What is a Taco?

what is a taco the bailiwick academy

If you love eating Mexican food, one of your favorites to eat is probably the taco. But what is a taco? What constitutes this Mexican street food, exactly?

Plus, is the word “taco” Mexican? Spanish? 


If you’ve ever wondered about these things, this article is for you! Keep on reading as we answer what a taco is, as well as other related questions about this delicious Mexican dish. We’ll definitely try to give you more than 5 facts about tacos.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

A quick disclaimer

If you think you’re weird thinking about things like “What qualifies as a taco?” or “What’s a taco?”, you’re not. Heck, there are even Google searches about “What does it mean to be a taco?” Now THAT’s weird!

Okay? Okay. Let’s move on!

What is a taco?

What is a taco the bailiwick academy

First things first: let’s talk about the definition of a taco. According to Wikipedia, a taco is Mexican food that is composed of two things. The first component is a small, hand-sized corn tortilla. 

Do take note that the tortilla can also be made of wheat.

The second component is the filling of the taco. That’s where the delicious part is, because the filling can be made of various ingredients, such as beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and cheese. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as you can put a whole lot more!

But if you think that a taco ends there, you’re wrong. You can add garnish with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and more for additional flavor and kick!

Where did tacos come from?

The unique thing about Mexican cuisine is that it uses ingredients that other cuisines don’t, such as beans, avocados, and cilantro. Just like hawker foods in Singapore, Mexican food is considered by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage contribution to humanity.” 

But what’s the history of tacos? Where did it start? 

According to Wikipedia, it’s really Mexican cuisine, since the taco already existed in Mexico way before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico. Apparently, there was already evidence that people living in Mexico were already eating a form of fish tacos.

mexico the bailiwick academy
Tacos: A Mexican creation!

But the fish taco back then didn’t contain cheese, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, or any other filling that the modern taco has now. In fact, the word taco is even a modern term!

Twisted Taco says that the word taco originated from Mexican silver miners in the 18th century. They would wrap gunpowder up in paper that looked like a taco and blow up rocks in the mining process. 

The miners were also known for eating tacos, which was a practical way of getting nutritious meals. That resulted in this street food becoming called “tacos de minero” or miner’s tacos, and we guess, eventually just got shortened as tacos, but that’s speculation on our part.

These particular tacos weren’t the hard tacos that we know – it was just corn tortilla with a spicy filling.

Years later, the taco was introduced to the United States by Mexican immigrants. They were sold in taco stands sold by women called “chili queens.” And by 1920, the taco started to get fused with American ingredients and become the modern taco that we know today.

Are tacos soft or hard?

soft taco vs hard taco

We don’t know about you, but if we were asked what’s a taco, we would answer that it’s the one with a hard shell, like the ones being sold in Taco Bell. But did you know that tacos started out as soft?

Traditional tacos are served on flat pieces of tortillas. Hardshell tacos, on the other hand, are an American creation.

Nowadays, since people prefer different things, based on our experience, hardshell tacos are called tacos, while traditional tacos are called soft tacos.

Is a taco a sandwich?

Since a taco is composed of bread plus fillings, can we say that a taco is a sandwich

Well, aside from the fact that any Mexican who hears you asking that question will look at you like you have two heads, a taco doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a sandwich. 

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a sandwich as either “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between” or “one slice of bread covered with food”. Since a taco doesn’t meet either of those definitions, we can consider a taco something resembling a sandwich. 

They’re probably better classified as wraps or rolls, like a shawarma.

What is the difference between a taco and a burrito?

burrito vs taco

Taco and burrito are commonly confused words. But what’s the difference? 

According to La Mesa Mexican Restaurant, the main difference is the shell size. Tacos are lighter, while a burrito is a bigger meal.

Also, burritos are always tortillas filled with a large number of vegetables, cheese, beans, seasoned meat, and more. Tacos, on the other hand, as mentioned above, can be soft or hard, tend to have only one type of meat, and have much lighter fillings or toppings.

Finally, burritos are always folded into themselves, compacting everything into a round wrap or roll. Tacos tend to fall apart more easily.

Are there different kinds of tacos?

what is a taco the bailiwick academy

Yes! In fact, there are many different kinds of tacos, such as:

Tacos al pastor

Tacos al pastor are tacos composed of thin pork steaks that have adobo seasoning, then skewered and put on top of one another on a vertical rotisserie. As the rotisserie spins, the meat is cooked and flame-broiled.

Red tacos

Red tacos are also known as Quesabirria tacos. You make them with tender beef slow-cooked with spices, place them into tortillas with cheese, and usually fried crispy with beef fat.

Breakfast tacos

A breakfast taco is not strictly Mexican cuisine. It’s more of Tex-Mex cuisine. Aside from the soft flour tortilla, breakfast tacos have meat, eggs, cheese, and other ingredients. They’re called breakfast tacos because, well, people eat them for breakfast!

Tacos de asador

Tacos de asador can be any of the following: carne asada tacos, tripe tacos, or chorizo tacos. Any of them are served on two overlapping tortillas and garnished with guacamole, salsa, onions, and cilantro. They can be served with salsa.

Indian tacos

Indian tacos are also called Navajo or Native American tacos. They are a combination of beans or ground beef, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and cheese. The bread is crispy or fried.

Tacos Gobernador

Literally called “governor’s tacos”, these tacos are named after a Sinaloan governor. These tacos are composed of warm tortillas, shrimps, cheese, coriander, onions, and tomatoes. Fold the tortillas in half, brush them with butter, and cook on a griddle over medium heat.

Serve them with lime wedges and hot chili sauce!

Tacos de camarones

These are literally shrimp tacos. The shrimp on the tortilla can be grilled or fried accompanied with lettuce, cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado, sour cream or citrus mayonnaise sauce.

Korean tacos

Korean tacos are a fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisine that become popular in urban areas in the US and Canada. This street food consists of Korean fillings such as bulgogi and kimchi eaten in Mexican tortillas.   

Tacos de lengua 

Tacos de lengua are beef tongue tacos. The beef is cooked in water with onions, garlic and bay leaves for many hours until the beef becomes tender and soft. You then slice them and sautee the tongues in oil.

Tacos de pescado

Tacos de pescado are fish tacos. The fish can be grilled or fried and eaten with lettuce, cabbage, pico de gallo, and sour cream or mayonnaise sauce all on top of the soft tortilla.

Tacos dorados

The name literally means “golden tacos”, and this is their name probably because they’re deep-fried until crisp. They are also called flautas or flute tacos because of the shape – they don’t look like conventional tacos! However, they also contain chicken or beef, just like the traditional tacos.

Want to learn how to make tacos?

Do you want the ability to just make your own tacos without having to rely on restaurants or food trucks? 

Well, if you love Mexican food that much, we have the solution for you. You should check out our latest class with Chef Max Nadin: Terrific Tacos!

That’s right: you’ll learn to make tacos from scratch! We guarantee that’s going to be better than any store-bought or store-made tacos!

First, you’ll learn to make soft flour tortillas . After that, Chef Max will show you his secrets on making three different taco flavors:

  • Birria Tacos – Pan fried broth soaked tortillas with a flavorful braised beef filling served with a side of beef consommè (a soup)
  • Pork Carnitas – Slow-cooked delectable shredded pork and fresh herbs filling up that soft tortilla (YUM)
  • Chicken Carnitas – A delicious and earthy chicken taco filling with cheese and herbs wrapped in a soft flour tortilla

But the class doesn’t stop there! You’ll also get four bonus recipes of Mexican foods to complement the tacos you’re going to make!

  • Pico De Gallo 
  • Guacamole 
  • Salsa 
  • Elotes

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at The Bailiwick Academy and get started making tacos! 

You never know, you might go from relying on the presence of a food truck to get your Mexican food fix to starting your own food truck for your food business! They’re that good!

See you inside!

P.S. Enroll now and get 20% off from the original price, PLUS a Php500 voucher for any of his current and future classes! 

This special offer is good only up to 8:30 PM today, October 23, 2022!

Enroll now! 


Keep coming back to The Bailiwick Academy blog for more kitchen tips, tricks, and much more!

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