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Taco fillings

I am having a fun easy taco night with my friends - and am needing some fun ideas - for filling and salsas. Ideas so far - all the regular stuff - ground meat, rotisserie chx, carnitas, beans, cilantro lime rice, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, tomatillo slasa, mango jicama red onion salsa, and calabacitas (sauteed squash).

What are your favorite fillings? And we are using hard corn tortilla shells (majority rule).

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  1. Mexican chorizo and potato is one of my favorites. Not sure I'd like them in hard shells though.

    1. My two addictions (meaning I can't go more than a week or two without):

      Ensenada-style -- shrimp or fish most commonly, battered and fried. Combine with shredded cabbage and a creamy salsa. Lime wedges are especially obligatory here.

      Cochinita pibil -- a type of shredded pork. Serve with pickled red onions and habanero salsa if you want the full authentic experience.

      I especially wouldn't use hard shells for the first though. Anything but a soft tortilla would ruin the texture. Why not have tortillas on hand too?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Soul Vole

        there is a place by me that does fish tacos in fresh fried hard shells and they are delicious...give it a try!

        1. Kimchi on anything.

          Egg salad.

          Mango salsa. Especially with shredded pork.

          If you have a surfeit of those hard shells, And They Are Good, salted caramel vanilla ice cream.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kris in Beijing

            Kimchi and crispy pork belly is the greatest soft taco filling ever. And I love the idea of filling a hard shell with ice cream. Brilliant!

            1. re: biondanonima

              A lot of sorbets work better-- you have to balance the salt and corn taste with the richness of an ice cream-- although in most commercial taco shells, there isn't a Real corn taste, just the perception of one.

              I've Definitely done the
              "here, close you eyes and bite this-- it'll be crunchy on the outside and cold/soft on the inside"
              strategy with people who "generally" trust my food but would be put off by the visual.

          2. * Grilled steak minced. (Grilled green onions on the side are great)
            * 2nd Julie's rec for chorizo & potato & agree probably not for a hard shell
            * Grilled veggies of any kind
            * Relative to Soul Vole's fish taco is shrimp. . .Either enchilado (i.e. In a chile sauce) or sauteed with onion & pepper and served with melted quesillo cheese (a cheese that easily melts)

            A thinner, chile de arbol style salsa. . .or salsa Valentina, or Cholula

            Tacos are such an easy medium with which to get crazy and creative

            1 Reply
            1. re: DiningDiva

              +1 All excellent ideas from DiningDiva.

              I was going to suggest some type of shrimp in chile sauce as a more practical option but forgot. With Ensenada-style tacos you really have to make them a la minute. (But they're sooo goood...)

              I also meant to suggest pico de gallo. That would be a given for me.

              Big Cholula fan here, but a chile de árbol salsa would be great too if you can fit it in.

            2. I use Crumbles, which is a soy based product that taste very much like ground beef..gussy it up with garlic..
              Stuff with extra sharp cheese..not already shredded..sour cream, jalapenos, heirloom Tomts, avocado slices, red onion, Pico pica or La Victoria hot salsa..
              You better be frying up those corn tortillas vs store bought pre-made crap shells..
              Crunchy tacos are the center of my universe and the mothership of my existence..
              ; )

              1. I love tacos and have found a lot of great suggestions here and I'm sure you'll get a lot more. You might try this thread as well http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/843277

                1. Don't want to hijack your thread, but my husband had "Tacos in a Bag" somewhere, and I **keep** meaning to try them at home. Basically, you take a snack size bag of chips, crunch it up, open it, add the taco toppings and eat it with a fork.


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: jbsiegel

                    Frito Pie! It's tasty and fun to eat.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Sonic used to serve Frito Pie in the fritos bag. Loved that.

                      I like the "crunch it up" part AFTER adding the toppings; better distribution.

                      1. re: jbsiegel

                        I had just read about this too on this blog, and thought it was a great idea, especially for kids...(When my children were little we loved tacos, crunchy shell and all, but I always worried they wouldn't chew it up into small enough pieces....this eliminates the fear of that)

                      2. Funny you should ask... Taco fillings? Well, I "discovered" a new one last night, and it's pretty darned good! Since my allergies and intolerances forbid me supermarket beef for fear of fibromyalgia from hell from all of the hormones and antibiotics, I still eat beef (grass fed) but it's expensive, so I've been trying "veggie burgers" you cook at home for the times I want something simple and fast.

                        Been using Morning Star Farms veggie burgers, but two weeks ago Sam's Club had a companion "Chipotle Black Bean Burger" on the freezer shelves, so I tried a box. Not a bad burger, but a little too "Bobby Flay" for my taste. So last night I wanted something quick, and I had some super fresh corn tortillas (the kind that make fantastic puffy taco shells) so instead of frying or nuking the chipotle black bean baby, I put it in my steamer and steamed it to hot, then tossed some shredded cheddar cheese in with it, tossed it into chunks with a fork, then made myself some crispy puffy taco shells and loaded them with the chipotle/bean/cheese mixture, then topped it off with sliced avocados and skipped the lettuce and tomatoes and all that jazz.

                        To my VERY GREAT surprise, they turned out to be the very best tacos I've had in years! Who knew? Or maybe I was just in the mood. But they were amazingly simple and truly delicious. You can't beat that with a stick! Or maybe I've just watched too many episodes of chopped... Open your baskets... '-)

                        1. I love fish tacos. Shrimp has been mentioned, but you can also grill some sort of white fish. My current favorite is sole. But I have a favorite little seafood place where I love to go for lunch. I walk in and say "what did you catch today?" They tell me....and I tell them to grill it. Then they put it in a tortilla with shredded cabbage, salsa and whatever else you'd like. (crema, avocado, tomatoes). Sooooo good.

                            1. i'll sometimes buy interesting-flavored sausages, open up the casings, and brown the meat, using that to fill the taco shells. i'll also usually caramelize up some shallots or pearl onions, and roast some garlic

                              1. Rick Bayless' most recent cookbook has great ideas for taco fillings.

                                He has a very good recipe for pork tacos on the grill with achiote. It is kind of like an easy al pastor.

                                He has another good recipe with scallops, chorizo, and potatoes. And another one with chicken with greens, in a mexican crema.

                                The recipes are also on his Web site.

                                1. scrambled eggs and lamb! oh so good, with a little jack cheese, tapatio...mmmmm....

                                  1. Here's an e-mail I had this morning...some interesting ideas!


                                    1. have you ever had bi bim bap? I think it would make a great taco. Either rice or pepper paste first then the chopped vegetables, and if you want add some bbq meat. I don't think a taco will have enough heat to cook an egg - although I wonder about a quail egg - might have to make some 'omelette strips" instead.

                                      1. 'we are using hard corn tortilla shells' - ouch!

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          We call those cardboard tacos. They work, but only in a pinch.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            An irony just struck me.

                                            It's hard for me to imagine putting seasoned ground beef in a soft tortilla. And the only thing I can imagine in a hardshell taco is seasoned ground beef. (Plus shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese and tomatoes and maybe some sour cream. Because that's what "taco" meant when I was growing up.)

                                            1. re: Soul Vole

                                              And that type of American taco is pretty tasty for what it is. It just can't compare to the real thing very well.

                                          2. re: Veggo

                                            The hard taco shells are why I never thought I liked tacos growing up. Once I had a "street style" taco with corn tortillas, I was sold. Tacos are now one of my favorite food groups.

                                          3. Scambled egg with nopales (cactus) and onion.

                                            1. One of my favorite fillings is meatless. Fry up potatoes and zucchini, along with your choice of chile pepper. When brown and fairly crispy, put into the taco shell, garnish with cilantro and mexican crema and enjoy.

                                              I make my own "hard shells" by lightly frying corn tortillas in a CI skillet. Just a touch of oil to soften and begin browning. Then fold in half and set aside on paper towels until you're ready to use them. SOOOO much better than prebought hard shells.

                                              1. I do a taco riff on a local restaurant's version of "Caribbean" fajitas.

                                                I roast or braise a chickne in jerk seasonings, then cool and pull.

                                                Par roast some sweet potoates. Cool and peel.

                                                Saute' sliced onions in oil in a hot pan until soft, then crank up the heat and add the sliced sweet potatoes and fresh pineapple until both slightly carmelize. Then add some jerk sauce and the jerk chicken until chicken is warm.

                                                I serve with sour cream and pickled jalenenos with home made red pickled sweet onions on the side a'la pibil or al pastor.

                                                Great balance of spicey, sweet and tart and the sour cream/crema cuts the heat of the jerk sauce.


                                                I may have to make that this week now dammit.

                                                I also do pollo pibil or cohchanitia pibil and then shred and use for tacos or tostadas.

                                                1. Another idea would be Korean style tacos -- they are becoming popular with taco trucks. Essentially they are very small, sometimes using a flat Chinese bun instead of a tortilla, then filled with one piece of meat (e.g. pork belly) with an Asian marinade, and some kind of pickle (kimchi or other marinated vegetable).

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: calumin

                                                    I did this just last night. I had leftover bo ssam, which I put into a warm corn tortilla with gochujang and a little shredded cabbage. It was sort of a fridge clearing meal, but it was quite tasty.

                                                  2. Caramelized pineapple habenero sauce is tasty on tacos. Also awesome over ice cream as a a side or dessert. To make this sauce combine in a small sauce pan: one can of crushed pineapple (Dole is a good brand) with one habanero chili pepper chopped very fine then heated constantly stirring over medium heat until starts to brown when sauce caramelizes. Cool then eat.

                                                    Lots of good suggestions so far with what you already have planned. You may have the main already covered. So wanted to take a moment to focus on expanding your taco bar guest experience through: sauces, dressings, vegetable crunch, variety with special meats, and more choice in side dish options.

                                                    Cole slaw crunch adds in tacos and makes a great side dish. I grate two decent size carrots, fine chop two celery ribs, and slice fine one head of cabbage to combine in a bowl. My slaw dressing is made of: one fine chopped onion, 2 cups mayo, 3 T rice wine vinegar, 3T sugar, 1 tsp mustard such as dijon, 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, and 1 tsp celery seeds optional. Put everything in a squirt bottle and shake to combine. This sweet onion rice-vinegar tang slaw dressing as good on the slaw, on salad, or on tacos. I even dress potato salad sometimes with it. Adds to many deli-meat sandwiches or wraps with veggies. I often top with toasted sesame seeds and maybe salted shelled sunflower seeds for texture and flavor.

                                                    The more hot sauces the better on tacos to me. Pick habenero sauces for the complex heat - Secret Aardvark is good if can find then afford. Bufalo-brand Salsa Chipotle is nice. Mexican hot sauce often comes in a big bottle for about $2, try many and will come up with a favorite table sauce, Valentina the one in fridge right now. I sometimes get La Victoria HOT taco sauce on sale (better than the mild medium). Franks Red Hot and Crystal often in my fridge and end up on tacos sometimes.

                                                    Home made ranch dressing adds to tacos. Also makes a tasty side green salad for taco bar guests who may desire one. Ranch is good on chili. Combine: lettuce, carrot, celery, cucumber, radish, green onions, mushrooms, ... in a bowl for salad. Dressing base is sour cream and mayo (usually 1/3 to half mayo). Seasoned with onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk in a bowl then put in a squirt bottle for easy application. Ranch combines well with chili and spicy sauces. I like to eat ranch on tacos, slaw, and salad. Ranch is great combined with all kinds of chili hot sauces and salsas on foods. Ranch salad is great on tacos.

                                                    Heat the corn tortillas over medium heat until turn golden brown; I like brown but still soft before turn crispy, solid, and crunchy. Also like to re-heat flour tortillas to re-puff over medium low heat before fill to eat. A touch of olive oil in a seasoned cast iron pan works.

                                                    Add any meat grilled to tacos: beef, pork, elk, venison, duck, chicken, turkey, ham, ... Grilled or fried mild white fish chunks are good (especially with slaw and hot sauce). Shrimp often adds to tacos - Big not huge, cleaned, boiled about three minutes just orange, then chilled over ice before consume. Shrimp combined with other meat such as beef makes good surf and turf tacos. Meat, then crunchy salad, with creamy dressing, and topped with hot sauce / salsa is a fabulous combination.

                                                    A thick chipotle-honey meat chili is good on tacos. Alone. With meat. With veggies. Chili is a filing side dish (cup or bowls). Red beans soaked overnight then cooked until tender go far feeding a crowd.

                                                    Fresh limes cut in sixths squeeze great on a fork poked in the middle over a taco to add brightness and flavor no matter what kind it is.

                                                    In your taco bar do not forget the sauces, dressings, limes to squeeze, and vegetable salad crunch. Heat the tortillas somehow to steaming so have flexible soft tacos to eat by hand (when brown corn tortillas expect more toasted corn flavor). Consider having sides such as special meat(s), slaw, salad, and chili.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: smaki

                                                      Smaki, I'm loving the idea of your caramelized pineapple habanero sauce. Does it caramelize just from the pineapple, or do you add some sugar?

                                                      1. re: Terrie H.

                                                        Sweet with hot is awesome. No sugar needed. Caramelizes from just the sugar in the pineapple juice. Terrie H, give it a try. Has great complex flavor.

                                                        The base recipe is surprisingly mild. Not scary. Not hot. The pineapple sweet cuts the habenero heat. Over ice cream further cuts the heat (adding more sweet with dairy into the mix). Habenero peppers have a tasty flavor beyond other chili types. Especially when made this way. Somehow these results are not as hot as people feel it should be. Even those who say do not like heat still devour this sauce when made with one habenero.

                                                        I now often use two or three habenero chili peppers when make for my personal taco sauce. Have grown over a few years eating this to sometimes desire more spice with the sweet. Once made it with ten habaneros, have also tried eight and found too hot for me. I stick with one chili when eat on ice cream with those not into chili peppers.

                                                        Remove the seeds and ribs in the pepper(s) then cut as small as possible with a knife (especially starting out because reduces the heat a little by removing the inside ribs and chili seeds can be bitter so best to get rid of them). Do not blend. NEVER rub your eyes after cutting habanero peppers. Darn it burns for a long time and does not wash out easy because capsaicin is not soluble in water.

                                                        Here is an independent review by CHOW: "All of these were great additions to vanilla ice cream! The Habanero Pineapple, Smoky Coffee Sundae,and Brown Sugar-Balsamic Plum were a favorite. Enjoy! Chris of Chow -helmut fig newton" : http://www.chow.com/galleries/330/cho.... The above was posted in this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/374702 about vanilla ice cream toppings.

                                                        Caramelized pineapple habenero sauce is a personal favorite on tacos. Also is great on ice cream - especially at a Mexican-themed food gathering. Next month is Cinco de Mayo. This sauce expands horizons - especially good breaking kids and chili newbies into eating habenero peppers in a way they want more.

                                                        1. re: smaki

                                                          Thanks for the details, Smaki. Just wanted to make sure I didn't have to add additional sugar. Sounds wonderful and am going to try it this weekend.

                                                    2. Leftovers bear witness to many an interesting turn of dinners in this household...

                                                      Sweet potatoes cubed, dusted in salt, garlic powder, pepper and almond meal. Sauteed til crispy. Brown some extra lean ground turkey. Reserve. Then diced onion, cooked with diced bell pepper, minced carrots and minced celery, and minced garlic. Deglaze with a little chicken broth. Then mix a splash more chicken broth with a few pinches of rice flour, a little tomato paste and a little worcestershire. Add to pan. Add turkey back along with a little minced basil, and simmer til sauce is basically gone. Serve in tacos with some sour cream :)

                                                        1. OK, I prefer this in soft corn tortillas, but it's awesome anyway, plus super easy and great for a party. Single most flavorful crockpot dish I've made.

                                                          One boneless pork roast, that fits in your crockpot. Put it in and dump a jar, juice and all, of pepperoncinis over. Cook all day til pork is shreddable. Shred. Serve with cotija cheese, cilantro, avocado. A little sour, spicy, fabulous.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: girlwonder88

                                                            girlwonder, I love the idea of the vinegar spicy pork idea. Do you destem them? And is it the 16 oz jar or the bigger jar? I can manage the rest as far as cooking times in the crockpot etc. I just would think desteming and slicing would make it easier to put on a taco later. And do you have a favorite pepperoncini brand? Thanks

                                                          2. Picadillo makes a wonderful taco filling.

                                                            1. Thanks for the suggestions! And I AM going to use soft corn tortillas now. Definitely going to make Caramelized pineapple habenero sauce1

                                                              1. What about a spicy bbq pulled pork? (re-purposing some of the carnitas)