19 Tasty Taco Recipes to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

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[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt, Morgan Eisenberg]

If you're going to be breaking out the tequila come Cinco de Mayo, it's only responsible to make sure you have plenty of food on hand. All sorts of Mexican recipes are appropriate for the holiday, but for my money nothing beats tacos. Not only are tacos the most iconic Mexican dish in America, but there are also taco variations to please every palate. Whether you're interested in tender carnitas, crispy fried fish, or runny eggs, we've got 19 taco recipes to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo.


Pork

No-Waste Tacos de Carnitas With Salsa Verde

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Traditional carnitas are made by cooking pork butt in a couple gallons of lard, which is not something I tend to have around the house. By packing the pork tightly in a small container you can cook it perfectly with a much more reasonable amount of fat. If you have a sous vide cooker, that's an even easier option.

Get the recipe for No-Waste Tacos de Carnitas With Salsa Verde »

Real Tacos Al Pastor

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Made on a huge spit, tacos al pastor are even harder than carnitas to make at home. Rather than trying to make a miniature spit, we pack the meat into a loaf pan, roast it until tender, then crisp it up in a skillet. We rub the pineapple with rendered pork fat before broiling to give the fruit extra flavor. While the result might not match traditional al pastor in process, the flavors and textures are spot-on.

Get the recipe for Real Tacos Al Pastor »

Slow-Roasted Bacon-Wrapped-Pineapple Tacos

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This recipe flips the script on tacos al pastor, elevating the pineapple to a starring role and relegating the pork to a supporting part. We cut the pineapple up into chunks, rub it with a savory adobo-style marinade, then roast it in the oven under strips of bacon, which baste the pineapple with their rendered fat.

Get the recipe for Slow-Roasted Bacon-Wrapped-Pineapple Tacos »

Tacos Árabes (Pita-Wrapped, Cumin-Marinated-Pork Tacos)

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

It's easy to notice that tacos al pastor bear more than a passing resemblance to Middle Eastern shawarma, and they do in fact likely have roots dating back to Arab immigrants. Taco árabes are the missing link between the two: cumin-marinated meat wrapped in pita bread. We serve the tacos with chipotle and yogurt sauces in a nod to both Mexico and the Middle East.

Get the recipe for Tacos Árabes (Pita-Wrapped, Cumin-Marinated-Pork Tacos) »

Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

These tacos start with chorizo cooked down until well-rendered and nicely browned. Once the chorizo is done we remove it and cook potatoes in the fat—par-boiling the spuds in vinegar-spiked water ensures they fry up extra crispy. This is in the pork section of our list, but the recipe works just as well with our homemade vegan chorizo.

Get the recipe for Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos »

Yucatecan Pork Belly and Cheese Tacos (Tacos de Castacán Con Queso)

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

There's nothing wrong with sprinkling shredded cheese onto a taco right before eating, but there's a better way: crisp up the meat on a griddle, then add the cheese there so that it melts onto the meat and starts to crisp up. You can use the technique with any taco filling, but here we go with Yucatecan-style pork belly.

Get the recipe for Yucatecan Pork Belly and Cheese Tacos (Tacos de Castacán Con Queso) »

Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-Style Barbecued Pork)

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

If you want to make real-deal cochinita pibil you're going to need a whole pig and a stone-lined fire pit. Alternatively, you can go with slabs of pork shoulder, banana leaves, and a smoker. What really sets this pork apart is its sweet, earthy marinade made with bitter Seville oranges, achiote, and charred garlic.

Get the recipe for Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-Style Barbecued Pork) »

Beef

Better Than Chipotle's Beef Barbacoa

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Like cochinita pibil, traditional barbacoa is made by cooking a whole animal (often a sheep) in a pit. This recipe is for a simpler, distinctly Americanized take on the dish: braised beef flavored with chilies and cumin. To get a deep, seared flavor without overcooking the meat, we add well-browned oxtails for flavor and skip searing the meat that will actually make it to the tortilla.

Get the recipe for Better Than Chipotle's Beef Barbacoa »

The Best Carne Asada

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Carne asada translates to "grilled beef," so it should come as no surprise that there are virtually infinite ways to make the dish. Our version is made with skirt steak, which we marinate with rehydrated dried chilies, orange and lime, olive oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, cumin seed, coriander seed, and brown sugar before grilling over a blisteringly hot grill.

Get the recipe for the Best Carne Asada »

San Antonio-Style Puffy Tacos With Ground Beef Filling

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

You already know what happens when you fry a cooked tortilla: you get a hard-shelled taco. Fry up uncooked masa, though, and it will balloon into the puffy tacos popular in San Antonio. Shredded meat is a typical filling, but here we use ground beef flavored with onion, garlic jalapeño, and an earthy spice blend.

Get the recipe for San Antonio-Style Puffy Tacos With Ground Beef Filling »

Jamaican Beef Tacos With Tropical Slaw

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[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

Inspired by classic Jamaican beef patties, these tacos are made by filling turmeric- and curry-rubbed tortillas with ground beef flavored with Scotch bonnet peppers. The spicy tacos need something to cool them down, so we spoon on a refreshing slaw made with mango, pineapple, radish, red onion, and cabbage.

Get the recipe for Jamaican Beef Tacos With Tropical Slaw »

Fish

Crunchy Fried Fish Tacos

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

One of the biggest perks of moving from NYC to LA is the accessibility of awesome fish tacos. If you're not so lucky, consider taking matters into your own hands. The secret to making extra-crispy fish tacos that keep their crunch until the last bite is to use a two-stage battering process, dipping the fish in a beer batter before coating it in extra flour.

Get the recipe for Crunchy Fried Fish Tacos »

Whole Grilled Fish Tacos

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

When it comes to grilled fish tacos I'd recommend going with whole fish, which have tons of flavor and tend to hold up better and cook more evenly than fillets. Here we stuff the fish with lime slices and cilantro and season it with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder, cumin, lime juice, and olive oil before grilling it. Serve the fish whole with lime vinaigrette, fresh veggies, and of course warm tortillas.

Get the recipe for Whole Grilled Fish Tacos »

Chili-Rubbed Mahi-Mahi Tacos With Grilled-Mango Salsa

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

If you're going to grill fish fillets, something on the firmer side like mahi-mahi is your best bet. For these grilled fish tacos we rub the mahi-mahi with an earthy blend of chili powder, paprika, cumin, and other spices. A grilled-mango salsa provides some brightness to cut through the hearty fish and intense spices.

Get the recipe for Chili-Rubbed Mahi-Mahi Tacos With Grilled-Mango Salsa »

Vegetarian

Fried-Avocado Tacos With Chipotle Cream, Cabbage, and Pickled Red Onions

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

A vegetarian alternative to fried fish tacos, this recipe instead calls for battering and frying slices of rich, creamy avocado. Avocado is a little on the bland side, so we season it generously with salt and pepper and assemble the tacos with lots of flavorful toppings: salsa verde, pickled red onions, Serrano chilies, and chipotle cream.

Get the recipe for Fried-Avocado Tacos With Chipotle Cream, Cabbage, and Pickled Red Onions »

Sweet Potato, Sage, and Fried Egg Tacos

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Don't let the fried egg fool you—these sweet potato tacos are delicious any time of day. Sage and sweet potatoes are a classic pair, so we add a handful of chopped sage to the spuds as they're sautéing. Rather than spending time preparing salsa, we just let the runny egg yolk mix with hot sauce and crema to make an easy sauce.

Get the recipe for Sweet Potato, Sage, and Fried Egg Tacos »

Tex-Mex Migas With Scrambled Eggs, Tortilla Chips, and Chilies

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

My Texan friends would kill me if I left migas—tacos filled with scrambled eggs, chili peppers, onion, and tortilla chips—off this list. Freshly fried homemade tortilla chips work best here, but I won't blame you for substituting store-bought ones. Or better yet, ditch the tortilla chips entirely in favor of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Get the recipe for Tex-Mex Migas With Scrambled Eggs, Tortilla Chips, and Chilies »

Vegan Migas

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

As far as scrambled egg dishes go, migas is one of the easiest to turn vegan. Not only are the eggs cooked to a soft texture easily mimicked by silken tofu, but with all the intense ingredients you'll barely miss the flavor of the eggs. Serve the "vigas" with spicy vegan refried beans and charred tortillas.

Get the recipe for Vegan Migas »

Tacos de Canasta (Basket Tacos for a Party or Potluck)

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This potluck-friendly dish sold by street vendors in Mexico City features corn tortillas stuffed with a filling, layered with onions and hot chili oil, and wrapped up in a basket to steam. It's important to use fillings that aren't too wet—refried beans and potatoes are good options that happen to be vegetarian-friendly, but drier meats like barbacoa and chorizo work too.

Get the recipe for Tacos de Canasta (Basket Tacos for a Party or Potluck) »