Not My Mama’s: Mexican Street Tacos

Tortilladora & Masa

Because I’ve been dreaming of the street tacos I had while in Mexico, I decided to put that bag of masa I’ve had in my cupboard since the last time we attempted making our own tortillas to good use.  It’s been a while because let’s face it — San Diego is a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the border and there are plenty of places to get authentic tacos here.  I just never order them.  I’m more of a carnitas person so can’t tell you much about how good the tacos are at our favorite “Los Dos” across from Albertson’s on Turquoise in Pacific Beach.  It’s on my agenda to find out, though.

In the meantime, I treated myself to a tortilla press to the tune of $17.  It makes me smile about this cooking “hobby” I have, because that sum could purchase quite a few packages of perfectly fresh corn tortillas if you know when the delivery guys stock the best ones at the market.  But the woman in Puerto Vallarta made it look so easy:  Make a ball, put it on the lower plastic covered plate, press, and peel.  Voila!

Yes, well, let’s just say that after watching me try a few with less than completely desirable results, my husband was gnashing at the bit to step in and finish the rest with no trouble at all.  Go figure.  Perhaps it’s a math thing.

And the taste?  Would they compare favorably with the El Cisne taco cart in Puerto Vallarta?  I say definitely.

Mexican Street Tacos My Way

Tortilla Ingredients

2 c. masa de harina

1-1/3 c. water

1 big pinch kosher salt

Filling Ingredients

2 c. shredded chicken

1 c. shredded cabbage

sliced radishes

sliced cucumbers

chopped green onions

chopped cilantro

quartered limes

salsa verde

1 avocado, mashed with the juice of 1/2 lemon, salt, and pepper

Optional:  fresh roasted corn


  1. In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients until a soft dough begins to clump and you can make a ball that is smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling ingredients.
  3.  To prepare the tortillas, make a ball a bit smaller than a golf ball.  Place between sheets of plastic wrap on the press and mash.
  4. Peel from the plastic and place on a medium hot griddle or cast iron skillet about one minute per side.  They don’t need to brown.
  5. Remove to serve as you make them, or stack on a warm plate and keep covered.  Makes 18-20 tortillas.
  6. Mix and match the fillings to your preference.  Bare bones is meat, a sprinkle of beans (which I forgot!) and cabbage.

Too Much Dough Masa Ball Just Right

Taco Fillings


Mexican Street Tacos from Home

Recipe Notes:

  • Masa de harina is corn flower or powdered corn meal. La Pina is a popular brand sold in the baking section of your market, but it’s also available in bulk in specialty stores.
  • I used left over chicken we ate the night before.  To do your own, roast a young chicken at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.  Fill the cavity with quartered lemons, whole cloves of garlic, and sprigs of thyme.  Rub the exterior with olive oil and sprinkle with a Southwest or Mexican spice blend of your choice.  Mine has salt, garlic, chili powder, and cumin in it.
  • Cabbage?  Absolutely.  It’s crunchy and flavorful — much more flavorful than iceberg lettuce which you’d never see in one of these tacos.
  • The salsa verde we like is made by Embasa and comes in small cans.  It’s a tomatillo based salsa.  You can make your own as I have often in the past — and it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes — but this is supposed to be easy, right?
  • I squeeze 1/2 lemon over the radishes and cucumbers and sprinkle on some salt.  The extra flavor is nice.  If you don’t want to put this in the tacos, then it’s a garnish that’s great for cooling down the heat if you use spicy salsa.
  • “Guacamole” isn’t what I was going for here.  In fact, the sauce used at El Cisne was much more thin, most likely mixed with Mexican table cream.  It’s pourable.  But I love a nice avocado with a squirt of lemon eaten right out of the shell, so why mess with it?
  • The corn isn’t something I’ve seen on tacos, but we’re addicted to it right now.  It’s perfect for a meal like this whether you put it in the tacos, or eat it as a side.  The flavor is amazing.  Scrape it off a fresh cob into a clean medium hot cast iron skillet.  Allow it to caramelize a bit by letting it sit.  It will stick, but not much.  Salt and a squirt of fresh lime juice if you want makes it perfect.

Mexican Street Tacos from Home

Other bits and pieces…

  • Tacos remind me of home just like so many of the other recipes I’ve written about from my childhood.  It was one of those “treat” meals we didn’t have as often as others but always looked forward to.  We’ve always fried our store-bought tortillas in oil first, but not until crispy.  No, ours were soft and filled with ground beef, shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, and yes, iceberg lettuce.  To this day, that’s pretty much how we make them, although my husband tried to get me to use a taco seasoning mix in the beef for years and finally gave up.  I’ve added avocado, vary the cheese from time to time, have to include cilantro and salsa now.  Finding out my mother was making tacos for dinner was even better than looking forward to pizza.  Maybe it was the informality of spooning whatever we wanted into the tortillas, or trying to see who could eat the most.  We were all skinny waifs with seemingly bottomless pits for stomachs, so my brother and I could eat six.  I wince thinking of it.
  • I’ve probably left you little or no time, but I’m passing this tag on to Judy of No Fear Entertaining, Haley of Appoggiatura, and Ben of What’s Cooking?  What droolworthy recipes remind you of home?
  • Thanks to Kristin of Dine & Dish, I have recently matched with a new blogger, Maia of Dessert-o-licious in the Adopt a Blogger event.
  • And just for the sake of comparison, don’t my tacos look just as yummy as theirs?  Well?  Okay, so my plate’s a bit messy, but still.  And sure, theirs are carne asada.  I’ll work on it, okay?

Mine Theirs

Mexican Street Tacos from Home Street Tacos

44 thoughts on “Not My Mama’s: Mexican Street Tacos

  1. Mmmmm! Those tacos look amazing. I love that you made your own tortillas!!. We make tacos quite often but I have yet to make my own shells. Hmm. Might be in the market for a press…

    Thanks for tagging me. I’ll get right on that…

    1. Yep, I’m thinking this will be a routine now when we have tacos. It’s so easy — especially if my hunkster and pop them out the way he does. Hidden talent — hahahaha!

    1. Thanks! We’re thinking of going back since it’s so close and inexpensive. Don’t know how adventuresome the two of us will be. Six women traveling together seem to be capable of anything!

  2. You have fabulous timing, Kel: we just picked up some masa harina de maiz at the wee Mexican Deli (and by “wee” I mean that it’s smaller than our living room, and is the largest in Scotland). “Corn” tortillas here have more wheat flour than corn – they just don’t understand the beauty of it, somehow. So. Thanks for the inspiration. We’ll be breaking out our tortilla press & that wonderful bag of Quaker-brand masa harina de maiz. 🙂

    1. Ah, the adventures of cooking abroad. You always seem to work it out though! I found some very yellow and powdery “corn flour” at Henry’s here and bought some. It can’t be cornstarch, and it’s too refined for harina, so I’m not sure what I’ll use it for. Muffins? We’ll see.

  3. I love the way you built up the post KP…like an orchestra. I have a little press like this too; they use it in India to make puris (fried breads), & costs about $4, but isn’t this refined looking. We don’t get the thin corn flour here, but just love these tacos. I’m on a corn trip too these days. Tried oven roasting then the other day, & ended up with corn jerky coz I forgot them there!! LOL

    1. Mmm…corn jerky! hahaha — I’ve done that too, and the smell is a bit sharp isn’t it? I love the idea of using the press for other things and am collecting ideas as I hear from everyone. So cool!

  4. Well, well, well Curiously the homemade challenge for this month is tortillas, LOL. I am so proud you made your own tortillas, but I am just wondering something. You said you love carnitas but haven’t tried tacos at that restaurant…. Have you ever tried carnitas tacos? Just wondering cause that’s the way we eat carnitas in Mexico, in tacos with nopal salsa on them… that is heaven! Anyway, great post and I am loving your Mexico pictures 🙂

    1. Guess I better march my butt over to your challenge, huh? ; ) When I order carnitas, it’s a plate with pork, beans, rice, salsa fresca, and guac. They give me two enormous flour tortillas which I load up with a bit of everything on my plate. Seems like more of a burrito to me so that’s probably why I think they’re different. I’m still going to check out what their tacos are like…

  5. These look not only beautiful, but delicious! So summery! I’ve never tried making corn tortillas, but might give it a try. Our local grocery store makes corn & flour tortillas on site & they’re pretty great. Still, there’s something about truly homemade…

  6. They look so delicious! It’s been ages since I’ve had proper soft tacos… I love the idea of cabbage.
    And you were a bit brave, but not crazy to go to Mexico… Vacations trump a lot!

  7. oh kelly. these are so clean and elegant-looking, i’d almost hesitate to dig in! the tortillas look especially fantastic–yeah, that press was definitely worth it from where i’m sitting! 🙂

  8. I’d love to try this. Please tell me I can get Masa Harina if I look for it?

    And as a bonus, tell me where you found it 😀

    1. Hi! I purchase masa harina in 5-lb bags just like flour at my regular market (Vons) on the baking aisle. The brand I use is El Pina, but I believe Quaker Oats makes it, too. It’s definitely a different product completely than corn flour or finely ground cornmeal from what I’ve read looking for substitutions. If you can’t find it in your area you can order it here If you try them, let me know how it goes!

  9. Love these Kelly! Seems to be it wouldn’t be right to make chicken just for tacos . . . on second thought maybe that would be the way to go. Tacos seem to be one of those simple things that far exceed how good they are.
    And the plate is suppose to be messy or it’s not a taco.

  10. You absolutely own those tacos Kel!
    I am putting this on the list for when I come visit you 🙂
    Love that you know how to take care of wine issues in both languages!!

  11. 1. love your tortilla maker
    2. haven’t been to la cesnita in PV, tho they make the best street sopes!
    3. your tacos look sooo indulging.
    4. I found a great street taco stand near me where they sell for .99!!! LOVE IT

  12. ooooh! oooh!
    I really need to buy a tortilla press. Every time I see someone making homemade tortillas (without a rolling pin).

    Admittedly, I’ve resorted to buying fresh tortillas from the tortilla factory near our house… but it’s just NOT the same!

  13. That looks so good! It makes me incredibly homesick for my local Roberto’s on Carmel Valley Road, you know, just before Torrey Pines? Thanks so much for a taste of SD.

  14. My mom used to love making her own tortillas, but since I don’t have a tortilla press I’ve never tried on my own. That $17 is probably a worthy investment, because making your own tortillas would be so much fun!

  15. Hi Kelly!
    I’ve been enjoying S&V personally for awhile now but have a small work project for the Mushroom Channel at the moment that led me to wonder if you freelance at all? I’m looking for a post to fill Monday’s Featured Contributor spot and thought you might be interested

    1. Hahaha! Nice excuse, but it didn’t work on me. You’ll love it. We just had another go with it at a friend’s house. Double batch! Mmmm….you’ll never go back. Just think of all that oil and those calories you won’t be missing…

  16. great post! we love tacos too, but have yet to venture into making the tortillas. congrats on the savuer nomination! I recently started blogging, check out your blog is inspiring!

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