What Are Taco Shells Made Of: A Complete Guide

If you’re a fan of Mexican food, then you’ve probably enjoyed your fair share of tacos. But have you ever wondered what those crunchy taco shells are made out of? In this article, we’ll dive into the history and types of taco shells and even show you how to make them at home.

What Are Taco Shells Made Of?

If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine, then you’ve likely enjoyed the delicious crunch of a taco shell. But have you ever wondered what exactly goes into making these tasty treats? Here’s a breakdown:

Main Ingredients in Taco Shells

  • Corn or wheat flour – These are the main ingredients and provide the structure to hold all your fillings.
  • Water – This is necessary for mixing with the flour to form a dough.
  • Salt – A pinch of salt enhances the flavor of the taco shells.

Different Types of Flour Used in Taco Shells

The type of flour used can greatly impact the taste and texture of your taco shells. Here are some common types:

  • Masa harina (corn flour) – This is traditional and has an earthy corn flavor that many people love. It also creates crispy yet sturdy shells.
  • All-purpose wheat flour – This is milder in flavor and produces softer, chewier tacos than corn-based ones.
  • Whole-wheat or multigrain flour – These flours might be used to add more nutrients, but they tend to absorb less oil during frying, which results in less crunchy shells.

Different Oils Used in Taco Shell Production

The oil used for frying can affect both taste and healthiness. Let’s take a look at some options:

  • Vegetable oil – This is commonly used because it’s cheap and has a high smoke point, meaning it can withstand high temperatures without burning quickly. However, vegetable oils are often heavily processed and can be harmful to health when consumed in large quantities.
  • Olive oil – This oil is a healthier alternative, as it contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. However, it has a lower smoke point and can affect the taste of the taco shells.
  • Coconut oil – Some people prefer to use coconut oil because it’s natural and unprocessed, but it also has a lower smoke point than vegetable oil.

So there you have it! Taco shells are made primarily from corn or wheat flour, water, and salt. The type of flour used will impact the flavor and texture of the shell, while the choice of oil affects both taste and healthiness.

History of Taco Shells

Tacos have been a popular Mexican dish for centuries, but taco shells as we know them today are a more recent innovation.

Origin of Taco Shells

The exact origins of the taco shell are somewhat debated, but many scholars believe that they were first popularized in the United States in the early 20th century. One story attributes their creation to a man named Juan Mendez who was selling tacos at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Another theory is that they were invented by Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, in the 1940s.

Evolution of Taco Shells

Regardless of their exact origin, taco shells have evolved over time. Early versions were made from soft tortillas that were folded around fillings such as meat, beans, and cheese. Later on, hard-shell tacos became popular – these were essentially fried tortillas that had been shaped into a U-shape to hold filling inside. Today there are endless varieties available ranging from filled taco shells to flavored ones like nacho cheese.

Cultural Significance

Taco shells play an important role not just in Americanized Mexican cuisine but also in traditional Mexican dishes too – crunchy corn tortilla bowls known as “tostadas” are similar to elongated hard-shell tacos and can be used interchangeably with them sometimes. In either case, it’s clear that taco shells represent a key aspect of Mexican cuisine – with its rich history and contemporary popularity – making them an essential element to learn about for anyone wanting to delve deep into Mexican culinary culture.

  • Soft Tortilla Tacos
  • Hard-Shell Tacos
  • Flavored Taco Shells, e. g., Nacho Cheese
  • Crunchy tortilla bowls called “Tostadas”

Types of Taco Shells

Hard Shells

Hard taco shells are made from corn tortillas that have been fried until they are crispy. They have a satisfying crunch and can hold up to heavier fillings, making them a popular choice for beef tacos. However, they can also be quite messy to eat and may break easily.

  • Advantages: Crunchy texture, suitable for heavier fillings.
  • Disadvantages: Messy to eat, prone to breaking.
  • Ideal Fillings: Ground beef, chicken or pork with lettuce, cheese and sour cream.

Soft Shells

A soft shell taco is made from flour tortillas which are heated on a griddle or dry pan. They offer a more flexible option than hard shells and are easier to handle. Soft shells will not break like their crispy counterparts but may become soggy if overfilled or left sitting for too long.

  • Advantages: Easy to handle and chew. Can fold around any filling without breaking.
  • Disadvantages: > Soggy when overfilled or left standing out for too long.
  • Ideal Fillings: Sauteed vegetables, shredded meats (chicken), beans or fish tacos with slaw topping.

Corn Tortillas

A traditional Mexican street food staple! Corn tortillas can either be soft or crisp as you like pending preparation methods; however they need extra care so they don’t rip apart eating them.

  • Crispy corn tortillas: made from corn grits, fried until hard and golden brown, can be topped with fillings like lettuce or pickled vegetables.
  • Soft corn tortillas: made by pressing nixtamalized maize to create a dough that becomes the perfect complement for any taco filling.

  • Advantages: Crispy ones can absorb moisture keeping all the ingredients in balance of flavors, soft ones have an authentic taste and they are gluten-free!
  • Disadvantages: Crispy shells may break when overtopped; Soft ones aren’t suitable for certain heavy ingredients like carne asada maybe?
  • Ideal Fillings: Beans, poblano peppers, mushrooms tacos garnished with avocado wedges (soft shell); fresh cheese with refried beans or seasoned chicken shreds (hard shell).

In summary, selecting the right type of taco shell depends on your preference and your desired fillings. Keep in mind the pros & cons of each type to maximize flavor experience while avoiding messiness or broken pieces

How to Make Taco Shells at Home

Are you tired of buying pre-packaged taco shells that are often stale or lack the perfect texture and flavor? Why not make your own at home? Not only is it effortless, but making your own taco shells guarantees the freshness and taste you desire. Follow these simple instructions for delicious homemade taco shells.

Equipment Needed For Making Taco Shells

  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper or silicone mat
  • Tongs
  • Metal or wooden dowels (optional)
  • Bowl or clean surface for shaping the taco shells while hot

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making Taco Shells at Home:

  1. Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Note: It’s essential to preheat the oven before baking so that the taco shells cook evenly and get crispy as desired.

  3. Cut Tortillas into Triangles: Place tortillas on a cutting board and cut each one into triangular halves or quarters, depending on how big you want your tacos.
  4. Note: Corn tortillas work best when making traditional hard-shell tacos since they become crispier than flour tortillas when baked.

    Cutting Tortillas
  5. Bake The Tortilla Triangles: Then, place the triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Leave some space between each triangle so that they can crisp up properly.
  6. Baking Tortilla Triangles on a Baking Sheet
  7. Shape Your Taco Shells: Once the tortillas are baked, take them out of the oven and use tongs to fold each triangle in half. If you want, you can wrap the folded tortilla around a metal or wooden dowel for an authentic taco shell form.
  8. shaping taco shells while hot using tongs

    Note: Handle the hot tortillas carefully, as they might not be crispy enough at this point and prone to break if not shaped gently.

  9. Bake Your Taco Shells Again: Place your folded (or formed) taco shells back into the oven along with mold for final shaping and bake for another six to eight minutes until perfectly crispy.
  10. Baked Taco Shells on a Rack.

    Note: Keep checking your taco shells every minute after six minutes to make sure they don’t burn but still get golden brown crispy texture.

    Tips for Achieving Perfect Texture and Flavor in Homemade Taco Shells:

    • If you like your taco shells extra crispy, dry your tortilla triangles in a low oven of around 200F for about 10–15 minutes before going ahead with the baking process.
    • Store leftover taco shells in an airtight container at room temperature to keep them crispy for up to two days.
    • You can flavor your taco shells by sprinkling spices like garlic or onion powder, chili powder, oregano over them before baking.

    Making homemade taco shells is easy and straightforward, and the final product will have the right texture and taste you desire compared to store-bought ones. Follow these instructions and customize your taco shell to your particular preferences. Enjoy your delicious homemade tacos!


    Whether you prefer crunchy or soft-shelled tacos, understanding the different varieties can help elevate your dining experience. Knowing how they came about and how they’re made adds flavor facts that will make dinner conversations more interesting- so give these homemade recipes a try for an authentic cultural experience!


    Can I use wheat instead of corn for my homemade hard-shell taco?

    Yes! While corn is used for the traditional hard-shell taco, wheat tortillas can also be used.

    How many different types of soft-shell tacos are there?

    Softshell tacos typically come in two variations- corn and flour tortilla shells.

    Can I grill my taco shells instead of frying them?

    Yes! Grilling your taco shell can be a healthier alternative that burns fewer< calories- while still providing crispy crunchy goodness to your esteemed dish.

Similar Posts