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Hard-shell taco

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hard-shell taco
A hard-shell taco from a taqueria in Sacramento, CA
Alternative namesCrispy taco
TypeFinger food
Place of originUnited States
Main ingredientsTortillas, meat, vegetables, cheese
Similar dishesTaco

The hard-shell or crunchy taco is a Mexican-American dish that developed in the United States. The earliest references to hard-shell tacos are from the early 1890s, and by the early 20th century this style of taco was available in Mexican-American communities across the US. Fast food chains began to market hard-shell tacos to Americans in the mid-1950s, with Taco Bell playing a significant role in popularizing the food.[1]


While many different versions of hard-shell tacos exist, the most common form of the hard-shell taco is served as a crisp-fried corn tortilla filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and sometimes tomato, onion, salsa, sour cream, and avocado or guacamole.[2] Such tacos are sold by restaurants and by fast food chains, while kits are readily available in most supermarkets. Hard shell tacos are sometimes known as tacos dorados ("golden tacos") in Spanish,[1] a name that they share with taquitos, a similar dish.


A hard-shelled taco with a prefabricated shell

Various sources credit different individuals with the invention of the hard-shell taco, but some form of the dish likely predates all of them. The first known sources mentioning hard-shell tacos are from the early 1890s.[1] Beginning from the early part of the twentieth century, various types of tacos became popular in the United States, especially in Texas and California but also elsewhere.[3] An early appearance of a description of the taco in English was in a 1914 cookbook, California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook by Bertha Haffner Ginger.[4] By the late 1930s, companies like Ashley Mexican Food and Absolute Mexican Foods were selling appliances and ingredients for cooking hard shell tacos, and the first patents for hard-shell taco cooking appliances were filed in the 1940s.[1] Juvencio Maldonado, a restaurant owner from Oaxaca living in New York, is sometimes credited as the original inventor of a hard shell taco-making machine, and received a patent for it in 1950.[5][6]

The most common type of taco in the US is the hard-shell, U-shaped version, first described in a cookbook, The Good Life: New Mexican food, which was written by Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert and published in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1949.[7]

A Taco Bell restaurant in Massachusetts in 2012

In the mid-1950s, Glen Bell opened Taco Tia, and began selling a simplified version of the tacos being sold by Mexican restaurants in San Bernardino, particularly the tacos dorados being sold by Lucia and Salvador Rodriguez across the street from another of Bell's restaurants.[1] Later, Bell owned and operated four El Taco restaurants in southern California before opening the first Taco Bell in 1962.[8] At this time, Los Angeles was racially segregated, and the hard-shell tacos sold at Bell's restaurants were many white Americans' first introduction to Mexican food.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "An Oral History of Hard-Shell Tacos". MEL Magazine. 2019-10-10. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  2. ^ Gilb, Dagoberto (2006-03-19). "Taco Bell Nation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-24.
  3. ^ "Tacos, Enchilidas and Refried Beans: The Invention of Mexican-American Cookery". Oregon State University. Archived from the original on 2007-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  4. ^ Ginger, Bertha Haffner (1914). California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook. Bedford, Massachusetts (USA): Applewood Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-4290-1256-0. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  5. ^ Pilcher, Jeffrey (Winter 2008). "Was the Taco Invented in Southern California?". Gastronomica. 8 (1). Berkeley, California: University of California Press: 26–38. doi:10.1525/gfc.2008.8.1.26. ISSN 1529-3262.
  6. ^ US 2506305, Maldonado, Juvencio, "Form for frying tortillas to make fried tacos", published 1947-06-21, issued 1950-05-02 
  7. ^ Freedman, Robert L. (1981). Human food uses: a cross-cultural, comprehensive annotated bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-313-22901-5. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Company Information". Taco Bell. August 9, 2011. Archived from the original on August 12, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2011.