Main dish Tex-Mex

The good, the bad and the puffy tacos

Puffy tacos DSC 3926

New York City is shaping up to be a terrific taco town. There are taco trucks scattered throughout the five boroughs, with one even parked just a few blocks from my apartment on Sundays. There are numerous Mexican delis that serve tacos from crowded counters in the back of the store. On weekends, there are the Mexican vendors at the Red Hook Ball Fields offering tacos to both hungry soccer players and taco-aficionados alike. I enjoy these tacos, but there’s only one problem—these are authentic Mexican tacos, two soft corn tortillas stuffed with juicy pork, beef, goat, chicken, chorizo or tongue, topped with cilantro, salsa, onions and a squirt of lime. They are delicious, but they’re not Tex-Mex tacos, which can be soft, crisp or puffy tacos, and sometimes that’s what I really want.

Classic Tex-Mex tacos fall into two categories: soft tacos, which are made with fluffy flour tortillas, and crispy tacos, which are fashioned from deep-fried corn tortillas. The stuffing in Tex-Mex tacos tends to be less exotic than their Mexican counterparts, with spiced-up ground beef the most ubiquitous. Of course you’ll also find stewed chicken, fajita meat and fried fish along with barbacoa de cabeza on Sundays and eggs, potatoes and breakfast meats in the mornings. I love all of these, but that crispy taco filled with ground beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and salsa is the true Tex-Mex classic. And when done well, it can be just as flavorful and complex as its more authentic brethren.

Puffy tacos | Homesick Texan

Unfortunately, a properly done crispy taco is a rare find. Fast-food restaurants and grocery stores have cornered the market on mass-produced crispy shells, yet what they’re selling is a cold, dry and flavorless enclosure that adds nothing to the taco repertoire; their bad reputation is well deserved. But try a freshly fried crispy taco and you’ll have a revelation. Each bite starts with a satisfying salty snap that soon gives way to a toothsome flow of fiery meat and spicy salsa tempered by the cool lettuce and creamy cheese. And while there is always the risk of some filling escaping the taco and running down your chin, there are enough bumps and craters in this crunchy shell to keep most of it where it belongs before it reaches your mouth.

Homemade crispy tacos are a cinch to make and if you’ve never had one I highly recommend trying them—you’ll never eat one from Taco Bell again. You just heat up a couple of inches of oil in a pot, throw in the tortilla, shape it with a spatula and you’re done in a couple of minutes. They taste best with homemade corn tortillas, but even if you use store-bought tortillas what you create will be far superior to pre-fab shells. And if you want to get really fancy, you can make that San Antonio specialty—puffy tacos. These are made from uncooked masa dough that is pressed and then thrown into the hot oil and as they cook, they bubble up like sopapillas. These delicious puffed shells are airy, flaky and crunchy—a wonderful vehicle for your taco fillings.

Puffy tacos | Homesick Texan

Fried taco shells taste best when fresh out of the oil, so it’s wise to have your fillings already laid out for easy stuffing. Growing up, ground beef simmered in hot sauce and chili powder is what we always ate when it was taco night at home. And even though there are countless other ways to fill a taco, sometimes I desire the simplicity of this traditional Tex-Mex treat. As for other toppings, the coolness of iceberg is preferred over leafier greens, and if you can find red, ripe tomatoes, throw on a few of those, too. If you want cheese, the only one for a classic Tex-Mex taco is orange cheddar. And don’t forget a hearty dash of salsa, which is always the finest finishing touch.

My friends and I enjoy traveling to the outer reaches of New York City to eat authentic Mexican tacos and when the tortillas are fresh, the meat is juicy and the salsa is bright, they’re sublime. Yet as good as they are, they’re just not that nostalgic taste of home. Perhaps someday a taqueria with freshly fried crispy tacos will open here—and I bet taco-mad New Yorkers would embrace them as well. But no matter, at least they’re fun and easy to make, so whenever I have my craving, I can just fire up a skillet of oil, press out some masa, and watch the taco shells puff up and come to life.

Puffy tacos DSC 3926
5 from 4 votes

Puffy tacos

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the puffy taco shells:

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Ingredients for the tacos:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium-yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup your favorite salsa
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • Shredded cheese, for serving
  • Shredded lettuce, for serving
  • Diced tomatoes, for serving


  1. To make the taco shells, mix masa harina, water, and salt together until it forms into a soft ball. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water a tablespoon at a time.

  2. Divide dough into 16 equal balls, and press out with a tortilla press or roll out with a rolling pin. Keep pressed discs covered with a damp cloth.

  3. Heat up 2 inches of oil in a pot or skillet to 350°F. Gently place a disc in the hot oil and it should immediately start to puff. After 5 seconds, with a spatula, make an indention in the center so it forms a V shape.

  4. Gently cook the shell on each side until light brown and crispy (about 20 seconds for each side).Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel.

  5. To make the tacos, for the meat, heat the oil in skillet on medium heat. Throw in onions and jalapeños, and cook for about 10 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for 1 more minute.

  6. Stir in the beef, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cayenne, cilantro, and salsa until well combined. While stirring occasionally, cook the meat until meat it’s browned, about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, then stir in the lime juice.

  7. To serve, stuff into shells, then top with shredded cheese, lettuce, and diced tomatoes.

  1. Oh my god! I had one of these on Saturday!

    There’s a Mexican bodega a few blocks away from our place in Bay Ridge on 3rd Ave that on weekends sells agua fresca and antojitos from a table on the sidewalk. I had two crispy bean tacos and they were awesome!

  2. Oh boy – this is just gorgeous. I have always wanted to make my own taco shells. Now I really am going to give this a go.

  3. wheresmymind

    Fried taco shells sound TOO good!

  4. fantastic post…been to NYC only once and loved it…plus used to visit Austin a lot, its a great town…fresh tacos shells…that sounds interesting…have to try it…need to figure out, how to get hold of masa harina in London..i am off on a hunt…wish me luck…thanks for sharing..

  5. oh this made me hungry – and the photography is amazing! i also wanted to say it was lovely to meet you last week, and I’m sorry we sat so far away and didn’t get a chance to chat. I’ve been lurking around and reading your blog for quite some time!

  6. Oh, the nostalgia. Your post totally captured taco night at my house growing up (in the ’50s!). The only thing that differed is that there was never salsa – only Tabasco on the table and to this day, it is my condiment of choice. I have been making my own tortillas for several years now and am anxious to try the puffy tacos. Thanks for the walk down memory lane….

  7. mamabeck

    Yeah, baby!

    You’ve got me tearin’ up right now…

    mmmm….want tacos! 😉

  8. Mmmmm I should never read your blog when I am hungry.

    I wish I could find good tacos here….too much to ask, I think.

    *tummy rumble*

  9. Poppy Cede

    Crispy taco?! I am in love…

    Thanks for sharing the recipe and photos!

  10. Mmm, this sounds great – just like home!

    There’s a Mexican place around the corner from where I work. One of those places that looks like a dive, yet makes great food. They make tacos the way you described them in NY. They were good, but I was so disappointed that they weren’t like home.

    Another taco I just love (and my husband, the NC native, thinks is totally weird) is a breakfast taco. I used to get them from Taco Cabana – beef fajita meat, eggs, cheese and pico de gallo. YUM.

    BTW, I made the enchiladas with chili gravy this weekend, and I almost cried with joy – they were just like home. Thank you so much for publishing the recipe!

  11. Lisa Fain

    Ann–No way! I need to head out to Bay Ridge one weekend and check these out!

    Meeta–It’s really easy, give it a try!

    Wheresmymind–They are indeed sooooooo good!

    Dilip–Good luck finding masa harina in London. Perhaps you can find it through Amazon.

    Radish–It was wonderful meeting you too, Olga! I wish I could have stayed longer and talked to y’all at the other end of the table more. And I’ve been reading your blog as well! Hope to see you again soon!

    Patrice–Tabasco is just as good. Actually we always had a bottle of that on the table as well. Enjoy the puffy tacos!

    Mamabeck–Wipe those tears away and go make yourself a batch of tacos now!

    Olivia–Reading food blogs when hungry is never wise, but if you can find some OK tortillas, you can deep fry them yourself and make some good tacos.

    PoppyCede–You’re welcome, and may this be the beginning of a beautiful relationship between you and crispy tacos!

    Lissa–I love breakfast tacos too and Taco Cabana makes some of the best. Mmmmm, you’ve got me hungry just thinking about them! And I’m so pleased y’all enjoyed the enchiladas!

  12. christine (myplateoryours)

    Here is a scary piece of information. When I go out of town, my husband runs to the store for an Old El Paso Taco Kit. Makes 12 and eats all of them. I try not to leave town too often.

  13. The pic really makes me want to go get a taco. So crispy.

  14. I’ve never tried to make my own taco shells — but yours look soooooo good. They look a bit like the Navaho tacos we get in New Mexico.

  15. I drooled on my keyboard looking at these pictures. This looks so delicious. But is it supposed to make me miss NY more than Texas? 😉

  16. SteamyKitchen

    hmmmm….how about forget about the whole filling thing and just top the shell with cinnamon & sugar!

    maybe its b/c I’m on a diet and I WANT SOMETHING SWEET NOW


  17. Zarah Maria

    So, uhm, Lisa? I don’t like you very much now. You had me going “Uh! Ah! Dinner tonight! YES!” and then I saw the dreaded masa harina in the ingredients list. Dang! I can’t get that anywhere around here! Hrm. I’ll just have to get myself back to the States, don’t I?:)

  18. Wow, what a great blog to find ! I’m from Bellville, Austin County, and have been in this area for 4-1/2 years. I didn’t dream about food until I moved here. Waking up with visions of Texas food receding in my mind sometimes makes me crazy.

  19. For english people you can buy masa harina online at mexgrocer.

  20. truly, what isn’t better freshly fried? Those look delish.

    So, are you a green or red salsa kinda gal?

  21. Rosa's Yummy Yums

    Oh my God, that looks terrific! I’ll have to try making my own taco shells, but, here, masa harina is expensive and quite hard to find (I make my own flour tortillas, though)…

    I love your pictures!

  22. Christopher

    I live in Harlem and I’m dying for good Tex-mex or Mexican… Where is the red-hook vendor? I miss tacos like that. I’ve been here for six years and I am in need of some really good tex-mex and of course I’m still looking for a good chicken fried steak with great potatoes and some fantastic white gravy with cracked peppercorns. Like my mom used to make.

  23. Perhaps the greatest baseball mascot of all time was Puffy Taco of the San Antonio Missions, named for the famous Henry’s Puffy Taco’s in SA.
    (OK-Ballapeno is pretty good too!)

  24. I found your blog and was so excited! I’m a displaced Texan living in California. About all I miss (sorry Texans) of Texas is the Tex-Mex food! But I have something to add to your taco recipes. My mom and her friends used to get together and we had taco parties. They would cook in the kitchen while we all waited for the delicious results. I’m from Dallas and I guess we do things a bit differently there! We boiled our taco meat…..put the meat in a saucepan, fill with water to cover the meat, add spices (whatever you want, we used salt, pepper, garlic, and others), boil meat until all water is gone (it’s less greasy this way). Best taco meat you will ever eat….moist and never dry. The next step….take a corn tortilla, put meat in, fold tortilla over, close with a toothpick and then fry the tortilla. Yum, doing those shells with the meat in them is the best!

  25. These are exactly the kind of tacos my dad made when I was growing up, and no one I know had ever even heard of such a thing! I might have to make these tonight! Thanks so much…

  26. Aaargh, I haven’t had great tacos in years! And I’ve never had puffy tacos, but oh my, they have my salivary glands working. If only masa and I understood each other better…

  27. Tex,

    For those readers that want to make real tacos, they should be thankful for the recipe you provided.

    You mentioned Taco Bell, and sadly, many North Americans think this is either Tex Mex or Mexican food .

    Many are led to believe that beef taco filling comes in 20 lb bags made in a commissary in Muncie Indiana and Gorditas are a Mexican staple as well.

    I too, am grateful as I sometimes rely on packaged seasoning mixes to spice up my meat. This looks pretty easy and tasty.

  28. Lisa Fain

    Christine–Very scary, but I can totally understand the urge to eat trash food. About once every three years I make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and eat the whole thing in one sitting. Totally disgusting but soooo good!

    Cynthia–What are you waiting for? Go get a taco!

    Lydia–They are similar to Navajo tacos but those are made with wheat flour not corn.

    Tim–Thanks! Be careful with that drool!

    SteamyKitchen–Equally delish as cinnamon and sugar make everything taste terrific!

    ZarahMaria–I’m so sorry! I just assumed that masa harina was sold worldwide. I now stand corrected. But if you can get it in the UK, perhaps you can get it in Norway too. Though we’d love to have you visit the states!

    Emmie–Thanks for this link–very useful!

    Texpat–Thanks for stopping by! I always find it interesting that food is the one thing all expat Texans can agree upon–it’s our common bond.

    S’Kat–I’m an equal-opportunity salsa eater–I love them all–red, green, orange, yellow and brown!

    Rosa–They’re also great with flour tortillas, give it a try!

    Christopher–To get to the Red Hook ballfields, take the F train to the Smith/9th Street stop, take a right when you exit, walk two blocks on 9th Street to Clinton and then take a left. Walk about 10 blocks on Clinton (you’ll go under the BQE) and then you’ll arrive! As for the chicken-fried steak, a lot of places sell it here but I haven’t had one at a restaurant in years so I can’t make a recommendation.

    Frank–I love the Puffy Taco mascot–so fun!

    Karen–I’ll have to try it your way next time, sounds scrumptious!

    Laura K–You’re welcome and why not share the taco love with your friends!

    ChefJP–Thanks for the link and enjoy the tacos!

    Melissa–Masa’s not that hard to understand, just be patient and you’ll soon be getting along famously!

    Tommy–Taco Bell is a terrible representative of Tex-Mex; everything about it is so wrong! Especially when it’s so easy to make decent, real Tex-Mex.

  29. Great stuff on tacos–I’m getting out my tortilla press,as I speak.

  30. What a WONDERFUL recipe!

    I made these tonight and savored three of them with refried beans and grilled chicken.

    Thank you so much!

    I’m not a homesick Texan as I currently reside in the Lone Star State, but I enjoy reading your blog so much.

    God bless.

  31. OMG my mom makes tacos just like this. Thanks for bringing back such good memories!

  32. Anonymous

    I’m feeling very fortunate to live in San Antonio! Las Palapas is my fav place for puffy tacos. Yum!

  33. Wowowowow!!!! This sounds so good and I am stuffed silly right now. Rock on… Mmmmm.

  34. Benjamin

    No soft corn tortilla tacos?

    I know it’s not traditional Tex-Mex, but have you found a good breakfast taco place? I miss Mi Madre’s. And Elsie’s. And El Chilito. And the brunch at Curra’s. And…

  35. i can’t wait to try this taco shell recipe. my mouth is watering simply looking at that delectable photograph! they look so tender yet crunchy! yum!

  36. Lisa Fain

    Aaress–You’re very welcome, I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

    Garrett–You’re welcome, enjoy!

    Anon–You are indeed very fortunate to live in SA, such excellent food there and such a beautiful city.

    Yvo–Give them a try, they’re terrific!

    Benjamin–I haven’t found a good breakfast taco place but someone said he found some in the East Village on 1st Ave. between 4th and 5th.

    Linda–Enjoy–they’ll be fantastic stuffed with beans or TVP too!

  37. Anonymous

    I was trying to explain the delights of freshly fried crispy tacoes recently and the person I was talking to just didn’t understand how they could be that much better than the tough, cold, horrible shells available at the store. Thanks so much for your eloquent and beautifully photographed homage to one of my favorite foods!

  38. Anonymous

    It’s lovely to have these recipes on hand, when trekking into the city (FW) doesn’t fit my schedule. Thank you for sharing your recipes & adventures.

  39. You know what’s funny that I noticed? How Texans (or naturalised Texans like me) are the only people who REALLY miss things from down home? You know…what can someone from Minnesota or Rhode Island say that they really really miss from home that they can find nowhere else???

  40. Texpat – What a small world this is! My sister and her family live in Bellville, and my mother lived there for 10 years, until she moved here to North Carolina in February of last year.

    Bellville’s such a small town, it’s possible we might even know each other. 🙂

  41. Deborah Dowd

    These look fabulous- simple and delicious! I’m glad I saw the link to your site on Tanya’s blog!

  42. I am really craving tacos now that I’ve read this!! I always fry my own taco shells but generally use store bought corn tortillas. Now I want to try these puffy ones!! Mmmmmmmmmm…

  43. These are the best I have ever seen! I wish I could hug you fro sharing the recipe with us…so I am just gonna hug my screen 🙂

  44. Congrats on being on! You deserve it!

  45. Lisa, you’re killing me. We’re visiting New York in August and I keep on trying to figure out where to eat. The problem is trying to narrow the list down, and your mouthwatering description of the taco stands is only adding to my confusion. I want to try your crispy tacos, too, but at least I can time that at home.

  46. Homesick Houstonian

    mm, i have been craving tacos like mad since I read this entry. Its just too hot outside to turn on the oven in my studio….

  47. Oh, man! Your blog was mentioned on a KNITTING blog, so I clicked over – and you’re talking about puffy tacos and Taco Cabana! After 20+ years in San Antonio, I moved back to the Midwest 6 weeks ago. Although I love the weather and being “home,” I miss my other “home,” too. I have found one place with decent enchiladas verdes, but I’ll have to make my own puffy tacos, because I don’t think Henry’s will make deliveries this far from SA!

  48. Lisa Fain

    Anon–You’re welcome! And why not make some for your friend so they can taste the difference.

    Anon–You’re welcome–enjoy!

    Olivia–That’s pretty much true, though Susan the Food Blogga is a homesick Rhode Islander and she writes eloquently about that state’s food.

    Lissa-It is a small world–I bet y’all do know each other!

    Debroah–I’m glad you saw it too–enjoy!

    Nicole–It’s so easy to make homemade tortillas–give it a try!

    Helen–A big hug back at you!

    Jerry–Thanks! That was a very pleasant surprise!

    Rob–Depending on how long you’re here, you should be able to squeeze in a trip to a taco stand–they make a great snack. Can’t wait to read about your NYC eating adventures!

    Homesick Houstonian–Well these are made on the stove top, which is less hot than an oven, but I understand the heat issue–I don’t turn my oven on all summer. I can’t bear it!

  49. Homesick Houstonian

    i thought of that after i posted the comment… i don’t mean ‘oven’ by oven. I refer to the whole unit as oven. It gets hot even if i boil water. I’ve come to learn to cook with a toaster oven and george foreman grill. Its quite a learning experience. Boy, do I miss having a kitchen in a separate room!

  50. I amaze many a friend, when I rustle up this recipe. My all time favorite, though I am from California originally. I generally have home made tacos a couple of times a week. YUMM.

  51. Lisa Fain

    Homesick Houstonian–Wow! That’s a shame. At least we’ve had some cool days lately. But I completely understand, I usually spend most of July and August drinking smoothies and eating salad.

    BigB–Yummmmm is correct! Your friends are very lucky!

  52. This looks delicious and my husband would be the happiest man alive if I cooked him these tonight. I just might have to stop by the store on the way home to pick up ingredients.

  53. OMG…so glad I found your blog. I’m originally from Dallas and sincerely miss Taco Delite and El Fenix. Will try your recipes ASAP.. Thanks for the public service!

  54. My favorite Puffy Taco places in San Antonio are Las Palapas & Henry’s Puffy Tacos(on Bandera Road). Born & raised in the Rio Grande Valley I now live in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. I miss the mexican food south of Austin so much that I now have a great hobby of trying to reproduce the food I grew up with. Thank you so much for this recipe for Puffy Tacos, I am going to try it tonight. Yum!
    Theres no place like Texas.

  55. Coffee & Vanilla

    Great blog, I will be back for some refried beans recipes…

    Greetings from London,

  56. Allie Missin' Texas

    i am making these tonight and will post how wonderful i am sure they will be… just like the sopapillas (try em if you haven’t already). i live in GA now and texmex DOES NOT exist here, to my knowledge. Your site is a true gift! Thank you!

  57. I am nearly weeping reading about these puffy tacos. I lived in S.A. for 14 years.. there was only one place that I knew of in that time that served (fab) puffy tacos.. it was on the then-San Pedro, near the West. Ave part of time. Or Nakoma 🙂 It was 15 yrs ago lol. I am so glad I found your site. Now if I could just find some Masa Harina here in Sweden.

  58. When I was a kid, we were stationed in Verdun, France. This was back in the dark ages. Since my family was from Texas, we had to have tacos. My parents somehow acquired CANNED Old El Paso corn tortillas, and my mother used to fry hundreds of tacos for homesick Texans who could find our little village. I still make them the same way, and I can get tortillas that are a lot fresher, but they never taste as good as those did in the dark and cold of northern France.

  59. I’m a displaced Texan living in AZ. Here Mexican food generally consists of Baja, Sonoran, or New Mexico style. I still haven’t figured out what those styles entail, exactly, except that they aren’t Tex-Mex. (As an aside I have yet to find enchiladas in chili gravy like I used to get back home).

    Anyway, I always make my own tacos with a modestly seasoned ground beef filling and fry up my own shells out of tortillas made from stone ground corn (Trader Joe’s corn tortillas are really good). However I never knew to trick to the puffy tacos; I’ll definitely be giving those a try!

  60. I’m a misplaced Texan living on the southeast coast of England for the past two years, but I’m headed home to Austn for a visit during the first two weeks of April and will be spending one night in San Antonio, so puffy tacos, here I come!

    I’ll weigh a ton when I fly back to the UK, but I will have done my best to eat Tex Mex three meals a day.

  61. Anonymous

    I am also a transplanted Texan and have searched everywhere for a recipe for the puffed tortillas. I am so happy to finally found one and can’t wait to try it out. I used to have these all the time with queso when I lived in Houston. I now live in Arkansas and they are not easy to find – at least not the light, airy ones I am accustomed to. Thanks –


  62. I am so having tacos tonight! It was a toss up between mini-burgers and tacos…and after reading this, tacos win!

    I grew up in Arizona, where crispy tacos reign, and now live in Louisiana, where they do not. If I want authentic Mexican food, I make it myself.

    I’ve never tried the puffy version you have, I will definitely try for next time…can’t wait to read more!

  63. I always fry my own taco and tostada shells. Ive never thought to make my own tortillas though! This sounds wonderful and pretty easy too. Is it different frying these as opposed to store bought corn tortillas?

  64. Anonymous

    Hi Homesick Texan,
    I live in far west Texas–El Paso–it’s not the end of the world–but you can see it from here. Authentic Northern Mexican cuisine is what we have an abundance of here. It’s not exactly Tex-Mex. But ALL of the incarnations of Mexican food are good to me. No puffy tacos here–just crisp fried until they snap and crackle in your mouth and you land on a pillow of soft, shredded beef–called “carne deshebrada” or seasoned “carne molido” ( ground beef). I’ve lived here all my life and love many different ethnic foods–but tacos will always be the number one! FYI we have incredible “sopaipillas” here! Note correct spelling. Open a hot one and drop in a lucious spoonful of flan and then drizzle honey on top of that. It will cure what ails your soul, temper your bad or down mood and put a smile on your face.You oughta think about coming home, girl.

  65. Tanya Mills

    My husband is from Texas and I made these tacos for him tonight. He thought they were fabulous. Thanks! P.S. I love reading your blog.

  66. Oooo… I’m a fellow Texas, lived here all my life.. we have taco night once a week. You described them perfectly. I also usually cut the tortillas and fry up some chips as well and sprinkle them with chili powder and lime juice. Growing up I didn’t know you could BUY tortilla chips! I have yet to try actually making the tortillas….one day….

    Anyway, I love your blog… Just discovered it today. 🙂

  67. Anonymous

    I've made Homesick Texan's ground beef taco filling and I've made Cook's Illustrated version and was NOT surprised at all at how much better Homesick Texan's version tasted. Cook's was not bad at all, it was quite tasty, but it just didn't leave me with that "this is the recipe I will use from now on" feeling that our wonderful host's recipe did, just like her Chicken-Fried Steak & Cream Gravy recipes did. I loved the flavor that the fresh lime juice gave it and next time I will probably stir in a little more of it along with a nice handful of more fresh cilantro as I take it off the heat. If you guys haven't tried this, by all means, give it a try, you'll love it. Then try that

    Eric in Alabama

  68. OMG!that looks amazing! seriously.

  69. Catherine in Maryland

    Growing up this is the only way we ever had tacos. That stuff in the stores must be made from sawdust. I quantify the quality of a Mex restaurant by their taco shell, if they serve the shells that come out of a box, they are taken off my list as a good restaurant, no matter how good the rest of the food is. My Grandparents were from Texas so your mention of the ground beef filling with hot sauce and chili powder brought back some memories. Great pics, great blog.

  70. Menu Maker Mom

    I love the pics, they made me hungry! I live in taco country, so the thought of store-bought, pre-fab, shaped taco shells just doesn’t click for me. We eat tex-mex continuously, and can’t imagine life without homemade tortillas!

  71. I actually saw a Bobby Flay Throwdown about these! Would be so fun to try these at home!

  72. twobarkingdogs

    I have a friend, born and raised in Arizona, that mixed up her ground beef and some cumin/chili powder/raw onions. She takes the raw mixture and puts some on half of a corn tortilla and folds it over and fries the whole thing in lard. The meat cooks inside the tortilla. While the tacos are frying, she mixes some shreded lettuce, grated cheese, fresh tomatoes, avacodo, cilantro as if making a salad. When the tacos are fried up/both sides and come out of the oil, she pries them slightly before they crisp up and puts in a heaping spoon of the salad mixture and a teaspoon of homemade salsa.

    I have never made tacos this way, and in deference to Sarita (who set her kitchen on fire one day while making these tacos for dinner) .. they were very very good, but so different than what I was used to growing up in South Florida …

  73. Anonymous

    I’m of hispanic descent and have never heard of these “puffy tacos”… I’m ticked! I think somewhere along the line, my ancestors decided to keep these yummy things a secret! I remember my mom making her own shells but never like this! DROOL!
    Denise in SO CAL

  74. Anonymous

    Please post how to make the puffy fried tortilla shells that are served at the chain of Mexican restaurants in Houston called LOS TIOS – I am a homesick Texan who dreams of eating them.


  75. Dr. Electro

    Puffy tacos!! Ask for one in New Mexico and you get a blank stare or laughed at. Forget about asking for fried jalapenos too.

    Now, armed with a decent recipe that I can follow, I will have puffy tacos when I want them. No, I’m not sharing with my New Mexico neighbors! Too bad for them, more tacos for me. 😀

  76. Anonymous

    When we lived in Austin in the 1950’s(telling my age)we would eat Mexican food at El Matamoras and they had puffy tacos. The tortillas were flat, fried crispy and very puffy, slit opened slightly and stuffed with guacomole and shredded lettuce. We moved to the Midwest and I had make my own tortillas for a very long time. I have longed for puffy tacos and thank you for the recipe! I intend to make them soon.

  77. Anonymous

    It is a rainy cold spring day in Oregon- as a native San Antonian, I miss these TERRIBLY! Tonight my family will get a treat! Thanks for posting this recipe, I am salivating just thinking about it!

  78. Anonymous

    AWESOME!!! Made this whole entire recipe tonight and I never knew a taco could be sooooooooo good!!! In Ohio we don’t have much to compare tacos to…. and this was fantastic!

  79. My family has been making puffy tacos since my grand-mother began making them in Texas in the early 1900s, now for 4 generations.

    They are a treat in our family and we take it a step further by cooking the freshly-made corn tortilla on a "comal" then transferring the tortilla to hot oil for a quick fry.

    My sister is a pro at making them and it's always the food of choice for BD parties by the honoree.

    A True Tejana!

  80. If in the San Antonio, Texas area, the best puffy tacos are at Oscar's way over here on the south-west side of town off of Zazarmora St.and Barrett St. ….and by the way, the least expensive tortilla press that we found was $10. from H.E.B. Plus.

  81. Anonymous

    You can buy the best hand fried taco shells in San Antonio at the HEB supermarket at the corner of Dezavala Road and Interstate 10. But get there early, they sell out quickly. We don't live in Texas any more but when we visit we buy a quantity of these and carry them back on the plane. They can be frozen as well. YUM!

  82. Hairball

    twobarkingdogs said…

    I have a friend, born and raised in Arizona, that mixed up her ground beef and some cumin/chili powder/raw onions. She takes the raw mixture and puts some on half of a corn tortilla and folds it over and fries the whole thing in lard. The meat cooks inside the tortilla.

    My mother makes her tacos like this except she doesn't add anything to the ground beef and fries them in canola oil. She used to use melted Crisco shortening when I was a kid.

    Your recipe for puffy tacos sounds yummy! I've never commented before but I've been reading your blog for months. 🙂

  83. Josiannie

    I am a huge fan of Mexican/Tex-Mex and I am always on the look out for authentic recipes. By far yours all sound delish!

    I am hosting Taco night tomorrow and will try the tinga and the ground beef with the puffy tacos Mmmm Cant wait!

  84. Laurie Coleman

    Greetings! I am so happy to have found this site, and your recipe for puffy tacos! I, too, am a homesick Texan, relocated to California. When I go back to visit I have to plan my trip around places to eat. Now I can have a little bit of Tex-Mex in my own kitchen, thanks to you!

  85. Here is a slight twist on your version of the puffy taco. I grew up in a small town in Kansas. A tradition at the Catholic Church in town was to sell tacos after mass. The smell of those tacos being prepared in the Church basement was incredible. The ladies used to take the corn tortillas, fill them with the ground beef mixture and then fold the tortilla and attach the two sides together before frying. The meat was already cooked and the taco was only in the oil long enough for the sides to be crispy. YUM! They would then stuff the tacos with salsa, cheese, lettuce and tomato, roll in wax paper and foil. Although I love the corn tortilla version the best, the tacos prepared this way using flour tortillas is really great too. Love your blog!

  86. Coffee and Turpentine.

    This reminds me of a hilarious conversation I had with a good pal from S.A. who didn't believe me when I told him that Puffy Tacos were hard to find outside of his hometown. He thought they were everywhere.
    By the way, I found your blog after searching for a decent recipe for carne guisada. Most of the ones I found online were watered down for the chile-intolerant. Ironically, I've lived in ATX for the last 17 years, my Grandma grew up on the King Ranch, and the best Tex Mex recipes I can find online are written in NYC.

  87. Holy smokes. Just made these (made first tortillas yesterday and immediately wanted to make puffy tacos), and they are hands down the best taco shells I've ever eaten.


  88. I have been making what my family calls the best tacos ever, forever. I use store bought corn tortillas, instead of oil, I fry them in nucoa margarine, med. high heat and drain on a brown paper bag, I use taco seasoning packets, which are handy and can be embellished upon, I top all my tacos in this order 1. shell, meat, cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, cilantro(fresh chopped) avocado(sliced), sour cream, choice of hot sauce/salsa…frying method…heat margarine till a tortilla sizzles when dipped, then dip only half of the tortilla into the pan. 30 seconds holding tortilla at 90 degrees, keep lifting until tortilla no longer flexes then flip holding top out of the pan with a wooden spoon till crisp…drain on a paper bag, then stuff with your favorite ingredients…enjoy!

  89. Anonymous

    Thank you!!! i had my very first crispy, homemade shell this past weekend (in Wichita) and HAVE to have more. I've never had these anywhere else, and live too far from wichita to go back for tacos.

    As for the comments about only Texans missing food from home though, not true. I'm from Chicago, and NOONE's deep dish pizza compares… i have it shipped all over the country to displaced family. And my hubby's from New Mexico, and really misses all things from there, especially Taco Cabana. We live in Minnesota… and people here have trouble traveling because they actually miss their bland tasteless food. Ketchup is spicy to them, forget hot sauce!

  90. I didn't see this in the recipe, but I'm assuming you drain the meat after the garlic and before adding the seasonings?

    I have the beef simmering on the stove right now. 🙂

  91. Lisa Fain

    Denice–I usually don't–depends on how greasy you want it, I reckon!

  92. Thank goodness I am still living in Texas or I'd starve! Love the blog and recipes though – texmex is sooo much better from home. My cousins actually own the Taco House in SA, but I live in Dallas so getting back "home" often is tough. Well, off to buy some masa. Wish we had an HEB here….

  93. I just discovered your blog and it is a blessing! I lived in ATX for three years after college, and now that I am back in upstate NY I always say "the only place to eat tex-mex around here is in my kitchen"…but going mostly on memory and hunches, I have had some bad moments! You have hit every single recipe I crave, and when I saw you nail puffy tacos (spent my fair share of time in SA also) I just had to comment. Bravo and thank you!

  94. When I was a kid we lived in Arizona for awhile. Since then I have mastered the soft tacos with the same technique only cooking less. Love this post and thanks for the info on the crispy shells.

  95. Anonymous

    These were DELICIOUS!! My first time deep frying anything. Boy have I been missing out! You made it sound so simple I jumped right in. But I soon found grease splattering everywhere, the shells breaking as I tried to fold them and and a heck of a job trying to clean the pan that I used. Any tips would be so greatly appreciated as I just don't think I can eat tacos any other way now 🙂


  96. Puffy tacos?? Sign me up!

  97. I'm trying these tonight! Can't wait.

  98. Martha Mc

    It's Christmas week and I'm making tamales tomorrow so am reading everything I can about tamales, so how did I end up on your puffy taco recipe??? I have been craving a good crispy taco for the longest time. Before "fresh" tortillas were available in all the grocery stores, I think it was Old El Paso who used to sell tortillas in a large, flat round can. My mother made tacos very similar to what you describe. They were so good. I found a little Mexican restaurant in a San Diego suburb 5 or 6 years ago that made tacos that tasted almost like my mom's and then they closed. Finding a place that fries their shells is almost impossible these days. We are having tamales for Christmas Eve … maybe we'll have tacos for New Year's with a side of black-eyed peas LOL.

  99. I've only ever had puffy tacos at one place: Caro's in Ft. Worth. We used to go there all the time when I was growing up, but I don't know if it's still there or not. They also made puffy nachos. Nothing like these!
    ~Homesick Kansan

  100. finally…a recipe that actually tells you how to make the taco shell on not just to use a soft corn tortilla shell from the store, then fry it. sorry, people, that isn't "homemade"…
    thanks for the recipe, this sounds more fun than my whole wheat soft shells… 🙂

  101. I had a puffy taco for the first time in my life last November at Henry's in San Antonio, and I am now ruined for life. Great post!

  102. I too miss the breakfast tacos at Taco Cabana.. Used to be in my daily routine when I lived in SA.

  103. Since you posted this…I still love making them:)

  104. Joshua A. Hughes

    Saw positive reactions on reddit to your recipe and thought I would pass it along./

  105. Anonymous

    The recipe sounds as awesome as what I remember of Bertha's back in Houston, Texas Mid1980's

  106. Anonymous

    I grew up on puffy tacos in San Antonio without realizing you couldn't get these in the rest of the world. But that explains their absence in my life now. Thanks for the recipe. My favorite was always guacamole puffy tacos in El Mercado. Margarita's, I think.

  107. Ran across your blog looking for a recipe on another site, LOVE IT!!!! I live in Colorado, born & raised, I love tex-mex. Last night I made your Puffy Tacos with ground beef. New favorite, hubby and I LOVED them, I will be trying many more of your recipes.

  108. Melanie Wright

    Amen to this article, I feel you and every time I see one of those store bought cardboard taco shells come out from a Mexican food place here in Florida I want to throw it at the wall. It is just plain lazy, even I fry up my own taco shells and I'm a lazy cook! Totally detracts from the taco experience even if the meat inside is good I feel like I'm eating a cardboard shell. UGH!

  109. We've eaten plenty of tacos made with warmed, but soft, corn tortillas in Texas–I personally like them best. The flavor of masa is so perfect with the Mexican spices, beans, and meats that make up most tacos. My husband likes his with a squeeze of lime, cilantro, and onion or pico de gallo. I like cilantro, a little cheese, chopped tomato, and avocado if I have it. Those condiments seem perfect with any meat–his faves are al pastor or al carbon. I like chicken or pork in just about any style

  110. jody weems

    We went to San Antonio last month and I had my first puffy taco! The first ones were very disappointing, the shells were thick and not quite crisply and fell apart before I even picked them up. I didn't give up and ordered them at the next restaurant that offered them (and not every Tex Mex restaurant, which are legion in S.A., did), and that one met my expectations! I now need to make them myself, living in SCal, as no restaurants here make puffy tacos. Thanks for publishing the recipe!

  111. Oh Lisa.

    I used to LOVE your blog, but I can’t handle the new format. Everything is just SO BIG. I just hate having the text, the pictures, everything so large and in my face.

    Please, please, please, go back to your old template, or find something that’s a happy medium!

  112. The funniest thing is that, even though the text says “…the coolness of iceberg is preferred over leafier greens…” the lettuce in the images is the leafy-to-the-green-edges type of lettuce. Iceberg is most definitely not picturesque!

  113. Sharon F

    OMG… these tacos were amazing… I miss the San Antonio puffy tacos like crazy, made them for lunch today… YUM! While in San Antonio, we had puffy tacos from a little market/gas station that had potatoes in them… they were to die for, still looking for something that tastes like that because my husband loved them!

    • Lisa Fain

      Sharon–I haven’t had potato puffy tacos but they sound amazing. I’ll have to work on recreating that!

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