The Best Tacos for a True Taste of Mexico

Delicious shrimp tacos
Delicious shrimp tacos | © Anna Ivanova / Alamy Stock Photo
Stephen Woodman

You can’t deny the sheer popularity of the taco, what is regarded as Mexico’s most versatile dish. Here, we suggest the tastiest variations to chase up across Mexico.

The beauty of a taco is two-fold. First, there is the simplicity: a palm-sized portion of corn or wheat tortilla, that can be equally eaten on the go or in classy restaurants. Second, the flavor: tacos can take almost any filling, so there are always new variations to try. Though the origins of the word taco are largely unknown, in certain dialects it can mean plug, thick piece of wood, wedge or, our favorite, a stocky person.

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Tacos al pastor at El Pastorcito, Mexico City

Tacos de carnitas at Tacos El Chino, Tijuana

Another beloved taco variation is carnitas (or “little meats”): pork shoulder braised or simmered in lard. The wonderfully juicy meat is often served with onion, chopped coriander and spicy salsa verde. The dish originated in the western state of Michoacán and is essentially the same recipe as pulled pork. The traditional method of cooking carnitas is using a copper pot that disperses the heat evenly for three to four hours. If cooked correctly, the shredded meat should be slightly crispy at the ends and the pork so tender that it can be shredded into individual pieces.

Tacos de suadero at Taqueria Los Cucuyos, Mexico City

A favorite in central Mexico, suadero tacos are made from a thin-cut of beef taken from the ribs. The meat, which is similar to brisket (the lower chest of a cow), has a smooth texture and is typically fried and chopped into tiny pieces. Suadero is often hard to chew, so the chopping is essential and is usually done over a tree trunk. Mexico City street-food stands are still the best place to try these tacos, as the capital is most associated with them.

Tacos de cochinita pibil at Taco Lounge, Guadalajara

These are legendary and are associated with eastern coast of Mexico. In essence, tacos de cochinita pibil are slow-roasted pork tacos. Traditional cochinita is made with a suckling pig, which is marinated in citrus juice, seasoned with the orange-red condiment annatto derived from achiote, wrapped in a banana leaf and roasted. The dish even appears as a recurring theme in Robert Rodriguez’s 2003 film, Once Upon a Time in Mexico. In the movie, Johnny Depp’s character enjoys cochinita so much that he feels compelled to kill the chef every time he tries it. The mouthwatering dish is also used as a taco filling throughout the Yucatán Peninsula. The pork is combined in a tortilla with chopped coriander, lime and pickled red onions.

Tacos de chapulines at Chapulín, Mexico City

An odd choice – but not for Mexicans. Tacos de chapulines, or grasshopper tacos, are most closely associated with the southern state of Oaxaca. The insects are only collected during the rainy season between May and early September. After being washed, the grasshoppers are toasted with lime, garlic and salt. The finished product is very salty, sour and crunchy. Besides Oaxaca, chapulines are still found in traditional towns such as Puebla and Cuernavaca. Some Mexico City markets also stock the daring delicacy. Most often, grasshoppers are sprinkled over tender meat, giving the dish a delightful crunch.

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