5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Tacos

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there’s always a place for tacos on the table. They’re not just reserved for Taco Tuesday. At the most basic, all you need is a good tortilla (preferably corn), your favorite filling, and some toppings. Don’t forget the salsa.

No matter your preferred filling or what time of day you reach for a taco, there are a few mistakes you should take care to avoid when making this hands-on meal.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

1. Not using fresh tortillas.

A tortilla is not just a tortilla. This is a crucial part of the taco that can often get overshadowed by the filling. But what’s on the outside is just as important as what’s on the inside when it comes to making a good taco.

→ Follow this tip: Sara Desaran, author of Tacolicious, insists that a taco is only as good as its corn tortilla. She suggests making your own tortillas (which, as Emma showed us, is easier than you might expect); otherwise buy the best quality tortillas available. And if you’re lucky enough to have a tortilleria nearby, that’s where you’ll find the freshest tortillas.

2. Forgetting to heat up the tortillas.

Failing to heat tortillas pretty much puts you on the fast track for a cracked taco as soon as you fold it. Heating tortillas first makes them soft, pliable, and easy to wrap around the filling.

→ Follow this tip: Tortillas should always be heated for a few minutes on the stovetop before you begin to assemble your tacos. You’ll be rewarded with a better taco that stays together until the last bite.

3. Not heating tortillas the right way.

Not all methods for heating tortillas are equal. You want your tortillas to become soft and pliable, so they’re easy to fold without cracking, but without getting moist or soggy. Pati Jinich, author of Pati’s Mexican Table, points out while tortillas are incredibly resilient, they would rather not be heated in microwaves or gigantic stacks wrapped in the oven.

→ Follow this tip: Instead, Pati suggests this: “To let tortillas give you their best performance, the best thing to do is to heat them in an already warm comal, griddle, grill, or skillet (so they won’t stick to the surface) that has been heating over medium heat for at least five minutes. Let them heat throughly until they lightly brown and barely toast on both sides.”

4. Overfilling your tacos.

I’m guilty of this almost every time I make tacos. In my quest to get as much filling as possible, I usually end up overloading my tacos; instead of staying wrapped in the tortilla, the filling spills all over my plate.

→ Follow this tip: Resist the urge to load your tortilla to the max. Instead of loading too much filling into just a few tacos, use a moderate amount of filling in each, and add another taco to your plate.

5. Forgoing the extra toppings.

Just as important as the warm, fresh tortillas and the filling are your taco toppings. Tacos without toppings are just sad.

→ Follow this tip: Toppings pull all the flavors in your taco together. Whether it’s salsa, avocado, cheese, herbs, or a pickled garnish, the choices are many. Be sure to have a good balance of toppings, both in flavor (fresh, spicy, and salty) and texture (crunchy, soft, and chewy) to complement the taco filling.

What are your best tips for making tacos?

Try these taco recipes!