How to make authentic Mexican street tacos
This is what chefs say you need to prepare tacos like the ones you find in Mexico
Corn tortillas are more authentic than flour for a Mexican street taco.
By Althea Chang-Cook
For many people in the United States, the typical taco is made with a pre-made taco shell consisting of a fried corn tortilla, plus seasoned ground beef, lettuce, and cheese. But that's not exactly authentic.
The crispy tortilla shell became popular in the United States thanks to fast-food chains like Taco Tia and Taco Bell, says Andrew Smith, author of "Fast Food: The Good, the Bad and the Hungry." Using pre-made shells was faster than frying tortillas to order, says Smith. Also, toast has a longer shelf life. As for the inside of a taco, Smith says ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa were introduced to the United States as taco fillings in the 1950s, in part because they're similar to something many people eat. people already knew and loved: the hamburger.
Today, Mexican cuisine is the most popular international cuisine in the United States after Italian, according to the research company Mintel, and there is a growing interest in authentic ingredients and flavors. If you're planning your next Taco Tuesday, consider making authentic Mexican street tacos with chef-recommended ingredients.
The essentials for Mexican street tacos
While there's room for interpretation when cooking at home — you can ditch the measuring spoons if you want — there are a few essentials you should have on hand.
soft corn tortillas
“Corn tortillas are 100% more authentic than flour tortillas,” says Jorge Gutiérrez, chef at Lona Cocina & Tequileria restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “In most areas of Mexico, it's easier to find corn tortillas than flour,” he says.
In many areas of the United States, soft corn tortillas are already available. But if you want to go a step further to achieve authenticity, you can make them yourself. Gutierrez says his best option is to use a tortilla maker. (Buy them at Amazon or Walmart.)
And to heat tortillas, whether they're store-bought or homemade, just when you need them, you can use a comal (at Amazon or Target), which is a round, smooth, flat griddle, traditionally cast-iron, to use on the stove. The comal can also be used to toast spices or roast chiles and other vegetables beforehand, says Gutiérrez.
Cumin and garlic are common ingredients to season meats, accentuating a savory aroma. Onion powder, oregano, and cilantro are good ingredients to have on hand, and “home cooks should always have guajillo and achiote spices for Mexican cooking,” Gutierrez says. Guajillo is a type of chili, and achiote is a spice also known as annato, made from the seeds of the achiote tree. It is sometimes described as a bit bitter, pungent and earthy all at once. Gutierrez says he also likes to incorporate tomatillo or habanero sauce, avocados, radishes, fresh onions or pickled red onions, and cilantro into his authentic street tacos.
Eddie Garza, a chef and author who grew up in Brownsville, Texas, and now lives in Los Angeles, makes an adobo consisting of pureed pineapple, achiote, red chiles, and other traditional herbs and spices for his vegan tacos al pastor. He says adding chipotle peppers imparts a smoky, meaty flavor to mushrooms or a wheat-based protein called seitan.
In addition to tacos al pastor, which are traditionally made with pork, carne asada is popular. These are thinly sliced sirloin or beef fillets, marinated with orange zest, salt, pepper, onion and garlic. Nopales and marinated chicken or pork, seasoned with a Mexican adobo sauce, are also authentic main ingredients.
Anna María Hernández Cibulsky, a private cook from Georgetown, Texas, who makes a living cooking in someone else's homes, makes chicken tinga tacos with shredded chicken (she says store-bought rotisserie chicken is a suitable substitute, if you have little time at home) cooked in a tomato-based sauce with onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, chipotle peppers and adobo.
In some taco trucks or taco stands, you can also find tacos de lengua, which are made with cow tongue, and tacos de tripitas, which are made with cow gut. You can also make them at home if these ingredients are available near you.
For those following a plant-based diet, while some ingredients aren't exactly traditional, they are prepared the traditional way. Garza makes faux fish tacos by marinating cauliflower in some of the authentic seasonings mentioned above, then dipping it in batter batter and deep-frying it. He also makes homemade chorizo-filled tacos made with vital wheat gluten, a plant-based protein.
But before you start making authentic tacos at home, “I recommend putting on Mexican music to set the mood in the kitchen,” says Gutiérrez.
Kitchen equipment that you can use for Mexican street tacos
When cooking from scratch, having the right kitchen equipment can make slicing, chopping, mixing, toasting, and grilling easier. The products listed below earned top marks in Consumer Reports' extensive lab tests.
A good chef's knife is a vital part of a kitchen arsenal, and many come as part of a kitchen knife set. Here are some of the ones that scored the best in Consumer Reports tests. Also see our reviews for mandolines, which cut ingredients evenly.
Zwilling JA Henckels Twin Professional “S”
Wusthof Classic Icon #8347
Wusthof Classic #8418
Food processor and mincer
Slicing and chopping onions, tomatoes and other ingredients can be challenging and time consuming. Check out these food processors and choppers if you want to avoid tears and a slippery cutting board and get the job done faster.
Breville Sous Chef BFP800XL/A
Oster Versa Pro Series BLSTVB-104-000 Food Processor Attachment
Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004
Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus DLC-2A
A blender can be a vital tool for making salsa, a staple in authentic Mexican cooking. Here are a couple of the best blenders in CR's tests.
cast iron skillet
Some will say that you're not cooking your roast beef, and other ingredients, properly if you don't use cast iron. And cast iron is durable and versatile, and doesn't cost a fortune. Here are some cast iron skillets that performed well in CR's lab tests and can be found for $25 or less.
Lodge Cast Iron Pre-seasoned
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2022, Consumer Reports, Inc.
Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with the advertisers on this site. Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works with consumers to create a fair, safe, and healthy world. CR does not endorse products or services and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2022, Consumer Reports, Inc.
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