Last Updated on October 28, 2022 by Jim Edwards
Tacos are traditional Mexican food made with hand-sized tortillas filled with a variety of toppings. The filling varies from region to region. Some people prefer their tacos to have beef, chicken, or pork topped with some cheese. Others are in search of tacos with vegetables or beans.
The best thing about tacos is that they do not disappoint anyone. As long as they are scrumptious, which they always are, hardly anyone questions what’s in them. However, real taco enthusiasts are different. They want to know everything there is to know about them. That brings us to the topic of facts about tacos.
Did you know that tacos were not always readily available to the public? They were available for poor Mexicans as street food. Wealthy Mexicans preferred bread over tortillas back in the day, so they never knew just how delicious tacos are.
Are you surprised? Don’t be because there’s more that you may not know about tacos. If you have been a taco fan since your first bite, here are some facts about tacos you will enjoy!
Surprising Facts about Tacos
1. Tacos Have a Few Origin Stories
We believe tacos are the creation of modern Mexico, but it’s not entirely true. While the 19th century was crucial in globalizing this delicious food, tacos date back to the Aztec empire. History did not keep the record of the person who first came up with the idea of tacos. Nevertheless, Tacopedia claims that tacos were invented between 1000 and 500 BC.
People living in the region were fond of using tortillas as spoons. Tacos were not the popularized form of food, but the ancestors indulged in tortillas. They would scoop up appetizing food items with their edible tortillas and eat them. This is possibly the first record of tacos!
Later in the 19th century, the practice of wrapping food in tortillas became famous again. Mexican mine workers would bring their food wrapped like a taco for lunch.
2. Tacos Were Once Just a Festival Food Item
We see a taqueria or a taco restaurant in every neighborhood nowadays, but it wasn’t always common. With the migration of Mexicans to the West area in the 1880s, tacos were brought to the region as railroad workers’ food.
It was specific to the working class only, so taco stands were uncommon but still available for the working class. Miners and railroad workers would buy their lunch from these taco stands, for they were affordable. As the popularity of tacos grew, people started selling them during festivals and events.
The tacos sold were different than the current version. They did not have the typical ingredients we have today. Still, people would sell it for special occasions until the mid-20th century, when it became a popular Mexican food item in the United States.
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3. Americans Consume 4.5 Billion Tacos per Year
If Glen Bell had not brought tacos to the United States, Americans would have missed out on the delectable food item we enjoy today! Glen Bell is the founder of Taco Bell, a fast-food chain restaurant in America.
He was the owner of several burger stands and eventually started a taco stand in a Hispanic neighborhood. Taco Bell got famous after selling hard-shell tacos, and now the restaurant chain has more than 7,000 stores globally.
Americans are crazy about this Mexican food. They eat billions of tacos per year and not from any Mexican restaurant. They love their Taco Bell food chain and support it by buying the tacos regularly. Almost half of the population visits their nearest Taco Bell at least 2 or 3 times per month!
4. Mexican Traditions Surrounding Tacos
People around the globe make their own variations of tacos, but some traditions are meant to be followed. Mexicans do not eat tacos whenever they want. They have different tacos for lunch and dinner.
Americans love tacos so much that they do not differentiate between the various kinds. They’d eat whatever flavor and filling they crave for lunch, dinner, or midnight snacks. Mexicans, on the other hand, keep things sorted. They eat Antojitos for dinner only and seafood tacos for lunch. A fun fact about fish tacos is that they were first made in Ensenada, Mexico!
5. Taco World Records
Imagine the love for tacos based on the dedication of people to create the best and largest tacos in the world! The best part is that you do not have to be a Mexican to create a taco world record. In 2003, Cocinex SA de CV started the tradition by creating a flour taco of 1,654 pounds. It was made in Mexicali, Mexico, and remains the largest flour taco to date.
Another record for the largest taco is held by a Navajo Taco built in New Mexico. There were 150 fry bread pieces used with ground beef (65 pounds), beans (65 pounds), cheese (90 pounds), green chili (30 pounds), and lettuce (50 pounds). The total diameter of this Navajo Taco was 10 feet!
That’s not all; some students also volunteered to show their culinary talent by creating a huge pork taco. It was a combined effort of the Culinary Institute of Advanced Studies, Tec Milenio University, and the National College of Professional Education. They created a taco with onions (661 pounds), cilantro (45 pounds), tomatoes (1,100 pounds), tortillas (1.5 million pounds), and pork (unlimited!). It cost more than $50,000!
6. Celebrating National Taco Day
We have already established that Americans are crazy about tacos! They celebrate National Taco Day on October 4th and consume an awful lot of tacos in a single day. The number of tacos eaten on National Taco Day contributes significantly to the 4.5 billion tacos consumed per year! These numbers show that burgers may not be America’s signature meal anymore, as tacos are slowly taking over.
While the US has October 4th as their National Taco Day, Mexico has March 31st. They celebrate it as International Taco Day. France also has its own version of Taco Day. It is celebrated on July 31st.
7. The First Taco Truck in the US Was an Ice Cream Truck
Taco trucks are everywhere! It almost seems like they have been around forever, but there’s a rich history to this tradition as well. In 1966, the first Taco Truck originated in New York with no kitchen and just a catering service.
It wasn’t exactly a food truck since the concept was so new in 1966. An ice cream truck was used to sell tacos. Raul Martinez was an immigrant who owned the first Taco truck. The owner would park it near a bar in East Los Angeles and sell the exotic food that Americans were not familiar with.
Tacos were cheap and portable, so people could easily buy them from a food truck and carry them around on their way back to the office. Raul Martinez’s food truck was so famous that he started his own restaurant chain called King Taco.
8. The Evolution of Tacos in the United States
As soon as food trucks became successful in the US, Mexican cuisine started to evolve. The changes were meant to improve tacos for the Americans. This is how U-shaped shells were introduced! Mexican sellers in the 1940s had a booming business because of their taco trucks. They needed a process to streamline their service, and that’s when they came up with U-shaped shells.
The 21st century continued the experimentation with tacos to create unique fusion flavors. The first fusion taco was introduced in 2008 by Roy Choi and Mark Manguera. They sold Korean BBQ tacos outside the UCLA dormitory during the exam week.
9. History of Tacos Contains Insects, Pig Snouts, and Liver Fillings
It’s not easy for a food item to become famous without exotic and unusual testing. People have been passionate about improving tacos and increasing their popularity since the 19th century. So, it is understandable that they used uncommon fillings for tacos. There are several cookbooks from that era with strange taco recipes. Some of them include liver, cream cheese, or pig snouts for fillings.
If we go back a few years, we can find another version of tacos that wouldn’t be considered edible these days. Aztecs had a similar food like tacos, in which they’d wrap insects in a corn flatbread.
4 Levels of Tacos: Amateur to Food Scientist | Epicurious
Epicurious challenged chefs of three different levels – an amateur, a home cook, and a professional chef – to make their versions of tacos. And then, we brought in a food scientist to review their work. Which taco was the best?
Tacos are among the most common foods in the United States. Their humble origins show that simple foods can be tasty as long as people are willing to experiment.
If you were a fan of tacos before, we believe these facts about tacos have served as a reminder as to why you love them. Now, you can talk about tacos with your partner or friends over a heaping plate and enjoy a delicious meal!
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I’m Jim Edwards and I started this website to share my love of Junk Food. We cover new junk food, desserts, snack foods, fast food secret menus, candy (of course!) and other related news. We love trying “secret menus” at restaurants. And we love trying new products too. So, we are trying to have some fun with our hobby and share some useful information with you, our community. Please feel to send us your suggestions and feedback through the contact form. And if you have products you would like us to try, let us know…!