“We love tacos so much, that anything yum ends up in a taco,” says Pati Jinich. The Mexican chef and TV host is talking about both Mexico’s love of stuffing tortillas and her own family’s appetite for doing the same.
“We taco everything. Everything!”
And indeed, the world has embraced the taco because there is a taco for everyone – including those who can’t decide. Whether you’re a meat-lover or vegan, whether you embrace the homemade soft, floury tortilla or love to stuff your filling into a hard corn shell, there’s a taco for you.
Start with the tortilla
“We have family taco night every week - and you can't have tacos without tortillas! I want to show you how easy it is to make your own,” says Jinich, of her corn tortilla recipe (which also includes instructions on how to store them; they’ll keep for up to three days, or can be frozen for several months).
And if the first few don’t turn out quite as you expect, take heart from Peter Kuruvita’s encouragement: “Tortillas, although incredibly simple to make, do take practice. Persistence is a part of any skill, and absolutely essential to cooking – keep going, even if you fail at your first few. You’ll get there,” he says (get his recipe here).
Jinich’s and Kuruvita’s recipes use masa harina, a type of corn flour. If you’re a fan of flour tortillas, try this recipe.
Al pastor, the classic street food
Tacos al pastor are one of the best known and most loved Mexican street foods. Marinated pork is stacked and cooked on vertical rotisseries, but you don’t need one of those to create a delicious home-style version. Try the combo of juicy pork and pan-fried pineapple in Jinich’s recipe (add cheese to turn them into gringas); in this version, which has a fresh and zingy pineapple salsa; or this one (below), where the pieces of marinated pork are seared in a smoking-hot pan to replicate the appeal of the classic spit-cooked street food.
The hearty beef option
“There is no need or mood a taco can’t tackle. And if you want to feed your family a generous and satiating weeknight meal, make them bricklayer tacos,” says Jinich. Beef, bacon and tomato come together in these simple but filling tortillas.
The taco for those who can’t decide
“You have soft meat and crunchy meat and chiccerones, it is absolutely delicious!” Jinich says of tacos campechano, one of the taco recipes she makes in the latest season of Pati’s Mexican Table, where her travels in Mexico include a visit to the town of Los Mochis. It is heaven for taco lovers: ”Tacos, tacos, tacos. Chunky, crispy, fried, adovada, greasy, steamed. you crave it, they've got it,” she says.
The campechano is one example of a tacos combinados, a taco that combines multiple types of meat. “And it's very common for somebody [in Mexico] to go to a street stand and to say, 'give me a little bit of cuerito (the chewy part of the meat), give me a little bit of maciza (luscious meat), give me a little of the fat…” she explains.
Her version combines tender beef, spicy crisp sausage and crunchy pork crackling.
And it comes with salsa for those who can’t decide too: “When you go to a taqueria, they give you different kinds of salsas. They give you the green salsa, the red salsa, the pico de gallo, but then because we love salsa so much, people started mixing them and asking for a mix. So now taquerias and stands have their salsa callejera, or salsa taquera, which is their house combination,” Jinich says (get her recipe for salsa callejera here.)
Give it the bird
Putting an Australian spin on the Mexican classic, this recipe puts the barbecue to very good use: barbecue chipotle chicken and lime and black bean salsa are served up with soft, homemade flour tortillas (these use butter and a little baking powder).
These tacos de pescado (fish tacos) have everything: crisp, golden beer-battered fish fillets tucked into homemade flour tortillas and topped with onion, cabbage, sour cream and hot sauce. Equally tempting are these spiced fish tacos with chipotle sauce.
More seafood options: Try hot-smoked salmon tacos with chipotle crema and kale verde, or prawn tacos with avocado and chilli salsa.
You don’t need meat to make a five-star taco. Fire up your breakfast with a Mexican-inspired egg taco with charred corn salsa and avocado; give tofu a star turn in beer-braised tofu tacos with spinach; or make beans the biz in chipotle black bean tacos with jalapeno slaw.
And even chocolate
Take the idea of a taco and turn it into fun chocolate dessert: a crisp ‘taco shell’ filled with whipped coconut cream and fruit.
Want more tacos: find many more ideas in our taco recipe collection.
I love these tacos because you don’t need a ton of toppings, or any, really! The beauty is that the filling cooks in its own sauce, with minimal ingredients but maximum flavor. Coriander, cumin and tomato are all heightened through the addition of beer. A little guac and you are all set.
Mix it up for your next taco night with lean and tasty kangaroo strips.
These tacos are the love child of Vietnamese and Mexican street food, and the filling of seasoned grilled pork, crunchy sweet pickles, cilantro, cucumber, and chiles will make you a believer in this culinary mashup.
Take taco Tuesday to the next level with these more-ish chicken tostadas, topped with a crunchy coleslaw.
I’ve been very fortunate to represent Tourism Victoria at many events in the United States. One such trip to San Francisco was where I first encountered – what the Melbourne food media has dubbed – Cal/Mex food, a kind of fusion of authentic Mexican flavours with American locavore spirit. There were many new, fun, relaxed, produce-focused and really tasty dishes, all of which helped to inspire this napa chicken salad served in crispy and buttery puffy taco shells with lashings of tomatillo verde. These tacos can be cooked well ahead of time and reheated for just a minute in the oven as required.
It’s easy to see why salbutes are one of the most popular snacks of the Yucatan Peninsula. Crunchy fried tortilla, silky black bean puree, spicy habanero chilli and puckering pickled onions, it’s a combination that turns a few simple ingredients into the perfect party snack. Fry the tortillas as close to serving as possible, as they tend to lose their crispness if left for too long.