Lesley Téllez’s Household Tacos

updated Apr 13, 2020
Téllez Household Tacos

Mexican cookbook author Lesley Téllez shares her family's favorite taco recipe, complete with easy spiced chicken thighs and lots of fun toppings.

Serves4

Prep30 minutes

Cook8 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

At my house, we often have tortillas on the table, and we put almost anything inside them. It’s not taco night — it’s just dinner. But sometimes I try to put together a more formal “taco night,” like in the books my 4-year-old son reads. (He read Dragons Love Tacos, and our tacos usually don’t look like that.) 

Taco Night Starts with Great Tortillas

Necessary to our taco night are, first and foremost, good corn tortillas. I don’t like crunchy shells — I like the smell of the tortilla as I’m heating it up, and I like folding it around my own filling. For packaged corn tortillas, I like Masienda or El Milagro brands. But most often I drive to my local tortillería and buy several pounds at a time, separate them into one-pound bags, and freeze them. 

Related: Not All Corn Tortillas Are Equal. Here’s How to Find the Best Ones (and How to Prepare Them)

Credit: Christine Han
The author at home in her New York City kitchen.

The meat doesn’t have to have any special seasoning. I’ve used poached and shredded chicken tossed with salt and pepper, or used chopped baked boneless, skinless chicken thighs coated with a little olive oil. But a quick marinade with lime juice and cumin is fast, and adds a lot of flavor. 

My Family’s Favorite Taco Toppings

The most exciting thing is the toppings, and putting them on the table separated out into little bowls, which makes the whole thing feel more fun. I like shredded cabbage for crunch (purple adds a deeper color pop), as well as coarsely chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, grated cheese, and Mexican crema (a kind of sour cream) to bind everything together.

Heat is mandatory for me, so I also serve sliced raw jalapeño or serrano peppers, and hot sauce. Pickled onions are great, too, if you happen to have them in your fridge. Otherwise any other type of onion is fine. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Téllez Household Tacos

Mexican cookbook author Lesley Téllez shares her family's favorite taco recipe, complete with easy spiced chicken thighs and lots of fun toppings.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 8 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1

    medium lime

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    paprika

  • 1 tablespoon

    canola oil, or other neutral cooking oil

  • 12

    corn tortillas

Toppings options:

  • Shredded purple cabbage

  • Cotija cheese, or any other cheese you want

  • Cilantro

  • Radishes

  • Onions, such as pickled onions, scallions, red onion, or white onion

  • Sliced serrano or jalapeño peppers

  • Avocado

  • Limes

  • Hot sauce or salsa

  • Mexican crema

  • Canned or cooked black beans, drained

Instructions

  1. Cut 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1 medium lime onto the chicken. Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prep the toppings.

  2. Prep the desired toppings: cut red cabbage into shreds, grate cotija or other desired cheeses, chop cilantro, thinly slice radishes, onion, peppers, and avocado. Cut lime wedges. Place all the toppings, including black beans, crema, and salsa, into separate bowls.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large, heavy skillet until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until cooked through and the juices run clear, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl.

  4. Heat 12 corn tortillas on a comal (a flat, round griddle) or, if you don’t have one, wrap a stack in a dishcloth (I count three tortillas per person) and warm in the microwave. Keep them warm by wrapping them tightly in an extra dishcloth, or put them in a tortilla basket (still in the cloth) or a tortilla warmer. Serve with the chicken and toppings.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: You can make the chicken ahead of time and warm in a gently heated oven, covered in foil, or microwave on half-power when you’re ready to serve.

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

Lesley Téllez is a journalist, entrepreneur, and Mexican cookbook author living in New York City. She’s the author of Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets and Fondas and the co-founder of Eat Mexico. This story is part of a multi-story, multi-recipe package by Lesley sharing her personal, family-friendly approach to Weeknight Mexican