Upon moving to Austin, Texas from the Texas panhandle I was surprised by the response I received when I tried to order a breakfast burrito. They did not know what that was and recommended their breakfast tacos. Common in the Texas Panhandle a breakfast burrito was usually wrapped in a large flour tortilla and stuffed to the max with eggs, potato, cheese, and other fixings.
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I do have to admit I was a little taken aback that they only had breakfast tacos but after trying them I was a tried-and-true fan. Some of the best breakfast tacos can be found in local barbecue joints, food trucks, build-your-own taco bars, local Taquerias, and some Mexican food restaurants.
Most Texans consider tacos to be an essential food and a part of Texas culture. Breakfast tacos make a fresh, nutritious, and filling way to start the day.
Where did Breakfast Tacos Come From?
Although popularized in Texas to become a common everyday food and food term the ‘breakfast tacos origins cannot be confirmed. Tex Mex tacos and Texas Chili can both be seen in the early cooking styles of the San Antonio Chili Queens (or street vendors) and the cattle trail cooking of the camp cook called Cookie. Both styles combined would be, in my opinion, the beginning or origin of Tex Mex foods in general which eventually evolve into the common Tex Mex dishes we eat today.
What is a Breakfast Taco?
A breakfast taco is a soft corn tortilla with your fillings of choice folded over and can easily be eaten with one hand. A breakfast taco is not made with a hard crunchy shell, but the Tex Mex versions do include soft flour tortillas as well as corn.
Best Tex Mex Breakfast Tacos
The Tex Mex Breakfast taco can arguably be made with either corn or flour tortillas, however, most agree they should be soft tortillas that can be folded over the fixins’ of your choice. My favorite tacos are food truck breakfast tacos which every cook sees differently but are always so good. I also love local Taquerias which are Mexican restaurants that specialize in tacos and burritos.
Popular Versions of Breakfast Tacos
Popular Versions of Breakfast Tacos or Tex Mex Breakfast Tacos are:
- chorizo and egg
- chorizo and refried beans (my personal favorite)
- egg and bacon
- egg and sausage
- chorizo and potato
- chorizo, egg, and potato
- refried beans, potato, and sausage
- barbacoa with beans and cheese
- smoked brisket (leftovers) with eggs, these are especially good with burnt ends of the brisket
- fajita meat with fried onion and peppers combined with potato and eggs
- beef barbacoa and eggs
- breakfast tacos Al Pastor with pineapple, topped with a fried egg
Of course, these are just a few variations and the most common, but really the sky is the limit when it comes to breakfast tacos. The City of Austin has proven time and again that with each new taco establishment, there is always a new breakfast taco waiting to be invented. Many taco bars have their own signature house breakfast tacos.
The eggs in a breakfast taco are usually scrambled until slightly dry but can be fried if you prefer, however, I would consider the fried egg to be a topping. Breakfast tacos Al Pastor are grilled marinated pork with pineapple, lime, and various peppers having a tangy, sweet flavor which is often topped with a fried egg.
The bacon, egg, and potato breakfast tacos are almost a burrito but have less egg than a full-blown burrito would have. Of course, any meat combined with egg and wrapped in a soft tortilla would be considered a breakfast taco. Chorizo, a Mexican sausage, is generally considered a breakfast food as well as beans and eggs.
Toppings for the best breakfast tacos are almost endless but can consist of onion, tomato, cilantro, tomatillos, grated cheese, sour cream or crema, diced or thinly sliced avocado, green chili, salsa, pico de Gallo, and chopped jalapeños. Also, as previously mentioned, any breakfast taco can be topped with a fried egg. And top it all off with your favorite taco sauce.
Did Tacos Originate in Mexico?
The Mayans were known as the men of corn and were an agricultural society. Tacos have been a Mexican staple since the Mayans although technically not referred to as a taco. However, the Mayans ate ground corn rolled into tortillas with a bean paste similar to refried beans. The Aztecs had a similar process by which they used the corn tortillas as a utensil to scoop up beans and other commonly cooked foods of that period.
The term ‘taco’ is thought to have come from the Mexican silver miners who practiced the art of wrapping gunpowder in silver paper. The first documented reference to the ‘taco’ was described as miners’ tacos or tacos de minero in the late nineteenth century. The miners would eat potatoes wrapped in a corn tortilla which was often eaten with one hand. They nicknamed the corn tortilla wrap the ‘tacos de minero’, as it reminded them of their craft. Of course, there are many versions of what we term tacos in the different regions of Mexico.
Approximately 400 years ago the Cotija cheese was introduced in Mexico and is one of its oldest cheeses. It eventually became a common staple used in various dishes including tacos. Cotija cheese is a semi-hard, slightly aged, salty cheese often referred to as Mexican Parmesan and is found in many Mexican street foods.
Authentic Mexican Cheeses
Authentic Mexican cheeses are as follows:
- Queso Cotija is a salty crumbly cheese and is very popular in Mexico. You can use it on salads, corn, and tacos, and it is the most common topping for beans in Mexico.
- Queso Fresco is a mild cheese with a fresh taste (not aged) and has a crumbly spongey texture. Often used on tacos and beans it is a great topping. It is also used in chilaquiles.
- Crema is similar to sour cream, with a thinner consistency, a sweeter milder flavor, and is not sour.
- Requesón resembles Ricotta but is more of a filling often found in cheese enchiladas.
- Queso de Oaxaca is like string cheese and is often used in quesadillas and sometimes Chile Rellenos.
- Queso Blanco is found in enchiladas and other dishes. It is a white cheese that becomes soft when heated but does not completely melt. It makes a great topping for dishes with lots of hot spices.
- Queso Panela is a slicing cheese and does not crumble as Cotija cheese does. This cheese has very little fat and does not melt so it can be fried and used in various ways.
- Queso Añejo is a sharp-aged cheese that is often used on tacos and beans.
- Queso Quesadilla also known as Asedero cheese is perfect for melting and is often used in chile Rellenos and quesadillas.
- Monterey jack was first produced in Italy eventually making its way to Spain and on to Mexico with Spanish Conquistadors in the 1700s. It is not the cheese of choice for most Mexican cooks in Mexico but it quickly became a big hit in America and is often found in Tex Mex as well as New Mexico cuisine and other Americanized Mexican food dishes.
- Manchego is another Mexican cheese that originated in Spain and is often used on Quesadillas.
Chorizo is a popular Mexican sausage that originated in Spain and as with cheese, there are several varieties. Mexican chorizo usually consists of raw, fresh, pork or beef, and includes chili pepper with a vinegar base.
What is an Authentic Mexican Taco?
Mexican tacos are very similar to our Tex Mex soft tacos although they have different toppings and do not typically include grated cheese. Authentic Mexican Taco toppings generally consist of a squeeze of lime, pico de Gallo, and other chopped vegetables.
The meats used in authentic Mexican taco stuffing’s can include, carne asada, pork carnitas, pollo, chorizo, potatoes, and beans. One of the most popular tacos in Mexico is the Al Pastor or Shephard Style, a spit-grilled meat (usually pork) with chopped pineapple.
Authentic Mexican dishes
Choros, Barbacoa, Tortas, Chilaquiles (a common breakfast food in Mexico), Pozole, Tostadas, Enchiladas, Chiles En Nogada, as well as many others, are considered authentic Mexican food. Many of these dishes were Americanized when Mexican immigrants and other Texas cooks had to make do with ingredients available locally.
Tacos themselves are thought to have originated in Mexico and are an important equation in authentic Mexican Cuisine. I should also mention that Mexico does not claim the breakfast taco as this would be considered a heartier meal with a true Mexican breakfast (“desayuno”) being a light meal. A breakfast taco (as we know it) would be considered brunch or “almuerzo” a heartier mid-morning meal in Mexico.
What is Tex Mex Tacos?
The term Tex Mex originally referred to the Texas-Mexican Railway, which was first chartered in 1875 and used to deliver sheep from Texas ranches to the Texas Gulf Coast. At some point in time, the term was coined to draw the distinction between authentic Mexican cuisine and the Americanized version with its Texas roots.
It is thought that Tex Mex tacos had their beginnings as street food in San Antonio via Mexican immigrants known as the San Antonio Chili Queens. As was their tradition in Mexico, they set up stands on the streets, and sold their chili con carne, a slow simmered meat sauce with spicy peppers, and rolled tortillas.
Additionally, there was a similar dish that was often served on cattle drives consisting of reconstituted beef (or fresh if available) with spicy peppers. In American terms the dish was first referred to as a spicy stew which would eventually be known as the chili con carne we know today.
The street vendor variations of the dish and the cattle drive dish combined eventually evolved and influenced many of the Tex Mex dishes, that we know today.
- Hard shell tacos originated in the US via Mexican American communities across the country.
Breakfast Taco War of Texas
Is that really a thing you may be asking yourself? Considering the Taco War of 2016 between Austin and San Antonio you can rest assured Texans do not take their breakfast tacos lightly. Both cities claim to have been the origin of the breakfast taco. The city of San Antonio was rumored to have taken exception to Austin saying they have the best breakfast tacos and had made strong comments and ‘remarks’ on the matter. The Austin American Stateman article dated Oct. 12, 2016, States Austin mayor declares “taco war” on San Antonio. [SOURCE]
As fate would have it no agreement could be made. Austin Mayor Steve Adler sent a strong message to San Antonio saying, “we will not apologize for our (delicious) breakfast tacos.” In addition to the taco dispute, San Antonio is rumored to have made other ‘remarks’ about Austin. Austinites claim they did not care about the controversy and the ‘remarks’ made by San Antonio were mostly unfounded as Austin is beloved by everyone. As fate would have it no agreement could be made, however San Antonio in true San Antonian tradition, claimed victory disguised of course as a ‘truce’.
You might think that would have been the end of it however in 2018 Big D, (Dallas, Texas) made the audacious claim of being ‘Taco City’ which did not sit well with San Antonio (with the understanding of the aforementioned “Austinites do not care.”) [SOURCE]
So goes the saga of the Taco Wars of Texas, with the outcome being sketchy at best, we may never know the truth. However, I can guarantee you that if someone from, say “California” tried to make this claim Texas would do as Texans are known to do and defend our great state collectively.
Texas Breakfast Taco and the State of Texas
Texas has officially requested that breakfast tacos become the official state breakfast item of Texas. Recent Legislature is now pending in the 86th Legislature naming the breakfast taco as the official state breakfast item of Texas.
Texas House Concurrent Resolution 86th Legislature (2019) HCR 123 has been presented and left in pending status to confirm the breakfast taco as the official state breakfast item of Texas. The resolution states in part:
WHEREAS, Texas is renowned for its distinctive and delicious
foods and our state has put its brand on breakfast with a versatile
item that is beloved from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande: the
breakfast taco; See more here.
In Conclusion, Best Breakfast Tacos
The very best breakfast tacos are plentiful in the State of Texas. I am a native Texan and have lived in most of the larger cities of Texas at one time or another, and I have never seen a shortage of breakfast tacos or Taquerias. As far as Taco Wars go, I see nothing wrong with a little friendly competition among breakfast taco eateries and the cities they are in, as I am sure they are looking to be the best in the nation.
I can’t wait for the latest, greatest variation of the breakfast taco. Just thinking of the possibilities is making my mouth water.TEXINI Editor
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Breakfast tacos can arguably be made with either corn or flour tortillas, however, most agree they should be soft tortillas that can be folded over the fixins’ of your choice.
Breakfast tacos in Texas can be found in food truck locations, taco bars, local BBQ joints, and Taquerias which are Mexican restaurants that specialize in tacos and burritos. Breakfast taco mobile vendors can be found in most areas of Texas but requirements vary from city to city.
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