
(4) Remove fat from meat and defat the left over cooking liquid, reserve.
(5) Shred or finely chop the meat, add to reserved cooking liquid in a small pot, season to taste.

*Make the Shells*
Best on a gas stove. You need long (>12") tongs.
(1) Heat canola oil about 3/4" deep in a saute pan just slightly bigger than a corn tortilla (I have a cheapo 8-9" cast iron pan that is absolutely perfect for this 'cause it retains the heat beautifully).
(2) Cut a tortilla into chunks--you want to toss a chunk into the oil to test it's hotness. What you want is for it to immediately sizzle/bubble.
(3) When oil is right temp slide tortilla into pan, submerging in oil. Now you use your tongs--immediately grab one side and flip it in half. Then flip the folded tortilla over to even heat. Insert semi-folded tongs (collapsed to 2/3 of tortilla length) into the fold so that you're able to create a perfect pocket for taco goodness. You will need to flip tortilla once more to get it to golden perfection. Set upright (liek an A frame) on paper towels set over a newspaper to absorb oil.

It will take a few tortillas and probably a few accidents to get the rhythm and pace but then you will be a taco shell frying machine.

I like these served with finely shredded lettuce, tomato, finely chopped red onion, a bit of cilantro, and shredded cheddar or jack cheese. Pass various hot sauces--I don't like salsa with these tacos (pico de gallo, et al) I like a smooth hot sauce.

*Serving Tip*
Put a small salad fork on the plate, on it's side--this help props up your taco and you can lean another one next to it with out the fillings falling out all over the plate.

__Hardshell Taco Veggie Variation_
The above preparation is also excellent with pre-seasoned textured vegetable protein--there are a couple of varieties at my co-op, unfortunately one is yummy and one is godawful so you'll have to follow your instincts.

__My Favorite Taco Extravaganza__
I've never seen a hardshell taco in Mexico. What you find instead are incredibly yummy tacos served in small (4-5" diameter) corn tortillas. This is a wonderful way to create an oppulent barbeque spread.

Must haves for these tacos

> Chopped cilantro
> Chopped white or red onion
> Guacamole--2 ripe avocados, 1 squeezed lime, pinch of cumin, 1T of finely chopped cilantro, 1T finely chopped onion, 1 crushed clove of garlic, salt
> Grilled green onions--brushed with oil, grilled till limp and slightly charred
> Pico de gallo--ripe tomatoes, chopped and combined with chopped cilantor, chopped onions, salt, black pepper, and a chopped jalapeno pepper. Simple, rustic and yummy.
> Cojita cheese--either dry or fresh style white cheese, crumbled


> Chips (make your own just like the tortilla shells--put in big bowl and toss with salt an paprika)

> Beans--of any sort, but whole pinto beans or black beans spiked with some hot sauce and cumin do me right

> Hot carrots--slice 3 carrots on a diagonal into 1/4-1/3" slices, slice half an onion into 1/2" slices, slice a jalapeno into 1/4" slices. Put in saucepan with 1 cup cider vinegar and 1 cup water and five peppercorns and 1t of marjoram or oregano. Bring to boil, boil for 1 min, turn off heat, let cool.

*Skirt Steak Filling*
You can use other cuts like flank steak, but there is something about skirt steak that makes it my favorite.

(1) Generously squeeze lime juice on a portion of skirt steak. Toss so that it's coaed (but you're not soaking or submerging it, just teasing it). let site for 30-60min.
(2) Grill on med-high, salting and squirting more lime on the meat as it grills to rare/med-rare.
(3) Chop into bit the size of the nail on your pinky, squeeze more lime on it and mound on a platter to serve with the above condiments.

*Zuccini Blossoms*
A sublime veggie option. These are often deep fried but I find them taste sauteed.

(1) Get a bunch of zuccini blossoms (mounds of them this time of year at the Farmers Markets and if you're growing zuke it's a good way to use them up). Chop them.
(2) In a hot pan saute the chopped blossoms, salt, and a small amount of dried marjoram or oregano for just a couple of minutes, adding minced garlic at the very end.
(3) Serve

One of my favorite things ever.

(1) Brush 3-4 fresh poblano peppers with oil and put on hot grill, turning, until blackened and softened. Put in covered bowl or tupperware to steam for 10min (you can leave them there for much longer with no harm).
(2) Slice a (preferably) white onion into 1/2" slices, brush with oil and grill with peppers until charred and beginnign to soften. Try and reserve any juices.
(3) Split, skin, de-vein and deseed the pepper. Cut into strips the thickness of your finger (no need to be precise). Roughly cut the onion into chunks. Try and reserve any juices.
(4) In medium-high saute pan add 1T of oil and toss in the peppers and onions and any reserved juice. Saute and let sizzle for a 5-10min. Add salt and dried marjoram or oregano.
(5) Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream. You can also use non-fat yogurt. Lower heat and coat to toss and reduce until the dairy and the juices have combined nicely.
(6) Serve in a bowl--lovely as a taco filling or a side dish to nibble.
posted by donovan at 2:06 PM on July 21, 2006 [5 favorites]

I use store-bought seasoning, but instead of mixing it with water, I add canned tomato sauce. Comes out great.
posted by danb at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2006

Interesting responses- I didn't realize that tacos were so frequntly made with ground meat. Anyway, if you have a grill, you can make the following Al Pastor inspired kebabs:

Either use a large can of pineapple chunks, or cut up a fresh pineapple, reserving the juices. Cut up a pork shoulder into kebab-size chunks( about 1/2 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches across) , and marinate for at least one half-hour in the following: 3-5 tablespoons arbol chili powder, salt and pepper to taste, 3-5 garlic cloves(chopped), teaspoon of cumin, 1/3 cup lime juice, and the reserved pineapple juice. Thread the marinated pork chunks on skewers alternating with pineapple and onion chunks (or you can marinate the assembled skewers). I think they're usually done after being on the grill about ten or twelve minutes. Serve with fresh salsa and warm tortillas.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2006

oneirodynia--nice one. Tacos al pastor are at the top of my list. Yum!
posted by donovan at 2:18 PM on July 21, 2006

I make chicken tacos out of leftover roast chicken.

It's like, the simplest thing in the world to do, and delicious:

Shred leftover roast chicken with two forks, sautee with onions, garlic and peppers. (I use serranos, usually, but whatever pepper you want will work just as well.)

Once you've done that:

Put 1/8 inch or so of oil in a skillet, and heat.

Put fresh corn tortilla (NOT FLOUR, DAMMIT) in oil for 30 seconds, then flip over.

Place filling in tortilla, grate some cheese over the top, and fold over.

Continue frying to desired degree of crispness, flipping taco if necessary.

Remove from pan, place on a rack or a paper towel to drain excess oil.

When drained but still hot, open taco and add salsa and / or avocado.



Takes about 5-10 minutes to prepare the filling, and no more than 1.5 - 2 minutes per taco. With a large enough skillet you can make more than one at a time. The most important thing is to start with good ingredients, and EAT WHILE IT'S STILL FAIRLY FRESH FROM THE OIL.

Also, beer helps.
posted by dersins at 2:26 PM on July 21, 2006

MMMMM...if you are a vegetarian try

Morning Star "Meat" Crumbles +
Mcormic seasoning (or whatever you can get at the store) +
lettuce +
tomato +
onions +
cheddar cheese +

OR if you are vegan

Vegetarian refried beans (add a little water to make them runny) +
Cheap frozen hashbrowns +
onions +
some great hot sauce +
Fritos! (the magic ingredient)

Mission has some great low carb/low fat flour tortillas. They are LOADED with fiber and protein and taste the same as regular.
posted by jeff_w_welch at 2:38 PM on July 21, 2006

Make any taco listed in this thread. Then deep fry it.

posted by luriete at 2:55 PM on July 21, 2006

1 Pack of fresh, fresh prawns, cubed
1 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup chopped chives
2 cups Arugula

1/2 cup sour cream
5tbls louisiana hot sauce

2 tbls parmasean cheese

Saute the first four until done. Mix the sour crem and hot sauce together and apply liberally, sprinkly cheese mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
posted by Cosine at 4:15 PM on July 21, 2006

I too like potato tacos (tacos de papas), which can be mixed with meat or not. Variations include diced v. mashed potato fillings (the latter makes for neater eating, which might detract from the taco experience for some people) and breakfast-style (add seasoned scrambled eggs to the filling).
posted by PY at 4:48 PM on July 21, 2006

... and to go along with luriete and PY, the best ever tacos de papas I've had were filled with spicy mashed potatoes, cheese, and then deep fried. They were then topped with pico de gallo.

posted by oneirodynia at 5:19 PM on July 21, 2006

I prefer to heat soft corn tortillas over an open gas stove flame. Just flip it with your fingers every 15-20 seconds, then onto a plate under a paper towel. It takes about 3-4 flips this way. You can have several going at once. Frying them in oil just makes them greasy IMO. If you don't have a gas stove then you're out of luck.

Another thing I love to make is 'tostadas'.. get those flat round corn tortillas (or make them by frying soft ones) and top with refried beans, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, cheese, hot sauce.. Easy and fast. Don't overload it. Use quality ingredients of course. The guac is key; without it, why bother.
posted by jockc at 5:27 PM on July 21, 2006

My sister-in-law makes a wonderful vegetiarian taco with refried kidney beans, sour cream, salsa, avacado and bean sprouts in a soft shell. Yum.
posted by Raybun at 6:10 PM on July 21, 2006

Two words from San Diego:

Fish tacos.
posted by paulsc at 6:41 PM on July 21, 2006

Tomato sauce is the key for tacos, gives it that extra taste. The cheap and easy way to do it is as suggested above, buy the taco seasoning packet at the grocery store, but instead of adding water add one of the small cans of tomato sauce.

The next step up is do the seasoning yourself. The way I do it is to brown about 1lb ground beef, pour off the grease, then pour a can of tomato sauce on. Then add chili powder, cumin, garlic, cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste. You should have a couple tablespoons of chili powder and cumin and less of the rest. I often put the whole mixture on low heat just to get all the flavors together and keep the meat warm while I get the taco shells (store bought) ready.

So yummy doesn't even need salsa.
posted by JonahBlack at 7:17 PM on July 21, 2006

Ok, I am sort of a taco purist (being from the Southwest) and have perfected possibly the tastiest taco recipe (according to family and friends) that is so simple it can be done in under 15 mins. start to finish. I loathe taco seasoning and this variant tastes nothing like it, but it is so much lighter and fresh.

Fine chop half an onion and cook in butter (or oil) until clear. **I usually add about half a cup of New Mexico Green Chiles to add some heat.

Brown , after the onions are ready, 1 lb of ground chuck with as little fat content as you can find.

Drain as needed.

Pour in one can of Herdez Salsa Casera and simmer over medium heat for about 5 mins.

While simmering, either heat up flour tortillas on a skillet (never in the microwave... the microwave makes them rubbery, you want them crisp on one side and soft on the other side) or make corn totilla taco shells.

When the taco mixture reduces, turn off the heat and add colby or pepper jack while the flour tortilla is still on the skillet, then add taco mixture. Fold once, and serve of place in a container if you are making several.

They are truly divine.... and easy.
posted by Benway at 8:25 PM on July 21, 2006

you know who else liked tacos? Hitler
posted by slapshot57 at 11:19 PM on July 21, 2006

Very likely, anybody who is missing something when mixing their own seasoning is missing cumin.

CUMIN! Mmm. I like to use the whole seed, partially crushed in my mortar. Tacos aren't tacos without it.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:19 AM on July 22, 2006

My first "real" taco (ie, something that wasn't in a hard Old El Paso shell) was in Mexico City. A stand near the Zocalo steamed whole goats' heads, pulled off the meat, tossed it on a grill for a few seconds with various herbs and chiles, tossed it into a warm, fat tortilla, then sprinkled over a little raw white onion and a squeeze of lime. Washed down with a big plastic cup of green orange juice - heaven.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:49 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: Update: Informed by many of the suggestions above, we decided to go with shredded beef. We picked up a chunk of sirloin inner flap, which looks and has a texture similar to flank steak, but not as well-shaped. I coated it with salt, pepper, Tony's, and some Tex-Mex seasoning mix I had in the cupboard, and then seared it on both sides. After searing, I tossed it in the steamer for 2 hours or so. After cooling, I shredded the beef, and tossed in a skillet with some sauteed onions and salsa and served in warm flour tortillas with avocado, sour cream, diced tomatos, diced serrano chilis, and some shredded lettuce. Mmmmm. Thanks, everybody!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:01 PM on July 22, 2006

the best thing you can do is invest in a taco press (20$ at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but available for much cheaper at tiendas mexicanas) and a five pound bag of corn maseca mix (4$-ish). Mix one cup of maseca with 1 cup water (i think) and mix thoroughly. Press out a bunch of fresh corn tortillas on the press and anything you put in them will taste excellent.

In short, fresh corn tortillas rule.
posted by casconed at 6:36 PM on July 23, 2006

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