Is there any food more universally beloved than the humble taco? In a quick and completely unscientific survey of a half dozen people I quizzed on the street, the answer is clear: Tacos reign supreme in the hearts of men and women everywhere.
Why are tacos so thoroughly enjoyed by everyone from your grandparents to hipsters and haute cuisine aficionados? Because they’re infinitely variable, able to be filled with everything from classic Mexican meats to fresh California fish to the latest plant-based proteins. And they’re easy to make, too. So when you’re in the mood for a fast and satisfying meal, keep this carefully curated list of the 10 best taco recipes on the web close at hand.
Diana Kennedy’s Tacos
If you’ve eaten authentic Mexican food in the United States in the past 20 years, you probably owe at least a small debt of gratitude to Diana Kennedy. With the release of her seminal cookbook The Cuisines of Mexico in 1972, she introduced huge swaths of the American public to the flavors that lay beyond the then-pale hues of Tex Mex cooking. This recipe, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, hails from the same culture-altering cookbook. It combines clear-cut recipes for pork carnitas or shredded chicken with your choice of a tangy tomatillo salsa or simple salsa cruda, and directions for either microwaving (yuck) or oven-toasting (yum) your tortillas. Hard to get much easier and more authentic than that.
Matty Matheson’s Lamb Neck Tacos
Matthew James “Matty” Matheson is the type of television personality that you just can’t help but love. His wild and unpredictable personality combined with a love of eating that rivals the heroes of the world’s mythologies is impressive enough—but not everyone knows that prior to his work on television, Matheson was already a well-decorated chef at Canada’s famous Parts & Labour. For his lamb neck tacos, don’t just read the recipe; you have to watch the video too, if for no other reason than to see just how awesome Matty really is. He’ll teach you how to make flour tortillas by hand, too, which is both challenging and ultimately very rewarding.
Bon Appetit’s Tacos de Carne Asada
There are very few things quite as magical as the flavor transformation that even the toughest piece of beef goes through on its way to becoming carne asada. With little more than salt, oil, garlic, and charred vegetables, an inexpensive skirt steak can be grilled to taco perfection. The trick here, as explained by Bon Appetit’s Steven Raichlen, is to sear the steak over high heat for just a few minutes, then let it rest for five minutes before slicing thinly against the grain. Served with cilantro, avocado, and wedges of lime, it makes for a traditional Mexican meal that’s fast and easy to prepare.
Munchies by Vice’s Grilled Fish Tacos
When you have some taco making experience under your belt, moving on to making your own fixings is the next step to take in your quest for fine flavors. These grilled fish tacos from Munchies are good even without the salsa and pickled onions—but if you put the extra time into making your own fresh condiments by following their recipes, you’ll be blown away with how vibrant these tacos will taste. Even better, the salsa and pickled onions will keep well if stored in the fridge. Then you can use them to decorate any other taco options you make, too.
Gabriela Cámara’s Masterclass Tacos Al Pastor
Tacos al pastor—literally, tacos in the pastoral style or shepherd’s tacos—are the most ubiquitous street food in the bustling avenues of Mexico City. Made from pork marinated in achiote (annato), the distinctly orange-colored meat is deeply flavored with chilis, vinegar, herbs, and sometimes pineapple. Use pork loin or pork shoulder to get the right texture for these tacos, and be sure to take Cámara’s advice and use pineapple juice in the marinade; it helps to tenderize the meat quickly and efficiently.
Rick Bayless’s “The Morning After” Taco
After a big night out on the town, there’s only one thing to do the next day: Resort to Plan T. Breakfast tacos are one of the universe’s finest creations, using scrambled eggs to bring even the most hungover body and mind back from the brink of death. Rick Bayles’s “Morning After” tacos take this idea to the next level, using simple ingredients and plenty of bacon to put together a quick, easy to eat, and massively flavorful breakfast. Beware: Once you try these for the first time, you’ll never want to go without them the morning after a night of drinking.
Saveur’s Tacos de Papa
There are more than 200 different varieties of potatoes sold in the United States alone. But go a little bit further afield, and your options for spuds grow exponentially—with something like 4,000 different varieties of potatoes recorded across the world. And the best part? Every single one of them is delicious when it’s cut into chunks and fried. So why not put some fried potatoes into another globe-trotting food? That’s what Saveur magazine’s tacos de papa do, before garnishing them with a quick salsa and topping them with crumbly cotija cheese. Fun fact: You can eat these literally any hour of the day and still find them satisfying.
Food and Wine’s Kale, Black Bean and Red Chile Tacos with Queso Fresco
Did you notice that the last recipe was a vegetarian one? Well, the rest of these recipes are going to be, as well. That’s because tacos are a fantastic vehicle for packing as much flavor as possible into each bite—which is something that vegetarian and vegan options really need to show their best sides. Rick Bayless is back again for this vegetarian rendition, stewing down black beans and kale with plenty of fruity and mild guajillo chiles for maximum flavor. To make it vegan, omit the cheese altogether or substitute it for a crumbly cashew cheese.
Mexican Food Journal’s Tacos de Rajas Con Queso
Rajas—poblano chili peppers—are one of Mexican cuisine’s most versatile ingredients. When fresh, they’re used for everything from chiles rellenos to stews to these delightful tacos. When dried, they’re known as ancho chiles and lend a deep and rich smoky flavor to everything they touch. For this recipe from Mexican Food Journal, roasted poblano peppers are smothered in cream Oaxacan cheese and given added flavor and texture with garlic, onions, and corn kernels.
Bad Manners’ Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos
From the folks that brought you the Thug Kitchen cookbook, these vegan jackfruit “carnitas” tacos have a dense and meaty flavor and texture that will impress even the most dedicated carnivore. A complex spice mix and inventive braising liquid are what give the jackfruit its signature flavor here, transforming the hearty plant into a shreddable wonder. Pair this with any of the salsa from the recipes above, a squeeze of lime juice, and a few wedges of avocado, and you’ll get a healthy and delicious weeknight meal.