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Are taquitos just rolled tacos?

Taquitos and tacos are both beloved Mexican dishes, but they have some key differences. Though they may seem similar at first glance, when examined more closely it becomes clear that taquitos are much more than just rolled up tacos.


Tacos and taquitos have distinct origins and histories. Tacos likely originated in Mexico in the 18th or 19th century as street food eaten by working class people. The original tacos were simply small corn or wheat tortillas filled with meat, onions, peppers, and other simple ingredients. They were meant to be eaten by hand without any dishware. Taquitos meanwhile find their origins in Jalisco, Mexico. They were created by rolling tacos up into cigar shapes and deep frying them. Originally they were filled with beef and cheese. The deep frying allowed the taquitos to become crispy and portable. Taquitos were then brought north and popularized in the United States, especially in Texas and California. So while tacos predate taquitos, taquitos put their own spin on the taco by altering the shape and cooking method.

Cooking Method

The primary cooking method also sets tacos and taquitos apart. Tacos are most traditionally cooked on a flat top or griddle. A tortilla is heated through on the hot surface then filled with ingredients. Tacos can also be made using soft tortillas that have not been cooked. Taquitos on the other hand are always deep fried. The filled tortilla is submerged in hot oil until the exterior becomes crunchy. The deep frying locks in the interior ingredients and transforms the texture of the exterior tortilla. So tacos tend to have a softness to them while taquitos have an added crunch.


The shapes of tacos and taquitos diverge as well. Tacos are left in their flat circle or oval shape. Taquitos meanwhile are tightly rolled into cylindrical or cigar shapes. This helps differentiate them visually. The taquito’s tight cylindrical shape also provides a different experience when biting into it compared to a flat taco. The contents of a taquito are fully encased and held together securely.


There is a size difference between most tacos and taquitos. Tacos are generally 6 inches or less in diameter when using a traditional sized tortilla. They are meant to be held and eaten easily without utensils. Taquitos are typically smaller in size. They tend to be just a few bites and less than 6 inches long when rolled up. Their compact size makes them highly portable finger food. The smaller cylindrical shape differentiates them from regular size tacos.


Fillings for tacos and taquitos also tend to differ. The most traditional taco fillings are ground beef, chicken, pork, or fish with onion, cilantro, salsa, and other simple ingredients. Taquitos often contain cheese along with the meat. Common taquito fillings are shredded beef, chicken, or pork mixed with cheese such as queso fresco. Vegetables are not as commonly used. So the fillings for taquitos tend to be cheese-based rather than vegetable-based.

Taco Fillings Taquito Fillings
Ground beef Shredded beef and cheese
Shredded chicken Shredded chicken and cheese
Carnitas Shredded pork and cheese
Fish Cheese
Onion Potato and cheese
Cilantro Bean and cheese


Tacos and taquitos are used differently in a meal. Tacos are often the main event as a hearty entree. They may be served open-faced on a plate for eating with a fork. Taquitos are typically served as appetizers, sides, or snacks. You may see taquitos passed around at a party, served before a meal, or ordered as an appetizer at a restaurant. So tacos tend to play a central role while taquitos complement other dishes.


There are many recognized types and variations of tacos: hard shell, soft shell, fish, chicken, carnitas, carne asada, breakfast tacos, and more. Taquitos have fewer established variations. The main types are beef, chicken, or cheese taquitos. There are certainly many potential taquito fillings, but certain taco styles like fish tacos have not crossed over. So tacos have spawned more recognized variations.


Tacos and taquitos are accompanied by different condiments and sides. Tacos are commonly topped with salsa, pico de gallo, avocado, lime, lettuce, and other fresh ingredients. Taquitos less commonly feature fresh veggies and are more likely to be dipped in a sauce. Common taquito sauces are salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese sauce. So the sauces and toppings for each tend to differ.

Taco Accompaniments Taquito Accompaniments
Salsa Salsa
Pico de gallo Guacamole
Avocado Sour cream
Lettuce Cheese sauce
Lime Ranch dressing

Eating Vessel

The eating vessels also demonstrate the differences between tacos and taquitos. Tacos are typically eaten directly in the soft tortilla or hard taco shell that contains the ingredients. Taquitos don’t always have an additional wrap, but are often served on a plate, basket, or tray to catch any crumbs. You also may see taquitos in a paper boat, paper dish, or paper wrap. So tacos serve as their own eating vessel while taquitos require an additional holder.

Messiness and Portability

Tacos can tend to be messier to eat than taquitos. The ingredients are more loosely contained compared to the tight taquito wrap. The soft taco shell can also fall apart easier. Taquitos have an advantage in terms of portability as well. Their small cylindrical shape and crispy shell helps the taquito hold its shape and contain the fillings. Tacos often need to be eaten soon after assembling or while sitting down at a table. Taquitos can more easily be eaten by hand on the go.

Restaurant Offerings

At Mexican restaurants you will see differences between taco and taquito offerings. Tacos have a dedicated section of the menu with a wide selection of fillings. Taquitos may just be a single appetizer option. Tacos are treated as the star attraction while taquitos play a supporting role. Highlighting this distinction, there are many taco-focused fast casual chains like Taco Bell, Del Taco, and Chipotle. Comparable taquito chains are rare. So at restaurants, tacos get top billing compared to taquitos.

Nutritional Value

There are some nutritional differences between typical tacos and taquitos. Keeping portion sizes equal, taquitos tend to be higher in calories, fat, and salt compared to tacos. This comes from the taquito’s crispy deep-fried shell versus the tacos soft and pliable shell. The fat content in the cheese filling also contributes to the taquito’s higher fat and calorie count. However, tacos and taquitos can both be highly variable. It depends on the specific ingredients used. Customization for each offers the opportunity to make healthier options.

Nutrition Facts Per 1 Serving Taco Taquito
Calories 150 180
Fat 7g 12g
Carbs 15g 12g
Protein 10g 8g
Sodium 500mg 650mg


Tacos are significantly more popular than taquitos. Tacos have become an iconic food enjoyed all over the world. Taquitos have their fans but have not gained the same level of mainstream popularity. There are far more restaurants serving tacos than taquitos. Recipes and blog posts for homemade tacos also dwarf those for taquitos. Simply put, far more people have heard of and eaten tacos compared to taquitos. Tacos have claimed the taco vs. taquito crown when it comes to popularity.


The pricing differs for tacos vs. taquitos. At restaurants, taquitos are often priced slightly higher than tacos. The extra labor involved in tightly rolling and frying taquitos may account for some of the price premium. At fast food chains like Taco Bell, an order of 2-3 tacos may cost $2-3 while 2-3 taquitos can be $3-4. Grocery store prices show a similar trend. Frozen taquitos tend to cost a bit more per ounce compared to taco kits and shells. The popularity and mass production of tacos likely makes them cheaper to produce than niche taquitos. So consumers will typically pay a little extra when opting for taquitos rather than tacos.

Taco Prices Taquito Prices
$1.50 per taco $2 per taquito
$3 taco combo meal $4 taquito combo meal
$2.50 taco kit $3.50 frozen taquitos


Tacos have become popular globally while taquitos remain largely concentrated in Mexico and the United States. You can easily find tacos throughout Europe, Asia, and many other parts of the world. Taquitos are difficult to find in international cuisines. Factors like the simplicity of tacos and prevalence of Tex-Mex cuisine have aided the spread of tacos worldwide. Taquitos have not undergone the same rapid expansion or adaption into other cultures’ cuisines. So tacos can be considered a globalized food while taquitos remain more regionally contained.


Taquitos and tacos have distinct histories, cooking methods, shapes, fillings, and uses that set them apart. Though taquitos may seem like just a rolled up taco, they have evolved into their own unique food. Taquitos deserve to be considered more than just tacos in cylindrical form. They offer their own crunchy, flavorful, cheese-filled experience that tacos cannot replicate. However, tacos reign supreme when it comes to mass popularity and widespread availability. For those craving an appetizer, side, or snack rather than a main meal, taquitos are the way to go. They complement tacos well at home or on a restaurant menu. So the next time you encounter taquitos, appreciate them for the crispy, cheesy, filling-packed snacks that they are rather than just as rolled up tacos.