Beyond the Taco: 30 Mexican, Mexican-Inspired, and Tex-Mex Recipes

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[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt, Vicky Wasik]

Mexican food isn't exactly a well-kept secret in America, but we do tend to emphasize only a small portion of the country's diverse food landscape. While tacos and enchiladas are undoubtedly great (and don't worry, we've got plenty of recipes for them), there's also a wealth of smoky stews, hearty tamales, and much more out there to discover. Among these 30 Mexican and Mexican-inspired recipes, you'll find classics like chicken enchiladas along with lesser-known dishes like aguachile. We've even thrown in a couple of original innovations, like crispy cheese tacos and vegan chorizo that tastes and cooks just like the pork version.

Tortillas

Thin and Tender Flour Tortillas

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

When making tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, or a whole slew of other standards, good tortillas are crucial. Store-bought tortillas have a tendency to be dry or leathery, so we strongly recommend making your own. A mixture of flour, water, salt, and plenty of lard yields tortillas that are light and tender.

Get the recipe for Thin and Tender Flour Tortillas »

Tex-Mex-Style Soft and Chewy Flour Tortillas

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

Tex-Mex tortillas are thicker and chewier than their Mexican counterparts, thanks to the addition of baking powder. The heavier texture makes them perfect for scooping up queso—they can stand up to as much cheese as you throw at them.

Get the recipe for Tex-Mex-Style Soft and Chewy Flour Tortillas »

Tacos

Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Potato and chorizo is a great combination for tacos, but one that taco trucks often mess up by trying to rush the process. Getting it right takes time—cooking the chorizo longer than you think you need to makes it incredibly rich, and par-cooking the potatoes before frying gets them extra crisp.

Get the recipe for Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos »

Crispy Cheese Tacos

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

Everyone knows that one of the best parts of a grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla is the cheese that leaks out onto the pan, crisping and browning up during the cooking process. By heating cheese on its own in a skillet, then fusing it to a tortilla, you can make a taco shell with the same melty-crispy contrast built in, ready to stuff with whatever fillings you like.

Get the recipe for Crispy Cheese Tacos »

Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

These earthy chicken tinga tacos are surprisingly easy, thanks to a couple of powerful ingredients and simple tricks. Canned chipotles in adobo add much of the dish's rich depth, and using canned fire-roasted tomatoes builds flavor, as does browning the chicken before poaching it in the sauce.

Get the recipe for Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos »

Real Tacos Al Pastor

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Traditionally, tacos al pastor are made by cooking slices of pork shoulder on a vertical rotisserie—not exactly a tool that's in the arsenal of most home cooks. We first tried replicating this process in miniature on a grill, but it wasn't worth the time or effort. Much easier is roasting the meat in a loaf pan before re-crisping it in a skillet.

Get the recipe for Real Tacos Al Pastor »

No-Waste Tacos de Carnitas With Salsa Verde

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Much as with tacos al pastor, the traditional method for making carnitas—cooking a whole pork shoulder in a huge vat of lard—isn't quite practical for home use. By cooking the pork in a small casserole dish, you'll use way less fat and actually wind up with more flavorful meat. Broiling the carnitas before serving crisps them up beautifully.

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

Enchiladas

Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken Enchiladas

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Pressure cookers are magical—what else can transform chicken and raw vegetables into a tender, flavor-packed enchilada filling in just 15 minutes? Because the pressure cooker preserves moisture, the contents create their own intense sauce, with no other liquid necessary. After that, all you need to do is lightly fry the tortillas and assemble the enchiladas for baking.

Get the recipe for Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken Enchiladas »

The Best Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Inspired by enchiladas suizas and old-school enchilada casserole, these smoky, creamy enchiladas rely on a fairly modest amount of cream and cheese, instead highlighting a tart green tomatillo and poblano sauce.

Get the recipe for The Best Creamy Chicken Enchiladas »

Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas With Red Chili Gravy

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Classic cheddar-filled enchiladas with red gravy are pure Tex-Mex comfort food. While Tex-Mex enchilada sauce is usually made with chili powder, here we go with whole dried chilies to produce a deeper, more vibrant flavor.

Get the recipe for Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas With Red Chili Gravy »

15-Minute Turkey Enchiladas

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

The typical method for making enchiladas—rolling up your fillings in tortillas and baking them in sauce—yields delicious results, but can be time-consuming. An easy shortcut is to roll the tortillas, fry them on two sides, and serve them with a sauce, like our complex mole poblano.

Get the recipe for 15-Minute Turkey Enchiladas »

Tamales

Tamales With Rajas and Oaxacan Cheese

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

The idea of making tamales at home can be intimidating, but once you get going, it doesn't take that long to wrap up these satisfying treats. The real fun is in deciding how to fill them—one option that's as easy as it is delicious is a simple pairing of sliced roasted poblanos (rajas) and mild Oaxacan cheese.

Get the recipe for Tamales With Rajas and Oaxacan Cheese »

Tamales With Green Chili and Pork

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

If you've got the time and will to make a slightly more involved tamale filling, try a combination of green chili and pork. Smoky roasted poblanos and jalapeños, tart tomatillos, and fresh cilantro are a perfect match for our rich carnitas (you have leftovers from making the tacos de carnitas, right?).

Get the recipe for Tamales With Green Chili and Pork »

Tamales With Red Chili and Chicken Filling

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

To give our red chili sauce a full, rich flavor, we toast the chilies before steeping them in water and pureeing them with garlic and cumin. Chicken thighs are then poached in the chili mixture until they're tender enough to shred by hand.

Get the recipe for Tamales With Red Chili and Chicken Filling »

Sandwiches

Cemitas (Mexican Sesame Seed Sandwich Buns)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

One of our absolute favorite sandwich buns is the brioche-like cemita, a sweet and savory bun from Puebla. It's delicate, yet hefty enough to stand up to the mounds of fillings we tend to pile into a cemita sandwich. You can find decent cemitas in well-stocked Mexican groceries, or you can make your own rich and buttery version with this recipe.

Get the recipe for Cemitas (Mexican Sesame Seed Sandwich Buns) »

Pueblan-Style Cemita Sandwiches

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Once you've baked those beautiful browned cemitas, it's time to get filling. This recipe uses the traditional Pueblan components of breaded cutlet, avocado, Oaxacan cheese, and peppers. The most important ingredient, though, is papalo, a Mexican herb with a hard-to-describe flavor that's reminiscent of cilantro.

Get the recipe for Pueblan-Style Cemita Sandwiches »

Roosevelt Avenue-Style Cemita Sandwiches

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Though born in Mexico, the cemita has found a new life in New York City, especially along busy Roosevelt Avenue in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. Our version keeps the essential cemita bun and papalo, but is also packed to the brim with other ingredients: refried beans, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, chipotles, avocado, onions, and, frankly, whatever other filling you might be craving.

Get the recipe for Roosevelt Avenue-Style Cemita Sandwiches »

Chorizo-Spiced Pulled Pork With Mexican Street Corn Slaw

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

This recipe adds a Mexican twist to good old American barbecue. The pulled pork is cooked with spices like paprika, cayenne, and cumin to give it a distinct chorizo flavor, while the slaw mixes cabbage with corn, mayonnaise, and cotija cheese—the same ingredients you'll find in Mexican elotes. Serve the pork and slaw on burger buns if you want to skew more toward American barbecue style, or use them to fill tacos.

Get the recipe for Chorizo-Spiced Pulled Pork With Mexican Street Corn Slaw »

Seafood

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (Coctel de Camarones)

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

While Mexican shrimp cocktail—poached shrimp in a bright, citrusy tomato-based sauce— is a delicious, refreshing dish, the amount of ketchup that's typically used can make it unappetizingly sweet. Replacing some of the ketchup with tomato puree makes the simple sauce perfectly balanced.

Get the recipe for Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (Coctel de Camarones) »

Classic Shrimp Aguachile With Lime, Cucumber, and Red Onion

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

In most ceviches, the seafood steeps in citrus juice long enough to cure it, meaning that it's no longer truly raw. Aguachile, on the other hand, is served right after the fish is mixed with its marinade—usually a combination of chilies, lime juice, cucumber, and red onion. When shopping for this recipe, make sure to tell your fishmonger that you're planning to eat the shrimp raw so you get only the freshest available.

Get the recipe for Classic Shrimp Aguachile With Lime, Cucumber, and Red Onion »

Scallop Aguachile With Jalapeño, Cucumber, and Avocado

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Our scallop aguachile is very similar to the shrimp version, but with the addition of fresh cilantro. Here, we use the aguachile as a topping for tostadas, but feel free to serve it however you like.

Get the recipe for Scallop Aguachile With Jalapeño, Cucumber, and Avocado »

Arctic Char Aguachile With Habanero, Jicama, and Lime

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This one is less traditional than our other aguachile recipes, but no less tasty. We replace the cucumber with crunchy jicama, add extra flavor with coriander seed and mint, and use habanero chilies to crank up the heat. If you can't find sashimi-grade Arctic char, feel free to substitute salmon or another similar fish.

Get the recipe for Arctic Char Aguachile With Habanero, Jicama, and Lime »

Beef

Better Than Chipotle's Beef Barbacoa

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Traditional Mexican barbacoa is made by slow-cooking whole sheep in pits. We're guessing most Americans are more familiar with the braised beef barbacoa popularized by Chipotle, and that's what we've tackled here. To get a strong seared-beef flavor without overcooking the meat, we brown oxtails deeply in the sauce before adding raw chuck-eye roast.

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

Grilled Skirt Steak Fajitas

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

There are a few easy tricks to making perfect fajitas: Start with skirt steak; marinate it in oil, chili powder, and an acidic component for up to 10 hours; grill it over super-high heat; and cut it against the grain. From there, all that stands between you and excellent fajitas are a pile of charred peppers and onions, a stack of good-quality tortillas, and plenty of guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

Get the recipe for Grilled Skirt Steak Fajitas »

Steak and Corn Salad With Tomatillos and Ancho-Chili Vinaigrette

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

We're all used to seeing tomatillos cooked down into salsa verde, but you're missing out if you've never tried them raw. Ultra-tart and citrusy, they're wonderful in a summer salad, accompanied by sliced steak, corn, cotija, and an ancho-and-lime dressing.

Get the recipe for Steak and Corn Salad With Tomatillos and Ancho-Chili Vinaigrette »

And More

Green Chorizo

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

A variety distinct from the dried, Spanish version, Mexican chorizo is a fresh sausage usually flavored with chili powder. In this variation, green poblanos and serranos substitute for the dried red chilies, giving the sausage a kick that doesn't overwhelm the flavor.

Get the recipe for Green Chorizo »

Vegan Chorizo for Omnivores

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Made with tofu, tempeh, and lentils, this vegan sausage mimic comes stunningly close to its pork-based inspiration. Not only is it intensely flavored with dried chilies, charred poblanos, and other herbs and spices, but vegetable shortening gives it the creamy fattiness that's vital to good chorizo.

Get the recipe for Vegan Chorizo for Omnivores »

Quick and Easy Huevos Rancheros With Tomato-Chili Salsa

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

The key to making huevos rancheros on the fly for a last-minute Sunday brunch? Make the salsa with canned crushed tomatoes. They'll cook much faster than whole tomatoes, and a good fire-roasted variety (we're partial to Muir Glen's) will add extra depth to the dish.

Get the recipe for Quick and Easy Huevos Rancheros With Tomato-Chili Salsa »

Easy Pressure Cooker Green Chile With Chicken

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

A good pot of chicken chile verde takes all day to cook, right? Wrong. With the help of a pressure cooker, you can make a flavorful chile, loaded with tomatillos and green peppers, in under half an hour. The pressure cooker is so good at extracting flavor, you don't even need to brown your ingredients before adding them.

Get the recipe for Easy Pressure Cooker Green Chile With Chicken »

Mexican Tamale Pie (Cazuela de Tamal) With Black Bean Filling

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[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

True, making tamales doesn't have to be hard, but this tamale pie comes together with even less effort and supplies all the joys of tamales. You can fill it with just about anything; this version uses a simple mixture of black beans cooked down with chicken broth and ancho chilies.

Get the recipe for Mexican Tamale Pie (Cazuela de Tamal) With Black Bean Filling »