Happy Cinco de Mayo! To round out our Cinco de Mayo recipes, today we have Tacos Dorados, or Crispy Tacos. This is a great recipe to make for a group, or you can do what I did and make half a batch and save the rest of the filling for either something else or another batch of tacos. I found this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen; it’s not only easy, but these are amazingly good tacos! Different than street tacos, these are shallow-fried (with the meat filling inside) to create a deliciously crunchy shell. Let’s get to the recipe!
Before we get going on the filling, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and adjust the rack to the middle position. Now, the preparation of the meat filling is very similar to the Not So Sloppy Joe recipe from a few weeks ago. We will start by tossing the 90% ground beef with a baking soda slurry. The baking soda keeps the ground beef moist and tender. Let the meat mixed with the slurry sit while we sauté the onions.
Heat one tablespoon of vegetable or grapeseed oil in a large, 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it is shimmering. Add the onions and, stirring occasionally, cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt to the onions and stir to coat the onions in the spices. Cook while stirring until the spices are fragrant, about one minute. Then add the tomato paste.
Stir to incorporate and cook the tomato paste until the tomato paste darkens to a rust color, about 1 minute. Then, add the ground beef.
Break the ground beef up into small 1/4-inch pieces as it cooks. Cook meat until it is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes.
When the meat is no longer pink, transfer the whole mixture into a large bowl and mix with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Stir to melt and fully combine the cheese and set aside. Wipe out the empty skillet with a paper towel.
We will need two rimmed sheet pans for this; one of them will hold the tortillas in the oven. For the other, place a wire rack in the rimmed sheet tray and lay a double layer of paper towels on the wire rack; set this aside, we will use it to catch the tacos when they come out of the shallow fry.
Lay 6 or 12 corn tortillas on a rimmed sheet tray, if you go with 12, it’s ok to overlap the tortillas so that they will fit in two rows. Then, thoroughly brush both sides of the tortillas with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place the sheet tray with tortillas in preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the tortillas are pliable. If you are doing 12 tacos, reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees. If you’re stopping at 6 tacos, you can shut off the oven.
Baking the oil-brushed tortillas before we fill and fry them will give the tortillas a “waterproofing” and they will be less likely to break or rip when filled.
Spread two tablespoons of filling on one side of the tortilla and fold the other side over and press to close. The edges will be open, but the tortilla will be folded. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
Heat 4 tablespoons of vegetable oils in the same large skillet. When the oil is shimmery and hot, carefully lay each taco in the oil, with the open side away from you. Fit six tacos in the skillet at a time. You want the oil around the edges of each taco to be actively sizzling, adjust the burner temperature accordingly to keep a consistent sizzle around the edges.
Check the undersides after about 1-2 minutes, flip them over when they have a nice deep golden brown color (about 2 minutes). To flip, use tongs to grab the taco from the open side, turn the taco so the open side is up, and use a thin spatula in your other hand to help you lay the other side into the pan, release the tongs and proceed flipping the other 5 tacos.
When the other side is golden brown, transfer tacos to the paper towel-lined wire rack in the sheet tray. Blot the tops of the tacos with another double layer of paper towels. If you are doing 12 tacos, place this batch in the 200 degree oven to keep warm while you fry the rest of the tacos.
You can fill these with your favorite taco toppings; I have sour cream, more shredded cheddar cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, and quartered grape tomatoes. Gently open the tacos like a book to fill with your favorite toppings.
The filling is so flavorful and savory, I found minimal toppings really struck a good balance. This method for Tacos Dorados makes such a crispy, crunchy taco that isn’t oily or greasy. The meat filling is hearty, moist and tender. And, I was surprised to discover that even after a night in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, the leftover assembled tacos held up super well! Still crunchy and crispy.
Even if your Cinco de Mayo plans involve just a couple people, these tacos are easy to scale down. As I mentioned at the top, even if you halve the number of tacos, make the full recipe of filling because you will want to have some for leftovers. It goes great with eggs for breakfast tacos, or as dip for tortilla chips! This is a great recipe, so be sure to pin this one to Pinterest to keep on file! Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! Take care and be well, xo Kelly
Tacos Dorados (Crispy Tacos)
Corn tortillas folded around a juicy, tender meat filling, shallow-fried to a crispy, crunchy golden brown. Perfect for Cinco de Mayo!
- 1 tbsp. Water
- 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
- 12 oz. 90 Percent Lean Ground Beef
- 7 tbsp. Vegetable Oil, divided
- 1 Small-Medium Onion, chopped fine
- 1 ½ tbsp. Chili Powder (for extra spice, swap the 1/2 tbsp. with Chipotle Powder)
- 1 ½ tbsp. Paprika
- 1 ½ tsp. Ground Cumin
- 1 ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
- Kosher Salt
- 2 tbsp. Tomato Paste
- 2 oz. Cheddar Cheese, shredded (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
- 12 (6-inch) Corn Tortillas (or make 6, and save the remaining filling for something else)
- Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
- Chopped Tomato
- Sour Cream
- Pickled jalapeño slices
- Hot sauce
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine water and baking soda in large bowl. Add beef and mix until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in tomato paste and cook until paste is rust-colored, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add beef mixture and cook, using wooden spoon to break meat into ¼ inch pieces, until beef is no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer beef mixture to bowl; stir in cheddar until cheese has melted and mixed in well. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
Thoroughly brush both sides of tortillas with 2 tablespoons oil.
Arrange tortillas, overlapping (if doing 12), on rimmed baking sheet in 2 rows. Bake until tortillas are warm and pliable, about 5 minutes.
Remove tortillas from oven and reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees if making 12 tacos, otherwise turn off oven.
Place 2 tablespoons filling on 1 side of 1 tortilla. Fold and press to close tortilla (edges will be open, but tortilla will remain folded).
Repeat with remaining tortillas and remaining filling. (At this point, filled tortillas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.)
Set wire rack in second rimmed baking sheet and line rack with double layer of paper towels.
Heat remaining ¼ cup oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
Arrange 6 tacos in skillet with open sides facing away from you. Cook, adjusting heat so oil actively sizzles and bubbles appear around edges of tacos, until tacos are crispy and deeply browned on 1 side, about 2 minutes.
Using tongs and thin spatula, carefully flip tacos. Cook until deeply browned on second side, about 2 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary.
Transfer shallow-fried tacos to paper towel-lined rack and blot tops with paper towels.
To serve, open tacos like a book and add toppings.