The Tacos of Texas, written by Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece, features some of the best tacos Texas has to offer with personal stories, traditions, and recipes. The authors’ research took them over 7,000 miles and across hundreds of tacos to bring you Carnitas Taco from Austin, Friday Football Tacos from San Antonio, Cochinita Pibil Tacos from Houston, Red Snapper Tacos from Dallas-Fort Worth, Lengua Tacos from Corpus Christi, Chicharrones from El Paso, El Mexy Taco from Laredo, and more.
Mando Rayo grew up in El Paso, Texas. According to him, he is just a guy who loves tacos. He is the CEO and Engagement Strategist at Mando Rayo + Collective, LLC and a writer for TacoJournalism.com. Jarod Neece was born in Beaumont, Texas. He is the co-founder of TacoJournalism.com and Producer & Senior Film Programmer at SXSW. The authors also wrote Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day.
Disclaimer: I received this book from University of Texas Press in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Chapters are divided according to region: Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, El Paso, Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Midland-Odessa, and Abilene.
The book begins with a newbie guide to tacos including a breakdown of the categories: Traditional (authentically Mexicano), Tex-Mex (part Mexican, part American, 100% Tejano), and New Americano (founded in tradition, fused with creativity). You will learn about the styles of tacos and how the differ among the regions. Corpus Christi has the three pound Almighty Chacho’s Taco. Houston is famous for its taco trucks. This line was a favorite for me: “The main difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex is that one is rich in earth tones and the other is rich in queso.” Before getting into the main recipes, there is a section with directions to make homemade tortillas, salsas, and how to eat a taco. For those not well-versed, there is a glossary with English terminology, Spanish, and Spanglish. I found it helpful that along with the index of people and places, there is also an index dedicated to the recipes for easy searching.
Measurements for the recipes are provided in US Customary. Many include photos, generally of the finished dish. There are also plenty of photos from the authors’ travels and of the locals scattered across the pages. For those who like to line up their cookbooks on the bookshelf, this one does come in an uncommon size. It is nearly square at 6×7 inches and 1 inch thick (448 pages).
This book is a great pick for anyone who has a love for tacos, particularly if you want to read some history and stories along with the more than 40 recipes. Much of the book features personal stories, behind the scene secrets, and how many of the taco creators came into the business. Since the recipes come from multiple sources all over Texas, the serving sizes and style of the instructions vary a bit from some covering a single serving while others make 50 or more tacos. Many of the ingredients are easy to find in the average American supermarket, particularly if you live in or near Texas. A few that may require a trip to the grocery store featuring Mexican/Tex-Mex ingredients include chipotle, hoja santa leaves, queso fresco, jicama, guajillo pepper, japonés pepper, achiote, habanero, banana leaves, cabrito, tomatillos, corn masa, chile negro pods, nopales, asadero cheese, and more. Difficulty ranges from weeknight dinners to overnight marinating.
The people of Austin state that their city is the breakfast taco capital of the world. One of their iconic contributions is the Migas Taco from Reyna and Maritza Vazquez of Veracruz All Natural. This breakfast taco is filled with scrambled eggs, crispy tortilla chips, tomato, onion, and cilantro. Finish it off with a sprinkling of cheese and a slice of avocado.
The biggest thing to keep in mind with this recipe is to not overcook the mixture and make the tortilla chips soggy. They should be crisp to help add to the texture.
This recipe makes enough for one serving. It can be doubled or made in batches to serve more people.
I also made Salsa Quemada, Paloma Cocktail Marinated Chicken Fajitas, Tacos al Pastor a la Tuma, and El Corazon Vintage Tacos.
The Salsa Quemada comes from Mary Rangel-Gomez. This flavorful salsa is easy to make. The tomatoes, jalapeños, and onions are charred on the grill (there was snow on the ground when I made this so I cheated a bit and used the broiler). The blender takes care of most of the work to blend the salsa, then it is cooked with cumin, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Other salsa recipes include Salsa de Molcajete, Veracruz All-Natural Salsa de Chile de Árbol, and El Mundo de Mando’s Green Creamy Sauce.
The Paloma Cocktail Marinated Chicken Fajitas are from Vianney Rodriguez in Corpus Christi. Chicken breasts are marinated for a couple of hours in a grapefruit lime tequila mixture. They are grilled until cooked through, then sliced and served. This one was a favorite for the kids.
The Tacos al Pastor a la Tuma are from Markus Pineyro at Urban Taco in Dallas-Fort Worth. This recipe makes enough for 50 tacos, so I halved it for a smaller scale. A pork butt is marinated overnight in a fruity and spicy sauce with guajillo peppers, garlic, onion, orange, lime, pineapple, achiote, vinegar, cumin, and japonés pepper. The meat is thinly sliced and cooked, then served with onion, cilantro, avocado, grilled pineapple, and salsa. I particularly loved the added touch of melting manchego cheese and crisping it into the corn tortilla. This added such a wonderful cheesy texture.
The El Corazon Vintage Tacos are Old-Fashioned Tacos from Gilbert Cuellar Jr. at El Corazon Vintage Tex-Mex in Oak Cliff. A seasoned filling (beef, chicken, or calabacitas and mushrooms) is folded into a corn tortilla and fried until crisp and golden. I used ground beef and topped the tortillas with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes. These were Chad’s favorite.
Adapted from The Tacos of Texas
1/2 cup tortilla chips
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup tomato, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
1 corn or flour tortilla
1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese
1 slice avocado
In a large pan, drizzle a little oil over medium heat. Break up the tortillas and add to the hot pan. Once golden, mix in the tomato, onion, and cilantro. Add the beaten eggs, mix together, and season with the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just set and while the tortillas are still crisp. Remove from heat and serve with tortilla, cheese, and a slice of avocado immediately.