Authentic Mexican Tacos
Slowly cooked and infused with complex flavors, this humble street food is close to perfection.
If tacos are one of your main food groups, you probably already know there are about as many types as there are fans.
And sharing a border with Mexico means Americans have been able to fine-tune tastes and develop favorites.
From the fried fish tacos of Baja California to Mexico City’s beloved al pastor to the fall-off-the-bone tender cochinita pibil of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico’s highly diverse geographical regions mean nearly everything imaginable has made its way onto a warm tortilla.
With that in mind, we offer a compendium of the tacos most likely to be encountered on Central Florida menus. Enjoy!
Illustrations by: Michellina Jones
Al pastor: Marinated, slow-cooked pork served with caramelized pineapple, fresh onion and cilantro.
Barbacoa: The original barbecue. Traditionally, lamb or goat but beef is common here. Wrapped in banana leaves and braised until tender, this dish is topped with chopped onion and cilantro and served with a cup of the consommé made from the drippings.
Birria: Most often made with goat. To serve, tortillas are dipped into the braising liquid, then filled with the meat and garnished with cilantro, onion, lime and salsa.
Cabeza: The braised or steamed head of a cow. Cooked until pull-apart tender, the meat is shredded and specific parts (lengua or tongue, sesos or brains, cachete or cheek and ojo or eye) may be requested.
Carne asada: Thin cuts of beef marinated in chili powder, cumin, garlic and lime juice and charcoal grilled. Topped with fresh onion, cilantro, Cotija cheese, avocado, salsa and lime.
Carnitas: From Michoacán, this dish means little meats. Pork shoulder is braised in lard until fork tender, then shredded and topped with cilantro, onion and salsa.
Chicharrón: Fried pork belly is a popular snack and becomes a great taco filling with a tomatillo or roja salsa. Serve with pickled jalapeño, Cotija and cilantro.
Chorizo: Mexican chorizo sausage is uncured and seasoned with garlic, paprika, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Garnished with chopped cilantro and onion.
Cochinita pibil: The name means suckling pig roasted in a pit, though most kitchens here use pork shoulder. The meat is marinated, then wrapped in banana leaves and roasted until tender. Served with pickled red onion.
Pescado: These fried fish tacos keep surfers full while riding the waves rolling in across the Pacific Ocean. Now just as often grilled, fish tacos are usually served with cabbage or coleslaw, pico de gallo and a mayonnaise-citrus sauce.