The History of Tacos | Tacos | Mexican Food (2023)

When you think of Mexican food, you probably think of tacos. This simple yet delicious dish has many different variations, from soft shells made of corn or flour tortillas to hard taco shells and even taco salads. Any Mexican restaurant that you visit is likely to have their own take on this classic. However, the history of this type of Mexican food is not as long as you might think, and there are actually many debates as to how exactly this dish began.

These are the basics of the history of tacos.

How Long Have Tacos Been Around?

The first debate in the history of this Mexican dish is when exactly it was first created. There is some evidence to suggest that indigenous peoples from the Valley of Mexico ate fish wrapped in tortillas. This could be considered a precursor to fish tacos. However, this is not confirmed, and it’s not likely the dish was referred to the same way we do today.

Mexican historian Jeffrey M. Pilcher’s theory, which has some more evidence to support it, is that the dish started around the 18th century in Mexican silver mines. He suggests this because the sticks of dynamite used in the mining process were referred to as “tacos” and had a shape similar to the dish we eat today.

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Tacos moved into big cities in Mexico due to industrialization, which brought more migrants into central regions such as Mexico City. Women would often set up taquerias and would sell food that was specific to their original regions. This is one reason that tacos have so much variety, as different taquerias would prepare them in the style of different regions of Mexico.

Taquerias help spread the dish into the United States as more migrants came to work building railroads or mining. This occurred in the early 1900s. Shortly after this, the Americanized version of this Mexican food became more popular. This made use of ingredients that were more readily available in the US such as hamburger meat, cheese, and lettuce.

Tacos Today

Tacos became even more popular in the 1950s when Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, started selling deep fried hard shells. These made it so the dish could last for longer and was easier to sell. The hard shells had in fact existed before, but they were not as popular as soft shell tortillas. In the end, Glen Bell did not necessarily invent a new dish but found a new way to market the existing Mexican food to more Americans.

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Today, it is more of a trend to go back to the traditional flavors of Mexican tacos. Each regional variety is unique, and more and more people want to try these different flavors, such as al pastor or barbacoa. There is also a trend toward fresh ingredients such as pico de gallo and grilled bell peppers.

Guadalajara’s Grill & Tequila Bar

In Tucson, you can get high-quality tacos made from fresh meat and veggies at Guads. We specialize in traditional Mexican food with a unique twist. Visit us today and experience our memorable flavors for yourself.

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(Video) A History of Tacos


What is the history behind tacos? ›

Tacos are thought to come from Mexico, long before the Spanish arrived. Ancient Mexicans used freshly made, soft, flat corn tortillas and gave them with fillings like fish and cooked organs. It was a staple meal that provided vital nutrients and energy to those who consumed it.

When was tacos invented? ›

Mexican historian Jeffrey M. Pilcher's theory, which has some more evidence to support it, is that the dish started around the 18th century in Mexican silver mines. He suggests this because the sticks of dynamite used in the mining process were referred to as “tacos” and had a shape similar to the dish we eat today.

Who invented the American taco? ›

The SF Weekly talked to two taco experts to find out the origins of the “anglo taco.” Although there are a couple restaurants in Texas that could lay claim to inventing the crispy taco, it was Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, who made them popular.

What is a traditional taco? ›

Authentic Mexican tacos involve corn tortillas, not flour. American tacos usually involve hard taco shells, while authentic Mexican taco shells are soft. Authentic Mexican tacos are not topped with cheese like most American versions. Instead, they are topped with fresh cilantro and finely diced white onion.

What were tacos originally called? ›

The word taco comes from the Nahuatl word 'tlahco' which means “half or in the middle”, referring to the way it is formed. Delicious and historic, the taco forms part of the cultural and gastronomic diversity of Mexico.

Why do Americans love tacos? ›

Why do we love tacos? They are quick, tasty, and available anywhere and everywhere. Tacos can be both a comfort food and an elevated epicurean delight. Taquerias, food trucks, and Mexican restaurants abound from coast to coast.

When did tacos become popular? ›

In 1952, Glen Bell started selling tacos from a stand he called Taco-Tia. He didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of a major revolution in taco history. At this time, tacos were still made with soft tortillas, which had to be served within hours of being made or they would go bad.

What country eats the most tacos? ›

What country are tacos most popular? For taco purists, there's no better destination than Mexico.

What does taco mean? ›

Tacos were invented in Mexico before the Spanish arrived. In Mexican Spanish, taco means "light meal," but also "wedge" or "plug." Experts have made guesses about the indigenous roots of taco (like the Nahuatl word tlahco, "half" or "in the middle"), but this connection hasn't been proven.

Where was first taco for life? ›

The couple converted their Pitza 42 restaurant into Tacos 4 Life and grew to three corporate locations in Arkansas before they started franchising in 2017. Tired of driving nearly three hours to one of their locations, the Samuelsons liked the idea of finding a local operator who lived in that community.

Why do tacos have 2 tortillas? ›

But a popular explanation is that the second tortilla can be used to make another taco with any fillings that spill out the side. Other reasons include preventing a tortilla from breaking, or if you have a particularly moist filling, & others do it because corn tortillas are delicious – can't argue with that!

Which state is known for tacos? ›

In a new study from, California has been named America's best state for tacos.

What is the most eaten taco? ›

Top 5 Tacos in America
  • #5: Carne Asada Tacos Dorados — La Taqueria. ...
  • #4: Migas Taco — Veracruz All Natural. ...
  • #3: Al Pastor Taco — Los Guachos Taqueria. ...
  • #2: Carnitas Tacos — Carnitas Uruapan. ...
  • #1: Fish Tacos — Ricky's Fish Tacos. ...
  • Top 5 Restaurants.
Oct 11, 2022

What is the most tacos ever eaten? ›

Final Results
1Joey Chestnut82
2Miki Sudo69.5
3Gideon Oji / Nick Wehry (Tie)69
5Michelle Lesco47
5 more rows
Oct 4, 2019

What is the difference between taco and tacos? ›

So to answer the question, a taco is technically only a taco when it's served up in a soft, corn tortilla.

What are taco shells made of? ›

Taco Shells: Limed Corn Flour, Palm Oil, Salt.

What are tacos made of? ›

The taco's core ingredients generally consist of: a tortilla or shell and meat or fish filling. Vegetables, sauces, cheese salsa and guacamole are also frequently part of the mix. Shell: One of the most important aspects of the taco is the shell itself.

Why are tacos so famous? ›

Since their humble beginnings in Mexico, tacos have become an international sensation. They've evolved from a simple tortilla with a meat and cheese filling to complex meals with sophisticated flavors. Tacos are a meal that people of all ages look forward to.

How do tacos represent Mexican culture? ›

The taco is a synthesizer of Mexican culture. It's one of those dishes we choose to carry with us when we cross borders, and that is because of its versatile and simple essence. The authentic taco carries with it a socializing power that forms a temporary truce between the haves and have-nots.

Why are tacos the best food in the world? ›

They provide your main food groups

If you want to have a meal with all your food groups included, look no further than tacos. The shell is an excellent source of grains, the meat of your choice for proteins, toppings such as lettuce and tomatoes for vegetables, and cheese for your dairy.

Why is a taco healthy? ›

Veggies and fruits make tacos nutrient dense. Toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are a staple on tacos. They add flavor, texture, and color. Nutrient-dense veggies like these are also one of the main reasons why tacos can be nutritious and part of a healthy diet.

What country is tacos popular in? ›

Though originated in what is now Mexico, the taco is a living food that has come to transcend borders, barriers and bullets. You can eat one with carne asada and corn tortillas in East Los Angeles, or one with flour and pit-grilled pork known as al pastor in Dallas.

Where are tacos most popular in the world? ›

Tacos, the quintessential street food of Mexico has arguably become as ubiquitous as pizza throughout the global culinary scene. From Korea to Los Angeles, via of course, Mexico, there are so many places around the world where the tortilla-obsessed can experience some of the world's best tacos.

Are tacos older than sandwiches? ›

If you think a sub is a sandwich, you may very well believe a taco is a sandwich too - and that's okay! If you base your decision on which came first, a taco isn't a sandwich, as it existed long before sandwiches ever did.

Who invented hard shell tacos? ›

Glen Bell, who becomes the founder of Taco Bell, claims that he invented this Mexican-American version of a Mexican dish for a fast food audience in the 1950s in San Bernardino, California.

Who invented tortillas? ›

According to legend, tortillas were invented by a Mayan peasant for his hungry king. The first recorded use of tortillas dates to roughly 10,000 BC, and were made from corn. And when the Spanish arrived, they discovered native inhabitants like the Aztecs and others all ate some sort of maize bread.

What is the taco capital of the US? ›

Unlike other U.S. cities, Kansas City's Mexican population comes from nearly all of Mexico's cultural regions, which means KCK doesn't specialize in carnitas, mole or sopes, but is home to masters of all Mexican dishes.

Are tacos junk food? ›

According to several dietitians and health experts, tacos can be considered both healthy food and junk food. This will greatly depend on the ingredients that are used in our taco dish, as well as how we prepare the tacos. One example of this is tacos that are sold in fast-food restaurants.

What city eats the most tacos? ›

🌮 More Tacos Than a Little Bit 🌮

Austin, Texas, has the most taco places per capita at 7.1 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents. That's 255% more than the average city.

Is an enchilada a taco? ›

But here's the difference: an enchilada has chili sauce and cheese on top, and is oven-baked, while a taquito tends to be smaller, deep-fried, and served without a sauce on top.

Why a taco is not a sandwich? ›

Now, going by the first definition, a taco is not a sandwich because you make tacos with tortillas, not with bread. Tacos don't meet the second definition of sandwich either, because again: no slices of bread are involved in the preparation of a taco.

What does taco mean in dating? ›

But online, and specifically on dating apps, tacos are more than just beloved: They are advertisements for a stranger's entire personality. “I'm just here for the tacos,” reads a typical, somewhat self-conscious bio of a 20- or 30-something city-dwelling single person on apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge.

Who invented tacos and burritos? ›

A very persistent theory alleges that the inventor of the burrito was a man named Juan Méndez, who sold tacos in the city of Ciudad Juárez during the Mexican Revolution, between 1910-1920.

Who started breakfast tacos? ›

Texas is the birthplace of the breakfast taco, which is consumed throughout the state but is best in Austin, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley.

Who invented taco in a bag? ›

The Walking Taco, Taco in a Bag, or Frito Pie, is a classic regional dish. The exact origin isn't completely clear, it's believed to have been created somewhere in Mexico. The oldest known recipe using Fritos brand corn chips with chili was published in Texas in 1949.

What meat is best for tacos? ›

Ground Beef: The best meat to use for taco meat is a simple ground beef, a 70-80% lean. The fat is going to help give flavor to the meat and we are able to drain the grease prior to serving.

What is the most popular taco in Mexico? ›

Tacos al pastor

An al pastor taco is probably the most well-known Mexican street food—a very simple combination of roast pork on a grilled tortilla.

What is the most popular meat for tacos? ›

That's why Eddie's Mexican Restaurant is here to share some of the most popular fillings that are used to create this culinary goodness.
  • Carne Asada Tacos. ...
  • Pork Carnitas Tacos. ...
  • Lengua Tacos. ...
  • Pollo or Chicken Tacos. ...
  • Tacos Al Pastor. ...
  • Chorizo Tacos.
Mar 15, 2020

Why are tacos so small? ›

They're travel friendly, because who eats street tacos sitting down? Usually served with trompo, pastor, or asada, grilled onions, radish, salsa and jalapeño, street tacos are supposed to serve as antojitos — snacks — which explains the small size. That said, they're so delicious it's impossible to have fewer than two.

What do Mexicans call street tacos? ›

Street tacos and street food are a central piece of modern Mexican culture, with stalls lining the streets of every major city in Mexico. Mexicans refer to this street food as antojitos, or "little cravings," as they consider them a snack or small meal, not the main course.

What kind of lettuce is best for tacos? ›

Tacos are most commonly topped with shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce, but do yourself a favor and opt for spinach, kale, chard or any dark leafy green instead. They're packed with fiber and an excellent source of nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamin C, zinc and folate.

What is traditional taco meat? ›

Ground beef, tomatoes, onion, and cheese, all wrapped up in a flour tortilla, make a whole meal that's filling and delicious. Made with flavors that everyone will enjoy. Seasoned with cumin, chili, paprika, garlic, and oregano, the ground beef in these Mexican beef tacos is savory, spicy, and all-around delicious.

What's the difference between street tacos and regular tacos? ›

What's the difference between a street taco and a regular taco? A street taco is just a traditional Mexican taco, which is served on a corn tortilla with meat, onions, and cilantro. There is no cheese, tomatoes, or lettuce on traditional, or Mexican street tacos.

Do Mexicans put cheese on their tacos? ›

What you may not realize is that cheese is not always included in Mexican dishes. Americanized versions of Mexican foods often do have some form of cheese or another, but authentic cuisine omits cheese a good portion of the time. Street tacos, for example, are not served with cheese in Mexico.

When was tacos invented and where? ›

Where were tacos invented? Authentic Mexican tacos in their modern form developed sometime in the 19th century in the booming Mexican silver mines. The first true type of taco was the “taco de minero,” or “miner's taco.”

What does tacos stand for? ›

Total Advertising Cost of Sale also referred to as TACoS measures advertising spend relative to the total revenue generated.

What was the first taco ever? ›

If we had to go to ground zero in the history of tacos, tacos de asada would be there. Tacos de asada or “grilled-beef tacos” are considered the first tacos in history. It offers as many variations as different kinds of steak there are, but usually includes onions, cilantro, guacamole, and lime.

Why do tacos have two tortillas? ›

But a popular explanation is that the second tortilla can be used to make another taco with any fillings that spill out the side. Other reasons include preventing a tortilla from breaking, or if you have a particularly moist filling, & others do it because corn tortillas are delicious – can't argue with that!

What is the English word for taco? ›

ta·​co ˈtä-(ˌ)kō plural tacos ˈtä-(ˌ)kōz. : a crispy or soft corn or wheat tortilla that is folded or rolled and stuffed with a mixture (as of seasoned meat, cheese, and lettuce)

Does taco mean in Spanish? ›

Tacos were invented in Mexico before the Spanish arrived. In Mexican Spanish, taco means "light meal," but also "wedge" or "plug." Experts have made guesses about the indigenous roots of taco (like the Nahuatl word tlahco, "half" or "in the middle"), but this connection hasn't been proven.

What are the messy tacos called? ›



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