Many restaurants in America serve tacos of some sort, including higher-end “foodie” restaurants. Every given year, Americans eat about 5 billion tacos! With that being said, the American fascination with tacos goes back to the late 1800s when Mexican immigrants introduce them to the West. But what makes tacos so popular, and why are they a part of many’s recipe collections?
Tacos are so popular because you can customize them to your preferences, and they contain fresh ingredients from most food groups. Tacos can feed an entire family for less money than other foods, and they are designed for non-traditional ingredients.
If all this talk about tacos has you salivating, dig in for more!
These are 13 reasons why tacos are so popular:
1. Mexican Immigrants Brought the Taco to the US in the 1800s.
In the late 1800s, Mexican immigrants brought their food traditions with them, including the precursor to the tacos. People came to work in the new world and brought their food with them. But tacos were seen as low-class street food, and many Americans didn’t want anything to do with it.
But these tacos didn’t represent authentic Mexican tacos, because they changed their ingredients to match the availability of American ingredients, which often didn’t include organ meats.
2. Tacos Are Customizable.
You can literally fill a taco with anything, and it is still a taco. Do you want shrimp in your taco? Go for it! You can also have a fish taco or tacos filled with organ meats like beef tongue or tripe. You could, if you wanted, have a grasshopper taco, though you may not like that idea.
Breakfast tacos could have eggs, sausage, and cheese, while a fusion taco would have Korean BBQ. The possibilities are simply limited by your imagination and creativity.
3. Tacos Contain Fresh Ingredients From Most Food Groups.
Tacos, by design, contain fresh ingredients from all the food groups. Meat or beans is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream, and the base is either corn or flour tortilla. Most food groups are represented by tacos, which makes them a healthy choice for any meal.
A few other foods combine many food groups, such as sushi, burritos, and some salads. But tacos are one that stands out because they are inexpensive to buy or make at home.
4. Tacos Can Feed an Entire Family for Not a Lot of Money.
Although tacos in high-end restaurants can be expensive, “street tacos” are quite affordable. In many areas, tacos are an inexpensive way to feed the entire family – even if they have two to three tacos per person. Plus, most Mexican restaurants add side dishes, like rice, refried beans, and extra lettuce, to round out the meal.
Taco Bell is one place where you can get a lot of tacos at a low price. They typically have deals off and on of 10 or 20 tacos, which can feed a family of four or five, depending on the family members’ appetites.
5. Tacos Are Flavorful and Savory.
Tacos have a lot going on in flavor and seasonings. Whether it be ground beef, steak, chicken, or fish, the protein is seasoned just right. Other ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream add to the balance of flavor packed into a small package. Few foods have so much flavor packed in through many ingredients.
In upscale restaurants, the flavors become more pronounced with fontina cheese, a rich mole sauce, and grilled steak strips.
6. America’s Cultural Heritage Includes Tacos.
American cuisine is a melting pot of several other cultural cuisines, including Mexican foods and influences. Since people started immigrating to the US from Mexico, their food traditions have merged with different cuisines. And with about 60 million Hispanics (about 2/3 of them having Mexican heritage) living in the US, tacos are a large part of America’s cultural heritage.
But then Tex-Mex cuisines popped up, including flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas as the base of tacos. Authentic Mexican tacos are mainly made with corn tortillas.
7. You Can Eat Tacos Standing Up.
Tacos have always been a “street food,” which means that you can eat them sitting down or standing up, as you don’t need a fork to eat them. Taco trucks and stands are meant for people eating on the go and do not offer seating arrangements. People are looking for a quick lunch like the convenience and fast service of tacos.
8. Tacos Are Designed for Non-Traditional Ingredients.
Shrimp tacos, fish tacos, Taco al Pastors, and other tacos are very popular because tortillas go with any ingredient, even the non-traditional ingredients. Fun fact – back in the day, ancient Mexicans ate insect-filled tacos. In general, tacos can be made with any protein and other fresh ingredients, including goat cheese or feta cheese.
9. One’s Personality Can Be Advertised Through Tacos.
On dating apps, tacos are synonymous with having a unique personality. If someone put on their dating profile that they are “down for tacos,” that means that they are sophisticated, yet down to earth and open for many fun and interesting experiences. Or it could simply mean that they want tacos and that would be a good first date.
10. Tacos Are a Staple of Mexican Cuisine.
Since the 19th century, working-class Mexicans have taken food wrapped in tortillas to eat for lunch. And now that Mexican Americans made over 11% of the US population, it makes sense that Mexican cuisine is becoming more popular in the US and other parts of the world.
But the taco ingredients didn’t look much like the new ingredients you might be familiar with today. They contained organ meats and other animal parts that were leftover from butchering. The Mexican people brought over these ingredients with them, but they were not popular with Americans.
11. Taco Tuesday Promoted Tacos Since 1933.
While Taco Tuesday may seem to be a recent addition to many restaurants’ menus, the first Taco Tuesday was publicized in 1933 in El Paso, Texas. The White Star cafeteria advertised that they were selling “Mexican Tacos” on Tuesday for just 15 cents for three tacos.
Ever since then, restaurants had their spin on taco Tuesday and offered taco specials every Tuesday.
12. Even France Has Their Own Taco.
While they are called tacos in France, the French taco is not much of a taco, but more like a fried burrito. They start with a flour tortilla, add french fries, a white cream sauce, then a protein. They add any other ingredients a customer wants, such as mustard, ketchup, cheese, mushrooms, or even eggs. It is folded like a burrito, then cooked in a sandwich press until hot.
13. Taco Bell Popularized Tacos Since 1962
Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, wanted a way to bring tacos to Americans so they wouldn’t have to travel to Mexico. He originally owned several hamburger fast-food places in Los Angeles, so when he saw how popular tacos were, he opened a taco stand–a precursor to the taco truck.
The stand was instantly popular, so he opened the first Taco Bell in 1962. Since then, Taco Bell has grown to over 7,000 locations around the world.
Tacos are very popular due to how simple, yet flavorful they can be, and how inexpensive they are to buy or make at home.
An interesting side note: many street vendors in Mexico do not sell tacos during midday, because the Mexican people’s biggest meal of the day is the midday meal. Vendors close down at noon, then reopen at 6 PM for those looking to hit the bars later. Tacos are sold as an early morning or evening treat, rather than a lunch. Vendors who only sell tacos in the morning close up shop at noon, then don’t reopen until the next day.