The Ultimate Fried Tacos (Quick, Crispy Recipe!)

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What is better than meaty, crunchy and flavor-laden fried tacos? Absolutely nothing. This is the perfect game night or yummy dinner recipe – your family will LOVE you for them.

Fried tacos on a plate with taco salsa.

I adore that I can get all the elements ready ahead and just pop them in the frying pan to get crispy when I’m ready to go!

Why You’ll Love This Fried Tacos Recipe

Here’s why I can’t stop making these fried tacos:

  • Crispy texture: These fried tacos have an incredible crispy exterior that adds a LOUD crunch to every bite.
  • Family favorite: Fried tacos are a hit with both kids and adults, making them a family-friendly meal.
  • Great for parties: Whether you’re hosting a game night or a casual gathering with friends, fried tacos are a crowd-pleaser and can be prepared in large batches to feed a hungry crowd.
  • Meal prep: You can make all the elements in advance!

Here’s What You Need

Get ready to make these crispy, crunchy fried tacos with these simple ingredients:

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make these fried tacos:

  • Oil: Choose a high smoke point oil like vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil for frying. Make sure there’s enough oil to submerge the tacos in. 
  • Onion: Use yellow, white, or red onion, depending on your preference and availability. 
  • Minced garlic: Fresh minced garlic enhances the savory profile of the ground beef filling.
  • Ground beef: Choose for lean ground beef (e.g., 90/10 or 85/15) to minimize excess fat. Brown the beef thoroughly to develop rich flavors and ensure it’s fully cooked before filling the tacos.
  • Taco seasoning: Choose your favorite brand.
  • Small corn tortillas: Corn tortillas tend to fry up crispier than flour tortillas.
  • Grated cheese: Go for a sharp cheddar cheese or a Mexican blend cheese for melting into the taco filling. 
  • Optional toppings: Load them up with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, jalapeños, fresh cilantro, salsa, and pico de gallo offer a variety of flavors and textures to customize the tacos. 
Pouring oil in Pan

Substitutions and Variations

Check out what to switch up when making this recipe:

  • Protein substitutes: Replace ground beef with ground turkey, chicken, pork, or tofu. 
  • Vegetarian option: Leave the meat out altogether and use a mixture of black beans, corn, bell peppers, and onions.
  • Cheese swaps: Experiment with different types of cheese such as Monterey Jack, pepper jack, queso fresco, or cotija for varied flavor profiles and textures. You can also use dairy-free cheese alternatives for a vegan option.
  • Tortilla variations: Instead of corn tortillas, try using flour tortillas for a softer texture. You can also use whole wheat or spinach-flavored tortillas for added nutrition and flavor.
  • Homemade taco seasoning: Create your own taco seasoning blend using a combination of chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Grab these Tools

Set out these tools before you make your fried tacos:

  • Large skillet: to brown your meat.
  • Spatula or spoon: To stir the filling while it cooks.
  • Frying pan: To fry the tacos in.
  • Tongs: To handle the tacos as they fry.
  • Paper towel: To soak up excess oil.
frying diced onion for tacos

How to Make Fried Tacos : An Easy Guide

Here are basic steps on how to make these fried tacos:

Beef filling

 Add the onion over medium-high heat in a skillet. Sauté them until they are translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.

Add the ground beef and taco seasoning. Break it up as it cooks. Cook it until no longer pink. 

adding beef and spices for tacos

Prep tortillas

To make the tortillas pliable and prevent tearing during folding, heat each tortilla in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 20-30 seconds on each side or until they are soft and pliable. 

Alternatively, you can wrap them in a damp cloth and microwave for about 30 seconds.

Filling for fried tacos

Assemble tacos

Lay out each tortilla out.  Spoon in some of beef mixture.  Sprinkle over some cheese. 

Fold the tortilla in half over the filling.

Filling tacos

Fry tacos

Add oil to the bottom of a frying pan over a medium heat. 

Once the oil is shimmering hot (about 350°F), use tongs to carefully touch the oil with a small piece of test tortilla. If it sizzles and bubbles immediately, it’s ready.  

Carefully place a few tacos in the pan to crisp them up.

Fry each side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. 

Use tongs in one hand to pinch closed the open side of the tacos as you flip them over. Use a spatula in the other hand to help flip it if needed. 

Remove the tacos using tongs and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Frying Filled Tacos

Serve

Open each taco slightly (be careful as they’ll be hot and crispy) and stuff them with lettuce, tomato, and any other fillings you have selected.

Serve with sides of sour cream, jalapeño slices, salsa, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Make Ahead and Storage

Here’s what you can get ready in advance:

Make Ahead

Get the following steps ready:

  1. Prepare the filling: You can prepare the taco filling (ground beef, onion, garlic, and seasoning) ahead of time and store it in an airtight container or bowl in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. When ready to use, reheat the filling in a skillet until warmed through.
  2. Assemble the tacos: I don’t recommend you fully assemble and fry the tacos ahead of time (as they might become soggy). Prepare the tortillas and have the toppings chopped and ready to go. This way, you can quickly assemble and fry the tacos just before serving.
  3. Prep toppings: Chop lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, and any other toppings in advance. Store them separately in airtight containers or resealable bags in the refrigerator.
Opening Fried Tacos

Storage

 Fried tacos are best enjoyed fresh and crispy. However, if you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. 

To reheat, place them on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 5-10 minutes, or until heated through and crispy.

Here is how to store the individual parts of this recipe:

  1. Taco filling: If you have leftover taco filling, allow it to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. 
  2. Toppings: Store leftover toppings such as chopped lettuce, tomatoes, and cilantro in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Keep sliced jalapeños and dairy-based toppings like sour cream in sealed containers as well.
  3. Tortillas: Store any leftover tortillas in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container at room temperature. You can also freeze tortillas for longer storage. To thaw frozen tortillas, place them in the refrigerator overnight or warm them briefly in the microwave.

As a fully assembled and cooked item, these don’t do well in the freezer.

5 Common Mistakes When Making Fried Tacos

Here are five common mistakes to avoid when making fried tacos:

  1. Overfilling the tacos: Loading the tacos with too much meat mixture can cause them to burst open during frying. Make sure to leave enough room for the filling to expand while ensuring the taco can be sealed properly.
  2. Using cold tortillas: Frying cold tortillas straight from the refrigerator can result in a tough and chewy texture. Allow the tortillas to come to room temperature or warm them slightly before filling them.
  3.  Oil temperature: Frying tacos in oil that isn’t hot enough can lead to soggy and greasy tacos. Make sure the oil is heated to the proper temperature (around 350°F or 175°C) before adding the tacos. 
  4. Crowding the frying pan: Adding too many tacos at once can cause uneven cooking and prevent them from becoming crispy. Fry the tacos in batches.
  5. Skipping the drying step: Drain excess liquid from ingredients like cooked meat and vegetables to prevent the tacos from becoming overly wet during frying.
Fried tacos on a plate with taco salsa.

Final Notes, Pro Tips + Science-Based Secrets

Here are my pro tips and secrets to help your OVER-deliver this recipe:

  • Maintaining oil temperature: Consistently maintaining the oil temperature is crucial for achieving crispy tacos. Use a deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust the heat as needed. The ideal frying temperature is around 350°F (175°C).
  • Tip for keeping them closed: If you’re having trouble getting the tacos to stay closed as you fill them, place a baking sheet or a plate on top of them to pin them shut as you work.
  • Seasoning at every step: Season each component of the taco filling individually, including the ground beef, onions, and garlic. 
  • Science of crispy texture: The crispy texture of fried tacos comes from the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that occurs when food is cooked at high temperatures. By frying the tacos in hot oil, you create a crispy, golden-brown exterior that enhances the overall eating experience.

FAQs About Fried Tacos

Just whizzing through this article? Here are some key takeaways:

What are fried tacos? 

Fried tacos, also known as crispy tacos or hard-shell tacos, are a type of taco where the tortilla is filled with various ingredients such as seasoned meat, cheese, lettuce, and salsa, and then fried until crispy.

How are fried tacos different from regular tacos? 

The main difference lies in the preparation method and texture. Fried tacos have a crispy outer shell, achieved by frying the filled tortilla, whereas regular tacos typically use soft tortillas that are not fried.

Can I bake fried tacos instead of frying them? 

Yes, you can bake fried tacos in the oven instead of deep-frying them. Simply arrange the filled tacos on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven until crispy.

What are some popular toppings for fried tacos? 

Popular toppings for fried tacos include shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, chopped onions, grated cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and hot sauce. You can customize the toppings according to your taste preferences.

Can I make fried tacos in advance? 

While fried tacos are best enjoyed fresh and crispy, you can prepare the filling and assemble the tacos ahead of time. Store the filled tacos in the refrigerator and fry or bake them just before serving to maintain their crispiness.

Are fried tacos gluten-free?

It depends on the type of tortillas used. Corn tortillas are naturally gluten-free, so if you use corn tortillas for your fried tacos, they can be gluten-free. However, if you use flour tortillas, they contain gluten unless specified otherwise.

Other Fan Favorite Mexican Recipes You’ll Love

If you love flavor-packed Mexican cuisine as much as I do, you MUST try these super-popular dishes:

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5 from 1 vote

The Ultimate Crispy Fried Tacos (Quick, Easy Recipe!)

The ultimate crunchy + crispy fried tacos filled with spiced ground beef – perfect for lunch, game night or a weekend treat.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning or 1 packet
  • 16 small corn tortillas
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese or Mexican blend cheese
  • Lettuce shredded
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 jalapeño sliced
  • Fresh cilantro chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup salsa or pico de gallo optional
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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Instructions 

Beef Filling:

  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for another minute.
  • Add the ground beef and taco seasoning, breaking it apart as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink.

Prep Tortillas:

  • To make the tortillas pliable and prevent tearing during folding, heat each tortilla in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 20-30 seconds on each side or until they are soft and pliable. Alternatively, you can wrap them in a damp cloth and microwave for about 30 seconds.

Assemble Tacos:

  • Lay out each tortilla, place a spoonful of beef mixture on one side, and sprinkle with some cheese. Fold the tortilla in half over the filling.

Fry Tacos:

  • Generously coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil and heat over medium heat.
  • Once the oil is shimmering hot (about 350°F), use tongs to carefully touch the oil with a small piece of test tortilla. If it sizzles and bubbles immediately, it’s ready.  Carefully place a few tacos in the pan.
  • Fry each side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Use tongs in one hand to pinch closed the open side of the tacos as you flip them over. Use a spatula in the other hand to help flip it if needed.
  • Remove the tacos using tongs and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Serve:

  • Open each taco slightly (be careful as they’ll be hot and crispy) and stuff with lettuce, tomato, and any other preferred fillings.
  • Serve with sides of sour cream, jalapeño slices, salsa, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Video

Notes

If you’re having trouble getting the tacos to stay closed as you fill them, place a baking sheet or a plate on top of them to pin them shut as you work.
Don’t add more than 2 tbsp of taco meat per small (5 ½ – 6”)  tortilla  or the filling will spill out in the pan and make a mess. Better to keep extra meat hot on the side and add it to the tacos after frying.

Nutrition

Calories: 611kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 730mg | Potassium: 635mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1201IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 383mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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