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Your Essential Guide to Authentic Tacos

You might think you know tacos - but do you know authentic Mexican tacos?

Authentic tacos don't have all that much in common with their Americanized counterparts. Sure, they still involve tortillas, meat, and fillings, but the similarities pretty much stop there.

There's a lot to know about traditional tacos, including their history and cultural traditions. Keep reading before you hit the next Taco Tuesday - we promise this guide will make them taste even better!

Fun Facts About Authentic Tacos

First, we're serving up our favorite taco trivia.

Are you looking for the perfect conversation starter at a party?

Just share your newfound taco knowledge - you'll be making new friends in no time.

1. Tacos Are Ancient

Of course, your favorite local taco joint is serving up fresh tacos that are just seconds old. However, the taco itself actually has a long and storied history.

No one's sure just when the first taco was invented, but most historians believe they came about between 1,000 and 500 BC. This was long before modern silverware was invented, so in those days, tacos provided a handy way to eat food with your hands.

The word "taco" came much, much later. It wasn't until the 19th century that tacos were first mentioned in recorded history. Back then, they were referred to as "tacos mineros" Mineros means miner (more on that in a sec). In the U.S., tacos were first mentioned in 1905.

2. Tacos Were Once Explosives

The first tacos were called tacos mineros because of their association with the Mexican silver mines.

When the word taco first came about, it didn't refer to the delicious meal we know today. These "tacos" were actually filled with gunpowder and wrapped with paper sheets instead of tortillas. When these explosive tacos were placed in the rock, they opened up new passages to be mined.

3. Americans Love Tacos

Mexico may have popularized the taco as a way to eat, but Americans have been enjoying a full-blown taco obsession for many years. reports that Americans now eat more than 4.5 billion tacos each year. (National Taco Day is October 4th, in case you were wondering.)

The chain fast-food restaurant Taco Bell plays no small part in that number, although it's not exactly known for authentic tacos. You might be surprised to learn that Taco Bell actually started out as a failed hamburger stand.

4. The Word Has Its Own Meaning

The word "taco" actually has a couple of different modern meanings. It's sometimes translated as "wad" or "plug," possibly referring to the early uses of tacos as explosives.

However, today "taco" can be used to mean "light lunch," in addition to referring to the specific food you know and love.

5. Authentic Tacos Are Meant for Lunch

Of course, tacos are great at any time of day - yes, even breakfast tacos have their place. But if you're looking for the authentic experience, then tacos for lunch are the way to go.

In Mexican tradition, tacos are a lunchtime food, so consider grabbing tacos for your next day date or lunch meeting.

6. The Ingredients Are Different

Most importantly, when you order authentic tacos, prepare for something different than the standard ground beef and hard shell combo you might be used to.

Traditional tacos use soft corn tortillas, not flour tortillas or hard shells. The best tortillas are fresh and locally made, so if you've only had storebought corn tortillas, you're in for a treat.

Most authentic tacos don't have any cheese on them but are topped with a mix of diced white onion and fresh cilantro. Americanized tacos, on the other hand, usually have cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

Traditional tacos are usually filled with meat that's fried, grilled, or stewed, not the ground hamburger you see in many American tacos. The meat is often marinated first in a mix of spices like paprika, onion, lime, oregano, and cumin. Then, when it's cooked, nothing more than salt and pepper is added.

7. Traditional Tacos Aren't Always Spicy

Think authentic means spicy? Think again. Most authentic tacos aren't made to be spicy - the meat and marinade are usually pretty mild. However, the spice level can be raised depending on what kind of homemade salsa is used. Meanwhile, American tacos often use mild or medium store-bought salsa.

8. Salsa Changes Everything

You'll have an entirely different taco experience depending on which traditional salsa style you choose. Not just the heat level, but the entire flavor profile can change with a different salsa.

Some of the most popular salsa styles:

  • Salsa roja: this "red sauce" uses a tomato base that gives it a rich red color. It can be smoky, and sometimes hot, thanks to the addition of chile peppers

  • Salsa negra: This "black" salsa has a dark color thanks to the roasted chiles it uses. It also includes garlic and oil

  • Salsa verde: The "green sauce" has a green color thanks to tomatillos, which are mixed with onion, garlic, and herbs

  • Avocado salsa: This avocado-based salsa isn't the same as guacamole. Whit vinegar and lime are added to make it thinner and saucier

  • Pico de gallo: Many Americans have tried this uncooked salsa mix of onion, tomato, jalapeno, lime, and cilantro

In Mexico, "salsa" simply means "sauce," so it's a much broader definition than the American one. Salsa isn't just meant to add spice, but to add flavor to the meat.

Do You Need Authentic Tacos in Your Life?

Americanized tacos are popular for a reason - they're delicious, even though they aren't authentic. But if you love American tacos, we know you'll love traditional tacos, too (in fact, you might even like them more).

Authentic tacos take more time and effort to make at home than American ones do. The best traditional tacos use slow-cooked meat, handmade tortillas, and salsas made from scratch. But don't worry - you don't have to make them at home when there are great authentic taco restaurants to try.

Looking for traditional tacos in the Grapevine area? Look no further - check out our menu today!

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