Know your tacos: The origins of 8 different types—and where to find them in Baton Rouge

Not all tacos are made the same. Different styles and proteins originate from various regions and unique cooking styles. Around Baton Rouge, you can find traditional street tacos, trendy Birria tacos and everything in between. Here’s a guide.

Al Pastor from Puebla, Mexico 

Al pastor means “shepherd style” in Spanish. This refers to the Lebanese shawarma-like cooking method. Al Pastor tacos style of cooking originated in Lebanon and was brought over to Mexico. Instead of lamb, these tacos consist of pork cut into thin slices that are stacked in a pinecone shape and roasted on a slow-turning vertical rotisserie. 

Where to get it: 

Modesto, Tio Javi’s, Blue Corn Modern Mexican, La Carreta 

Barbacoa from the Taino people of the Caribbean 

Barbacoa, the Spanish word for barbecue, is a Mexican dish typically made with cuts of beef, goat or lamb. It is traditionally seasoned with dried chilies and spices and slowly cooked until tender over an open fire or fire pit. The slow-cooked meat is then served on a tortilla. 

Where to get it:

Blue Corn Modern Mexican, La Carreta

Birria from Jalisco, Mexico

Birria tacos, also known as tacos de birria or quesabirria tacos, include braised meat and cheese inside a pan-fried corn tortilla. Birria tacos were originally made with goat meat, but  locally they are often made with beef, melty Oaxacan cheese, cilantro, lime and white onion. A small bowl of consommé (soup made from meat-flavored stock or broth) is served on the side for dipping.

Where to get it: 

Azteca’s food truck, Birria & Barbacoa de Chivo Los Compadre’s, Chow Yum Phat (on Tuesdays)

Tacos de Cabeza from the Bajío region in Central Mexico

Cabeza means “head” in Spanish. Tacos de Cabeza are made from the meat of an animal’s head. They are often made using a cow and sometimes a pig. To make tacos de cabeza, the entire cow’s head is slow-roasted until the meat around the skull is fall-off-the-bone tender. This meat is known to be juicy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious because of the high fat content.

Where to get it: 

The Tacos Place BR 

Tacos de Carnitas from Michoacán, Mexico 

Carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish. Tacos de carnitas are tacos traditionally made with braised pork shoulder flavored with herbs and seasoning. The meat is known for being tender and juicy due to high fat content. They are often served with cilantro, onion, cheese, lime and pico de gallo. 

Where to get it:

Blue Corn Modern Mexican, La Carreta 

Carne Asada from Northern Mexico 

Carne asada is “grilled meat” in Spanish. Carne asada tacos are typically made with marinated and grilled skirt steak stuffed into a soft corn tortilla. Locally, the tacos are topped with lime juice, cilantro, diced onions, salsas and guacamole.

Where to get it:

El Paso Mexican Grill, Tio Javi’s, Los Reyes Mexican Grill, La Carreta, The Tacos Place BR 

Cochinita Pibil from the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico 

Cochinita Pibil is a slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Peninsula. It is traditionally made with pork slow-cooked for hours while buried underground in a pit. Before being wrapped in a banana leaf, the meat is marinated generously with seasonings and citrus juices like lemon, lime and orange. Cochinita Pibil translates to a “baby pig buried and cooked underground.”  The word cochinita means “baby pig” in Spanish. The Mayan word pibil translates to “buried underground” in English. 

Where to get it:

The Velvet Cactus, Blue Corn Modern Mexican 

Street tacos from all over Mexico

Street tacos are small, Mexican meat tacos served on soft corn tortillas. They are often topped with onions, cilantro and salsa. Locally, the toppings include classic ingredients like cheese and avocado and out-of-the box additions like mangos and fried chicken skins.

Where to get it:

Caliente, Gov’t Taco, Rock Paper Taco, Superior Grill, Torchy’s Tacos

This article was originally published in the November 2022 issue of 225 magazine.