The History of Tacos

When you think of Mexican food, you probably think of tacos. This simple yet delicious dish has many different variations, from soft shells made of corn or flour tortillas to hard taco shells and even taco salads. Any Mexican restaurant that you visit is likely to have their own take on this classic. However, the history of this type of Mexican food is not as long as you might think, and there are actually many debates as to how exactly this dish began.

These are the basics of the history of tacos.

How Long Have Tacos Been Around?

The first debate in the history of this Mexican dish is when exactly it was first created. There is some evidence to suggest that indigenous peoples from the Valley of Mexico ate fish wrapped in tortillas. This could be considered a precursor to fish tacos. However, this is not confirmed, and it’s not likely the dish was referred to the same way we do today.

Mexican historian Jeffrey M. Pilcher’s theory, which has some more evidence to support it, is that the dish started around the 18th century in Mexican silver mines. He suggests this because the sticks of dynamite used in the mining process were referred to as “tacos” and had a shape similar to the dish we eat today.


Tacos moved into big cities in Mexico due to industrialization, which brought more migrants into central regions such as Mexico City. Women would often set up taquerias and would sell food that was specific to their original regions. This is one reason that tacos have so much variety, as different taquerias would prepare them in the style of different regions of Mexico.

Taquerias help spread the dish into the United States as more migrants came to work building railroads or mining. This occurred in the early 1900s. Shortly after this, the Americanized version of this Mexican food became more popular. This made use of ingredients that were more readily available in the US such as hamburger meat, cheese, and lettuce.

Tacos Today

Tacos became even more popular in the 1950s when Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, started selling deep fried hard shells. These made it so the dish could last for longer and was easier to sell. The hard shells had in fact existed before, but they were not as popular as soft shell tortillas. In the end, Glen Bell did not necessarily invent a new dish but found a new way to market the existing Mexican food to more Americans.

Today, it is more of a trend to go back to the traditional flavors of Mexican tacos. Each regional variety is unique, and more and more people want to try these different flavors, such as al pastor or barbacoa. There is also a trend toward fresh ingredients such as pico de gallo and grilled bell peppers.

Guadalajara’s Grill & Tequila Bar

In Tucson, you can get high-quality tacos made from fresh meat and veggies at Guads. We specialize in traditional Mexican food with a unique twist. Visit us today and experience our memorable flavors for yourself.