8 Most Popular Tacos

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The taco is a popular Mexican dish that has made its way all over the world. For instance, many individuals in the U.S. celebrate Taco Tuesday, which is when they go out to enjoy tacos on Tuesday nights. Many Mexican restaurants offer special prices on Taco Tuesday to draw customers to their business.

You’ve likely noticed that every taco features distinctive meats, flavors, and toppings. That’s because, similar to tacos, each of the nine regions in Mexico is diverse in culinary and culture. We’ve created this comprehensive guide to provide you with a breakdown of what makes a taco a taco and 8 different types of tacos.

What Makes A Taco A Taco?

Whether you’re looking to enjoy a taco or opening a Mexican restaurant, you may ask yourself, “What qualifies as a taco?” A taco is a hand-sized wheat, flour, or corn tortilla that is folded and filled with a mixture of meat and toppings. If you were to enjoy tacos from different regions in Mexico, you would notice that each area uses unique ingredients to create its own taco. This is why you'll find many foodservice establishments in the U.S. have extensive taco menus.

What Is The Difference Between A Taco & A Burrito?

When you have a burrito and a taco next to each other, you immediately notice their size difference, as burritos are much larger than tacos. Many individuals eat two to four tacos to fill themselves. However, one burrito is known as a complete meal because it consists of rice, beans, and twice the amount of ingredients as one taco. The other difference between the two is how you serve them. Once all of the toppings are on the tortilla, you fold the tacos in half and wrap the burritos into a cylinder to keep the ingredients intact.

8 Types Of Tacos

Similar to a sandwich, each taco consists of various meats, sauces, and toppings. While there are hundreds of different types of tacos worldwide, we’re breaking down the 8 most popular tacos in the world and what makes each one special.

1. Tacos Al Pastor

Tacos al pastor was introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early 1900s. These individuals prepared al pastor tacos using the famous Middle Eastern cooking concept of shawarma. They prepared the pork in a slow-turning vertical rotisserie and marinated it in guajillo chiles and achiote, making it the ultimate fusion food. Today, you will find most establishments using the same cooking style and adding a pineapple wedge to the top of the pork to give the tacos a sweet, tangy kick.

Popular Tacos Al Pastor Toppings:

  • Pineapple

  • Onion

  • Cilantro

tacos al pastor

2. Tacos De Barbacoa

The inspiration for barbacoa in Mexico comes from the Caribbean. To make the original taco, you wrap lamb or goat in agave leaves and slow-cook the meat over an open flame until the meat is tender. Since this is a time-consuming process, many restaurants use an alternative method. They slow cook a whole beef cheek or roast in the oven or stove top and finish it on the griddle to char the meat.

Popular Tacos De Barbacoa Toppings:

  • Cilantro

  • Onion

tacos de barbacoa

3. Tacos De Birria

Originally from Jalisco, Mexico, birria is a goat-based stew served for special occasions in Mexico. Birria is slow-cooked in broth to make it moist and tender. The tacos feature corn tortilla shells dipped in the broth and crisped on a skillet before adding the birria to the tortilla. Most restaurants serve tacos de birria with a dipping sauce that is from the stewing of the meat.

Popular Tacos De Birria Toppings:

  • Cheese

  • Cilantro

  • Onion

tacos de birria

4. Tacos De Cabeza

Tacos de Cabeza are made from the meat of a cow’s head and are usually served braised or steamed to enhance the meat’s tenderness and flavor. Some restaurants may ask customers which section of the cow's head they’d like, while others mix the meat. The cow's head has a lot of fat and is flavorful, so many businesses only season it with salt.

Popular Tacos De Cabeza Toppings:

  • Cilantro

  • Onion

tacos de cabeza

5. Tacos De Carne Asada

Tacos de carne asada comes from Sonora, Mexico, one of the world's top cattle-raising locations. These tacos feature the meat of the short loin section of the cow. The meat is marinated and grilled over charcoal to give it a smokey taste. Once it’s prepared, it is chopped into tiny pieces and served on a flour tortilla.

Popular Tacos De Carne Asada Toppings:

  • Cilantro

  • Onion

  • Avocado or Guacamole

tacos de carne asada

6. Tacos De Carnitas

The meat in tacos de carnitas is similar to pulled pork. This taco is made from pork shoulder that is braised or simmered for several hours in its fat. When the meat is tender, chefs pull it apart into tiny shards and serve it on tortillas. Tacos de carnitas originated in Michoacán, Mexico, and is traditionally cooked in a pot, allowing the heat to distribute throughout the meat.

Popular Tacos De Carnitas Toppings:

  • Cilantro

  • Onion

tacos de carnitas

7. Tacos De Chorizo

Chorizo is Spanish, but Mexico modified the chorizo to add their twist. In Spain, chorizo is typically cured, smoked, and features a variety of meats. However, the chorizo prepared in the well-known taco is minced pork with spicy chili pepper seasoning. This taco is rich in flavor and typically doesn’t feature many sauces or toppings.

Popular Tacos De Chorizo Toppings:

  • Cilantro

  • Onion

  • Potato

tacos de choriza

8. Tacos De Pescado

Tacos de Pescado or fish tacos are popular in California and along Mexico’s Pacific coast. The taco typically consists of fried or grilled white fish filet topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, and sour cream. However, some establishments add their twist to the original fish taco by replacing the fillet with cod or salmon and adding unique toppings.

Popular Tacos De Pescado Toppings:

  • Cabbage

  • Pico de gallo

  • Sour Cream

  • Avocado

tacos de pescado

What Is The Most Popular Taco?

Pinpointing the absolute most popular taco is tricky because the taste is subjective, and regional specialties reign supreme in Mexico. However, Al Pastor is a strong contender globally, particularly in the United States. These tacos feature marinated pork cooked on a vertical rotisserie, similar to shawarma. The result is juicy, flavorful meat with a hint of sweetness from pineapple.

You'll likely find them at taco stands and restaurants everywhere, especially during Cinco de Mayo celebrations. While some places might offer their signature variations, the core elements of marinated pork, pineapple, and fresh toppings like onions and cilantro make Al Pastor a crowd-pleaser, perfect for grabbing and enjoying with a squeeze of lime or a dash of spice from the table's shakers.

What Is The Difference Between A Street Taco And A Regular Taco?

Imagine a tapas party  with all those delicious small plates – that's the essence of a street taco! Street tacos are bite-sized and ideal for grabbing on the go, typically wrapped in paper for mess-free enjoyment. They usually feature corn tortillas and simpler fillings like marinated meats, onions, and cilantro.

Regular tacos, on the other hand, can be larger and served on a plate, offering more variety in fillings and toppings like cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. So, next time you're choosing a taco, think about your situation – street tacos for a quick bite or casual gathering, and regular tacos for a more relaxed meal.

Is It Appropriate To Eat Tacos With Your Hands?

Yes, eating tacos with your hands is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, especially at casual settings like taco stands. These spots prioritize a quick and delicious experience. Their corn tortillas are typically smaller and easier to handle than flour tortillas, making them ideal for hand-held enjoyment. Plus, taco stands often wrap your tacos in paper to avoid spills and drips. While some restaurants might offer taco holders for larger or messier tacos, using your hands is the most traditional and authentic way to experience a taco, especially at a stand. So ditch the utensils, grab your paper-wrapped taco, and dive in!

Unleash Your Inner Taquero!

Now that you're a taco aficionado, it's time to create your own masterpiece! From Al Pastor's sweet and savory magic to the bold flavors of Carne Asada, the possibilities are endless. Dive deeper into the delicious world of tacos! This guide explored the many varieties, from Al Pastor's marinated magic to Carne Asada's smoky goodness. Now you can become your own taco hero—our Mexican Restaurant Supplies Page has everything to bring the flavors of Mexico home, from authentic tortillas and skillets to spices and festive décor. Happy taco crafting!

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