Cooking School

How to make the best tacos ever

By: Nadine Sharon Anglin

Shredded Pork Tacos With Avocado Corn Salsa </br>Photography by Jeff Coulson/TC Media Author: Canadian Living Credits: Shredded Pork Tacos With Avocado Corn Salsa </br>Photography by Jeff Coulson/TC Media

Cooking School

How to make the best tacos ever

By: Nadine Sharon Anglin
Do you host a regular taco night? Chances are the popular dish is something you and your family enjoy either at home or out at a local restaurant on a regular basis. In North America we've taken this humble meal to the extreme, substituting traditional ingredients for convenience items and employing a ''more is more'' mentality.

''Here they are cooking different cuts of meats and using different cooking styles, and the garnishes are more complex from what is traditional in Mexico,'' says chef Jose Hadad of Frida Restaurant and Bar in Toronto, who is also the owner of Mad Mexican, a line of salsas and nacho chips.

Isn't it high time we took the taco back to its roots? It's a lot easier than you may think. Read on for more tips and tricks for making the best tacos ever!


In Mexico, small corn tortillas are the flatbread of choice. They're not impossible to make, but grinding the corn for the batter will take you a good while. Instead, head to your city or town's Latin area and pick up fresh corn tortillas. The smaller sizes (about six inches in diameter) are generally what you will find in Mexican eateries, and are easier to consume than larger tortillas.

Traditionally, tortillas are steamed, not fried. To replicate this practice at home, use a vegetable steamer pot. Fill the pot with 1/4 inch of water, wrap a stack of tortillas in a clean dish towel and place them into the steamer basket. Steam the tortillas for about 10 to 15 minutes. If you prefer fried tortillas, use a griddle pan brushed with a little bit of oil. Grill the tortilla on one side for a few moments and then flip it and grill it on the other.

Are you filling your tacos with ground beef and shredded iceberg lettuce? If yes, you're missing out! Shredded steak or chicken, pulled pork, shrimp, fish and fresh veggies are all so much more flavourful.

For shredded steak, try marinating flank steak in the fridge the night before cooking. For pulled pork, season a pork shoulder with salt and pepper and your favourite barbecue sauce, then cook it in your slow cooker -- it couldn't be easier. Once done, chop the shoulder into big pieces and then use two forks to shred the meat. For fish tacos, lightly bread and fry a white fish of your choice, and for shrimp tacos, try tossing the shrimp in lemon or lime juice beforehand.

For vegetables, you can't go wrong with fresh diced tomatoes and onions. If you prefer sweeter tomatoes, use the grape variety (quartered or chopped). Or, if they're in season and available in your area, try tomatillos instead. If you find freshly diced onions are too strong for your family's palate, soak them for a few minutes in water first.

As for herbs, stick to a classic: ''Cilantro is typically used. Let's not mess with a good thing!'' says Hadad. However, cilantro is notorious for being one of those ingredients that people either love or hate, so serve it on the side.

Finally, don't forget a good sprinkling of cheese, such as Oaxaca, queso fresco or Monterey Jack.

''In Mexico you can get tacos everywhere,'' says Hadad, ''but the way most would decide which taqueria to go to is by the salsa served for garnishing. Fresh salsa is key.''

According to Hadad: ''You can decide to make a simple pico de gallo salsa at home -- finely chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapenos to your heat level and cilantro -- or pick up one of our artisan-made salsas.''

Here are a few traditional salsas to try.

Salsa roja: Cooked tomatoes, chilies, onion, garlic and fresh cilantro
Salsa verde: Cooked tomatillos and chilies
Salsa negra: Dried chilies, oil and garlic
Salsa taquera: Tomatillos and chipotle chilies

''Salsa'' is simply the Spanish word for ''sauce,'' and this is your opportunity to put a signature stamp on your taco night. You can make fruit salsas using pineapples, mango, papaya or kiwi fruit, or try corn salsa or even carrot salsa. If you're feeling extra adventurous, try your hand at a mole sauce: unsweetened chocolate mixed with chilies and spices.

Finishing touches
To round out your tacos, serve a side of homemade guacamole with nacho chips, as well as refried beans and rice or Spanish rice (rice cooked with tomatoes and onions and seasoned with garlic and herbs). For the adults, Mexican beers will go with the night's theme, and for the kids, whip up a pitcher of virgin margaritas, mock sangria or Latin limeade (like lemonade but made with limes and brown sugar).
Share X
Cooking School

How to make the best tacos ever