Cinco de Mayo is around the corner, and there are few hors d’œuvre in the Mexican repertoire better suited for munching on with a nice cold cerveza or margarita in hand than a crunchy, rolled taquito. If the only kind of taquito you’re familiar with comes in a box from the frozen food aisle, then you’re in for a serious treat. These are the real deal. No microwaves, no ovens and no mystery meat here; just the ear shattering crunch and savory interior of a freshly fried, homemade beef taquito.
Truth be told, I happily ate my healthy share of frozen taquitos for years. In fact, growing up I didn’t know many households that didn’t have a case buried somewhere in their freezer for snack emergencies. Throw them on plate, pop them in the microwave for a minute or so and go to town. Let’s face it: they’re quick, convenient and the perfect vessel for your favorite condiment. As a kid, I’d go as far as to dip mine in ketchup! It wasn’t until I decided to try a homemade version that I realized what this Mexican fingerfood could be. Where the frozen lack any serious depth of flavor and always end up being somewhere between chewy and soggy on the texture scale, the homemade is a knockout crispy treat.
These taquitos are the perfect way to use up leftover barbacoa. In fact, I’ll even make an entire batch for the sole purpose of rolling up a few dozen of these bad boys. If you really like them (which you will), go ahead and make a double batch and stash them in your freezer for the ultimate late night snack. Like the kind from the box, but oh-so-much better.
Finding good, small, yellow corn tortillas is the first step in making a killer taquito at home. In my experience, flour and/or white corn tortillas just don’t render the same results. In order to make the tortillas pliable enough to roll into tight, cigar-like taquitos, it’s necessary to first blanch them in hot oil for a few seconds to make them pliable. Simply steaming or warming the tortillas in a pan will not work in this instance as they are likely to crack or break during the rolling stage. As always, I recommend getting a friend or family member involved in this process as an assembly line will pull this recipe together much more quickly than going it alone. After the taquitos have been rolled, you can either fry them straight away using toothpicks to secure their shape or freeze them seam-side down on a parchment-line baking sheet. Whatever you do, make sure they are tightly rolled and securely sealed to avoid unfurling in the hot oil. I’ve gone with barbacoa beef here, but you could just as easily use leftover chile-braised pork, or pulled chicken as well.
- 2 pounds leftover barbacoa beef, shredded
- 16-20 small yellow corn tortillas, no larger than 5-inches in diameter
- Oil for frying
- Hot Sauce, salsa and/or guacamole for dipping
- Preheat oven to 200° F. Pour oil into a heavy medium pot until it reaches a depth of 2-inches. Heat oil over medium heat until it reaches 350° F on a candy thermometer.
- Working one at a time, quickly dip a tortilla into the hot oil for a few seconds until completely submerged – you are not looking to crisp or cook the tortilla at this point, but rather, make it pliable. Remove the tortilla using tongs and drain it on several layers of paper towel in order to absorb the excess oil. Repeat this same dipping/draining procedure with the remaining tortillas.
- To fill and roll the taquitos, place one of the pliable tortillas on a clean work surface and spoon on 2 large tablespoons or about 1.5-ounces of the shredded beef. Using your fingers, pinch/shape the beef into a long, sausage-like row just under the center line of the tortilla. Fold the bottom half of the tortilla up, over and around the filling, pulling snugly on the beef and rolling until you have created a tight cigar-like shape. Rest the rolled taquito seam-side down on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper and repeat with the remaining tortillas and beef. At this point you can freeze the taquitos for later frying or you can proceed to fry them straight away. If you plan to fry the taquitos directly after rolling, secure each seam with a carefully threaded toothpick to prevent them from unrolling in the hot oil.
- Working in batches, fry the the taquitos until they are golden brown and and crispy throughout, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer the cooked taquitos to a wire rack set over a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat frying procedure with the remaining wings.
- Place the hot taquitos on a large platter or stack them in a pyramid and serve along with your favorite Mexican salsa, hot sauce, sour cream or guacamole.
Makes 16-20 taquitos