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hard tacos
Chicken, Economical, Main Dishes, Spicy, Stuffing Stuff

Shredded Chicken Hard Tacos

by Nick

When it comes to tacos, I’m a big fan of the hard shell, but sometimes I find store-bought hard shell tacos to be kind of flimsy.  Like with some tortilla chips, I feel like the manufacturers aren’t starting with whole corn tortillas.  They’re probably starting with some strange paste that they can mold and fry, but the end results are always a bit sub-par.

Homemade hard shell tacos are a bit tricky though.  You need to hold them in place and fry them until crispy.  They do make a strange device that will make it possible to do this at home, but personally that seems like more work than it’s worth.

So I came up with a much quicker and easier method for making darn good crispy tacos at home.  These are actually a delicious mash up between an enchilada, a taco, and a taquito.  But trust me, you’ll have a hard time giving them up once you try them!

Yield
12 tacos
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Shredded Chicken Hard Tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, poached and shredded
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, minced
  • 1/2 Cup salsa
  • 6 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Toppings:
  • Sour Cream
  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Hot Sauce

Directions

1) Add chicken breasts to a medium pot and cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
2) Once chicken has cooled a bit, shred it. Also, dice onion and pepper and drain and rinse the beans.
3) Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a medium pan over medium heat. Once hot, add onions and peppers and cook until soft. Then stir in shredded chicken, black beans, and salsa.
4) Stir mixture until it's heated through and season with salt and pepper.
5) On a large griddle or in a large skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Working with one tortilla at a time, add it to the hot pan and top one half with chicken and shredded cheese. Fold tortilla over to form a taco. Press down on it lightly so it holds it's shape and move it to the outer part of the pan while you work on a second one. Do as many tacos as you can fit at once without them overlapping.
6) Cook tacos for about 3 minutes per side until tortilla is crispy and cheese is well-melted.
7) Serve tacos immediately with avocado, hot sauce, lettuce, and sour cream.

Preparing the Filling

There are really no rules when it comes to fillings for these tacos.  I used some chicken and black beans, but you could take it in any direction really.

If you do want to use chicken though, the easiest way to prep it for the filling is to lightly poach it in a few inches of water for about 10 minutes or until it’s cooked through completely.  Depending on the thickness of your chicken breast, you might need a few more minutes.  Then, once your chicken is cool, you can shred it up with a fork.

You could also use leftover chicken from a different meal.

shredded

Poached and shredded.

Besides the chicken, I also recommend using some fresh red onion and jalapeno which gives the filling great Tex-mex flavors.

Just dice both relatively small.  If you want more heat, then leave the seeds in the peppers.

veg

Good Tex-mex flavors.

To finish off the filling, add a drizzle of oil to a medium pan over medium heat and add your onions and peppers.  Cook them until they are soft, about 4-5 minutes, then stir in your chicken drained black beans.

chicken mix

The filling stuff.

I like to add some salsa to mine also which just kind of rounds out the flavors and ties everything together.  It’s a bit of a shortcut, but it works like a charm.

Stir this all together over medium heat until the filling is hot.

mixed

Salsa is a helper here.

Making the Tacos

These tacos are actually pretty easy to make.  Don’t be intimidated!

Corn tortillas are really strong.  They don’t burn easily so you have a lot of flexibility in your cooking time which is nice.  I like to make mine on a large griddle but you could also use a large skillet.

Just add a drizzle of oil to the pan and get it hot over medium-high heat.  Then work with one tortilla at a time.  Start by just warming the tortilla up for a seconds and then top half of it with a large spoonful of filling.

Like so:

taco

Try not to overstuff.

Next, top it with some grated cheese.  Any cheese will work, but I like pepper jack.

cheese

A little goes a long way.

Then the only tricky part is to fold the top part of the taco over.  Once you have the taco folded over, press down on it lightly so it holds it’s shape.

folded

The very important fold.

Once you have one taco shaped, you can move it out to the side of the pan and get started on a second taco.  When I’m really rocking and rolling, I can do about six at a time on my griddle.

Cook them for about 3-4 minutes per side so they get nice and crispy on the outside.

done

Nice and crispy.

Toppings and Servings

I made up a plate of some of my favorite taco toppings for these guys including sour cream, avocado, and chopped lettuce.  Hot sauce wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

toppings

Standard taco fare.

Serve up a few of the tacos with some toppings and you are in for a treat!  Three tacos is a pretty hearty meal.  Two would be a good lunch.

tacos

Awesome plate of food.

These guys turn crispy and delicious as they cook and then you can kind of pry them open and stuff them with all kinds of delicious toppings.  The shells are a lot more substantial than those flimsy guys you buy in the store that crack and shatter with the slightest touch.

I know these are good because my Tex-Mex aficionado wife requested them two nights in a row!

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28 comments on “Shredded Chicken Hard Tacos

  1. Oooh, this is awesome. I’m definitely going to try it! And I can vouch for how irritating those taco shell shape holder thingies are, we used one in school but it was a single shell shape holder thingy and the tortillas were always falling off. Very annoying.

  2. I’m going to be all over this. I don’t like tex-mex food too much, but I’ve found that the homemade stuff can actually be pretty decent. Besides, I like to keep my husband happy (so he’s more agreeable), and he LOVES tex-mex. :-) Thanks Nick!

  3. Along with 3 other family members, I recently had a food tent at a local festival. We served Authentic Mexican food. Everything was made fresh and on site. We bought corn tortillas and used the frying device to make out taco shells. The tortillas did slide out of it, but we cut some of the prongs to keep them in place and it turned out to be a life saver! It is way to big to use in a home fryer though. It is a commercial size fryer basket. Love the filling recipe. I will have to use that to stuff some shells at home. Appriciated as always :)

  4. These tacos look delicious! And you’re right, homemade crunchy tacos made from corn tortillas are much stronger than the premade crunchy taco shells (which are glorified tortilla chips). I agree, that the taco shell holder/deep fryer method is not practical for home application–I have yet to make crunchy tacos but my friends all just close up the tortillas around the filling and secure with toothpicks and deep fry them in a saucepan of hot oil, but that makes for a relatively greasy taco.

  5. These look so good! Love the use of the griddle to make crunchy taco shells — brilliant and so much easier than frying. I can’t wait to try this out! Also adding this to my list of things I can make for large groups of mexican food loving people over the holidays (the macheesmo mud was a hit last year).

    1. Well, they would probably work okay, but they you would basically be making enchiladas without the sauce. You’d have to be pretty diligent to make sure they keep their shape and you’d probably have to bake them for at least 20 minutes.

      Definitely would be faster and easier to just do them on the stovetop.

      1. Thanks Nick. I don’t work with corn tortillas very often but have decided to try them instead. I will fry them on the stove top then and try not to burn my little fingers.

  6. OH Those sound delicious! If it weren’t pouring out I’d run to the store for the last few yummies I’d need to make these!

  7. First of all, I don’t make tacos nearly as often as I should. They’re just among the world’s perfect food: What is my problem??

    Second, woah, it never occurred to me to simply pan-fry a corn tortilla around taco filling in order to make a crispy shell. That’s kind of genius.

    These look awesome. Major contenders on my TBD Super Bowl menu!

    1. OH yea… get on the taco train. We used to have tacos once a week. Now we’re probably at once every two weeks, but still a very popular meal for us.

  8. Just when I was lamenting the fact that my wife hadn’t eaten any of the chicken I got for her lunches, you came along and posted this. Yum.

  9. I made these last night. They were sooo good. The fillings you can put in are endless! I never want to eat store bought taco shells again. For the poster that wanted to bake them, what about spraying them with some oil and broiling them? You’d have to watch them and seems like more work to me, but just an idea!

  10. Made these Shredded Chicken Hard Tacos last night and my husband moaned and groaned about how delicious they were….my daughter is coming over for lunch today to finish them off ! Thanks Nick for another “Keeper” recipe !

  11. I like your method of frying these. My mom would make hard tacos growing up, I always had them for my birthday dinner, except she put about an inch of oil in a skillet, place the tacos in (already folded) and then turn when they are done on the one side.

    Your version gets the same result except not as much oil!

  12. Made them tonight….used refried beans (made em myself thanks to you!) chicken and salsa. Best thing ever, used colby jack on it. Very tame version. Best part ever is the fact that they are sloppy tacos, they stick together and made it super easy for kids to eat (have a 2, 4 and 6 yr old) and they ate every bite! This will be a staple in our menu plan! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  13. I didn’t use your taco filling recipe, but I did use your taco-frying technique tonight when I made tacos. I like how you use little oil to just get the shell crispy instead of deep frying the entire thing. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I made these tonight…sorta. I used ground beef with your taco seasoning recipe from the “Taco Stack” post. They were awesome, but I have to say I probably wouldn’t make them often. I kept burning myself! I guess though, it’s better to burn yourself and have it be worthwhile than to burn yourself and not enjoy the food, right?

  15. I just came over to post on an old recipe to complain that you didn’t make those tortillas yourself. I’m kidding… the real reason is that I just ate the chicken filling with salsa, sour cream and chopped veggies in four tortillas (all cold) for lunch today. AMAZING.
    Thanks for the great recipes!

    1. Ha! Nice. Actually homemade tortillas are on my list to try this year… no way I’ll make them all the time though :)

  16. Hi Nick — I have been making tacos like this for years and years since watching them being made at a tacqueria on Federal Blvd. in Denver. Here is the one thing I do differently — I take my electric grill/griddle OUTSIDE and make them there, avoiding all the grease spattering and related cleanup in the kitchen! Here is another thing that is good to add – crispy fried potatoes, carrots and onion. Not much, just a little. I had a taco with these ingredients along with chicken from a street taco stand in Tijuana way long ago.
    Love your site. Found out about it when viewing your online recipe for chili gravy enchiladas, which I will be making this Friday 9/12 as we are expecting our first snow here in Boulder, CO!
    Best wishes and thanks for your work —
    Nancy

    1. Nice Nancy! I can’t believe it’s going to snow already! Enjoy the enchiladas this weekend. That’s still one of my fave tex-mex recipes on the site. ;)

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