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Your Guide to Terrific Freestyle Tacos

Food52 logo Food52 3/12/2018 Valerio Farris

a bowl of food on a table © Provided by Food52

Where I’m from—Houston, Texas—not only is it acceptable to eat a taco for every meal, it’s encouraged. Our city has no shortage of options where you can enjoy one: stands, trucks, counters, cafés. And they’re all good—like, really good.

A taco is a beautiful thing. A bound parcel bearing the juiciest and sweetest of gifts. One of Mexico’s many culinary gifts to the world, they’re versatile, customizable, portable, and go down in a pinch. Far from home, I’ve taken taco-making duties into my own hands. New York, if you know where to look, has no shortage of stand-up tacos; still, I find the DIY approach exciting and stimulating. I’ve become the master of my own taco, playing with combinations of sauces, condiments, and fillings. Sometimes, I even make my own tortilla (ooh, ahh).

If you, too, feel compelled to assemble your own taco—which you should, it’s supremely easy—then consider this your guide. A few things to keep in mind: Start from the bottom and work toward the top, never skimp on sauce, and when in doubt, keep it simple. Now get going!

Tortillas

Here’s your base, treat it well. I usually opt for a corn tortilla. However, the majesty of a homemade flour tortilla should not be overlooked. This Genius recipe is oh so simple but oh so Dang, that’s good. If it’s corn you seek, then reach for the masa. Follow only the first half of the tortilla chip recipe and stop just short of cutting and crisping. Meanwhile, here’s some light tortilla history.

Genius Flour Tortillas © Provided by Food52 Genius Flour Tortillas Genius Flour Tortillas by AngelinaLaRue a sandwich cut in half on a plate: Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips © Provided by Food52 Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips by Ashley McLaughlin

Related video: Guerrilla Tacos: This Is How You Make an "Authentic" American Taco (provided by bon Appétit)

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Fillings

Now here’s where you get to have fun with things. It’s hard to get the filling wrong, but it’s worth a bit of effort to get the filling right. Right? Right. Some of the suggestions below weren’t even originally intended for tacos but would be great wrapped up in a warm, homemade tortilla. Make a few to mix and match, or experiment with your own inspired taco take.

a bowl of salad on a plate on a table: Chickpea Taco Bowls © Provided by Food52 Chickpea Taco Bowls Chickpea Taco Bowls by Alexandra Stafford a bowl of food on a plate: Pork Belly Carnitas © Provided by Food52 Pork Belly Carnitas Pork Belly Carnitas by meatified

a bowl of food on a plate: Diana Kennedy's Scrambled Ricotta (Requesón Revuelto a La Mexicana) © Provided by Food52 Diana Kennedy's Scrambled Ricotta (Requesón Revuelto a La Mexicana)

Diana Kennedy's Scrambled Ricotta (Requesón Revuelto a La Mexicana) by Genius Recipes

a pizza covered in toppings: Chipotle Braised Lamb Tacos with Balsamic-Soaked Raisins © Provided by Food52 Chipotle Braised Lamb Tacos with Balsamic-Soaked Raisins Chipotle Braised Lamb Tacos with Balsamic-Soaked Raisins by clintonhillbilly a bowl of food on a table: Grilled Salmon Tacos with Avocado Sauce © Provided by Food52 Grilled Salmon Tacos with Avocado Sauce Grilled Salmon Tacos with Avocado Sauce by sproutedkitchen

a bowl of food on a table: Barbecue Pulled Jackfruit © Provided by Food52 Barbecue Pulled Jackfruit

Barbecue Pulled Jackfruit by Catherine Lamb

a plate of food on a table: Chorizo-Style Seitan Tacos © Provided by Food52 Chorizo-Style Seitan Tacos Chorizo-Style Seitan Tacos by Gena Hamshaw a bowl of food on a plate: Tinga Chicken © Provided by Food52 Tinga Chicken Tinga Chicken by nannydeb

Salsas

I’m a sucker for a good salsa. I can’t toss back my taco without first topping it with a generous drizzle, plus a squirt of lime. If you’re a fan of spice, then this is your chance to get that heat going. Pack some peppers into your salsa and let the flames roar. Go creamy, go chunky, go both!

food on a table: Roasted Salsa Verde © Provided by Food52 Roasted Salsa Verde Roasted Salsa Verde by butterandthyme a bowl of food on a table: Half Roasted Tomato Salad with Salsa Verde © Provided by Food52 Half Roasted Tomato Salad with Salsa Verde Half Roasted Tomato Salad with Salsa Verde by Sarah Jampel a dish is filled with food: Cooked Green Salsa (Salsa Verde) © Provided by Food52 Cooked Green Salsa (Salsa Verde) Cooked Green Salsa (Salsa Verde) by Pati Jinich a bowl of food: Simple Orange Salsa © Provided by Food52 Simple Orange Salsa Simple Orange Salsa by Alexandra Stafford

Okay, now that that’s all set, don’t forget to garnish with some chopped cilantro and a spritz of lime juice. Your taco, and your taste buds, will thank you.

Related gallery: 20 Ways to Give New Life to Leftover Rice


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