One of the MOST frequently asked questions we hear since moving our family to Spain is “Do you eat a lot of delicious tacos?” And while we certainly appreciate the sentiment and can understand why people think this, we thought we might take this opportunity to clear up some misconceptions! 😉

If you are unfamiliar with the food scene in Spain it is understandable to assume that there are a lot of tacos to be found in Spain. I think it has to do with the common language of Spanish being spoken in both Mexico and Spain, and the fact that Spanish descendants make up the largest group of Europeans in Mexico due to the history between Spain and Mexico.

However, the reality is unless you find yourself in a Mexican restaurant in Spain (which is not terribly common), you will hardly ever encounter tacos in Spain.

Tacos are not a traditional food in Spain, and believe it or not there are a lot of misunderstandings about that!

Undoubtedly, tacos are one of the most commonly found Mexican foods, and they are popular all over the world (for good reason!) However, they are far less popular in Spain and this comes as a surprise to most people.

In fact, the taste of authentic Mexican tacos is not very well suited to the Spanish pallet, and people in Spain rarely eat traditional Mexican tacos or burritos. However, as the world becomes smaller and culinary practices are shared all over the world, more and more menus across Spain are featuring tacos.

Amazing Tacos we had in Mallorca, Spain!

Given this information, let’s explore the idea of tacos in Spain and why so many people believe they are easily found in here. People want to know… Do they actually eat tacos in Spain? If so, what are they made of? And where can you find them?

So, What’s The Deal With Tacos in Spain?

As we all know, tacos are a very popular food all over the world. And many countries have put their unique spin on the traditional Mexican taco.

Even though many people think of tacos as a Spanish food dish, they are actually not a traditional part of Spanish cuisine. In Spain, tacos have just recently gained popularity.

Tacos are actually not from Spain at all, and have no historical connection to Spanish culinary traditions. Traditional Spanish cuisine is full of dishes like paella, tortilla española, gazpacho, and various tapas.

It is rare to have tacos served as a dish at most Spanish restaurants. However, as tacos have gained world wide popularity tacos are popping up more and more on menus across Spain. Even though they are not a traditional item, tacos have entered Spain’s culinary landscape because of globalization and an increase in tourism throughout the country.

More and more restaurants across Spain are serving tacos however, they have different styles and include regional and seasonal ingredients that suit local Spanish pallets. We have been lucky enough to try tacos on a variety of menus across Spain, but have yet to taste one that resembles the flavors we are accustomed to in Mexican tacos.

As a result, a different and unique type of taco has evolved into what we call Spanish tacos. The style and fillings of these Spanish tacos differ from what is traditionally found in Mexico or the United States, but are also quite delicious!

While tacos may not be native to Spain, the country has its own rich cuisine worth exploring, including a growing vegetarian scene. Check out our list of the Top 10 Vegetarian Foods in Spain to discover the flavors that define Spanish culinary traditions.

The History of Tacos

Eat Tacos

To learn the facts about tacos in Spain, we should first take a minute to learn the basic history of this popular food as it is quite interesting and will better help us understand it’s evolution on a global stage.

The history of tacos can be traced back to ancient Mexico, around 3,000 BC, when corn was hybridized to create the corn plant. Indigenous local cultures highly revered corn, considering it the foundation of humanity and essential for their survival. It continues to play an enormous role in Mexican culture today.

Tacos in the Early Years

Evidence suggests that tacos filled with fish, meat and vegetables were being consumed in various regions of Mexico for centuries. However, the specifics of how these early tacos differed from other wrapped tortilla dishes remain unclear. It is hard to find a very accurate or thorough understanding of just how the taco came to be so popular in Mexico.

The Origin of the Term, Tacos

The term “taco” itself comes from the Aztecan language and originally referred to something folded. Mexican historian Jeffrey M. Pilcher theorized that the modern form of tacos likely originated in the 18th century in Mexican silver mines.

The sticks of dynamite used in mining were called “tacos” because of their similar shape to the folded tortillas filled with ingredients that we know today.

Marketizing Tacos for the First Time

In the early 1900s, migrants from Mexico came to the United States to work on railroads and in mines and they brought their culinary traditions with them, including tacos.

Taquerias, were the first food establishments that began making and selling tacos on the market. These establishments started to pop-up all over the United States and played a vital role in the rise of exposure to tacos and their popularity.

Spread in the United States

Tacos gained popularity in the American imagination at the beginning of the 20th century. They represented a way to experience the delicious flavors of Mexico and the allure of street food vendors. It is said that the first taco truck was started by Raul Martinez in 1974. He converted an old ice cream truck into a taco making station and the rest is history!

Today the United States has an extensive number of Mexican restaurants and taco trucks throughout the country. But perhaps no state has more taquerias than California, where you can find some of the most delicious and authentic tacos in the world. In fact, there are over 4,000 registered taco trucks in Los Angelas alone!

The Modern Usage of “Taco”

The origin of the word taco is not known but a few guesses have been made, including the idea that the word comes from the indigenous word tlahco, meaning “half” or “in the middle” .

Today, tacos have transcended their Mexican origins and become a global culinary phenomenon. They are enjoyed all over the world, with countless variations and fillings reflecting the diverse tastes and cultures of different regions and just about everyone understand what you mean when using the word taco.

Tacos in Spain: Facts And Misconceptions

Here are some helpful and interesting facts about tacos (both in and out of Spain!)

  • Tacos are not traditionally a part of Spanish cuisine and the history of tacos is not associated with Spain in any way.

  • The origins of the taco are uncertain, but the popularization of tacos started as a Mexican food and is still considered a Mexican dish.

  • The first references to modern tacos in archives or dictionaries dates back to the end of the 18th century, but tortillas were said to originate as early as 3000 BC!

  • This savory dish is believed to have been eaten in Mesoamerica long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. As history says, the Aztec emperor used tortillas as a spoon to hold food.

  • Though the origins of the term “taco” is not completely understood, the modern usage of the word “taco” is relatively recent.

  • Tacos gained popularity in America at the beginning of the 20th century and taco truck and taquerias are seen in large numbers throughout the United States.

  • Even though tacos are not traditionally Spanish, they have gained popularity in Spain because of influences from Mexican cuisine and the global popularity of tacos.

Misconceptions About Tacos in Spain

  • It’s a common misconception that tacos are widely consumed and considered a staple food in Spain. The fact is, there might be restaurants or food trucks that serve tacos to cater to diverse tastes, but they are not part of everyday Spanish cuisine.

  • Some food chains may advertise “traditional Spanish tacos,” but the fact is, these are likely adapted versions with Spanish ingredients or flavors rather than authentic Mexican tacos. While these tacos are often delicious, if you are expecting a traditional Mexican taco you are likely in for a surprise!

  • Another fiction is tacos have rich historical significance associated with Spain. However, there is no historical evidence supporting the idea that tacos were ever a part of Spanish culinary traditions before the global spread of Mexican cuisine.

Differences Between Spanish and Mexican Tacos

Amazing “taco” we had in Barcelona, Spain. They put their own spin on a traditional taco.

As you can see the concept of a traditional Spanish taco does not exist, but has rather been created and evolved as the result of a global influence and the popularity of the taco. Tacos in Spain have evolved to suit the regional taste and availability of ingredients in Spain and here is how the Spanish taco differs from a Mexican taco.

1. Culinary Influences

Spanish cuisine is usually very much associated with Mediterranean traditional foods like fresh seafood and vegetables. So, most of the time, Spanish tacos use ingredients like shellfish, paella fish, potatoes, eggplant, and olive oil to bring variations to the dish.

On the other hand, Mexican cuisine boasts a rich heritage influenced by indigenous Mesoamerican colonial traditions. The spiciness in Mexican tacos is a characteristic feature where they extensively use chili peppers, both fresh and dried. Other common ingredients in Mexican tacos include white onions, cilantro, pico de Gallo and homemade salsa.

2. Tortilla Variations

The tortillas used in Spanish tacos are different from the traditional corn tortillas typically found in Mexican tacos. 

Spanish tacos often use tortillas made with eggs and flour. However, corn is widely used in Mexico and has been used in taco tortillas dating back to ancient civilizations like the Aztecs and Mayans.

3. Flavor

Spanish tacos tend to have a mild flavor profile compared to their Mexican counterparts. They usually use fresh seafood, vegetables, and olive oil resulting in a more delicate and nuanced taste. They don’t focus on spices like Mexicans tacos do.

In Mexico, chefs use local and popular regional ingredients like habanero and chipotle, along with chili powder, garlic, and cloves to ensure a distinctively spicy and bold taste in Mexican tacos.

4. Meat Varieties

Seafood and fish take center stage in Spanish tacos, that suit the regional tastes. The fillings usually include delectable shellfish like shrimp and a variety of other seafoods.

Mexican tacos generally use meats like beef, chicken, and pork as the basic filling of tacos. These meats are often seasoned with a myriad of spices and grilled, stewed, or roasted to perfection. In many cases these meat fillings are composed of recipes passed down for generations.

Tacos Around the World

Tacos are beloved worldwide and have inspired diverse variations around the world with cultural and taste influences depending on the geography and location. While tacos are an authentic Mexican food, people from different regions and around the world have created exciting and different versions of tacos to suit and represent regional tastes.

A few hybrid taco dishes are highlighted below….

In Japan, “sushi tacos” merge traditional Japanese flavors with Mexican tortillas. Here, they use sushi-grade fish and toppings like avocado and wasabi. 

In India, “taco samosas” reimagine the classic Indian snack by stuffing crispy samosas into tortillas with chutneys and veggies.

Korean “bulgogi tacos” marry the rich flavors of marinated beef with kimchi and spicy sauces. 

In the Philippines, “adobo tacos” blend the country’s iconic adobo chicken or pork with tropical fruit salsas. 

In the Middle East, “falafel tacos” are infused with chickpea-based falafel with tahini and fresh veggies.

These global interpretations prove that tacos’ versatility knows no bounds, delighting taste buds worldwide with innovative fusions and cultural crossovers.

Why do Spanish People Consider Tacos As Foreign Food?

Spanish people do not consider tacos a traditional part of Spanish cuisine.

Even though tacos have gained in popularity in Spain because of influences from Mexican cuisine and global culinary trends, they are still considered foreign food.

Additionally, the traditional flavor profile and ingredients used in Mexican tacos differs significantly from the traditional and common Spanish pallet and list of ingredients.

Spanish tapas…above is what you are likely to find in every part of the Spain. An incredible selection of meats, tomatoes, olives and fresh bread.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Spanish-style tacos?

Spanish-style tacos are a variation of the Mexican taco that incorporates Spanish ingredients and flavors. They usually make their tacos with seafood, such as shrimp or fish, along with Mediterranean vegetables and olive oil, wrapped in egg-based tortillas.

Are Spanish tacos spicy like Mexican tacos?

No, Spanish tacos are generally milder in flavor compared to Mexican tacos. Spanish cuisine tends to use fewer spices and chili peppers, focusing more on the natural flavors of the ingredients familiar to their region.

Can I find tacos in all regions of Spain?

Tacos are more commonly found in coastal regions of Spain, where seafood is abundant and culinary influences from other cultures are more prevalent.

Wrapping Up

So, the answer to the question, ‘Do they eat Tacos in Spain’ is both; the answer is both Yes and No!

It is exciting to see the marrying of the traditional Mexican taco with the wonderful fresh and unique flavors of Spain.

And we have yet to try a taco we didn’t love, no matter which continent it is served on! 

If you are heading to Spain…

If you are heading to Spain we highly recommend you take the time to experience the incredible culinary landscape the country has to offer. Some would argue Spain has the best food on the entire globe. One of our favorite things about the food scene in Spain is how there is such variety based on the unique regions you are traveling through.

Here are a few food tours that we HIGHLY recommend while traveling through Spain. You will not regret partaking in one of these amazing culinary experiences.

Palma de Mallorca: Spanish Cooking Experience: This is one of the best culinary experiences we have ever had while traveling. It is great for families, couples or individuals. Watch a local chef in action as you learn how to make the great classics of Spanish cuisine. Dive into the culinary culture of Palma de Mallorca as you enjoy a full menu and cooking demonstrations with paella, tortilla española, and mixed appetizers.

San Sebastian Market, Pintxos, and Wine Tasting Tour: Enjoy the flavors of San Sebastian on a guided walking tour with a local and learn about its rich culture. Visit a local market and other popular eateries to taste delicious pintxos and traditional drinks. This is an intimate informative and wonderful tour in a city with and incredible food scene.

Madrid Food Tour: This ultimate Madrid Food Tour is an amazing way to learn about the incredible city of Madrid while enjoying locally made food from family owned eateries. Spend the morning tasting churros, buying bread, and enjoying a calamari sandwich.

Barcelona Tipsy Tasting Food and Walking Tour with Tastings: If you are heading to Barcelona you MUST put this on your to do list. Discover the mouth-watering flavors of Barcelona’s vibrant El Born neighborhood on a unique food walking tour. Indulge in a culinary journey through the rich history and diverse culture of Catalonia.

Seville Cooking Class and Triana Market Tour: Enjoy a hands-on Spanish and Andalusian cooking class following a tour of the Triana Food Market, the best place to get the freshest local ingredients in Seville. Try something different on your visit to Seville and learn how to cook classic local dishes. This experience was easily one of our favorite in Seville and gives you a much more authentic experience of the culinary practices and culture of Spain.

Happy Eating!!!

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