Mexican cuisine is known for its vibrant flavors, diverse ingredients and variety of dishes that are perfect for lunchtime. Two of the most popular and delicious Mexican lunch foods are tacos and quesadillas.
Tacos are one of the most iconic Mexican foods. They consist of a corn or flour tortilla that is folded or rolled around a delicious filling. Tacos make a fantastic lunch option because they are flavorful, customizable and easy to eat on-the-go. Some quick facts about tacos:
- Tacos likely originated in Mexico City in the 18th or 19th century.
- The word “taco” comes from the Nahuatl word “tlahco” meaning “half” or “midway” referring to the way the tortilla is folded around the filling.
- Traditional taco fillings include chopped meat, onions, cilantro, and salsa.
- There are many varieties of tacos including tacos al pastor (spit-grilled pork), tacos de carnitas (braised pork), tacos de pescado (fish), and breakfast tacos with eggs.
- Tacos are commonly served with lime wedges, chopped onion, cilantro, salsa, and hot sauce for added flavor.
- Taco shells can be made from soft corn or flour tortillas or crunchy fried corn tortillas known as tacos dorados.
- Taco trucks or taquerias are popular places to eat tacos in Mexico and many parts of the United States.
When it comes to fillings, tacos allow for endless creativity. Try meat like grilled steak, chicken, or carnitas. For vegetarian options, fillings like sauteed vegetables, beans, lettuce, and guacamole work wonderfully. Part of the fun of tacos is customizing them to your tastes with various toppings and salsas. Here are some delicious taco recipes to try for your next Mexican-inspired lunch:
Carne Asada Tacos
These tacos are filled with juicy grilled steak, peppers, onions, cilantro, and lime for a mouthwatering lunch combo. Slice up some grilled steak and sauteed vegetables and pile them into warm corn tortillas for a satisfying meal.
Baja Fish Tacos
Baja fish tacos are a popular California-style taco filled with beer-battered fish, crunchy cabbage, pico de gallo, and a creamy sauce like mayo-lime crema. The zesty cabbage and fish go perfectly together between a soft tortilla.
Chicken Tinga Tacos
Shredded chicken simmered in a smoky chipotle sauce makes an amazing taco filling. Add some pickled red onions, queso fresco, and avocado for a flavor and texture fiesta.
Why not enjoy tacos for breakfast? Breakfast tacos are filled with scrambled eggs plus extras like cheese, bacon, potatoes, beans, or avocado. Customize them just how you like!
Quesadillas are another delicious Mexican favorite perfect for lunch. At their most basic, they consist of melted cheese between two tortillas. But you can also stuff them with meats, beans, veggies, and more! Here are some facts about quesadillas:
- Quesadillas likely originated in Mexico City in the 16th century during colonial times.
- The name “quesadilla” comes from the Spanish word “queso” meaning cheese.
- Traditional quesadillas were made from masa dough which is dried corn processed with limewater or lime and water.
- Today, most quesadillas are made with flour tortillas which are easier to find and use.
- Common fillings include cheese, meats like chicken, beef or pork, beans, vegetables, potatoes, chili peppers, and huitlacoche (corn fungus).
- Quesadillas are traditionally cooked on a comal which is a round griddle used in Mexican cooking.
- They can also be cooked on a skillet or baked in the oven.
- Quesadillas are commonly served cut into wedges with sides like guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, and salsa.
For a simple quesadilla, just fill a tortilla with Oaxaca, mozzarella, or other melty cheese, fold it in half and griddle until crispy. But you can also get creative with fillings like these delicious options:
Sauteed shrimp, cheese, avocado, and chipotle mayo come together for an amazing seafood quesadilla perfect for lunch or dinner.
Carne Asada Quesadillas
Slices of flavorful grilled steak, onions, cilantro, and gooey cheese sandwiched between a tortilla make a filling and satisfying meal.
Chicken Tinga Quesadillas
Shredded spicy chicken tinga and melted cheese in a toasted tortilla is a quick and easy weekday lunch.
Go meatless with a quesadilla filled with black beans, sautéed peppers and onions, guacamole, and cheese. Sprinkle on some cilantro for a flavor boost.
Best Practices for Making Tacos and Quesadillas
Now that you’re craving tacos and quesadillas for your next lunch, here are some tips for making them successfully at home:
- Warm the tortillas – Warming tortillas on the stove or in the microwave makes them soft, pliable, and easier to use for tacos and quesadillas.
- Add oil to the pan – Coat the skillet with a little oil or butter to achieve that desirable crispy edge when cooking.
- Don’t overstuff – When making quesadillas, avoid overloading them with filling. This can cause them to break and leak when you flip.
- Get the pan hot – Have your skillet nice and hot before adding quesadillas so they brown quickly and the cheese melts faster.
- Use two spatulas – Two thin spatulas make flipping and removing quesadillas from the pan easy.
- Slice quesadillas – After cooking, let quesadillas rest for a few minutes before slicing into triangles.
- Layer tacos – When building tacos, layer harder vegetables and meats on the bottom with soft toppings like cheese on top.
Taco and Quesadilla Filling Ideas
Tacos and quesadillas are the perfect lunch foods because they can be customized in endless ways. Try out these tasty filling combinations:
|Onion, cilantro, salsa
|Pico de gallo, avocado
|Lettuce, tomato, cheese
|Onion, queso fresco
|Potato, egg, cheese
|Lettuce, tomato, cheese
Get creative and make your tacos or quesadillas with your favorite fillings and condiments! The options are endless for crafting the perfect Mexican-inspired lunch.
Where to Find Authentic Mexican Ingredients
Finding authentic ingredients is key for crafting flavorful Mexican dishes like tacos and quesadillas. Here are some places to shop for quality components:
- Mexican grocery stores – Look for local Mexican markets in your area that will carry all the staples like dried chiles, corn tortillas, cheeses, avocados, etc.
- Latin/international markets – Many mainstream grocery stores now have expanded international aisles where you can find ingredients like queso fresco or Mexican crema.
- Carnicerias – These Mexican butcher shops are great spots to get high-quality meats like carne asada and chorizo.
- Tortillerias – Tortillerias produce freshly made tortillas which are superior to store-bought. The masa dough is pressed and cooked right on site.
- Farmers markets – Local markets often carry produce important for Mexican cooking like a variety of chiles, tomatoes, avocados, corn, and more.
- Online stores – There are many online Mexican grocery stores that ship all the pantry goods and ingredients you need to your door.
With the right authentic components, you’ll be whipping up incredible tacos and quesadillas in no time!
Traditional Sides to Serve
To round out your Mexican lunch spread, try pairing your tacos or quesadillas with some classic sides:
- Rice – Spanish rice or cilantro lime rice
- Beans – Refried pinto beans or black beans
- Salsa – Tomato salsa, salsa verde (green salsa), pico de gallo
- Guacamole – Made from ripe avocados, onion, cilantro, lime
- Esquites – Grilled corn salad with epazote, chili powder, lime, cotija cheese
- Ensalada – Lettuce salad with vinaigrette dressing
- Elote – Grilled corn on the cob slathered in mayo, cheese, and chili powder
Sides like creamy guacamole, spicy salsa, and rich beans enhance the flavors of tacos and quesadillas even more. Set up a DIY taco bar and let everyone customize their plates!
Drink Options to Quench Your Thirst
Wash down those tacos and quesadillas with refreshing Mexican beverages:
- Horchata – Sweet rice milk drink flavored with cinnamon
- Jamaica – Hibiscus flower iced tea
- Tamarindo – Sweet and sour drink made from tamarind
- Mexican Coke – Coca-cola made with real cane sugar
- Aguas Frescas – Flavored waters made with fruits, flowers, or grains
- Margaritas – Lime margaritas on the rocks or frozen
- Mexican beer – Brands like Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, Tecate
Sip on something refreshing like hibiscus Jamaica or ice cold horchata to complete your authentic Mexican lunch.
Tacos and Quesadillas: An Easy, Satisfying Lunch
With their incredible flavors, versatility, and portability, it’s easy to see why tacos and quesadillas are two of the most popular Mexican lunch foods. When you’re feeling hungry around midday, assemble some tacos or quesadillas for a quick and immensely satisfying meal. Stuff them with your favorite fillings, then pile on the salsa, guacamole, beans, rice, and other fixings. Pair them with a cold Mexican beer or fruity agua fresca for a little fiesta! With the right ingredients and a few simple techniques, you can recreate the tasty tacos and quesadillas found in taquerias and restaurants. So embrace the Mexican lunch tradition and enjoy tacos or quesadillas for your next weekday meal.