Most people go with ground beef, fish, or chicken when making tacos at home. However, have you ever considered using pork or even grasshoppers as your taco meat? There are an endless amount of options to choose from when deciding how to fill a taco shell or tortilla.
In this article, we will cover some of the more popular options for taco meat. We will even cover a few vegan options for those of you who don’t eat meat.
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Which Types of Tacos are Made with Chicken?
Chicken is popular taco meat. It’s typically very lean, but still extremely juicy and flavorful. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ways that chicken taco meat is prepared.
While pollo literally translates into ‘chicken’ in English, if you see pollo tacos on a menu you’re getting more than just grilled chicken. Typically, the chicken has been marinated in delicious juices, it is then grilled and cut into small pieces.
Chicken tinga is a great alternative for those who don’t like shredded red meats. It’s made from braised chicken thighs that are mixed in a tomato-chili sauce.
Which Types of Tacos are Made with Beef?
Beef is another extremely popular taco meat. It is relatively cheap and pairs well with a variety of different flavors. Note that beef can be from any part of the cow. However, if it’s an unusual source, the restaurant usually notes it.
Although barbacoa is technically a cooking style, it is often made with beef head or beef cheeks. It can also occasionally be made with goat.
The meat is either slowly cooked over an open flame or using a hole that has been dug in the ground. Either way, it becomes extremely tender during the process.
Cecina is thinly sliced beef that has been dried or smoked. It is commonly marinated in a coating of chili. The thin slices work great in a tortilla and often have a smoky flavor.
Using ground beef in tacos is mostly an Americanized version of a taco. The tacos seasonings emulate some of the flavors that are found in other taco meats.
Carne asada translates to “grilled meat”, but when you order a carne asada taco, you are ordering a particular cut of steak. More specifically, it’s a flap or ranchera steak from the short loin section of the cow.
The meat is usually marinated in citrus juices and spices and then grilled. Carne asada can be served on its own or in a taco.
Lengua translates into beef tongue. If done poorly, the meat can be extremely chewy. However, if it’s slow-cooked and then chopped into small pieces it can be very buttery.
If you get a good lengua taco, you won’t even notice that you’re eating beef tongue.
Sesos are cow brains. The meat almost has a custardy texture and is very silky. It is prepared by boiling the cow head until the meat falls off the bone. It is then seasoned and grilled or braised.
Suadero is prepared using meat from between the belly and leg of a cow. It is stewed and then fried, which gives it a lovely crisp.
Tripas is cow stomach or intestine. The meat is cleaned, boiled, and cooked using two tiling discs.
While res isn’t a cooking style it does mean beef. Sometimes restaurants will use cooking styles common with other meats but use beef instead. Therefore if you see “al res” on a menu, you can be confident it’s beef.
Which Types of Tacos Are Made Using Pork?
Pork is another common taco meat. It’s moist and holds a wide array of flavors.
Tacos al pastor is a slow-cooked portion of pork that is cooked on a Trumbo and marinated in a blend of chilies and spices. The meat is often cooked with something sweet like pineapple in order to give it more of a sweet heat.
Tacos árabes is a fusion of Middle Eastern and Mexican cooking. It involves stuffing slowly cooked marinated pork into a pita-like tortilla.
Carnitas is very similar to how the US does pulled pork. It is a shredded pork shoulder that has been braised or simmered until it is extremely tender. The best carnitas has crispy ends.
Although it may sound weird chicharrón, or pork rinds, make an excellent taco filling. They are often simmered in salsa and take on a softer, but not chewy consistency.
Chorizo is a blend of minced pork that’s been seasoned with spicy chili peppers. In Spain, chorizo is cured and smoked, while Mexican chorizo is typically fresh and uncooked.
What Other Types of Taco Meat Are There?
While most tacos use pork, chicken, or beef there are some other unique types of tacos.
Chapulines, or grasshoppers, are touted for their sustainability. They provide a lot of protein with little fat content. They are usually dried, toasted, and tossed in spices and lime juice.
While birria can be made with beef, it is often made with goat meat. It’s a spicy stew meat that is usually reserved for special occasions but can sometimes be found in tacos.
The Mexican truffle, otherwise known as corn fungus, is considered a delicacy as it is extremely hard to find. It tastes similar to a mushroom and is very delicious.
The delicious, deep-fried chickpea fritters make a great taco filling. Although it’s not a traditional Mexican filling, it goes great with most taco toppings.
Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans
Sweet potatoes make a great taco filling because they add a subtle sweetness yet soak up spice and flavor well. Combine them with black beans to add some protein.
Mini shrimp are great for tacos. They can be paired with cilantro and lime or even just a sweet salsa. Again, shrimp isn’t a traditional taco filling, but if you head to the west coast, you’ll find some of the best tacos you’ll ever have will be filled with shrimp.
Ceviche, or fish cooked with lime juice, pairs nicely with salsa and cheese. This is a great option if you don’t like the flavor of fish, because the ceviche mostly just tastes like lime.