Fried Tacos

Fried Tacos Recipe Video

Most people have memories of Jack in the Box tacos — perhaps fond or not-so-fond. My memory is mostly of my high school boyfriend berating the drive-thru girl about whether she could or could not put cheese sauce on his tacos, rather than American cheese slices. She insisted that it was not allowed; he argued that since the cheese sauce was in the kitchen, there was nothing preventing her from splooging that onto his dumb tacos instead of the cheese slice.

He did not get his way and I began to realize that he was an asshole.

This is a very specific type of taco — a taco which is filled first and then fried, resulting in a perfectly crisp taco shell and a filling that is almost roasted around the edges — which, before moving to Los Angeles, I had only ever seen at Jack in the Box. But the filled-before-frying taco turns out to be the most common kind of crispy taco seen in LA, at least the places we go. And they are so, so, SO good. Savory, delicate, and somehow ephemeral in that before you can blink, they will all be gone.

fried tacos recipe

My research began with looking at the JITB tacos ingredients list which is as long and uninviting as you can imagine. But it did inspire me to add some Worcestershire sauce to my basic taco filling recipe. That was a good choice. And the old trick I shared in my chili dog chili recipe, adding extra liquid to ground meat to make it crumble up small, is also necessary for the right consistency. In order to get the soft and sort of creamy texture that the JITB taco filling has, I added a couple tablespoons of masa harina to the mix as it cooks. It not only holds the filling together, it also adds a nice nutty flavor.

Masa harina is found near the flours in any grocery store and you can use what’s left to make corn tortillas. If you don’t want to or can’t buy it, use a little all-purpose flour instead; just about 2-3 teaspoons and be sure to cook it for a couple of minutes with the meat to get rid of the raw flour taste.

I’ve made these tacos with both ground beef and turkey. While we slightly preferred the beef, turkey is totally good, too. And of course you may use grated cheese instead of American slices (or splooge on some nacho cheese even) and you may add tomato or onion or any other taco filling you want. There is just something about the American slices melting into the filling that I L-O-V-E but I know not everyone has the same feelings towards processed cheese. But, hell. I’m from Texas, home of queso and chili mac and I will forever be a fan of that yellow cheese.

Fried Tacos Recipe

fried tacos


Fried Tacos

4.8 from 4 reviews

  • Author:
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Yield: 8


  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • pinch dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons masa
  • oil
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Toppings:
  • American cheese slices
  • shredded lettuce
  • hot sauce


  1. Combine beef through oregano in a bowl and mix well. Mixture will be wet.
  2. Put into a skillet and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until meat is mostly cooked. Add masa to thicken. Turn off heat.
  3. Warm tortillas on an oiled griddle to soften. Spread about 2 tablespoons filling onto each tortilla and fold over. Press to seal.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate tacos for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. (You can also freeze tacos for a few hours until solid, then store in a freezer container for tacos on a whim.)
  5. Heat 1 inch of oil in a deep skillet to about 350ºF. Fry 2-4 tacos at a time depending on the size of your pan. Cook them for about 2 minutes on each side until golden and crispy. If you are frying frozen tacos, do not that first. Just fry as usual, adding an extra minute or so.
  6. Drain tacos on paper for a few minutes.
  7. Once cooled slightly, gently open taco and stick in a half slice of American cheese and a sprinkle of lettuce and hot sauce. It’s okay if the shell cracks a little; it will still hold together.
  8. Enjoy!

Try these with homemade salsa verde, too!

salsa verde recipe

Salsa Verde Recipe + Video


  1. These sound awesome. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Sounds awesome! I’ll have to try this when the weather gets cooler here in Texas!j

  3. Gary Smith says:

    I didn’t do this but a Mexican relative made his that every so often. What I did was make a taco meat filling with fresh deer liver (Hunting season up here & a nephew gave me it). I’ve always hated liver but should eat it as I have some sort of vitamin B deficiency…so I did it. I just used a taco flavoring,onions,garlic,peppers (sweet & spicy) cilantro & cumin. Really good without that metallic taste and if one shreds the meat after it’s done then no texture problems-which is my hate for it. I’ll try your recipe soon …a tacos are a staple!

    • That is one cut of meat I have never tried, Gary! Glad to hear it was good. You will love these tacos, no matter what you put inside them 🙂

  4. I haven’t had a Jack in the Box taco for years because I got fed up with the long drive-thru line that’s always at that place. Plus my preferred taco is carne asada, no cheese, no lettuce. Just some lime, onion, cilantro and garlic.

    But I remember loving those tacos. So, for this recipe, I bought items I would never buy – a 2 pound bag of masa (smallest size at my store), a jug of canola oil and American cheese.

    When I put the tacos on the table, my 16 year son looked skeptical and asked where the sour cream was. I said, “These tacos don’t take sour cream.” He took a reluctant bite and his eyes widened with joy. Literally. “Surprisingly delicious,” he said. “Are there more?!” This is before he took his third bite and already had three tacos on his plate.

    The recipe was a tad laborious for someone who doesn’t really enjoy cooking, like myself. But worth it. Thanks Hilah. I’ll make them again. Now I got to figure out what to do with all that masa. Guess I gotta buy myself a tortilla maker. Sounds laborious. But I’ll do it.

    • I meant a jug of corn oil. I’m stuck with a jug of corn oil. Thought it would go better with the corn tortillas. Didn’t use as much oil as I thought. I really do like corn oil, just feel guilty using it. From all the bad press. But I’ll use it anyway.

      • Hi Diana!
        So glad your son liked these tacos! Of course, unless a person hated American cheese I can’t see how anyone could not like them 😉
        I wanted to suggest making gorditas with the rest of your masa harina. They are shaped by hand and don’t need a press

        • Hmm. I am going to try that later this coming week. With the puerco al pastor recipe the gordita page links to. Pretty sure I’m overreaching on my cooking skills, but I’ll give it a go and post results.

  5. These are so delicious! Super simple to make. I’ve made these twice now. They are great for snacking…but don’t last long! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for the recipe. These are so good!
    We made them for supper tonight with what we had on hand, so ours were chix breasts cooked in the instant pot then shredded, a can of refried beans, shredded cheddar, and corn tortillas…fried in lard (there was a block in the back of the freezer waiting for someone to find a use for it.)
    We’ve never had the fried tacos at JITB, so don’t know how those compare to our version of your recipe, but the recipe is a keeper.
    Once the oil is hot, things move fast. The three of us made an assembly line to keep up, but it was still a fast moving and messy process. How do you manage to keep things moving smoothly so things don’t burn and so grease doesn’t end up dripping all over the counter?

    • Hi Pam! I’m so happy the tacos were a hit! Love the idea to use shredded chicken.
      When I make these, I get all the tacos filled and folded and refrigerate them on a baking sheet while the oil heats up. They get firmed up and are easier to pick up and fry once they’re cooled a bit. I set up my draining rack on the counter next to the frying pan. Then I just fry 3 at a time for a few minutes and drain those. While they drain, the oil heats back up to the right temperature and I put 3 more in.
      You will need to regularly adjust the temperature to keep the oil around 350º — sometimes this means turning it off for a minute if the oil gets too hot (over 365º)
      And we don’t wait for everyone to be seated when we eat these! As soon as a taco is fried and drained, it’s right onto someone’s plate. 🙂


  8. I re-read my comment from October 2016. Because I made these again the other night. I still have the same jug of corn oil. Yep. They are still laborious. But still awesome. So much like Jack in the Box but somehow better. Love, love, love these.

    I laugh at myself for saying back then that I didn’t know what to do with all that masa. What a newbie I was. Since then, I got a tortilla press and now only make my own tortillas. Not just corn, but flour too. And I follow Hilah’s recipes for both.

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