There is nothing better than biting into a crunchy taco filled with delicious ground beef or a soft tortilla with grilled chicken, blackened fish or spicy shrimp and crunchy slaw. The wonderful thing about tacos is you can fill them with virtually anything, and they still will be satisfying. Tortillas are a great vessel for a variety of meats and veggies, and you can dress them up or down or even eat them on the go.
Tacos need three components — a filling (meat, veggies, cheese), something crunchy (veggies, hard tortilla shell) and a topping (sauce, fresh herbs, cheese). You can make a multitude of combinations with these. The basic ground beef with shredded lettuce, taco sauce and cheese in a crunchy shell is always satisfying, but if you’d like to change it up, you’ve got tons of options. For instance, try using precooked pieces of steak and serve with sliced bell peppers and chopped onions cooked together in a skillet with oil and garlic salt (and any other seasonings you like). Top with feta or shredded Monterey Jack. Montreal Steak Seasoning is great to use on any type of beef in a taco. Cheeseburger tacos can be created with cooked ground beef (seasoned just like your burgers), shredded lettuce, mustard/mayonnaise, chopped onions and shredded cheddar cheese. The sky’s the limit for burger-type tacos.
Lots of different types of pork are great in tacos. Got leftover barbecue? Throw it in a flour tortilla with some coleslaw (try combining a bag of coleslaw mix with your favorite flavor of barbecue sauce — just enough to moisten it). Another idea is season the pork with Asian ginger salad dressing in a slow cooker, the oven or an air fryer. Place a 3-pound pork loin in a baking pan or slow cooker, season with salt and pepper, then add enough Asian ginger salad dressing to moisten the top and cover the bottom of the pan. If cooking in the oven, bake at 350 degrees, covered. If cooking in an air fryer, use the same temperature, but turn the meat every so often. When golden brown with an internal temperature of 160 degrees, remove and let rest for 5 minutes before shredding. Throw it into a flour tortilla with some kimchi coleslaw (combine one bag of coleslaw mix with desired amount of kimchi) or thinly sliced radishes.
Chicken and shrimp can be used almost interchangeably in tacos. Because both meats can trend on the dry, bland side, it’s important to season them well and use veggies to add a moisture component. For example, slice half a sweet onion into strips, and do the same with two bell peppers — one red and one yellow or orange. Cook chicken over medium heat with olive oil, garlic salt, chili powder and Old Bay seasoning or lime juice until chicken changes colors. Add pepper and onion strips and cook until peppers have begun to char and chicken is golden brown. If using shrimp, add them to the pan at the same time as the veggies. Next, remove the mixture from the pan, then place a corn or flour tortilla in the bottom and move it around to gather up the leftover spices. Drizzle the top with a little oil, then cook until bubbles appear (about 30 seconds). Flip and cook the other side the same amount of time. Serve with your favorite cheese. Corn is good in this dish, too. Add fresh corn cut from two ears or 1 cup frozen corn, and cook it with the peppers and onions.
Tacos also are a great option for vegetarians. Grilled portobello mushrooms, cut into large slices, are exceptionally good and hold up well. Be sure to use ample seasoning (season them just like you would a hamburger) while cooking. Pickled veggies are another good taco filling. Pickled jalapenos, ginger, carrots, etc. make excellent additions when paired with something else, such as pork, chicken or even potatoes.
Sometimes, the type of tortilla shell you use dictates the fillings, due to the moisture levels. Corn tortillas are much more likely than flour ones to break apart with moist fillings. Solution: double up on the corn tortillas. They also hold up better if they have been cooked with a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil — just enough to moisten one side. Cook until the tortilla begins to bubble up, then flip and repeat. Sprinkle lightly with salt before adding the filling.
If you’d like your tacos to be portable, choose a larger tortilla, add the filling and fold the ends over and roll it up to make a burrito. If you really want to get creative, spray the burrito with cooking spray, place broad-side down in a skillet for 1 minute, then turn and cook the other side for the same amount of time. This is a great way to use leftovers.
Tacos are a fun, easy way to serve (and eat) a variety of foods. The best part is you can slide ingredients your family might not otherwise eat (peppers, onions, veggies in general) into them. They are perfectly acceptable to serve at every meal. So don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors and ingredients. You’ll be glad you did.
– Tiffany Hughes is an Acworth resident and works for the Booth Western Art Museum. Contact her at email@example.com.
• 1 bag coleslaw or broccoli slaw mix
• ⅓ cup shredded carrots, if desired
• 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 4 tablespoons Asian ginger salad dressing
Place slaw and carrots in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine poppy seeds, salt, sugar and salad dressing. Drizzle mixture over slaw and toss to coat. Add pineapple, if desired. If using almonds, toast in a small pan with a little butter. Cook just until golden and add to slaw.
Steak and Baked Potato Tacos
• 30 tater tots, baked until crunchy
• ½ teaspoon garlic salt
• 2 cups thinly sliced steak, cooked
• 8 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese, divided
• 4 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions or chopped chives
• 4 flour (taco-size) tortillas
• 2 tablespoons ranch dressing, divided
• Pineapple or almonds (optional)
Place cooked tater tots in a bowl and mash to break apart. Sprinkle with garlic salt and toss to combine. Divide mixture into fourths. To prepare each taco, place ¼ potato mixture, ½ cup steak, 2 tablespoons cheese and 1 teaspoon green onions or chives on a tortilla. Top with ½ tablespoon ranch dressing and serve.
Roasted Pork Tacos
• 3-5 pounds pork loin, excess fat removed
• 3 tablespoons dry ranch
• 3 tablespoons dry chicken bouillon
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon garlic salt
• ½ cup pickle juice or apple cider vinegar
• 1 stick butter
Place pork in a slow cooker. Sprinkle top with dry seasonings. Pour pickle juice or vinegar around pork (if it does not cover the bottom of the slow cooker, add more). Top with butter, cover and cook on high for four hours. The pork is done when it reaches 160 degrees. Remove from cooker and shred.