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How do you heat a taco boat?

Tacos are a popular Mexican dish typically consisting of a corn or wheat tortilla filled with seasoned meat, cheese, lettuce, and other toppings. While tacos are often served folded, taco boats provide a fun and creative way to serve tacos in an edible tortilla bowl. Heating up taco boats requires some special considerations to ensure the tortilla bowl maintains its shape and the fillings get hot and melty. Here is a guide to properly heating taco boats for a delicious meal.

Select an Appropriate Tortilla for the Taco Boat

The first key step is choosing the right kind of tortilla to form the taco boat shell. The tortilla needs to be pliable enough to mold into a boat shape but sturdy enough to hold its form during baking. Corn tortillas tend to work better than flour tortillas, as they are more rigid and hold their shape when warped. Look for corn tortillas that are at least 6 inches wide to provide enough surface area for folding into a boat. Sturdier tostada shells also work well for retaining their curved taco boat edges. Avoid taco shells or very thin, flimsy tortillas that will likely crack or fall apart when shaped and baked.

Soften the Tortilla

A fresh corn tortilla right out of the package will usually be too stiff and brittle to properly mold into a curved taco boat. It’s important to soften the tortilla first before shaping so it becomes pliable without cracking. You can soften the tortilla using a few simple methods:

  • Place the tortilla in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds to make it just warm and soft.
  • Run the tortilla briefly under warm water until pliable.
  • Place the tortilla directly on a hot pan for about 10 seconds on each side.
  • Wrap the tortilla in a damp paper towel and microwave for 10-20 seconds until softened.

The tortilla should become more flexible but should not be soggy, mushy or overly dried out. Softening allows it to be folded without breaking but retains enough structure to hold its shape.

Mold the Tortilla into a Boat

Once the tortilla is soft and pliable, use your hands to mold it into a bowl or boat shape by pressing down in the center and folding up the outer edges. Place the tortilla over a cup or bowl for shaping reference if needed. Pinch and crease the edges and corners well so the boat structure takes form. Make sure the sides are pressed together firmly and evenly for stability. The wider and deeper the boat walls, the more fillings it can hold.

Pre-Bake the Formed Tortilla

After shaping the tortilla boat, pre-bake it before adding any fillings. This helps set the shape and makes the shell more rigid so it doesn’t fall apart or unfold. Pre-bake the empty taco boat on a baking sheet at 350°F for 2-3 minutes until lightly crisped. For an extra sturdy shell, brush or spray the inside and outside edges with oil before baking. Watch carefully as they can burn quickly. The pre-baked boat will still be soft enough to fill but retains enough structure to transfer to a plate.

Prep the Desired Fillings

While the tortilla boat bakes, prepare any fillings so they are ready to quickly assemble and heat. Try classic taco fillings like seasoned ground beef or shredded chicken, sauteed vegetables, beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc. Chop, grate, or shred ingredients as needed for even cooking. For best results, lightly pre-cook any meat, veggies or other ingredients before assembling into the taco boats. This avoids over-baking the tortilla shell while thoroughly heating the fillings.

Cook the Meats and Vegetables

If using meat or vegetables, make sure to fully cook them first before adding to the taco boats. This prevents having to bake the tacos long enough to cook raw meat, which risks over-drying the tortilla shell. For example:

  • Brown ground beef or turkey and season as desired.
  • Shred or chop cooked chicken.
  • Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc.
  • Cook black beans or pinto beans.

Get the flavors just right before filling the taco boats so ingredients only need a quick final heating together.

Shred and Grate the Cheeses

Grate, shred or dice cheese ahead of time for even melting. Recommended cheeses include:

  • Shredded cheddar
  • Shredded Monterey Jack
  • Crumbled queso fresco or cotija
  • Grated mozzarella

Avoid giant chunks that won’t melt well. Finely diced or shredded cheese melts faster and more evenly.

Chop Any Vegetables or Herbs

For fresh veggies, chop, shred or dice them small. Try ingredients like:

  • Chopped lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sliced olives
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped cilantro

Small pieces distribute better in the taco boats.

Prepare any Sauces or Creams

Pre-measure out any sauces, salsas, creams or other liquids. Great options include:

  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Taco sauce
  • Hot sauce

Avoid adding too much liquid before baking or it may make the tortilla shells soggy.

Fill and Top the Taco Boats

Once you have your cooked meats, grated cheese, chopped vegetables and other toppings ready, assemble the filled taco boats. Work quickly while the tortilla boats are still warm and pliable from pre-baking.

Add Meats and Cheeses First

Start by adding the hot meats and cheeses into the bottom and along the sides of the taco boats. This helps weigh them down so the walls don’t collapse while baking. Top with ingredients like:

  • Ground beef
  • Shredded chicken
  • Chopped carnitas
  • Shredded cheese

Pack the meats and cheeses tightly into the bottom half of the taco boats.

Fill with Desired Vegetables and Toppings

Next, add in any cooked vegetables and fresh toppings. Spoon or layer them over the meats and cheese. Recommended fillings include:

  • Sauteed onions and peppers
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sliced avocado
  • Chopped cilantro

Pile on all your favorite taco toppings until the boat is full.

Drizzle Sauces and Creams

Finally, drizzle, dollop or sprinkle any sauces, salsas, creams or seasonings over the top. Don’t go overboard on liquids or the tacos may become soggy. Recommended finishes include:

  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Queso fresco
  • Hot sauce

Add just enough to moisten and flavor the tacos without making them dripping wet.

Bake Filled Taco Boats

Once assembled, the filled taco boats are ready to bake. This last baking step heats everything through without overcooking.

Temperature and Time

Bake the filled taco boats at 400°F for 5-8 minutes. This relatively high temp helps crisp the tortillas and melt the cheese quickly without drying them out.

Lined Baking Sheet

Place the filled taco boats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil before baking. The lining prevents sticking and catching on the pan.

Watch Closely

Since the components are already cooked, the taco boats just need a short baking time. Keep an eye on them so the shells don’t burn or get too crispy. They are ready when the cheese is melted and ingredients are heated through.

Alternative Heating Methods

Besides using the oven, you can also heat taco boats using:

  • Microwave: 1-2 minutes until hot. Rotate halfway through.
  • Broiler: 2-3 minutes to crisp the tops.
  • Grill: 2-3 minutes per side to char slightly.

Monitor closely when using any of these quicker cooking methods.

Serving Taco Boats

Once baked, remove the taco boats from the oven carefully using tongs or a spatula. Transfer them to plates or a serving dish right away. Here are some serving tips:

Act Quickly

The crisped, heated taco boats are delicate, so move them from pan to plate promptly before they cool and soften or collapse.

Consider Support

If needed, you can place something under the taco boats like a wire rack, crumpled foil or shredded lettuce to prop them up on the serving plate.

Add Extra Toppings

Provide any extra fillings or garnishes like shredded cheese, salsa and guacamole on the side for customizing.

Enjoy Immediately

Tacos always taste best fresh and hot. Encourage guests to dig into these creative taco boats as soon as they come out of the oven.

Key Tips

Here are some top tips to keep in mind for successful taco boats:

  • Use corn tortillas or tostadas for the boats.
  • Soften the tortillas before molding into boats.
  • Pre-bake the shaped tortillas before filling.
  • Pre-cook any raw meats, veggies or beans.
  • Shred cheese and chop toppings beforehand.
  • Fill bottom half heavily to weigh down.
  • Bake on a lined pan at 400°F for 5-8 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly before transferring to plates.
  • Enjoy immediately for the perfect crunch.


If you have any trouble getting perfect results when making taco boats, here are some common issues and solutions:

Problem Solution
Tortilla cracks when molding Make sure to soften it first in microwave, with water or on skillet.
Boat loses shape when baking Pre-bake empty shell first to set form. Make sure edges are sealed tightly.
Fillings spill out Pack bottom half very full and balance ingredients. Use more cheese and meat on bottom.
Shell gets too hard Avoid over-baking. Bake at 400°F only 5-8 minutes until just crisped.
Ingredients not cooked through Pre-cook meats, beans, veggies before assembling and baking just to heat through.
Cheese doesn’t melt Shred cheese first for even melting. Bake at 400°F just until melted.
Boats stick to pan Line baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Taco Boat Filling Ideas

You can get creative with different flavors and ingredients used to fill your taco boats. Consider these tasty ideas for fillings:

Carne Asada

  • Skirt steak
  • Onions and peppers
  • Cotija cheese
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedge


  • Pulled pork
  • Pineapple salsa
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Teriyaki drizzle

Veggie Lover’s

  • Sauteed spinach, zucchini, mushrooms
  • Black beans
  • Guacamole
  • Queso fresco

Santa Fe

  • Ground turkey
  • Corn
  • Black beans
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Avocado crema


  • Scrambled eggs
  • Chorizo
  • Potatoes
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Avocado
  • Hot sauce

Korean BBQ

  • Bulgogi beef
  • Sticky rice
  • Kimchi
  • Gochujang sauce
  • Sesame seeds
  • Green onions

Get inspired by worldwide flavors to fill your taco boats with anything you love!


Taco boats are a fun way to serve up tacos in an impressive, edible bowl. The key is starting with the right shapeable tortilla, molding sturdy boats before baking, loading up the fillings, and baking just long enough to heat through without over-crisping. Pre-cooked meats and shredded cheese help ensure even heating and melting. Top with all your favorite taco toppings and serve these appetizing taco boats right away. With the right techniques and a dash of creativity, you can easily make Instagram-worthy taco boats at home.