5.0 from 2 votes

Tacos al vapor recipe

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This tacos al vapor recipe transports me back to the always bustling streets of Mexico, where the savory aromas of cooked meat, sizzling tortillas, and the constant presence of taco carts create the perfect dinner time symphony. 

It’s very common to find people gathered next to the carts, savoring soft, warm, and delicious tacos. This recipe draws inspiration from the authentic taste of Mexico’s street food, transporting you to the heart of the country’s culinary culture.

Tacos al vapor in a pot and ready to serve.

Tacos al Vapor are a clear example of the ingenuity our Mexican people. In modern Mexico, people enthusiastically serve this tacos as a beloved dish at both street vendors and family gatherings.

We use a blend of aromatics and spices to infuse the meat with depth and complexity, while the instant pot creates a tender, juicy texture that’s simply irresistible. The result is fall-of-the-bone-tender goodness. 

What are tacos al vapor? 

Tacos al vapor are a type of street taco that’s steamed until melt-in-your-mouth soft. When making them at home, layering them in a steamer pot is the the most popular way. However, street vendors use traditional Mexican griddles, encasing the meat filling and tortillas in plastic/foil and a large cloth. The result is a soft and tender taco that has had time to absorb all of the flavors.

How are tacos al vapor made?

A simple yet effective way to make a Tacos al Vapor recipe at home is by using a steamer pot. The process starts by slowly infusing oil with the flavors of the onion, garlic, cumin. Then, we blend it with Mexico’s topmost popular pepper, guajillos.

chili oil being prepared for a tacos al vapor recipe.

We brush the hot tortilla with chilli oil to infuse flavor and preserve its integrity while steaming. Alternatively, we can omit the oil for a more neutral flavor, still enjoying the same tender texture we adore.

Once assembled, they get steamed for a few minutes. Toppings include chopped onion,  cilantro, delicious salsa verde, and a drizzle of lime juice, plus homemade pickled jalapeños. 

Tacos al vapor made in a traditional taco cart

Carb counting? 

I’m on a carb counting-diet and can’t have many tacos at once, so for a more filling meal, I like to accompany them with a side salad made from shredded cabbage and pico de gallo. Top it with a green salsa, and pickled jalapeños. 

What makes them different from other tacos? 

This Tacos al Vapor is a unique recipe in many ways! They are tender and so soft, with moisture retention allowing you to enjoy every bite. Tortillas tend to be thicker and stronger to withstand high moisture without falling apart. In addition, the filling is cooked to a dryer consistency to prevent the tacos from breaking during the steaming process. Lastly, the steam imparts a slightly sweet comforting flavor to the taco. 

steamer pot

Tacos al Vapor Recipe Ingredients

The most important ingredient for making tacos al vapor is using a sturdy tortilla. Like mentioned, it needs to stand up to high temperatures with heavy moisture, as most tortillas tend to fall apart. Thankfully, individually wrapping the taco in parchment paper helps it steam without being attacked and destroyed. 

You can make the filling with meat, potato, cheese, and more. This particular recipe uses chuck roast, an affordable cut that becomes incredibly tender when cooked. Of course, it’s a cut that requires a long cooking time, which is why I like to use the instant pot, which allows me to cook it in a fraction of the time. 

Beef chuck roast being seared prior to cooking on an instant pot.

Don’t have an instant pot? 

In a large pot, brown the seasoned meat in batches to prevent overcrowding. Once all done, place all the cuts back into the pot and pour in the water. Also add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and cilantro. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to medium-low for a gentle simmer. Spoon out any impurities that may rise to the top, cover and cook on a gentle simmer until the meat is fall-apart tender, about 2-3 hrs. 

How to make them at home? 

To make tacos al vapor at home, you will need a steamer pot, sturdy tortillas, and plenty of delicious toppings, plus, a few other ingredients: guajillos, onion, garlic, and your preferred filling (in this case, chuck roast). Finally, We use aluminum foil and parchment paper to create a pleasant steaming environment for this delicious street inspired tacos. 

ingredients: white onion, garlic, bay leaves, and cilantro.

Can I use Flour tortillas?

Taqueros use corn tortillas to create traditional Tacos al vapor, following a deliberate process that yields the desired outcome. Using flour tortillas may turn out differently in terms of texture and flavors. They may not absorb moisture the same way, and the flavor will definitely be different. Having said that, if you decide to experiment, know that texture and flavor might turn out different than expected. 

Beef tacos al vapor recipe ready to eat.

Video Tutorial

Below is my easy to follow video tutorial on how to make this Tacos al vapor recipe. It will give you an additional in-depth knowledge and the visuals of the step-by-step process to enhance your understanding. You will also find it down in the recipe card.

Youtube video tutorial on how to make tacos al vapor at home.

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Tacos al vapor recipe

Recipe by Villa Cocina
5.0 from 2 votes
Course: MainCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

16

ea
Prep time

45

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

15

minutes
Total time

2

hours 

Tacos al vapor are a type of taco that’s steamed until melt-in-your-mouth soft. When making them at home, layering them in a steamer pot is the most popular way.

Ingredients

  • Chili oil
  • 8 ea 8 guajillo dry peppers

  • 1 cup 1 avocado oil

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 pork lard

  • 1/2 ea 1/2 white onion, roughly diced

  • 6 ea 6 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1/4 tsp 1/4 whole cumin

  • 1 1/2 tsp 1 1/2 kosher salt

  • Instant pot
  • 2 lbs 2 beef chuck roast, boneless

  • Generous Generous Salt

  • Generous Generous ground black pepper

  • 2 TBSP 2 avocado oil

  • 1 ea 1 white onion, halved

  • 1 head 1 garlic, slice end off

  • 3 ea 3 bay leaves

  • 1/2 bunch 1/2 cilantro

  • 8 cups 8 water

  • Beef Filling
  • shredded beef

  • chili paste

  • To taste To salt

  • Other items
  • 1/2 ea 1/2 white onion, sliced

  • 20 ea 20 corn tortillas

  • Parchment paper (1/2 sheet pan size)

  • Aluminum foil

  • Toppings
  • Cilantro, chopped

  • White onion, chopped

  • Lime jucie

  • Pickled jalapeños

  • Salsa verde

Directions

  • Prep the peppers
  • Remove the seeds and wipe clean with a damped paper towel. Set aside and let them dry completely. 
  • Chili oil
  • Place a large pan over medium to medium-low. Add the oil to the pan and melt in the lard. Then, toast the dry guajillos for about 30 seconds. Flip continuously to prevent them from burning. Once fragrant, remove from the heat. Slowly caramelize the onions and garlic in the fat until slightly browned, 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the cumin seeds, and let it to cool down completely. 
  • The Filling
  • Cut the meat into large pieces. Generously season all sides with salt and ground black pepper. 
  • Instant pot :
    A. Set the instant pot to HIGH SAUTE mode and START. Once hot, pour in the oil. Brown the meat in batches to avoid over crowding. Press CANCEL. Pour in the water. Add the garlic, onion, bay leaves and cilantro. COVER, and cook on HIGH PRESSURE for 45 MINUTES, with a 10 MINUTE  NATURAL PRESSURE RELEASE. Finally, QUICK RELEASE the remaining pressure. Press CANCEL and uncover. 

    B. Strain to separate the meat from the broth. Cool the broth completely and store in the fridge to be used for future recipes. Using two forks, shred the meat apart and set aside momentarily. 
  • Using a blender, process the cooled oil with the toasted peppers and salt, until completely broken down. Strain and set the oil aside for later use. Reserve the moist chili paste.
  • Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Stir the shredded meat and paste together until well combined, about 3 minutes. Once hot, stir in the salt and remove from the heat. 
  • Assemble the tacos
  • Heat the corn the tortillas on a comal over medium heat, just until pliable. Transfer them into a tortilla warmer to keep hot. 
  • Cut the 1/2 sheet pan size parchment paper into quarters. Needs to be large enough to enclose the tacos. 
  • Add the filling to each tortilla, and close to make a taco. Place over a piece of parchment paper, brush the oil on both sides. Top with the sliced onion, and fold the paper over to enclose the taco. Continue making the rest buy following the previous steps. 
  • Line the bottom of the steamer basket with aluminum foil. Arrange the tacos inside the basket, neatly stacked. Cover with parchment paper. Fill the bottom 6 qt pot with water. Stop two inches before it reaches the steamer basket. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower to medium and keep at a simmer. Place the steamer basket over the simmering water, cover and let the tacos steam for 15 minutes. Once hot and soft, they are ready.
  • Serve
  • Remove from the pot, and unwrap. Top with the chopped cilantro and onion. Salsa and a drizzle of lime juice along with the pickled jalapenos. Keep the steamer pot covered when not in use. ENJOY!

Recipe Video

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