There are so many types of tacos in Mexico. Before moving to this taco-loving country, I thought I knew a thing or two about tacos.
I was so, so wrong.
Tacos in Mexico are nothing like the crunchy lettuce and ground-beef filled concoctions that my mother used to make us on “taco night” when I was growing up.
The types of tacos that you can find in Mexico vary greatly depending on what region of the country you’re in.
Types of Tacos: Corn Vs Flour Tortillas
Mexico’s big debate (not really, but sort of).
If you visit Ensenada, you’ll likely find all of your tacos wrapped in a soft flour tortilla. Head to Mexico City and corn is king.
One is not “more Mexican” than the other. Both are found in different parts of the country, both are filled with amazing things, and both are called tacos.
The rule of thumb is basically that the Northern states of Mexico tend to use flour tortillas and from the Central region south, you’ll be filling corn tortillas for your tacos.
Of course, you can still find flour tortillas in Central Mexico and I’ve had some seriously delicious tacos in Tijuana made with corn tortillas.
No matter what they’re made of though, try to find places that are making them fresh to order. There is truly nothing more magical than a freshly made tortilla, piping hot off the comal and filled with a meat of your choice.
The Best Types of Tacos in Mexico
These are all of the best types of tacos that you’ll see in most parts of Mexico.
1. Pastor Tacos
I may be totally biased because I live in Mexico City, but there is nothing better than a good pastor taco. This Lebanese-fusion food started here in Mexico City, but you can find it all over the country now.
Pastor is always made with pork here in Mexico. While in the US you may find it made with chicken or beef, unless it is specified otherwise, know that pastor tacos are made with pork meat.
If you haven’t watched the pastor taco episode of Taco Chronicles on Netflix, then I highly recommend checking it out.
You know you’ve found a place with pastor when you see a huge orange “trompo” or schwarma-like meat being cooked outside the restaurant or taco stand. It’s made by placing thin slices of marinated pork onto a skewer. The best ones are cooked “al carbon” or by coal.
The most common way to have it is with cilantro, onion, and pineapple on top.
2. Suadero Tacos
This is one of my all-time favorite types of tacos. Suadero is almost always made from beef. It’s actually the name of the cut of beef that is used to make this type of taco.
The suadero meat comes from the part of the cow between the leg and the belly. At most taco stands, the meat is slowly cooked in animal fat along with all of the other cuts of meat.
By the time it’s ready to eat it is as soft as room temperature butter. It’s rich with beef flavor and usually a little bit greasy from the meat fat.
Be sure to top it with a spicy salsa to cut through the fat and top it with some onion, lime, and cilantro.
3. Carnitas Tacos
Carnitas or little meats, are a type of taco filling made from pork. The pork is slow-roasted, quite literally from nose to tail (you’ll likely find some of both the nose and tail in your taco if you’re lucky!).
There are a few ways to have carnitas.
You can opt to just ask for maciza which is all of the sort of white meat parts of the pig. This includes some loin, some chops, and what’s called chamorro, or the shank.
This is the cleanest type of carnitas taco and should definitely be topped with some spicy salsa.
The other option that you will be asked about is surtido. Surtido is like a mixture of all of the bits of the pig. There will be pieces of sticky and delicious fat and skin as well as pieces of white meat. They usually throw a few chunks of chicharron on the top (fried pork skin like pork crackling).
This is a slightly heavier and greasier carnitas taco. It definitely needs onion, cilantro, lime, and spicy salsa to cut through, but it is utterly delectable.
4. Barbacoa Tacos
Barbacoa is actually a style of cooking where meat is slow roasted in a pit or open fire. Now, however, it mostly refers to a specific type of taco, the barbacoa taco.
Barbacoa tacos are made differently all over the country. Traditionally, it is made with sheep or goat, but I’ve seen beef used very frequently as well.
These slow roasted meat is a popular meal for big parties or celebrations. Because it takes so long to make, it’s not usually something people have every week.
Except in Mexico City of course, where barbacoa tends to be a Sunday tradition. You can find it at restaurants and markets all over the city on weekends. The most popular spot being El Hidalguense.
Birria originates from Guadalajara and if you get the chance to have it there, be sure to head to Birria las 9 Esquinas.
Birria is most traditionally made with goat, however in most places out side of Jalisco, you’ll find it made with beef.
It is slow roasted until it is perfectly soft. It is almost always served either in consomme or with a free cup of consomme to drink while you eat your tacos.
The consomme is a deliciously rich broth made from the fats and juices of the birria meat. It’s blended with onions, tomatoes and a few spices to give it some serious flavor.
Bistec is simply steak. It’s usually sliced very thing and cooked quickly on a flat top. This is the type of street taco that almost every taco vendor will make.
It’s simple, usually served with either cooked cebollitas (small, cooked white onions) or raw white onion and cilantro. If you’re a picky eater and aren’t interested in the more exotic offerings, you’ll always find a decent bistec taco somewhere.
Arrachera is one of the most famous cuts of beef in Mexico. You’ll find it in any good taco restaurant and it’s almost always the most expensive taco on the menu.
Arrachera is the flank. It’s perfectly thin and cooked usually to leave it slightly pink in the middle. It’s then cut into strips and served on a tortilla (I prefer arrachera on a flour tortilla myself).
This cut is most popular in Northern cities like Tijuana and Monterrey, but you can also find it in nicer taco restaurants in Mexico City and Guadalajara.
Guisado or guiso means stew. These are popular breakfast tacos around Mexico and you’ll find them easily inside markets or on street corners in the mornings.
There are tons of different types of guisados. You have red rice with hardboiled eggs, nopales with onions, scrambled eggs with tomato sauce, or rajas with cream (rajas slices of cooked poblano chilis).
There are meat-heavy options like potato and chorizo or picadillo, which is ground beef with vegetables. Tinga, which is chicken cooked with chipotle and onions, is also a popular option.
This is just about the closest type of taco you’ll get to home cooking in Mexico. Every Mexican mother knows how to make these common guisados and they’re always served with nice warm tortillas.
9. Chorizo & Longaniza
I put these two types of tacos together on the list because they are quite similar.
I have tried to do a lot of research on the differences between chorizo and longaniza. I have done a lot of reading and asked a lot of Mexicans, and well, it’s mostly still unclear to me.
Here’s what I know for sure. Both are made with pork. Both are made with a bit of meat and a bit of fat. They also both have a lot of paprika in them.
Chorizo is made with ground beef where longaniza is minced. What’s the difference between ground and minced I hear you ask? Ground meat goes through a grinder. Minced meat is made by very finely chopping the meat.
In Mexico, Chorizo is cured for a little while and longaniza is barely cured (sometimes it isn’t cured at all).
Whichever pork sausage you choose, be sure to have one in a taco. It’s delicious.
Campechano tacos are a popular option at almost all street taco stands. It’s basically a mixture of two ingredients. Without specifying, campechano is usually bistec and chorizo (unless it’s bistec and longaniza).
I’ve seen taco restaurants that use the word simply to describe any taco that has two ingredients. This means you get to choose, so you might order a “campechano con bistec y pastor.”
11. Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil tacos are one of the country’s most famous and beloved types of tacos.
Thankfully, you can now find it in Mexico City, too.
This pork dish is made by slow roasting the pork in a sauce made from achiote chili paste and oranges. Sometimes other spices like cloves and cinnamon are added.
If you are in Merida, be sure to have it at La Lupita. If in Mexico City, you can’t miss the cochinita pibil tacos at El Turix.
They’re almost always topped with pickled red onions and a nice splash of habanero salsa.
12. Cabeza Tacos
Yes, head tacos.
The head that is usually being referred to when you see signs saying “tacos de cabeza” is the head of a cow.
The cows head is generally steamed, making all of the meat super soft and tender.
The most popular parts that you can try are tongue (lengua), eyes (ojos), and cheek (mejilla). It is truly some of the most tender meat you’ll ever have and it’s also one of the most popular street tacos in Mexico.
Lechon isn’t exactly a meat that originates from Mexico, but it is incredibly popular in the Yucatan as a breakfast food. While it may not be the most nutritious start to your day, it’s worth getting up and over to the taco stands early so you don’t miss out on this delicious type of Mexican taco.
However, you’ll also likely find lechon tacos in Mexico City and a few other cities along the east coast of the country and you may not need to have it before 11am.
Lechon is slow-roasted pork, usually cooked over an open fire and sometimes on a spit. It’s incredibly juicy and a little bit fatty. It’s usually served with a slice of crunchy pork skin on top (not like chicharron).
14. Tacos Arabe
Another fusion style taco that you’ll find all over the central region of Mexico is tacos Arabe or Arab tacos.
The meat for tacos Arabe is cooked similar to the way pastor meat is cooked, on a spit usually in front of coal. However, the meat can be anything from pork to beef to lamb.
It’s seasoned with herbs and spices and then served on a tortilla that’s a bit more like a pita bread.
There are no rules with tacos Arabe, except that it should be served in pan arabe (the pita bread-like tortilla). That means whenever you see a taco place that serves up tacos Arabe, there’s a pretty good chance it’s not going to taste anything like the other tacos arabe that you’ve tried.
15. Tacos Dorados
Tacos dorados are one of the closest things you’ll find to a “hard shell taco” besides tostadas of course.
Tacos dorados are filled with pretty much whatever you’d like. The most commons ways I’ve seen it are on Sundays at a market filled with barbacoa or at a street stall filled with chicken.
There are two ways that it’s served. First is that the tortilla is filled with meat. Then a toothpick is stuck at the mouth of the tortilla to keep it closed while it is fried.
The second way that I’ve seen it is kind of like a flauta. So it’s filled with meat and then rolled up to look like a flute. Then it’s fried like that.
Either way, tacos dorados are fried and served crunchy usually with some cream, lettuce, and cheese on top.
16. Tacos de Canasta
One of the most delicious and underrated tacos in Mexico is tacos de canasta or basket tacos.
I highly recommend watching the tacos de canasta episode on Taco Chronicles which talks all about the history of this traditional “working man’s” taco.
These types of tacos are made early in the morning. The three most common fillings are chicharron, potato, and refried beans.
The tacos are piled high inside a basket, but the basket is lined with a thick plastic bag.
Then boiling hot oil is poured over the top and the bag is sealed so the tacos stay warm all day long.
You’ll see these tacos at soccer games, on street corners, and at small taco restaurants. They are incredibly cheap (usually 5 pesos each or less). They are soft from steaming all day, and they are packed with flavor.
Mixiote tacos really just mean mixed, however, the style that I’m referring to are slow cooked, often in a pit, much like barbacoa.
These tacos are made around the central region in Mexico City, Hidalgo, and Guerrero most often and they are usually made with a combination of beef and pork or beef and sheep.
The meat mixture is usually seasoned heavily with different spices and chilis. Sometimes it already has it’s own sauce and sometimes it’s just a dry-rub, so you’ll want to add a little bit of sauce.
I have written about my favorite Mixiote tacos so many times (you can find the name of that place in this blog post). They are truly the best tacos I have ever, ever had and I try to go there at least twice a month to remind myself.
They’re served with all types of toppings like nopales, beans, spicy salsa, and habanero onions.
Last but certainly not least is the humble taco de pescado, or fish taco. If you head to Cabo, La Paz, Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta, or basically any other beach town in Mexico, you’ll find tacos de pescado.
You’ll also likely find tacos de marlin (smoked marlin tacos), tacos de camaron (shrimp tacos), and perhaps even tacos de pulpo if you’re lucky (octopus tacos)!
Usually the fish in tacos de pescado are battered and fried. This is the traditional Baja-style fish taco that you’ll get all over the Baja Peninsula and beyond.
However, there are plenty of fish tacos to be had that are made with grilled seafood. I prefer these most and found them a lot in taco restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.