On Your Plate: No-Goat Street Tacos

My definition of a street taco is something packed with bold flavors, procured from a food truck or street vendor, and easy to eat while walking or sitting on a park bench. Street tacos originated in Mexico and are typically smaller than an American-style taco, which usually comprises a hard shell, ground beef, shredded cheese and lettuce. Like most tacos, street tacos entice you to eat more than just one. 

Barbacoa — which translates to “barbecue” — is the term for the spice-rubbed, marinated, slow-roasted, traditionally topped meat that usually fills street tacos. When prepared properly, it’s very tender, with a spicy-sweet crust. Historically, the meat of a whole animal was slow-roasted for hours over a fire, or in a hole lined with agave leaves, until it was fall-off-the-bone tender. Many types of meat are used in these tacos, depending on where you are in the world. 

In Mexico, goat meat is the most popular option. Whether you want to order goat meat or avoid ordering goat meat, keep your ears and eyes open for el cabrito (“kid goat”) or carne de cabra (“meat of goat”) when choosing your taco or meal. In homage to the cuteness of goats and the love that we have for them here in Door County, no goat meat will be used in our street-taco recipes.

Street tacos are traditionally served on corn tortillas, which are warmed on the grill, doubled up, filled with meat, then topped off with tasty accoutrements such as cilantro, green onion, queso fresco, fresh salsa and a squeeze of lime. I also like to have a selection of hot sauces available to splash on. 

Street tacos are an easy meal to make when inviting folks over for dinner. I recommend mixing up some fresh margaritas and enjoying them with your favorite people during an evening of spicy food and good conversation.

On nights when you don’t have the time or inclination to cook, check out some of the food trucks that are popping up around the county of Door — some serve tacos!

Beef Barbacoa

Serves 6 – 8

You will need a slow cooker.

  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seed
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 lbs bone-in chuck roast, fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium-size head of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ½ can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (2 or 3 peppers); add more of the sauce for spicier tacos
  • small white onion, diced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • ½ cup beef stock

To serve, you’ll need:

  • corn tortillas
  • grilled-pineapple salsa (see recipe)
  • queso fresco

Mix all the dry spices together. Place the meat in the slow cooker. Sprinkle the spices over the meat and toss until it is well coated. 

Add the rest of the ingredients to the cooker and stir it all together. Cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.

Using two forks, shred the meat, and let it soak up some of the juices. Serve the meat on warm corn tortillas topped with grilled-pineapple salsa (see recipe) and a sprinkle of queso fresco.

Grilled-Pineapple Salsa

  • 3 or 4 slices fresh pineapple, core removed
  • about a cup of cilantro, stems removed, leaves chopped 
  • bunch of green onions, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of salt

Grill the slices of pineapple until there are grill marks, about 2 minutes on each side, to caramelize the fruit. Remove the pineapple from the heat; let it cool. Chop the pineapple into bite-size pieces. Mix all of the ingredients together; let them sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

When you have the chance to enjoy your street tacos while sitting still, I highly recommend adding a side dish. There’s nothing better than Mexican street corn, but better still is to turn it into a salad. (When ordering from food trucks, you usually receive your corn still on the cob, which makes it easier to eat while walking.)

When cooking up a feast for friends, though, I prefer to cut the kernels off the cob, mix the ingredients in a bowl and serve the corn as a side dish over a bed of lettuce. For the best flavor, dice up all of the ingredients so they’re the size of a corn kernel.

Mexican Street Corn

Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cobs of corn, husks removed, soaked in salt water for 1 hour
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • juice of 1/2 lime 
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 red pepper, diced finely
  • bunch of cilantro, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • 1/3 cup cotija cheese (in a pinch, use freshly grated Parmesan)
  • 1 head of garden lettuce, washed and chopped

Butter the corn cobs and place them on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes over medium heat, turning often. Do not walk away from the grill because the corn will cook very quickly. Remove the corn from the heat and set aside.

Mix the mayonnaise, chipotle chili powder, lime juice and salt together and set it aside. 

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and place them in a bowl. Add the red pepper, cilantro and cheese. Mix in the prepared mayonnaise dressing and stir, making sure the corn and peppers are coated thoroughly. Serve warm over a bed of lettuce.

Don’t forget the margaritas, and enjoy!