For some tacos are a religion. And as with any faith, there’s going to be battles fought and alternate opinions expressed. Here at YumSizzle we’re on the quest to find out what makes things taste great, but we also recognize there might not be a one size fits all answer. The taco shop down the street might make more sense to you than the gold crusted lobster taco you saw on the Food Network. And you know what? That’s ok!
As with any taco talk (yes that was fun to write) we have to start off with the tortilla. Corn or flour?
Corn Tortilla HistoryThe corn tortilla came first and can trace its roots back a couple thousand years. The aztec people ate a couple of tortillas with every meal often dipping them in Mole or spiced oils and water or filling them with ingredients like turkey, beans, and squash. In fact corn is considered the basis of central american cuisine by many experts. It wasn’t until the early 1500’s however when the tortilla got its name. Cortez and other explorers of the time fell in love with the flat corn cakes that the native people were eating and gave it their own name, tortilla.
Flour Tortilla HistoryThe flour tortillas history is a little harder to pin down. There’s some who say it was Jews fleeing the inquisition in the early 1500’s who can claim the creation of the flour tortilla. Noting, that for some corn wasn’t kosher, so they sought to recreate the pita breads they were used to with the wheat in the area (Mexico/Texas border). However, at the time lard was one of the (and still is) main ingredients of flour tortillas…and that certainly isn’t Kosher. It’s more likely that the land in the Northern part of Mexico was just simply better suited for growing wheat than corn. As is often the case with food, especially food with rich old history, the land provides and the humans consume.
Regardless of the historical accuracy of either of these foods, in the current culinary landscape there’s no escaping that both of these glorious vessels have their place at the table. So with that little history lesson out of the way, let’s get in to what really makes a great tortilla.
The Best Corn Tortillas
- Have a distinct texture.
- They need to hold up to dripping meat and salsas.
- They can’t be too large.
- They must be fresh.
The Best Flour Tortillas
Are flakey and easy to roll.
They should be a little chewy.
Have great coloring around the outside.
When it comes to tortillas and tacos there are rights, and there are wrongs.. So to help you out here’s a quick list of which tacos can be served with which tortilla. Of course feel free to comment below and let us know which tortilla you think belongs with each taco.
Al Pastor – Corn
For us Al Pastor is the quintessential taco. Spit roasted layers of meat mixed with pineapple, cilantro, fresh onion, and salsas. Step up to any taco stand in Mexico and you’ll be getting these bad boys on corn tortillas.
Barbacoa – Corn or Flour
Good ole Barbacoa. Slow roasted meat usually over a fire or in a pit, served up simply with some cilantro and lime. Corn and Flour both work for this as the star of the show will flavor bomb anything you put it on. We might slightly prefer corn tortillas here if you’re heating them up over the fire as they’ll pick up a little smokiness.
Cabeza – Corn
The Cabeza taco is a little less popular (at least in the U.S.) than some of the other taco types on this list. The slow stewed meat from the head of the cow might not be for everyone but if you’re into it we recommend corn tortillas as they stand up to the texture of the Cabeza meat better than flour tortillas.
Carne Asada – Corn or Flour
Carne Asada might be the most popular of the tacos. They’re easy to find on most Mexican themed menus and trucks and tough to mess up. If the carne is really delicious and dripping with flavor we recommend going corn and keeping it simple with some cilantro, onion, and lime. If the meat could use a little help then go with the flour tortilla and pile on the condiments to bring back a little life to that poor grey piece of meat.
Carnitas – Corn or Flour
Carnitas is another standby. When done correctly the little crispy edges of the Carnitas meat can be one of the all time greatest bites. For moist, dripping carnitas we recommend flour tortillas. For crunchier dryer Carnitas we recommend corn tortillas for a better texture match.
Fish/Pescado – Flour
The fish taco belongs in a flour tortilla. Regardless of your feelings on fried vs. grilled fish, which toppings, and cheese or no cheese.
Vegetarian – Flour
A good flour tortilla adds a flaky texture to tacos that are usually a little one-dimensional in texture. You might think the corn tortilla would be better, but the chewy-ness of the flour tortilla usually matches up better with veggie inspired tacos.
What are your favorite tacos (where are they from?) and which tortillas do you prefer? Comment below and let us know!