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Making Tacos Is Always a Good Idea

How to make the best tacos at home.

making tacos

While we can’t go too far these days, we can certainly dream. If all you’ve been longing for is to sit on a beach in Mexico with the sun shining, mariachi band playing and taco in hand, we can at least help with the taco part (and when it’s OK to start traveling, we can help with the Mexico part too). Whether you have a bad case of wanderlust or are just having a craving, there’s almost nothing that making tacos can’t fix.

Here in the Northeast, many of us are used to the Americanized version of the taco, often packaged as a kit in the grocery store – ground beef in a hard shell topped with chopped lettuce, diced tomato and a dollop of sour cream. While it’s not a bad choice, chefs that specialize in the beloved taco would argue that we’re doing it all wrong.

So exactly how do you make the best taco? It’s easier than you think.

Tortillas

Fresh, soft tortillas are the way to go. But steer clear of heating them up in a microwave. Simply lay your tortilla over your grill or the flame on your gas stove. No fire? No problem. Heating the tortilla in a pan over medium heat for a couple minutes works just as well; watch your fingers and flip with a pair of tongs.

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Fillings

Street tacos have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The small shell is just big enough to fit in your hand and – the best part – it allows you to have multiple servings and types of tacos in one meal.

Even though you’re making tacos at home, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a full menu of options. Just like your favorite restaurant, you can mix it up with chorizo, short ribs, steak, grilled chicken, brisket or veggies. Try one or try them all! Sitting out by the pool? Go for mahi mahi, shrimp or fried scallops to keep it light.

When you want something a little more traditional, marinate skirt steak with the juice of one orange and one lime, cilantro, garlic, onions and a dash of soy sauce to make homemade carne asada. Sauté pork that you’ve marinated in lemon and pineapple juice and you’ve got tacos al pastor.

Toppings

Here’s where it really gets fun. The best part of making tacos is you have all the freedom in the world (or in your fridge) to add whatever toppings you may like. You can stick with white onion, lettuce, tomato and sour cream, or you can get a little more adventurous. Jicama slaw, red cabbage, queso and cilantro are all possibilities. Grilled pineapple and fresh mango are also lighter selections for the summertime.

Chef Aaron Sánchez, who has dedicated much of his career to the art of the taco, suggests pumping up the flavor with pickled veggies. Easier finds, such as carrots, jalapeños and radishes can be made at home, but if you are on the daring side, he suggests topping your taco with picked Swiss chard or cactus.

making tacos

Sauces and Salsas

Homemade sauces and salsas are also great ways to personalize your tacos. They are easier to make than you think, and healthier.

Chop up a bundle of cilantro with white onion and fresh tomatoes for a quick pico de gallo. Want something with more of a kick? Try mango salsa; just add fresh jalapenos to diced mango and bell peppers and top with a squeeze of lime and cilantro.

Defined Dish’s Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa is the perfect combination of light and bright with a kick of spice. But don’t add too much. One big faux pas of making tacos is overstuffing or over saucing. No one wants salsa running down their arm.

Taco Presentation

It’s been said that you eat with your eyes first. Now that you have some tips on how to make the best tacos, you can start planning the best way to present them.

Start off with a festive table runner. A set of terracotta bowls to hold all your different toppings looks especially beautiful when arranged on top.

Plating tacos can be pretty tricky, unless you have a taco stand. This one comes with attached salsa bowls and wooden spoons. Cute and practical!

Finally, every taco-loving kitchen needs a mortar and pestle for making homemade guacamole. You don’t even need to transfer it to another bowl. Up your game on taco night with these guacamole tips.

Are you picturing yourself on that beach in Mexico yet? Tell us your taco tips in the comments.

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