How to Make Tacos at Home—Including Homemade Seasoning and Shells

Make taco truck-worthy tacos at home—including homemade seasoning, from-scratch taco shells, and inspiration on a wide variety of protein-packed fillings.

You'll want plenty of salsa handy after studying up on how to make homemade tacos! In addition to walking you through every step of how to make the best tacos from scratch, we're delivering inspiration for how to make birria tacos, how to make chicken tacos, how to make fish tacos and beyond so you can sample and savor a buffet of delights inspired by Baja, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and beyond.

Then read on to discover even more taco-inspired recipes. Because if you liked tacos before this how to make homemade tacos guide popped onto your screen, you're going to love (and crave) them even more once you master how to make the best tacos.

Chipotle Pork Tacos with sliced red cabbage and roasted lemons
Blaine Moats

How to Make Homemade Tacos

In Mexico, tacos are a snack food, often sold by street vendors from taco carts either midmorning or in the evening. Street tacos vary in preparation, especially by region. First, we'll explain a basic method for how to make the best tacos, then we'll dive into how to customize your batch to please your fiesta attendees or how to build a buffet so you can savor a wide variety at once.

Step 1: Buy or DIY the Tortillas

Purchase store-bought flour or corn tortillas, either soft or hard shell, as desired. Feeling ambitious? Learn how to make taco shells by hand; our recipe calls for only three ingredients.

If you're using soft shell tacos and are hosting a taco bar, keep the tortillas warm in a slow cooker. Wrap a stack of tortillas in a clean, damp towel (with the excess water rung out) so they stay moist. Set the slow cooker to "Keep Warm;" the tortillas will stay nice and toasty without drying out for at least 2 hours.

Yucatán-Style Fish Tacos green oregano leaves red cabbage
Blaine Moats

Step 2: Prepare the Filling

Many Mexican-American recipes simply call for browned ground beef spiced-up with a packet of taco seasoning. But you'll want to stroll right past the supermarket spice blends once you learn how to make taco seasoning yourself.

Brown the ground beef in an Instant Pot, on the stovetop, or in an oven—here are instructions for how to make taco meat each of those ways—then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the taco seasoning mix per pound, plus ½ cup water to keep the meat mixture moist.

If you're curious about how to make taco meat (or a vegetarian or vegan swap) score step-by-step instructions for some of the most popular varieties below. Keep in mind that 3 cups of filling makes 12 tacos.

  • How to Make Fish Tacos: Pescado (fish) tacos, originated in the Yucatan Peninsula since residents there had easy access to fresh local fish. To make DIY fish tacos, marinate or slow cook firm fish fillets, such as halibut, salmon, or orange roughy, in citrus juice and spices.
  • How to Make Birria Tacos: Traditionally made with goat but often made with beef as an easily accessible alternative, birria is actually a stew that is a a staple in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Social media-trendy birria tacos take that spice-infused, sweet, sour, and ultra-savory Mexican stew and transforms it into something easy to enjoy on the go. The birria meat acts as the taco filling, while the broth is dreamy as a dipping "sauce."
  • How to Make Grilled Tacos: Al carbon (grilled, or more accurately, cooked over coal) tacos are a specialty of Northern Mexico, and often come stuffed with charbroiled meat, such as marinated grilled skirt steak. Vegetarian variations are also particularly well-suited for grilling.
  • How to Make Carnitas Tacos: For popular carnitas (pork) tacos, simmer tough pork shoulder in warm spices for hours in a slow cooker or oven until it's fork-tender.
  • How to Make Fried Tacos: Also called flautas, taquitos, or fried tacos, dorados tacos involve stuffing the tortillas with your preferred meat or plant-based meat substitute, cheese, and toppings first, then pan-frying until lightly browned.
  • How to Make Tacos al Pastor: These succulent, sweet-spicy street tacos classically combine pork and pineapple cooked on a vertical spit. Vendors carved off slices of the meat along with bits of pineapple to stuff inside tortillas. To recreate something similar at home, grill pork coated in a zippy chile-pineapple marinade and grill the fruit itself, to chop and serve as the taco filling.
Roasted Pork Tacos with Pumpkin Seed Sauce
Reed Davis

Step 3: Round Up Taco Toppings

No guide to how to make the best tacos would be complete without taking things over the top! Of course there's the tried-and-true shredded lettuce, chopped onion, chopped tomato, and shredded cheese. Then up the ante with some or all of these options:

  • Fresh lime wedges
  • Snipped fresh cilantro
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Elote Corn Topper
  • Pico de gallo and/or salsa
  • Pickled or fresh jalapeño chile peppers, sliced
  • Sautéed sliced onions and sweet peppers
  • Mexican crema or sour cream
  • Hot sauce
  • Guacamole
  • Queso
  • Warmed refried beans or canned black beans
  • Crumbled queso fresco

Step 4: Set the Scene

Now that you've mastered how to make taco shells, seasoning mix, filling, and toppings, deck out a table with plates, napkins, tortillas, and colorful dishes of filling(s) and toppings with serving utensils so everyone can dish up his or her own. Don't forget the margaritas!

How to Make the Taco-Inspired Recipes to Keep the Fun Going

Admittedly, if you're searching for how to make authentic tacos, you can stop right here But if you're like us, you love tacos so much you don't want to reserve them for taco night only. Discover our 11 favorite savory and sweet (yes, really!) dishes that give a nod to this MVP menu item.

For Breakfast

For Lunch

For Dinner

For Dessert

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