A Brief History of Tacos

Let's Taco About It.

history of tacos

Americans eat nearly 5 billion tacos a year. And with so many variations of tacos to choose from, it's easy to see why. From Asian street food tacos to the classic Baja fish tacos, flavors and fillings are limitless. 

Tacos: the Hand Grenade of Food Flavor 

The history of tacos is rather complex. According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a history professor at the University of Minnesota who has traveled around the world investigating the history of Mexican food, tacos first came from Mexican silver miners during the 18th century. Pilcher explains that “taco” had the meaning of “plug” back then, which stood for hand-rolled pieces of paper containing gunpowder explosives. Mexican silver miners would use these hand-rolled explosives, or “tacos”, to break ore. The very first recorded reference to tacos was during the 19th century and was called “tacos de mineros” meaning “miner’s tacos.” ("Taco" about an explosion of flavor!) 

Our Hero: The American Chili Queen 

Tacos were first recorded in the United States in a newspaper that dated 1905. During this time, tacos were viewed as lower-class street food that was mainly sold by a group of women called “the Chili Queens,” who would sell tacos on the streets during festivals. It took about twenty years in the making for tacos to take off as a regular American food option, which was triggered when the economy began advancing ethnically. With a growing diversified American culture, it soon became popular for people to eat new foods, and the taco's momentum snowballed. Surprisingly, tacos didn’t become a mainstream dish in Mexico until the 1960’s. Mexicans can actually thank Lebanese migrants, who began eating gyros, which then evolved into tacos in Mexico. 

More Myths vs. Facts

It is a common misconception that tacos were invented by Glen Bell, creator of Taco Bell. Glen Bell simply brought franchising and corporation to the evolution of tacos. Bell said he did this so that everyone could experience Mexican food and culture quickly and easily, and it was very successful.

In the 1940’s, Mexican cookbooks began to introduce taco recipes, which they would describe making the shell by frying a tortilla and bending into a U-shape. “Taqueria’s,” or taco shops, then began to open in various locations of Mexico that provided jobs and a secure source of income for many workers. 

There is no doubt that tacos are a wonderful food to be enjoyed with various toppings and flavors. Tacos can be gluten-free and vegan, or stuffed with chicken and cheese. Enjoy tacos your way at our three Timoti's locations! 



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