Puffy Tacos

Making Puffy Tacos with Teka Molino – scroll down for puffy taco recipe

Teka Molino is San Antonio’s “Best Kept Secret” no longer!

Puffy tacos were high on our list when we set out to make this show about Texas food. They are related to the crispy taco, but are light and pillowy and flaky. Made by deep-frying an uncooked corn tortilla, they puff up as the water in the masa expands, creating an almost spherical hollow ball that’s formed and shaped under the hot oil to make the puffy taco shell that can then be filled like any other taco. Popular fillings are picadillo or shredded chicken and bean and cheese or guacamole.

When we started looking for places to shoot, we knew we had to go to San Antonio where the puffy taco was born. That much is a known fact. There are two places, Henry’s Puffy Taco and Ray’s Drive-In, that both claim to have invented the puffy taco. We couldn’t get anyone to return our calls. I contacted Garrett Heath, San Antonio food blogger at SA Flavor and asked him for help. He pointed me without hesitation to Teka Molino, the only restaurant in town that cooks and grinds their own corn to make the masa every day. HOLY MOLY. Obviously, we had to shoot with these guys.

Teka Molino was established in 1937 by Mrs. Ernestine Chapa and remained the family business until 1994 when San Antonio native and family friend of the Chapas, Ben Stratton and his wife Lisa bought the business from the Chapas’ children. A few years later, Ben’s long-time friend Raul Rodriguez came on as a partner. Ben learned the art of making puffy tacos from the original owners and Raul admits that Ben the best at the task. Many of their employees have been with Teka for decades, since the Chapas owned the restaurant, and tell stories about Mrs. Chapa’s particular ways when it came to making sure the food was always cooked just right. Ben and Raul adhere to those principles today, keeping the original menu and recipes as conceived by Mrs. Chapa over 70 years ago.

According to old-time customers and the Chapa family, Teka Molino was serving puffy tacos in the 1940s. Henry’s and Rays were both founded in the 1970s. While it seems pretty cut-and-dry then, that Teka invented the puffy taco, as things often go with food, it’s almost impossible to say for sure. But if Ernestine Chapa didn’t invent the puffy taco, she sure did play a large part in promoting it to San Antonio. With Ben and Raul at the reins now, I’d expect (and hope!) to see them “puffing up” in a lot more cities.(See what I did there? Puffing up? Popping up? Nvmd.)


Puffy Tacos

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5 from 6 reviews

  • Author: Hilah Johnson
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x


  • 1 pound fresh masa OR
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • At least 4 cups Peanut, corn, or canola oil for frying (need 23 inches depth in a large pot or electric frier)
  • Any taco fillings you like: beef, shredded chicken, refried beans, avocado, etc


  1. If using masa harina, combine in a large bowl: masa harina, water, salt. Mix well until you have a soft, smooth dough that does not stick to your hands. If it’s sticky, add a tablespoon more of masa harina.
  2. Roll your dough into a 16″ long cylinder and cut into 16 pieces.
  3. Roll each into a ball.
  4. Line a tortilla press with plastic wrap or a food storage bag that’s been cut open. Lacking a press, use a heavy pot and a sturdy counter top to press them.
  5. Press each ball between plastic until about 5″ across and 1/8″ thick.
  6. Lay out in a single layer as you press them.
  7. Heat your oil to 375ºF.
  8. Fry tortillas one at a time. They will sink to the bottom, then rise up, puffed. Use a spatula to form a crease in the center, pressing them down under the oil for about 45 seconds, until golden brown.
  9. Drain on a rack or brown paper, upside down.
  10. Fill with whatever you want!

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Crispy beef taco ground beef filling

Easy shredded chicken from this chicken enchilada recipe

Refried beans

Avocado or guacamole


Sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomato, cilantro

You might also like this Indian Taco recipe!





  1. Gary Lum on July 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I want to live in Texas so I can experience all the different types of taco… 🙂

    • Hilah on July 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Come visit and we’ll have a taco tour!

      • Melissa on April 7, 2022 at 6:42 pm

        Where is this taco tour? I’m in McKinney! This recipe is amazing!

  2. DS on October 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Puffy tacos were not invented in San Antonio. My family in South Texas near the border has been making them this way for many generations. It’s not some San Antonio secret. Caro’s Restaurant in Rio Grande City is known for these tacos and has been doing it for decades as well.

    • Rebecca Gustamente on June 20, 2020 at 12:27 pm

      I agree; my grandmother made them often. They are not new. I come from a family of many generations in Texas. What’s new is that other people find out about them while eating out. My grandmother was making them in the early part of the 20th century and it came from her mother before her. My grandmother was born in 1893. They were around forever; please don’t be like Columbus that he discovered America while we were living here.

      • Alex E. on September 11, 2023 at 11:45 am

        It seems certain that puffy tacos have been a staple of South Texas home cooking for many generations, but it was Ray’s Drive Inn and Henry’s Puffy Tacos in San Antonio who first commercialized them under the name we know today and lay claim to be the “inventors” because Arturo Lopez (Ray and Henry’s brother) trademarked the “puffy taco.”

        So puffy tacos are identified with a San Antonio origin story in the public consciousness, just like San Francisco’s El Faro “invented” the burrito in 1961 or Houston’s Ninfa’s on Navigation rebranded arrachera to “invent” the taco al carbon / fajjta in 1973.

    • Hilah on December 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Yikes! Somebody get that man some tacos, STAT!

  3. Leslie on February 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I’d wager puffy tacos have been around since the first time someone fried them in oil. I lived in SA 1974-1979 and got puffy tacos on the south side of town from a place that looked like a dump,it was very clean so I didn’t care about the decor, the puffy tacos were so yummy, going to make some today

    • Hilah on February 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      I’m sure you’re right, Leslie. Just a matter of who “labeled” them first! 🙂 Hope you try making your own. They are so good when they’re hot and fresh right out of the fryer.

      • Cynthia J Nelson on October 5, 2020 at 5:25 am

        How do you fold or make the little bean and guacamole cups, it’s awesome, love, love it.. .
        Love teka molino’s….. .

  4. Robert on August 6, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I remember when I was a kid in the 50s my parents would go buy a sackful of tacos at Teka Molina and take us to Brackenridge Park. They were wonderful and the small ones were a nickel however, though it has been a while, I remember the masa was thick but not puffy. So, not that it matters, I think Ray’s was first. That’s what they claim anyway. Most puffies served in numerous eateries in San Antonio are too greasy.

    • Hilah on August 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

      What a great memory, Robert! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Dave L. on January 20, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    I just learned that I have been making puffy tacos since 1965. I prefer to cook them this way instead of being fried, as I was told is the proper way, on a hot greaseless griddle. I’ve made thousands for my family, and have passed this passion on to my four girls, who now make “PUFFY” tacos for their friends and families. I guess BBQ’d pork started when the pig pen burned down and someone didn’t want to waste the pork. Tacos have been puffy at our house, when we didn’t even know someone else had discovered how to cook them that way. Deep fried Puffy Tacos are messy, but equally just as delicious and wonderful to eat. Enjoy.

    • Hilah on January 21, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Thanks, Dave!
      I will have to try it your way some time. So you cook the raw corn tortillas on a hot griddle until they are a little puffed up, then fold them over?

  6. Jennifer on March 5, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. I have been craving a puffy taco but no longer live in San Antonio. Used to eat them as a kid on the Southeast side of SA. El Rancho served them. I will now try my hand at making them. Thanks again Hilah.

    • Hilah on March 6, 2015 at 8:43 am

      Oh have fun with this recipe, Jennifer! I hope it brings back memories of the puffy tacos in SA.

  7. Patrick on June 10, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    I can’t wait to try this in my kitchen!

    I’ve loved Teka’s since my Mom was a kid. 🙂

    Bean and cheese cups, puffy tacos, bean rolls, house margaritas.

    This place does it right … which is why I drive from Rock Rock to SA to enjoy this special slice of life!

  8. Christy H. on May 29, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Hi Hilah!! Miss your face. Last week I was craving some chicken from Pollo Regio and used your recipe https://hilahcooking.com/pollo-al-carbon/ spatchcock version. So delicious but I still have some left over and was looking for a puffy taco recipe. Once again, Hilah to the rescue. Love to your sweet family. Hope you’re all doing well in these “unpresidented” times.

  9. bill andrews on November 22, 2020 at 7:26 am

    Any way to use less oil?

    • Hilah on November 25, 2020 at 5:12 am

      Not really, as frying these is a necessity

  10. Sydney Nagy on January 1, 2021 at 9:10 am

    I tried this last night and my tacos wouldn’t puff up. I Have made this before with my mom in Austin. Could it be an altitude issue? We are at 6700 feet. I tried changing the oil temp, letting the dough rest, making them thinner, but nothing seemed to work. Any suggestions?

    • Hilah on January 4, 2021 at 12:35 pm

      It could be the altitude. I’ve never cooked at high alt before. I was taught it is the amount of moisture in the dough that is the crucial part. Could your dough have been on the dry side?

  11. Gina r on February 23, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    El charros in detroit area. Home of detroit puffy tacos!

  12. Hellen on October 28, 2022 at 8:09 am

    I knew they were Tex-Mex, but had no idea that puffy tacos were a “San Antonio” thing. They’ve always been my fav, but finding good Tex-Mex recipes online has always been a challenge. I was excited to find this. Thanks for posting!

  13. kwiklip on March 24, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    I’m about to make these and wonder about the yeild. Recipe states 8 servings, but also says to cut into 16 pieces. Is each serving two shells? Confused…

    • Hilah on March 26, 2023 at 1:00 pm

      Yes, serving size is 2 tacos

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