Totally Tacos, Tostadas, and Taquitos
Corn or flour? Fried or soft? Rolled, stuffed, topped, or layered? These beloved Mexican dishes use tortillas in definingly different ways, but all are sure to be a hit at your next fiesta — or on any old Tuesday.
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For anyone who has heard of Mexico’s famous vitamin T diet, it usually includes delicious dishes that start with the letter T: tacos, tortas, tostadas, tamales, and the list goes on and on. Each of these is worthy of its own cookbook, but to save you a little reading time, I’ve focused on three that are sure to be a hit for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and are fabulous for fiestas: tacos, tostadas, and taquitos.
Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, I learned to enjoy many of these dishes at an early age. As a child, one of my very first finger foods included a warm corn tortilla with a sprinkle of salt, rolled tightly into a taquito. It was a snack I loved as a child. I remember being fascinated at how tightly my father rolled our tortillas between his huge palms.
Any time I’m in Mexico and pass a tortillería (small tortilla factory), I try to recreate these memories with my own children and always stop to buy un cuarto kilo (one-fourth kilo) of warm corn tortillas and before they’re packed up, I take out three to taste — one for me and each of my children.
Family ties and fiestas
In our family, tacos and taquitos are always the two most requested dishes for birthday parties. We tend to make them when hosting smaller groups though (as in fewer than 20 people!), because the process can be a bit labor intensive when frying is required. If hosting larger groups, my recommendation would be to make tostadas because the tortillas can be fried in advance and everyone can add the toppings they desire.
Now, while most people can agree that the one commonality tacos, tostadas, and taquitos have is that they’re all made with corn tortillas, this isn’t always the case. Some people actually make a version of rolled taquitos with flour tortillas. And guess what? Not all tacos are crispy! In fact, the tacos I grew up eating in Mexico (and most of the ones you’ll find in this roundup) were made with soft corn tortillas, while the ones that my Mexican-American grandma, mom, and aunts from California make are typically fried. And to shake things up a little further, tacos, tostadas, and taquitos can each take on different names based on the region in Mexico where they are served.
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What are tacos, tostadas, and taquitos, anyway?
Learn more about three of the most beloved Mexican foods, including typical ingredients, cooking techniques, and even alternate names for the dishes. You'll be an expert in Mexican cuisine in no time.
What is a taco?
Tacos come in all shapes and sizes. Most versions include either soft or crispy corn tortillas that are folded in half and stuffed with an infinite number of fillings and then topped with fresh garnishes. In the southern state of Oaxaca, however, “tacos” can refer to corn tortillas that are stuffed, rolled into a flute-shape, and fried, which I grew up referring to as flautas or taquitos.
What is a tostada?
A tostada is essentially a crispy corn tortilla that's kept in its original shape: flat and round. Most tostadas are made by shallow-frying corn tortillas until golden and crispy, however they can also be baked. In Oaxaca, oftentimes corn tortillas are crisped up by heating them on a clay or metal comal (smooth, flat griddle) over low heat.
What is a taquito, and is a taquito a flauta?
Taquitos typically refer to a small, taco-sized corn tortilla that is filled with different ingredients and then tightly rolled and deep- or shallow-fried until crispy. Some people use the terms taquito and flauta interchangeably, while others insist that flautas are essentially taquitos made out of larger, burrito-sized corn tortillas. Others maintain that flautas are made with flour tortillas.
Prepare your taste buds for a real treat. The following taco recipes include everything from classic beef and chicken fillings, to potato, mushroom, and seafood options.
These shrimp tacos are topped with pineapple salsa and loaded with good-for-you ingredients, without compromising on flavor.
Combine chuck roast and short ribs for the ultimate flavor in these birria tacos. Fry them with cheese to create the trendy quesabirria taco.
Fish tacos were invented in Ensenada, and you’ll have a hard time finding a better recipe than this one.
For a twist on Ensenada-style fish tacos, try this version made with shrimp.
Crispy tacos with ground beef epitomize the fusion of American and Mexican cultures.
The combination of shrimp, chipotle, and cheese in these tacos was first served in northern Mexico to a governor who requested his shrimp tacos be served with cheese.
Seasoned with just the right balance of cayenne to brown sugar, even kids will devour these sweet and spicy chicken tacos.
No need to buy pre-seasoned carne asada when you can make your own marinade and need only 30 minutes to infuse robust flavor into your meat.
Pan-sear oyster mushrooms until golden and crispy and then top with fresh pico de gallo for a taco that will satisfy both vegans and carnivores alike.
These delicious and filling tacos de papa explode with flavor and are sure to become one of your new favorite meatless Mexican dishes.
This chicken tinga recipe includes two ingredients you won’t find in traditional recipes, making it really shine.
It’s hard to replicate the flavors in the tacos al pastor you’ll find on the streets of Mexico, but this recipe promises to come close.
Tostada toppings can include something as simple as Mexican crema — this is how I like mine when served with pozole — or can be piled so high that the entire tostada breaks with the first bite. While I prefer homemade tostadas, there are also store-bought versions that work well in some recipes such as ceviche or chicken tinga, because the store-bought kind are extra sturdy and can stand up to their juices.
Coat a tostada with a little mayonnaise, then a hefty serving of this fresh green ceviche, sliced avocado, and your favorite salsa or hot sauce.
If you’re craving something light and fresh, these vegetarian tostadas are just what the doctor ordered.
With only three simple ingredients, you can create deliciously filling breakfast tostadas that can be enjoyed any time of day.
Nothing quite tops a tostada like chicken tinga, and this classic recipe is loaded with flavor.
A twist on traditional beef picadillo, which is typically served with rice, this recipe is made with ground turkey, served on a crispy tostada, and promises to be a crowd-pleaser.
Top these hearty vegetarian tostadas with freshly made pico de gallo and you’re in for a real cross-cultural treat.
Simple, yet satisfying bean tostadas are both budget- and family-friendly.
Rehydrated hibiscus flowers create the lovely (and tasty!) topping for these plant-powered tostadas.
When you’re feeling nostalgic for Mexican street food, these shredded beef tostadas hit the spot.
This recipe features the nutritious nopal, or cactus paddle. Nopales may look intimidating due to their prickly exterior, but we all know that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
This protein-packed spin on ceviche is made with quinoa — yum!
In my family, we typically stuff taquitos with shredded chicken or flank steak. I always top my chicken taquitos with shredded lettuce, Mexican crema, and green tomatillo salsa. Meanwhile, a simple guacamole is a sufficient dip for my beef taquitos.
Known as flautas or simply tacos in some parts of Mexico, these crispy rolled tacos are filled with tender chicken and fried until golden and delicious.
Crunchy taquitos filled with sauteed flor de jamaica (hibiscus flower) and queso fresco, then topped with lettuce and pickled red onions, are another delicious meatless Monday menu item.
Cut these meat-free flautas in half to make mini taquitos and serve them as an appetizer at your next family fiesta.
When preparing taquitos in large batches, consider baking them! These shrimp-filled taquitos are perfect for a midweek meal or appetizer.
While a simple side of guacamole can pair perfectly with beef taquitos, shredded lettuce, tomato, and Mexican crema add the fresh twist that take these taquitos over the top.
Potato taquitos get a green twist with a reduction in cheese and addition of watercress. Keep them light by using grapeseed oil when frying and then top your taquitos with a sprinkle of cotija cheese, chopped tomatoes, and more watercress.
Sweet, crispy, and delicious, these carrot taquitos can be made with shredded carrots or carrot juice pulp!
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