Simple: they’re small enough that you can eat half a dozen, and varied enough that you can have equally as many different flavors and textures. They function great by themselves but they’re also a wonderful part of a plate with rice and beans on the side. Mexican restaurants put different spins on their tacos; some use hard shell tortillas and others use soft shell, while some are partial to flour while others prefer white corn. Sometimes, restaurants limit the types of meat or toppings – and others, the selection is huge! Check out this guide to taco meats and see what sounds the most appealing to you!
Carne Asada is certainly the most popular meat for tacos, and it’s plain to see why. The grilled steak can have a host of different flavors to it depending on the restaurant – some almost make it with a smoky flavor, while others blast it on the grill right in front of you and retain the oils and juices of the other meats. Anywhere you go, you can have carne asada tacos.
Of course, carne asada is also used for fries – just in case you wanted to deviate from the taco dinners.
Pollo, or chicken, is another staple taco meat. The trick to having killer pollo tacos, though, is to mix up the style. Chipotle chicken is a popular substitution, for example, and it can completely change what you thought you knew about pollo tacos. If you’re looking to pack on the protein, pollo is the right choice.
Al pastor is a pork dish; the leg is marinated and set next to an open flame for appropriate cooking. Some restaurants keep the marinade and the al pastor ends up juicy and dripping. Often, al pastor tacos are served with a smooth green sauce made from tomatillos and a slice of pineapple in the side to provide the perfect flavor blend.
Birria, or goat, is served with a bowl of consome, or soup. The meat is slow-cooked to absolute tender perfection before being inserted into the tortilla and fried. Birria tacos can also be served with cheese, which just enhances the tastiness tenfold. For a great, authentic experience with birria, find somewhere that serves it in the morning!
Carnitas is pork shoulder that is cooked until it melts in your mouth. It’s essentially pulled pork, but not made with barbecue sauce, as you would see in other dishes. Carnitas can be found at just as many Mexican restaurants as carne asada!
Chorizo is minced meat, generally served as a sausage – but for tacos, it’s spread across the tortilla. Chorizo is spicy and a popular option at many trucks and restaurants. It’s even got a vegetarian substitute, soyrizo, which many have claimed is nearly identical in taste!
Lengua is cow tongue, but don’t be scared – it’s perfectly edible. Many people shy away because they fear the texture will be overly chewy, but quite the contrary. Lengua can be the most tender meat when cooked properly.
Cabeza, the head of the cow, is slow-cooked and seasoned to perfection. There’s no fear of texture here! It’s very soft and not dry; the fats in the head guarantee that cabeza will be as juicy as possible when served on tacos.
Mejilla Mejilla, or cheek, is not found at too many restaurants. If you can get cabeza, though, you can get mejilla, more often than not. It’s a very unique taste because the flavor is not really present elsewhere on the cow!
Elsewhere in the world, tripe is sheep stomach, but at Mexican restaurants, it’s generally the stomach or intestine of the cow. It’s a more unique flavor, often saltier than the other meats, and not carried everywhere.
Buche is also known as hog maws, or pork belly, a staple in many Asian cuisines. It’s extremely tender and flavorful, often mimicking the texture of fat but retaining all of the nutrients. Buche tacos can fill you up quickly if you aren’t careful!
Barbacoa refers to meat that is cooked in an underground oven. These days, beef barbacoa is the most common taco meat found in restaurants. You’ll enjoy how savory and juicy barbacoa is – it’s a texture reminiscent of barbecue sauce!
Shrimp tacos are simple – grilled shrimp served alongside onion and cilantro has never tasted so good. You’re more likely to find shrimp tacos at restaurants than you are at trucks, though. Anyone with a shellfish allergy needs to stay away, of course!
Fish tacos come in a lot of varieties, and the chef has carte blanche to choose whichever fish best fits his style. Most of the time, though, fish tacos consist of grilled or fried fish like basa, tilapia, mahi mahi, cod, or halibut. You’re less likely to find tuna or salmon – although some adventurous chefs have been known to include these in their tacos!
Nopales isn’t meat from an animal – it’s actually the meat of a cactus. Yes, cactus is edible, and extremely tasty, too! The cactus is diced and grilled, resulting in a taste that’s a bit of a mix between a bell pepper and okra. Interesting, right? Find a restaurant that makes nopales tacos and be prepared to get blown away!
If you’re a vegetarian, there are plenty of options for tasty tacos – you just need to find the right restaurant that offers the options. There are tons of different fruits and veggies that can top your tacos, from avocado and jackfruit to roasted cauliflower and black beans. Find what suits your needs!
Is it any surprise that Benny’s Tacos does tacos better than anyone? It’s in our name, after all. If you’re looking for lunch or dinner, or if you want catering at your event, don’t hesitate to contact Benny’s Tacos. We’ll gladly make sure you and all your friends and family are well-fed and happy!