Mexican Tacos vs. American Tacos

Quick Answer

Everyone loves tacos! In Mexico, tacos are antojitos(snacks) often served as comida callejera(street food). In the United States, tacos are so popular that there’s even a day known as “Taco Tuesday.” Although they seem similar, the reality is that tacos mexicanos(Mexican tacos) and tacos americanos(American tacos) are very different.


There’s never a shortage of toppings on a good taco! Mexican tacos and American tacos tend to have different toppings. Mexican tacos traditionally come with cilantro(cilantro), cebolla blanca(white onion), and salsa casera(homemade salsa), which is an essential ingredient.

Mexican Tacos


American tacos, on the other hand, are prepared with lechuga (lettuce), tomate(tomato), and queso cheddar rallado(shredded Cheddar cheese). They are typically served with store-bought salsa.

American Tacos



Another ingredient that differentiates Mexican tacos from American tacos is the meat. Mexican tacos are often prepared with carne guisada(stewed beef), carne frita(fried beef), or carne a la plancha(grilled beef). American tacos, on the other hand, tend to be prepared with carne molida(ground beef). Tacos de pescado(fish tacos) can be found in both countries.

If you go to an authentic Mexican restaurant with traditional tacos and you don’t see any tacos you recognize, don’t fret! Let’s taco ‘bout the different types of tacos!

tacos al pastor
marinated-pork tacos
tacos de birria
stewed-goat tacos
tacos de cabeza
tacos with braised or steamed meat from the head of a cow
tacos de carne asada
grilled-steak tacos
tacos de carnitas
braised-pork tacos
tacos de cochinita
slow-roasted pork tacos
tacos de longaniza
spicy pork-sausage tacos

Other Differences

Here’s a list of more ingredients that differentiate Mexican tacos from American tacos.

Mexican tacosAmerican tacos
tortillas blandas (soft tortillas)tortillas crujientes o tortillas blandas (crispy taco shells or soft tortillas)
picante (spicy)no muy picante (mild)
gajo de limón (lime wedge)crema agria (sour cream)
cilantro (cilantro)queso cheddar (Cheddar cheese)

In some Spanish-speaking countries, the word tortillacan also be used to refer to an omelet.

Here on we love talking about tacos. Click here to learn Spanish from the Taco Bell menu and here to learn about what to say when you can't decide between hard-shell and soft-shell tacos.