Taco
Overview
 
A taco is a traditional Mexican dish
Mexican cuisine
Mexican cuisine, a style of food that originates in Mexico, is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures, with later...

 composed of a corn
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 or wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

, seafood
Seafood
Seafood is any form of marine life regarded as food by humans. Seafoods include fish, molluscs , crustaceans , echinoderms . Edible sea plants, such as some seaweeds and microalgae, are also seafood, and are widely eaten around the world, especially in Asia...

, vegetables and cheese
Cheeses of Mexico
Cheeses in Mexico have a history that begins with the Spanish conquest, as dairy products were unknown in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The Spanish brought dairy animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats as well as cheese making techniques. Over the colonial period, cheese making was modified to suit...

, allowing for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten without utensils
Finger food
Finger food is food meant to be eaten directly using the hands, in contrast to food eaten with a knife and fork, chopsticks, or other utensils. In some cultures, food is almost always eaten with the hands; for example, Ethiopian cuisine is eaten by rolling various dishes up in injera bread. In the...

 and is often accompanied by garnishes such as salsa
Salsa (sauce)
Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

, avocado
Avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

 or guacamole
Guacamole
Guacamole , is an avocado-based dip that originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete with sea salt. Some recipes call for limited tomato, spicy Asian spices such as white onion, lime juice, and/or additional seasonings.-History:Guacamole was made by...

, cilantro, tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

es, onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

s and lettuce
Lettuce
Lettuce is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It is eaten either raw, notably in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and many other dishes, or cooked, as in Chinese cuisine in which the stem becomes just as important...

.
According to the Real Academia Española
Real Academia Española
The Royal Spanish Academy is the official royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other hispanophone nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies...

, publisher of Diccionario de la Lengua Española
Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española
The Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española or DRAE is the most authoritative dictionary of the Spanish language. It is produced, edited, and published by the Real Academia Española ; the first edition was published in 1780...

, the word taco describes a typical Mexican dish of a maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded around food ("Tortilla de maíz enrollada con algún alimento dentro, típica de México").
Encyclopedia
A taco is a traditional Mexican dish
Mexican cuisine
Mexican cuisine, a style of food that originates in Mexico, is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures, with later...

 composed of a corn
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 or wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

, seafood
Seafood
Seafood is any form of marine life regarded as food by humans. Seafoods include fish, molluscs , crustaceans , echinoderms . Edible sea plants, such as some seaweeds and microalgae, are also seafood, and are widely eaten around the world, especially in Asia...

, vegetables and cheese
Cheeses of Mexico
Cheeses in Mexico have a history that begins with the Spanish conquest, as dairy products were unknown in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The Spanish brought dairy animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats as well as cheese making techniques. Over the colonial period, cheese making was modified to suit...

, allowing for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten without utensils
Finger food
Finger food is food meant to be eaten directly using the hands, in contrast to food eaten with a knife and fork, chopsticks, or other utensils. In some cultures, food is almost always eaten with the hands; for example, Ethiopian cuisine is eaten by rolling various dishes up in injera bread. In the...

 and is often accompanied by garnishes such as salsa
Salsa (sauce)
Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

, avocado
Avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

 or guacamole
Guacamole
Guacamole , is an avocado-based dip that originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete with sea salt. Some recipes call for limited tomato, spicy Asian spices such as white onion, lime juice, and/or additional seasonings.-History:Guacamole was made by...

, cilantro, tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

es, onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

s and lettuce
Lettuce
Lettuce is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It is eaten either raw, notably in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and many other dishes, or cooked, as in Chinese cuisine in which the stem becomes just as important...

.

Etymology

According to the Real Academia Española
Real Academia Española
The Royal Spanish Academy is the official royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other hispanophone nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies...

, publisher of Diccionario de la Lengua Española
Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española
The Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española or DRAE is the most authoritative dictionary of the Spanish language. It is produced, edited, and published by the Real Academia Española ; the first edition was published in 1780...

, the word taco describes a typical Mexican dish of a maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded around food ("Tortilla de maíz enrollada con algún alimento dentro, típica de México"). The original sense of the word is of a "plug" or "wad" used to fill a hole ("Pedazo de madera, metal u otra materia, corto y grueso, que se encaja en algún hueco"). The Online Etymological Dictionary defines taco as a "tortilla filled with spiced meat" and describes its etymology as derived from Mexican Spanish
Mexican Spanish
Mexican Spanish is a version of the Spanish language, as spoken in Mexico and in various places of Canada and the United States of America, where there are communities of Mexican origin....

, "light lunch," literally, "plug, wadding."

History

The taco predates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. There is anthropological evidence that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico
Valley of Mexico
The Valley of Mexico is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with the present-day Distrito Federal and the eastern half of the State of Mexico. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including...

 traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Writing at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Bernal Díaz del Castillo was a conquistador, who wrote an eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards for Hernán Cortés, himself serving as a rodelero under Cortés.-Early life:...

 documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans, a meal which Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 arranged for his captains in Coyoacán
Coyoacán
Coyoacán refers to one of the sixteen boroughs of the Federal District of Mexico City as well as the former village which is now the borough’s “historic center.” The name comes from Nahuatl and most likely means “place of coyotes,” when the Aztecs named a pre-Hispanic village on the southern shore...

. It is not clear why the Spanish used their word, "taco", to describe this indigenous food.

Traditional tacos

There are many traditional varieties of tacos:
  • Tacos de Asador ("spit" or "grill" tacos) may be composed of any of the following: carne asada
    Carne asada
    In Mexican cuisine, "Carne asada" is an item that consists of thin beef steak. The meat can be marinated by rubbing with olive oil and salt or with spice rubs such as lemon and pepper or garlic salt, lime, or Worcestershire sauce, before being cooked on a grill. The meat can be served alone or...

     tacos; tacos de tripita ("tripe
    Tripe
    Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.-Beef tripe:...

     tacos"), grilled until crisp; and, chorizo
    Chorizo
    Chorizo is a term encompassing several types of pork sausages originating from the Iberian Peninsula.In English, it is usually pronounced , , or , but sometimes ....

     asado (traditional Spanish style sausage). Each type is served on two overlapped small tortillas and sometimes garnished with guacamole
    Guacamole
    Guacamole , is an avocado-based dip that originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete with sea salt. Some recipes call for limited tomato, spicy Asian spices such as white onion, lime juice, and/or additional seasonings.-History:Guacamole was made by...

    , salsa
    Salsa (sauce)
    Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

    , onions, and cilantro. Also prepared on the grill is a sandwiched taco called mulita ("little mule") made with meat served between two tortillas and garnished with Oaxaca
    Oaxaca cheese
    Queso Oaxaca is a white, semihard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture. It is named after the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where it was first made. It is available in several different shapes. It is also known as quesillo...

     style cheese. "Mulita" is used to describe these types of sandwiched tacos in the Northern States of Mexico, while they are known as Gringa in the Mexican south and are prepared using wheat
    Wheat
    Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

     flour tortillas. Tacos may also be served with salsa.
  • Tacos de Cabeza
    Cabeza
    Cabeza, sometimes cabeça, is a Spanish word meaning "head". In Mexican cuisine, it is used to describe the meat from a roasted head of a cow, served as a taco or burrito filling....

     or head tacos, in which there is a flat punctured metal plate from which steam emerges to cook the head of the cow. These include: Cabeza
    Cabeza
    Cabeza, sometimes cabeça, is a Spanish word meaning "head". In Mexican cuisine, it is used to describe the meat from a roasted head of a cow, served as a taco or burrito filling....

    , a serving of the muscles of the head; Sesos ("brains"); Lengua ("tongue"); Cachete ("cheeks"); Trompa ("lips"); and, Ojo
    Ojo
    Ojo may refer to:*Ojo the Lucky, an Oz book series character*Ojo, Nigeria, a town in Lagos State, Nigeria*Kim Ojo, Nigerian football midfielder*Topsy Ojo, English rugby union player*Ojo , a 5-part comic book series by Sam Kieth...

     ("eye"). Tortillas for these tacos are warmed on the same steaming plate for a different consistency. These tacos are typically served in pairs, and also include salsa, onion and cilantro with occasional use of guacamole.
  • Tacos de Cazo for which a metal bowl filled with lard is typically used as a deep-fryer. Meats for these types of tacos typically include: Tripa
    Tripe
    Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.-Beef tripe:...

     ("tripe", usually from a pig instead of a cow); Suadero
    Suadero
    Suadero, in Mexican cuisine, is a thin cut of beef from the brisket . Suadero is noted for having a smooth texture rather than a muscle grain. Typically, suadero is grilled and used as a taco filling....

     (tender beef cuts), Carnitas
    Carnitas
    Carnitas, literally "little meats", is a type of braised or roasted pork in Mexican cuisine.Pork carnitas is traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich 'boston butt' or 'picnic ham' cuts of pork...

     and Buche (Literally, "crop
    Crop (anatomy)
    A crop is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion that is found in many animals, including gastropods, earthworms, leeches, insects, birds, and even some dinosaurs.- Bees :Cropping is used by bees to temporarily store nectar of flowers...

    ", as in bird's crop; here, it is fried pig's esophagus.)
  • Tacos sudados ("sweaty tacos") are made by filling soft tortillas with a spicy meat mixture, then placing them in a basket covered with cloth. The covering keeps the tacos warm and traps steam ("sweat") which softens them.

  • Tacos Al pastor/De Adobada
    Adobada
    Adobada is a concept for many dishes that are common in Mexican cuisine similar to tacos. Adobada is generally pork marinated in a "red" chili sauce with vinegar and oregano, but it can refer to different types of meat and to marinades closer to Al pastor...

     ("shepherd style") are made of thin pork steaks seasoned with adobo
    Adobo
    Adobo is the immersion of raw food into a preparation, in the form of a stock , of different components, including paprika , oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar — mixed according to the place of origin and the food with which it is intended to be used—primarily to preserve and enhance the flavor of...

     seasoning, then skewered and overlapped on one another on a vertical rotisserie cooked and flame-broiled as it spins (analogous to the Döner kebab
    Döner kebab
    Doner kebab is a dish made of roasted meat cooked on a vertical spit. It is also known regionally as gyro , shawarma, and al pastor . It consists of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats roasted on a spit. Less common alternatives include fish and sausage...

     used in Greek
    Greece
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

     restaurants to prepare gyros).
  • Tacos dorados (fried tacos, literally, "golden tacos") called flautas ("flute
    Flute
    The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

    ", because of the shape), or taquito
    Taquito
    Taquito or flauta is a Mexican food dish consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried...

    s, for which the tortillas are filled with pre-cooked shredded chicken, beef or barbacoa
    Barbacoa
    Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taíno people, from which the term "barbecue" derives. In contemporary Mexico it generally refers to meats or a whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with...

    , rolled into an elongated cylinder and deep-fried until crisp. They are sometimes cooked in a microwave oven
    Microwave oven
    A microwave oven is a kitchen appliance that heats food by dielectric heating, using microwave radiation to heat polarized molecules within the food...

     or broiled.
  • Tacos de pescado ("fish tacos") originated in Baja California
    Baja California
    Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

     in Mexico, where they consist of grilled or fried fish, lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo
    Pico de gallo
    In Mexican cuisine, pico de gallo , also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chilis...

    , and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. In the United States, they remain most popular in California, Colorado, and Washington. In California, they are often found at street vendors, and a regional variation is to serve them with cabbage and coleslaw dressing on top.
  • Tacos de camarones ("shrimp tacos") also originated in Baja California
    Baja California
    Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

     in Mexico. Grilled or fried shrimp
    Shrimp
    Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

     are used, usually with the same accompaniments as fish tacos: lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo
    Pico de gallo
    In Mexican cuisine, pico de gallo , also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chilis...

    , avocado and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla.


As an accompaniment to tacos, many taco stands will serve whole or sliced red radishes, lime
Lime (fruit)
Lime is a term referring to a number of different citrus fruits, both species and hybrids, which are typically round, green to yellow in color, 3–6 cm in diameter, and containing sour and acidic pulp. Limes are a good source of vitamin C. Limes are often used to accent the flavors of foods and...

 slices, salt, pickled or grilled chilis (hot peppers), and occasionally cucumber
Cucumber
The cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon. The plant is a creeping vine which bears cylindrical edible fruit when ripe. There are three main varieties of cucumber: "slicing", "pickling", and...

 slices, or grilled cambray onions.

United States and Canada

Hard-shell tacos

Beginning from the early part of the twentieth century, various styles of tacos have become popular in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. The style that has become most common is the hard-shell, U-shaped version first described in a cookbook authored by Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca Gilbert and published in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 in 1949. These have been sold by restaurants and by fast food chains. Even non-Mexican oriented fast food restaurants have sold tacos. Mass production of this type of taco was encouraged by the invention of devices to hold the tortillas in the U-shape as they were deep-fried. A patent for such a device was issued to New York restaurateur Juvenico Maldonado in 1950, based on his patent filing of 1947 (U.S. Patent No. 2,506,305). Such tacos are crisp-fried corn tortillas filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and sometimes tomato, onion, salsa, sour cream, and avocado or guacamole. In this context, soft tacos are tacos made with wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 flour tortillas and filled with the same ingredients as a hard taco.

Puffy tacos, taco kits, breakfast tacos and tacodillas

Since at least 1978, a variation called the "puffy taco" has been popular. Originating in San Antonio, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, uncooked corn tortillas (flattened balls of masa
Masa
Masa is Spanish for dough. In the Americas it is often short for masa de maíz, a maize dough made from freshly prepared hominy. It is used for making corn tortillas, tamales, pupusas, arepas and many other Latin American dishes. The dried and powdered form is called masa harina, masa de harina,...

 dough) are quickly fried in hot oil until they expand and become "puffy". Fillings are similar to hard-shell versions. Restaurants offering this style of taco have since appeared in other Texas cities, as well as in California, where Henry's brother, Arturo, opened Arturo's Puffy Taco in Whittier
Whittier, California
Whittier is a city in Los Angeles County, California about southeast of Los Angeles. The city had a population of 85,331 at the 2010 census, up from 83,680 as of the 2000 census, and encompasses 14.7 square miles . Like nearby Montebello, the city constitutes part of the Gateway Cities...

, not long after Henry's opened.

Kits are available at grocery and convenience store
Convenience store
A convenience store, corner store, corner shop, commonly called a bodega in Spanish-speaking areas of the United States, is a small store or shop in a built up area that stocks a range of everyday items such as groceries, toiletries, alcoholic and soft drinks, and may also offer money order and...

s and usually consist of taco shells (corn tortillas already fried in a U-shape), seasoning mix and taco sauce. Commercial vendors for the home market also market soft taco kits with tortillas instead of taco shells.

The breakfast taco, found in Tex-Mex cuisine
Tex-Mex cuisine
"Tex-Mex" is a term used to describe a regional American cuisine that blends food products available in the United States and the culinary creations of Mexican-Americans influenced by the cuisines of Mexico. The cuisine has spread from border states such as Texas and those in the Southwestern...

, is filled with meat, eggs, or cheese, with other ingredients.

The tacodilla contains melted cheese in between the two folded tortillas, thus resembling a quesadilla
Quesadilla
A quesadilla is a flour or corn tortilla filled with a savoury mixture containing cheese and other ingredients, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape. This dish originated in Mexico, and the name is derived from the Spanish word queso ....

.

Indian tacos

Indian tacos, sometimes known as Navajo tacos but served in various parts of the American West
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 and Midwest
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

, are made using frybread
Frybread
Frybread is a Native American food found throughout the United States. Frybread is a flat dough fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard. The dough is generally leavened by yeast or baking powder....

 instead of tortillas. They are commonly served at pow-wow
Pow-wow
A pow-wow is a gathering of North America's Native people. The word derives from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning "spiritual leader". A modern pow-wow is a specific type of event where both Native American and non-Native American people meet to dance, sing, socialize, and honor American...

s, festival
Festival
A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the Festival....

s, and other gatherings.
A taco (icon) is a traditional Mexican dish
Mexican cuisine
Mexican cuisine, a style of food that originates in Mexico, is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures, with later...

 composed of a corn
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 or wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

, seafood
Seafood
Seafood is any form of marine life regarded as food by humans. Seafoods include fish, molluscs , crustaceans , echinoderms . Edible sea plants, such as some seaweeds and microalgae, are also seafood, and are widely eaten around the world, especially in Asia...

, vegetables and cheese
Cheeses of Mexico
Cheeses in Mexico have a history that begins with the Spanish conquest, as dairy products were unknown in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The Spanish brought dairy animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats as well as cheese making techniques. Over the colonial period, cheese making was modified to suit...

, allowing for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten without utensils
Finger food
Finger food is food meant to be eaten directly using the hands, in contrast to food eaten with a knife and fork, chopsticks, or other utensils. In some cultures, food is almost always eaten with the hands; for example, Ethiopian cuisine is eaten by rolling various dishes up in injera bread. In the...

 and is often accompanied by garnishes such as salsa
Salsa (sauce)
Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

, avocado
Avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

 or guacamole
Guacamole
Guacamole , is an avocado-based dip that originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete with sea salt. Some recipes call for limited tomato, spicy Asian spices such as white onion, lime juice, and/or additional seasonings.-History:Guacamole was made by...

, cilantro, tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

es, onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

s and lettuce
Lettuce
Lettuce is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It is eaten either raw, notably in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and many other dishes, or cooked, as in Chinese cuisine in which the stem becomes just as important...

.

Etymology

According to the Real Academia Española
Real Academia Española
The Royal Spanish Academy is the official royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other hispanophone nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies...

, publisher of Diccionario de la Lengua Española
Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española
The Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española or DRAE is the most authoritative dictionary of the Spanish language. It is produced, edited, and published by the Real Academia Española ; the first edition was published in 1780...

, the word taco describes a typical Mexican dish of a maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded around food ("Tortilla de maíz enrollada con algún alimento dentro, típica de México"). The original sense of the word is of a "plug" or "wad" used to fill a hole ("Pedazo de madera, metal u otra materia, corto y grueso, que se encaja en algún hueco"). The Online Etymological Dictionary defines taco as a "tortilla filled with spiced meat" and describes its etymology as derived from Mexican Spanish
Mexican Spanish
Mexican Spanish is a version of the Spanish language, as spoken in Mexico and in various places of Canada and the United States of America, where there are communities of Mexican origin....

, "light lunch," literally, "plug, wadding."

History

The taco predates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. There is anthropological evidence that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico
Valley of Mexico
The Valley of Mexico is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with the present-day Distrito Federal and the eastern half of the State of Mexico. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including...

 traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Writing at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Bernal Díaz del Castillo was a conquistador, who wrote an eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards for Hernán Cortés, himself serving as a rodelero under Cortés.-Early life:...

 documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans, a meal which Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 arranged for his captains in Coyoacán
Coyoacán
Coyoacán refers to one of the sixteen boroughs of the Federal District of Mexico City as well as the former village which is now the borough’s “historic center.” The name comes from Nahuatl and most likely means “place of coyotes,” when the Aztecs named a pre-Hispanic village on the southern shore...

. It is not clear why the Spanish used their word, "taco", to describe this indigenous food.

Traditional tacos

There are many traditional varieties of tacos:
  • Tacos de Asador ("spit" or "grill" tacos) may be composed of any of the following: carne asada
    Carne asada
    In Mexican cuisine, "Carne asada" is an item that consists of thin beef steak. The meat can be marinated by rubbing with olive oil and salt or with spice rubs such as lemon and pepper or garlic salt, lime, or Worcestershire sauce, before being cooked on a grill. The meat can be served alone or...

     tacos; tacos de tripita ("tripe
    Tripe
    Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.-Beef tripe:...

     tacos"), grilled until crisp; and, chorizo
    Chorizo
    Chorizo is a term encompassing several types of pork sausages originating from the Iberian Peninsula.In English, it is usually pronounced , , or , but sometimes ....

     asado (traditional Spanish style sausage). Each type is served on two overlapped small tortillas and sometimes garnished with guacamole
    Guacamole
    Guacamole , is an avocado-based dip that originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete with sea salt. Some recipes call for limited tomato, spicy Asian spices such as white onion, lime juice, and/or additional seasonings.-History:Guacamole was made by...

    , salsa
    Salsa (sauce)
    Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

    , onions, and cilantro. Also prepared on the grill is a sandwiched taco called mulita ("little mule") made with meat served between two tortillas and garnished with Oaxaca
    Oaxaca cheese
    Queso Oaxaca is a white, semihard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture. It is named after the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where it was first made. It is available in several different shapes. It is also known as quesillo...

     style cheese. "Mulita" is used to describe these types of sandwiched tacos in the Northern States of Mexico, while they are known as Gringa in the Mexican south and are prepared using wheat
    Wheat
    Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

     flour tortillas. Tacos may also be served with salsa.
  • Tacos de Cabeza
    Cabeza
    Cabeza, sometimes cabeça, is a Spanish word meaning "head". In Mexican cuisine, it is used to describe the meat from a roasted head of a cow, served as a taco or burrito filling....

     or head tacos, in which there is a flat punctured metal plate from which steam emerges to cook the head of the cow. These include: Cabeza
    Cabeza
    Cabeza, sometimes cabeça, is a Spanish word meaning "head". In Mexican cuisine, it is used to describe the meat from a roasted head of a cow, served as a taco or burrito filling....

    , a serving of the muscles of the head; Sesos ("brains"); Lengua ("tongue"); Cachete ("cheeks"); Trompa ("lips"); and, Ojo
    Ojo
    Ojo may refer to:*Ojo the Lucky, an Oz book series character*Ojo, Nigeria, a town in Lagos State, Nigeria*Kim Ojo, Nigerian football midfielder*Topsy Ojo, English rugby union player*Ojo , a 5-part comic book series by Sam Kieth...

     ("eye"). Tortillas for these tacos are warmed on the same steaming plate for a different consistency. These tacos are typically served in pairs, and also include salsa, onion and cilantro with occasional use of guacamole.
  • Tacos de Cazo for which a metal bowl filled with lard is typically used as a deep-fryer. Meats for these types of tacos typically include: Tripa
    Tripe
    Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.-Beef tripe:...

     ("tripe", usually from a pig instead of a cow); Suadero
    Suadero
    Suadero, in Mexican cuisine, is a thin cut of beef from the brisket . Suadero is noted for having a smooth texture rather than a muscle grain. Typically, suadero is grilled and used as a taco filling....

     (tender beef cuts), Carnitas
    Carnitas
    Carnitas, literally "little meats", is a type of braised or roasted pork in Mexican cuisine.Pork carnitas is traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich 'boston butt' or 'picnic ham' cuts of pork...

     and Buche (Literally, "crop
    Crop (anatomy)
    A crop is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion that is found in many animals, including gastropods, earthworms, leeches, insects, birds, and even some dinosaurs.- Bees :Cropping is used by bees to temporarily store nectar of flowers...

    ", as in bird's crop; here, it is fried pig's esophagus.)
  • Tacos sudados ("sweaty tacos") are made by filling soft tortillas with a spicy meat mixture, then placing them in a basket covered with cloth. The covering keeps the tacos warm and traps steam ("sweat") which softens them.

  • Tacos Al pastor/De Adobada
    Adobada
    Adobada is a concept for many dishes that are common in Mexican cuisine similar to tacos. Adobada is generally pork marinated in a "red" chili sauce with vinegar and oregano, but it can refer to different types of meat and to marinades closer to Al pastor...

     ("shepherd style") are made of thin pork steaks seasoned with adobo
    Adobo
    Adobo is the immersion of raw food into a preparation, in the form of a stock , of different components, including paprika , oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar — mixed according to the place of origin and the food with which it is intended to be used—primarily to preserve and enhance the flavor of...

     seasoning, then skewered and overlapped on one another on a vertical rotisserie cooked and flame-broiled as it spins (analogous to the Döner kebab
    Döner kebab
    Doner kebab is a dish made of roasted meat cooked on a vertical spit. It is also known regionally as gyro , shawarma, and al pastor . It consists of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats roasted on a spit. Less common alternatives include fish and sausage...

     used in Greek
    Greece
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

     restaurants to prepare gyros).
  • Tacos dorados (fried tacos, literally, "golden tacos") called flautas ("flute
    Flute
    The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

    ", because of the shape), or taquito
    Taquito
    Taquito or flauta is a Mexican food dish consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried...

    s, for which the tortillas are filled with pre-cooked shredded chicken, beef or barbacoa
    Barbacoa
    Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taíno people, from which the term "barbecue" derives. In contemporary Mexico it generally refers to meats or a whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with...

    , rolled into an elongated cylinder and deep-fried until crisp. They are sometimes cooked in a microwave oven
    Microwave oven
    A microwave oven is a kitchen appliance that heats food by dielectric heating, using microwave radiation to heat polarized molecules within the food...

     or broiled.
  • Tacos de pescado ("fish tacos") originated in Baja California
    Baja California
    Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

     in Mexico, where they consist of grilled or fried fish, lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo
    Pico de gallo
    In Mexican cuisine, pico de gallo , also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chilis...

    , and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. In the United States, they remain most popular in California, Colorado, and Washington. In California, they are often found at street vendors, and a regional variation is to serve them with cabbage and coleslaw dressing on top.
  • Tacos de camarones ("shrimp tacos") also originated in Baja California
    Baja California
    Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

     in Mexico. Grilled or fried shrimp
    Shrimp
    Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

     are used, usually with the same accompaniments as fish tacos: lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo
    Pico de gallo
    In Mexican cuisine, pico de gallo , also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chilis...

    , avocado and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla.


As an accompaniment to tacos, many taco stands will serve whole or sliced red radishes, lime
Lime (fruit)
Lime is a term referring to a number of different citrus fruits, both species and hybrids, which are typically round, green to yellow in color, 3–6 cm in diameter, and containing sour and acidic pulp. Limes are a good source of vitamin C. Limes are often used to accent the flavors of foods and...

 slices, salt, pickled or grilled chilis (hot peppers), and occasionally cucumber
Cucumber
The cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon. The plant is a creeping vine which bears cylindrical edible fruit when ripe. There are three main varieties of cucumber: "slicing", "pickling", and...

 slices, or grilled cambray onions.

United States and Canada

Hard-shell tacos

Beginning from the early part of the twentieth century, various styles of tacos have become popular in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. The style that has become most common is the hard-shell, U-shaped version first described in a cookbook authored by Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca Gilbert and published in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 in 1949. These have been sold by restaurants and by fast food chains. Even non-Mexican oriented fast food restaurants have sold tacos. Mass production of this type of taco was encouraged by the invention of devices to hold the tortillas in the U-shape as they were deep-fried. A patent for such a device was issued to New York restaurateur Juvenico Maldonado in 1950, based on his patent filing of 1947 (U.S. Patent No. 2,506,305). Such tacos are crisp-fried corn tortillas filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and sometimes tomato, onion, salsa, sour cream, and avocado or guacamole. In this context, soft tacos are tacos made with wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 flour tortillas and filled with the same ingredients as a hard taco.

Puffy tacos, taco kits, breakfast tacos and tacodillas

Since at least 1978, a variation called the "puffy taco" has been popular. Originating in San Antonio, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, uncooked corn tortillas (flattened balls of masa
Masa
Masa is Spanish for dough. In the Americas it is often short for masa de maíz, a maize dough made from freshly prepared hominy. It is used for making corn tortillas, tamales, pupusas, arepas and many other Latin American dishes. The dried and powdered form is called masa harina, masa de harina,...

 dough) are quickly fried in hot oil until they expand and become "puffy". Fillings are similar to hard-shell versions. Restaurants offering this style of taco have since appeared in other Texas cities, as well as in California, where Henry's brother, Arturo, opened Arturo's Puffy Taco in Whittier
Whittier, California
Whittier is a city in Los Angeles County, California about southeast of Los Angeles. The city had a population of 85,331 at the 2010 census, up from 83,680 as of the 2000 census, and encompasses 14.7 square miles . Like nearby Montebello, the city constitutes part of the Gateway Cities...

, not long after Henry's opened.

Kits are available at grocery and convenience store
Convenience store
A convenience store, corner store, corner shop, commonly called a bodega in Spanish-speaking areas of the United States, is a small store or shop in a built up area that stocks a range of everyday items such as groceries, toiletries, alcoholic and soft drinks, and may also offer money order and...

s and usually consist of taco shells (corn tortillas already fried in a U-shape), seasoning mix and taco sauce. Commercial vendors for the home market also market soft taco kits with tortillas instead of taco shells.

The breakfast taco, found in Tex-Mex cuisine
Tex-Mex cuisine
"Tex-Mex" is a term used to describe a regional American cuisine that blends food products available in the United States and the culinary creations of Mexican-Americans influenced by the cuisines of Mexico. The cuisine has spread from border states such as Texas and those in the Southwestern...

, is filled with meat, eggs, or cheese, with other ingredients.

The tacodilla contains melted cheese in between the two folded tortillas, thus resembling a quesadilla
Quesadilla
A quesadilla is a flour or corn tortilla filled with a savoury mixture containing cheese and other ingredients, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape. This dish originated in Mexico, and the name is derived from the Spanish word queso ....

.

Indian tacos

Indian tacos, sometimes known as Navajo tacos but served in various parts of the American West
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 and Midwest
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

, are made using frybread
Frybread
Frybread is a Native American food found throughout the United States. Frybread is a flat dough fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard. The dough is generally leavened by yeast or baking powder....

 instead of tortillas. They are commonly served at pow-wow
Pow-wow
A pow-wow is a gathering of North America's Native people. The word derives from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning "spiritual leader". A modern pow-wow is a specific type of event where both Native American and non-Native American people meet to dance, sing, socialize, and honor American...

s, festival
Festival
A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the Festival....

s, and other gatherings.
A taco (icon) is a traditional Mexican dish
Mexican cuisine
Mexican cuisine, a style of food that originates in Mexico, is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures, with later...

 composed of a corn
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 or wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

, seafood
Seafood
Seafood is any form of marine life regarded as food by humans. Seafoods include fish, molluscs , crustaceans , echinoderms . Edible sea plants, such as some seaweeds and microalgae, are also seafood, and are widely eaten around the world, especially in Asia...

, vegetables and cheese
Cheeses of Mexico
Cheeses in Mexico have a history that begins with the Spanish conquest, as dairy products were unknown in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The Spanish brought dairy animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats as well as cheese making techniques. Over the colonial period, cheese making was modified to suit...

, allowing for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten without utensils
Finger food
Finger food is food meant to be eaten directly using the hands, in contrast to food eaten with a knife and fork, chopsticks, or other utensils. In some cultures, food is almost always eaten with the hands; for example, Ethiopian cuisine is eaten by rolling various dishes up in injera bread. In the...

 and is often accompanied by garnishes such as salsa
Salsa (sauce)
Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

, avocado
Avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

 or guacamole
Guacamole
Guacamole , is an avocado-based dip that originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete with sea salt. Some recipes call for limited tomato, spicy Asian spices such as white onion, lime juice, and/or additional seasonings.-History:Guacamole was made by...

, cilantro, tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

es, onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

s and lettuce
Lettuce
Lettuce is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It is eaten either raw, notably in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and many other dishes, or cooked, as in Chinese cuisine in which the stem becomes just as important...

.

Etymology

According to the Real Academia Española
Real Academia Española
The Royal Spanish Academy is the official royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other hispanophone nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies...

, publisher of Diccionario de la Lengua Española
Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española
The Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española or DRAE is the most authoritative dictionary of the Spanish language. It is produced, edited, and published by the Real Academia Española ; the first edition was published in 1780...

, the word taco describes a typical Mexican dish of a maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 tortilla
Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 folded around food ("Tortilla de maíz enrollada con algún alimento dentro, típica de México"). The original sense of the word is of a "plug" or "wad" used to fill a hole ("Pedazo de madera, metal u otra materia, corto y grueso, que se encaja en algún hueco"). The Online Etymological Dictionary defines taco as a "tortilla filled with spiced meat" and describes its etymology as derived from Mexican Spanish
Mexican Spanish
Mexican Spanish is a version of the Spanish language, as spoken in Mexico and in various places of Canada and the United States of America, where there are communities of Mexican origin....

, "light lunch," literally, "plug, wadding."

History

The taco predates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. There is anthropological evidence that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico
Valley of Mexico
The Valley of Mexico is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with the present-day Distrito Federal and the eastern half of the State of Mexico. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including...

 traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Writing at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Bernal Díaz del Castillo was a conquistador, who wrote an eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards for Hernán Cortés, himself serving as a rodelero under Cortés.-Early life:...

 documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans, a meal which Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 arranged for his captains in Coyoacán
Coyoacán
Coyoacán refers to one of the sixteen boroughs of the Federal District of Mexico City as well as the former village which is now the borough’s “historic center.” The name comes from Nahuatl and most likely means “place of coyotes,” when the Aztecs named a pre-Hispanic village on the southern shore...

. It is not clear why the Spanish used their word, "taco", to describe this indigenous food.

Traditional tacos

There are many traditional varieties of tacos:
  • Tacos de Asador ("spit" or "grill" tacos) may be composed of any of the following: carne asada
    Carne asada
    In Mexican cuisine, "Carne asada" is an item that consists of thin beef steak. The meat can be marinated by rubbing with olive oil and salt or with spice rubs such as lemon and pepper or garlic salt, lime, or Worcestershire sauce, before being cooked on a grill. The meat can be served alone or...

     tacos; tacos de tripita ("tripe
    Tripe
    Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.-Beef tripe:...

     tacos"), grilled until crisp; and, chorizo
    Chorizo
    Chorizo is a term encompassing several types of pork sausages originating from the Iberian Peninsula.In English, it is usually pronounced , , or , but sometimes ....

     asado (traditional Spanish style sausage). Each type is served on two overlapped small tortillas and sometimes garnished with guacamole
    Guacamole
    Guacamole , is an avocado-based dip that originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete with sea salt. Some recipes call for limited tomato, spicy Asian spices such as white onion, lime juice, and/or additional seasonings.-History:Guacamole was made by...

    , salsa
    Salsa (sauce)
    Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

    , onions, and cilantro. Also prepared on the grill is a sandwiched taco called mulita ("little mule") made with meat served between two tortillas and garnished with Oaxaca
    Oaxaca cheese
    Queso Oaxaca is a white, semihard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture. It is named after the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where it was first made. It is available in several different shapes. It is also known as quesillo...

     style cheese. "Mulita" is used to describe these types of sandwiched tacos in the Northern States of Mexico, while they are known as Gringa in the Mexican south and are prepared using wheat
    Wheat
    Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

     flour tortillas. Tacos may also be served with salsa.
  • Tacos de Cabeza
    Cabeza
    Cabeza, sometimes cabeça, is a Spanish word meaning "head". In Mexican cuisine, it is used to describe the meat from a roasted head of a cow, served as a taco or burrito filling....

     or head tacos, in which there is a flat punctured metal plate from which steam emerges to cook the head of the cow. These include: Cabeza
    Cabeza
    Cabeza, sometimes cabeça, is a Spanish word meaning "head". In Mexican cuisine, it is used to describe the meat from a roasted head of a cow, served as a taco or burrito filling....

    , a serving of the muscles of the head; Sesos ("brains"); Lengua ("tongue"); Cachete ("cheeks"); Trompa ("lips"); and, Ojo
    Ojo
    Ojo may refer to:*Ojo the Lucky, an Oz book series character*Ojo, Nigeria, a town in Lagos State, Nigeria*Kim Ojo, Nigerian football midfielder*Topsy Ojo, English rugby union player*Ojo , a 5-part comic book series by Sam Kieth...

     ("eye"). Tortillas for these tacos are warmed on the same steaming plate for a different consistency. These tacos are typically served in pairs, and also include salsa, onion and cilantro with occasional use of guacamole.
  • Tacos de Cazo for which a metal bowl filled with lard is typically used as a deep-fryer. Meats for these types of tacos typically include: Tripa
    Tripe
    Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.-Beef tripe:...

     ("tripe", usually from a pig instead of a cow); Suadero
    Suadero
    Suadero, in Mexican cuisine, is a thin cut of beef from the brisket . Suadero is noted for having a smooth texture rather than a muscle grain. Typically, suadero is grilled and used as a taco filling....

     (tender beef cuts), Carnitas
    Carnitas
    Carnitas, literally "little meats", is a type of braised or roasted pork in Mexican cuisine.Pork carnitas is traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich 'boston butt' or 'picnic ham' cuts of pork...

     and Buche (Literally, "crop
    Crop (anatomy)
    A crop is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion that is found in many animals, including gastropods, earthworms, leeches, insects, birds, and even some dinosaurs.- Bees :Cropping is used by bees to temporarily store nectar of flowers...

    ", as in bird's crop; here, it is fried pig's esophagus.)
  • Tacos sudados ("sweaty tacos") are made by filling soft tortillas with a spicy meat mixture, then placing them in a basket covered with cloth. The covering keeps the tacos warm and traps steam ("sweat") which softens them.

  • Tacos Al pastor/De Adobada
    Adobada
    Adobada is a concept for many dishes that are common in Mexican cuisine similar to tacos. Adobada is generally pork marinated in a "red" chili sauce with vinegar and oregano, but it can refer to different types of meat and to marinades closer to Al pastor...

     ("shepherd style") are made of thin pork steaks seasoned with adobo
    Adobo
    Adobo is the immersion of raw food into a preparation, in the form of a stock , of different components, including paprika , oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar — mixed according to the place of origin and the food with which it is intended to be used—primarily to preserve and enhance the flavor of...

     seasoning, then skewered and overlapped on one another on a vertical rotisserie cooked and flame-broiled as it spins (analogous to the Döner kebab
    Döner kebab
    Doner kebab is a dish made of roasted meat cooked on a vertical spit. It is also known regionally as gyro , shawarma, and al pastor . It consists of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats roasted on a spit. Less common alternatives include fish and sausage...

     used in Greek
    Greece
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

     restaurants to prepare gyros).
  • Tacos dorados (fried tacos, literally, "golden tacos") called flautas ("flute
    Flute
    The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

    ", because of the shape), or taquito
    Taquito
    Taquito or flauta is a Mexican food dish consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried...

    s, for which the tortillas are filled with pre-cooked shredded chicken, beef or barbacoa
    Barbacoa
    Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taíno people, from which the term "barbecue" derives. In contemporary Mexico it generally refers to meats or a whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with...

    , rolled into an elongated cylinder and deep-fried until crisp. They are sometimes cooked in a microwave oven
    Microwave oven
    A microwave oven is a kitchen appliance that heats food by dielectric heating, using microwave radiation to heat polarized molecules within the food...

     or broiled.
  • Tacos de pescado ("fish tacos") originated in Baja California
    Baja California
    Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

     in Mexico, where they consist of grilled or fried fish, lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo
    Pico de gallo
    In Mexican cuisine, pico de gallo , also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chilis...

    , and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. In the United States, they remain most popular in California, Colorado, and Washington. In California, they are often found at street vendors, and a regional variation is to serve them with cabbage and coleslaw dressing on top.
  • Tacos de camarones ("shrimp tacos") also originated in Baja California
    Baja California
    Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

     in Mexico. Grilled or fried shrimp
    Shrimp
    Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

     are used, usually with the same accompaniments as fish tacos: lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo
    Pico de gallo
    In Mexican cuisine, pico de gallo , also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chilis...

    , avocado and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla.


As an accompaniment to tacos, many taco stands will serve whole or sliced red radishes, lime
Lime (fruit)
Lime is a term referring to a number of different citrus fruits, both species and hybrids, which are typically round, green to yellow in color, 3–6 cm in diameter, and containing sour and acidic pulp. Limes are a good source of vitamin C. Limes are often used to accent the flavors of foods and...

 slices, salt, pickled or grilled chilis (hot peppers), and occasionally cucumber
Cucumber
The cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon. The plant is a creeping vine which bears cylindrical edible fruit when ripe. There are three main varieties of cucumber: "slicing", "pickling", and...

 slices, or grilled cambray onions.

United States and Canada

Hard-shell tacos

Beginning from the early part of the twentieth century, various styles of tacos have become popular in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. The style that has become most common is the hard-shell, U-shaped version first described in a cookbook authored by Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca Gilbert and published in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 in 1949. These have been sold by restaurants and by fast food chains. Even non-Mexican oriented fast food restaurants have sold tacos. Mass production of this type of taco was encouraged by the invention of devices to hold the tortillas in the U-shape as they were deep-fried. A patent for such a device was issued to New York restaurateur Juvenico Maldonado in 1950, based on his patent filing of 1947 (U.S. Patent No. 2,506,305). Such tacos are crisp-fried corn tortillas filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and sometimes tomato, onion, salsa, sour cream, and avocado or guacamole. In this context, soft tacos are tacos made with wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 flour tortillas and filled with the same ingredients as a hard taco.

Puffy tacos, taco kits, breakfast tacos and tacodillas

Since at least 1978, a variation called the "puffy taco" has been popular. Originating in San Antonio, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, uncooked corn tortillas (flattened balls of masa
Masa
Masa is Spanish for dough. In the Americas it is often short for masa de maíz, a maize dough made from freshly prepared hominy. It is used for making corn tortillas, tamales, pupusas, arepas and many other Latin American dishes. The dried and powdered form is called masa harina, masa de harina,...

 dough) are quickly fried in hot oil until they expand and become "puffy". Fillings are similar to hard-shell versions. Restaurants offering this style of taco have since appeared in other Texas cities, as well as in California, where Henry's brother, Arturo, opened Arturo's Puffy Taco in Whittier
Whittier, California
Whittier is a city in Los Angeles County, California about southeast of Los Angeles. The city had a population of 85,331 at the 2010 census, up from 83,680 as of the 2000 census, and encompasses 14.7 square miles . Like nearby Montebello, the city constitutes part of the Gateway Cities...

, not long after Henry's opened.

Kits are available at grocery and convenience store
Convenience store
A convenience store, corner store, corner shop, commonly called a bodega in Spanish-speaking areas of the United States, is a small store or shop in a built up area that stocks a range of everyday items such as groceries, toiletries, alcoholic and soft drinks, and may also offer money order and...

s and usually consist of taco shells (corn tortillas already fried in a U-shape), seasoning mix and taco sauce. Commercial vendors for the home market also market soft taco kits with tortillas instead of taco shells.

The breakfast taco, found in Tex-Mex cuisine
Tex-Mex cuisine
"Tex-Mex" is a term used to describe a regional American cuisine that blends food products available in the United States and the culinary creations of Mexican-Americans influenced by the cuisines of Mexico. The cuisine has spread from border states such as Texas and those in the Southwestern...

, is filled with meat, eggs, or cheese, with other ingredients.

The tacodilla contains melted cheese in between the two folded tortillas, thus resembling a quesadilla
Quesadilla
A quesadilla is a flour or corn tortilla filled with a savoury mixture containing cheese and other ingredients, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape. This dish originated in Mexico, and the name is derived from the Spanish word queso ....

.

Indian tacos

Indian tacos, sometimes known as Navajo tacos but served in various parts of the American West
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 and Midwest
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

, are made using frybread
Frybread
Frybread is a Native American food found throughout the United States. Frybread is a flat dough fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard. The dough is generally leavened by yeast or baking powder....

 instead of tortillas. They are commonly served at pow-wow
Pow-wow
A pow-wow is a gathering of North America's Native people. The word derives from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning "spiritual leader". A modern pow-wow is a specific type of event where both Native American and non-Native American people meet to dance, sing, socialize, and honor American...

s, festival
Festival
A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the Festival....

s, and other gatherings.






See also

  • Burrito
    Burrito
    A burrito , or taco de harina, is a type of Mexican food. It consists of a wheat flour tortilla wrapped or folded around a filling. The flour tortilla is usually lightly grilled or steamed, to soften it and make it more pliable. In Mexico, refried beans or meat are sometimes the only fillings...

  • Quesadilla
    Quesadilla
    A quesadilla is a flour or corn tortilla filled with a savoury mixture containing cheese and other ingredients, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape. This dish originated in Mexico, and the name is derived from the Spanish word queso ....

  • Tostada
    Tostada
    Tostada is a Spanish word which literally means "toasted". It is used in Latin America to name several different traditional local dishes which have in common the fact they are toasted or use a toasted ingredient as the main base of their preparation. There is a gender difference between "tostada"...

  • Fajita
    Fajita
    A fajita is a term found in both traditional Mexican cuisine and in Tex-Mex cuisine, commonly referring to any grilled meat served on a flour or corn tortilla. The term originally referred to the cut of beef used in the dish which is known as skirt steak. Popular meats today also include chicken,...

  • Nachos
    Nachos
    Nachos are a popular food based on nixtamalized corn, of Mexican origin associated with Tex-Mex cuisine that can be either made quickly to serve as a snack or prepared with more ingredients to make a full meal. In their simplest form, nachos are tortilla chips or totopos covered in melted cheese...

  • Shawarma
    Shawarma
    Shawarma is a Levantine Arab sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats. The meat is placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day. It is eaten with pita bread, tabbouleh, fattoush, taboon bread, tomato and cucumber. Toppings include tahini, hummus,...


  • Taco rice
    Taco rice
    is a Japanese dish and a popular example of Okinawan cuisine. It consists of taco-flavored ground beef served on a bed of rice and lettuce, frequently also served together with tomato, cucumber, cheese and topped off with salsa. Occasionally, it might be served, with rice and all, in a tortilla roll...

  • Taco salad
    Taco salad
    The taco salad is a Mexican inspired dish, with many variations, which first appeared in America in the 1960s.The salad is often served as a fried flour tortilla shell stuffed with shredded iceberg lettuce and topped with diced tomatoes, shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and/or Taco...

  • Taquito
    Taquito
    Taquito or flauta is a Mexican food dish consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried...

  • Tlayuda
    Tlayuda
    Tlayuda, sometimes erroneously spelled Clayuda , is a handmade dish part of the traditional Mexican cuisine, consisting of a large and thin crunchy partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento , lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat , Oaxaca cheese, and salsa.They...

  • Mexican cuisine
    Mexican cuisine
    Mexican cuisine, a style of food that originates in Mexico, is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures, with later...

  • Korean taco
    Korean taco
    Korean tacos are a fusion dish popular in the U.S. State of California, often as street food, consisting of a Korean-style filling, typically bulgogi, placed on top of small traditional Mexican corn tortillas...

  • List of sandwiches

External links

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