Tacos are a staple of San Antonio cuisine. However, unlike other taco cities, San Antonio has something special: the puffy taco. It is the perfect combination of the crunchy and soft taco, as it is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. If you’re as excited about this culinary delight as we are, try these at-home puffy taco recipes as well as a few places to try them around town.
Recipe From Los Barrios
Diana Barrios-Treviño, owner of Los Barrios, tells Serious Eats some of her best puffy taco tricks, including how she defeated Master Chef Bobby Flay. The main tip is to use fresh masa and salt water, not maseca. The masa helps maintain the crispy, but light texture and is what makes the taco superb. The other make-or-break tip is to maintain your timing when creating the shell. It needs to be in the fryer just the right amount of time. Too little or too long can change the puffy taco. With these two tips out of the way, here’s how she makes the crunchy taco:
- Start with masa, salt, and water (not too much so the cornmeal doesn’t change texture)
- Scoop a small ball of the masa and flatten it into the tortilla press (don’t go too thin)
- Put it into the deep fryer for about 45 seconds
- Gently poke the masa with a spatula while it’s in the fryer until the sides fold up into a shell shape
- Remove the puffy shells and fill them with beans, cheese, ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and guacamole (or whatever other ingredients you desire)
Oscar’s Taco House
One of the most popular puffy taco shops in San Antonio is Oscar’s Taco House. You can order a plate with three tacos that are stuffed to the brim with all the classic ingredients: beef, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. Patrons are known for picking Buddy Holly tunes on the jukebox and leaving with a full stomach.
This puffy taco joint has won the title of best tacos in San Antonio numerous times. Taco Taco especially gained fame when Guy Fieri featured the restaurant on his show. They serve beef tacos in a puffy shell that is the perfect balance between crunchy and soft and savory and salty.
Recipe From Allrecipes
Another recipe to help you cook puffy tacos at home comes from Allrecipes:
- Combine masa harina, salt, and water in a bowl and stir until a dough forms (the dough should pull away from the bowl and will take 2-3 minutes)
- Flatten the dough and separate into eight parts
- Roll each piece of dough into a ball (make sure to keep them damp with a wet paper towel)
- Flatten the balls to be 1/8 to 3/16-inches thick
- Heat oil in a skillet and baste the dough in it until it becomes puffy (about 15 seconds)
- Flip the shell and let it cook for 30 seconds
- Remove the shell from the oil and let the oil drain off on a paper towel
- Crease the shells when they are warm and then add your taco filling
If you have yet to experience a puffy taco in San Antonio, it’s time for you to get out and try one. The only problem is that you might have a hard time going back to anything else – but that is a worthwhile risk to take.
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The best puffy taco dish is the guacamole cup made at the historical Teca Molino restaurant on San Pedro. As youngsters (early 1950’s), we would go eat at Teca and have bean rolls, quacamole cups, and their traditional salsa on the Patios. The cooking ladies would always smile and pack the cups with plenty of guacamole. If memory serves me, the bean rolls cost 5 cents and the guacamole cups cost 10 cents. 2 cups, 2 bean rolls, and a coke: $35 cents. I can taste them today from over 1,000 miles away.