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.
No-Waste Tacos de Carnitas With Salsa Verde
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.
Real Tacos Al Pastor
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.
Slow-Roasted Bacon-Wrapped-Pineapple Tacos
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.
Tacos Árabes (Pita-Wrapped, Cumin-Marinated-Pork Tacos)
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.
Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos
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.
Yucatecan Pork Belly and Cheese Tacos (Tacos de Castacán Con Queso)
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.
Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-Style Barbecued Pork)
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.
Better Than Chipotle's Beef Barbacoa
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.
The Best Carne Asada
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.
San Antonio-Style Puffy Tacos With Ground Beef Filling
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.
Jamaican Beef Tacos With Tropical Slaw
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.
Easy One-Pot Chicken Tinga (Spicy Mexican Shredded Chicken)
Usually, chicken tinga gets a boost of flavor from Mexican chorizo, but this quick and easy version omits the chorizo and turns to ingredients that are more widely available to produce a delicious taco filling of shredded chicken doused in a sauce made from tomatoes, tomatillos, and onion, flavored with smoky chipotles, apple cider vinegar, and a bit of fish sauce. The kicker? It all comes together in one pot.
Chicken Green Chile Tacos
Ideally, you'd make this recipe with fresh Hatch chiles, the peppers that the residents of New Mexico are rightly proud of. But if you can't get them, you can use a Poblano and a wax pepper, instead. To make the chicken, you first char the peppers, tomatillos, onion, and garlic under the broiler and then purée them, creating a flavorful sauce in which you'll finish cooking browned chicken thighs. After you shred the chicken, all you have to do is put the meat in a taco and top it with a mixture of onion and cilantro, some pickled onions, and a sprinkling of cotija cheese.
Braised Lamb Shoulder With Dried Chilies and Dates
Inspired by a desire to eat a meal that tastes like it takes a lot of effort but in fact takes no effort at all, this braised lamb shoulder is perfect for stuffing into tacos. The fat cap on the lamb gets deeply scored before getting smothered with a flavor-packed paste made from smoky dried morita chilies, fruity guajillos, sweet and sticky dates, and a few tart tomatillos. Place the lamb in a Dutch oven, cover it, place it in a low oven, and 5 hours later you've got a taco filling fit for a queen.
Crunchy Fried Fish Tacos
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.
Whole Grilled Fish Tacos
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.
Chili-Rubbed Mahi-Mahi Tacos With Grilled-Mango Salsa
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.
Fried-Avocado Tacos With Chipotle Cream, Cabbage, and Pickled Red Onions
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.
Sweet Potato, Sage, and Fried Egg Tacos
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.
Tex-Mex Migas With Scrambled Eggs, Tortilla Chips, and Chilies
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.
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.
Tacos de Canasta (Basket Tacos for a Party or Potluck)
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.