Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

A tortilla (Mexican corn pancake), folded or rolled around a filling and often fried crisp. It can be filled with a savoury filling before rolling and then fried, or fried first with fillings added afterwards. Crisp taco shells are available in packages and a complete ‘taco kit’ containing taco shells, sauce and seasonings, is also available at most health food shops and supermarkets. Tacos are eaten at all hours of the day in Mexico, and they have become a popular ‘fast food’ in other countries. They are good for a party because you can put out the fillings and sauce and let each guest assemble their own.


Quantity Ingredient
10-12 packaged taco shells or soft tortillas


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
500g lean minced beef
1 teaspoon mexican chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
125ml water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves or parsley, chopped


Quantity Ingredient
125ml tomato puree
1 small onion, grated
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vinegar
pinch sugar
1 small fresh or dried chilli, seeded and finely chopped


Quantity Ingredient
125g well-flavoured cheddar cheese, grated
75g lettuce, shredded
155g onions, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled, stoned and diced, (optional, but delicious)


  1. Heat taco shells according to packet instructions, or fold soft tortillas in half and fry in a little hot oil until crisp.
  2. To make filling, heat oil in a large saucepan and fry garlic and onion for about 4 minutes or until softened. Add minced beef, and stir over medium heat until it turns brown and crumbly. Add chilli powder, cumin, tomato paste, water, salt and pepper. Cook gently, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in coriander or parsley and adjust seasoning.
  3. To make sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Set taco shells on a platter, with filling, toppings and sauce in separate bowls. About 2 tablespoons of meat filling is placed in every taco, then toppings and sauce added according to taste. Tacos are eaten in the hand, so be sure to provide plenty of paper napkins!


  • For vegetarian tacos, use refried beans as the filling instead of meat or create meatless fillings of your choice.
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