Crispy and Delicious Puffy Taco Shells Recipe

Warm tortillas just out of the pan always remind me of home. They are delicious and versatile but there is one special way to prepare them that stands out from the rest: puffy taco shells. Puffy tacos have a thick, fluffy texture yet are still crispy on the outside. They are a staple in San Antonio and once you try one, you’ll be hooked!

In this easy recipe, I’ll show you how to make puffy taco shells using masa harina and basic spices. They are perfect for filling with savory ingredients like ground beef or finely chopped onions, or even sweet treats like whipped cream and fruit.

Making your own puffy taco shells might seem intimidating at first, but once you see how simple it is, I’m sure they will become a regular addition to your homemade taco nights. So let’s get started and learn how to make these deliciously crunchy shells from scratch!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Puffy Taco Shells
Puffy Taco Shells

Are you a fan of tacos? If your answer is yes, then you’ll definitely love this recipe for Puffy Taco Shells. But even if you’ve never heard of puffy tacos before, this recipe is worth giving a try. Trust me, once you see, smell, and taste these puffy taco shells, there will be no going back to regular taco shells!

First off, these taco shells are made with masa harina, which is a traditional corn flour used in many Mexican dishes. When combined with warm water and salt, the dough has a unique texture that can’t be replicated with regular flour. When fried in oil, the dough transforms into a crunchy yet airy shell that’s perfect for holding all sorts of fillings.

Speaking of fillings – you can use whatever your heart desires! Ground beef or chicken tacos? Go for it. The puffy taco shell will provide the perfect vessel for your delicious toppings. And the best part? These taco shells are super easy to make. With just a handful of ingredients and minimal steps, this recipe can be whipped up in no time.

But don’t just take my word for it – even the Food Network has recognized the glory of puffy tacos. Originating from San Antonio, these tacos have been gaining popularity throughout Texas and beyond. So join in on the trend and give this easy and delicious recipe a try. Your taste buds will thank you!

Ingredient List

 These puffy taco shells are the perfect vessel for your favorite fillings.
These puffy taco shells are the perfect vessel for your favorite fillings.

Let’s take a look at what we need for this puffy taco shells recipe:

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 pound ground beef, finely chopped
  • Corn tortillas (3 inches in diameter)
  • Oil for frying (about 2-3 inches)

The masa harina is the special corn flour traditionally used to make puffy tacos. You can find it at any Latin American grocery store or online. For the meat, we recommend using ground beef but you can use any other meat of your choice or even beans if you prefer a vegetarian option. In terms of tortillas, make sure they are small and thin enough for you to fry them in hot oil without breaking apart. And don’t forget the vegetable oil for frying!

The Recipe How-To

 Watch as the dough transforms into a light and airy taco shell.
Watch as the dough transforms into a light and airy taco shell.

Mixing the Dough

To start making puffy taco shells, first, we need to mix the dough. In a mixing bowl, mix together the masa harina and salt. Pour in 1 1/2 cup of lukewarm water while mixing the ingredients at low speed. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until you have smooth and cohesive dough.

Now that we have our dough ready, pinch off equal balls measuring 2-3 inches in diameter. Place them between two pieces of plastic wrap.

Using a tortilla press, flatten each piece of dough into thin rounds. Once done, remove the plastic wrap and set aside.

Frying the Taco Shells

In a heavy pot, heat up 2 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, gently dip the flattened masa circles into the hot oil one at a time. Fry them for about 30 seconds on each side or until they turn golden brown and start to puff up.

Transfer them onto paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Stuffing and Finishing Up

Now that our taco shells are ready, let’s stuff them with our desired filling. Traditionally in San Antonio, we stuff them with ground beef seasoned with onion, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.

To make that filling mixture, sauté 1 finely diced yellow onion, and add in 1 lb of ground beef until it’s cooked through (about 6-8 minutes). Season it with 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.

I like to add some fresh lettuce leaves for some crunch and freshness as well as some shredded cheddar cheese or crumbled Queso fresco as toppings.

Voilà! Your homemade puffy tacos are ready to serve!

Substitutions and Variations

 These taco shells are a twist on the traditional hard or soft shell.
These taco shells are a twist on the traditional hard or soft shell.

You can switch up the ingredients for this recipe to make your own unique taco shell. Instead of using ground beef, try using shredded chicken or pulled pork for a tasty alternative. You can also add some different seasonings to the meat mixture like chili powder, cumin, or garlic for an extra kick of flavor.

For a vegetarian option, you can substitute the meat with black beans or roasted vegetables such as sweet potatoes or bell peppers. You can also add a bit of corn or diced tomatoes into the mix for an added texture and taste.

If you don’t have masa harina on hand, you can substitute it with all-purpose flour or cornmeal. However, keep in mind that this will alter the texture and flavor of the taco shell.

For those who enjoy a spicy kick to their food, you can add some diced jalapeños or hot sauce into the meat mixture before frying it. This will give your puffy tacos a little extra heat.

Lastly, you can experiment with different toppings and sauces to create a unique culinary experience. Some popular options are salsa, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, lettuce, and tomato. You can also take inspiration from other Tex-Mex dishes such as chalupas or deep-fried flour tortillas.

In conclusion, there are numerous substitutions and variations you can make to this easy recipe to suit your taste preferences and dietary restrictions. Get creative and experiment with different ingredients and toppings to make your perfect homemade taco shells!

Serving and Pairing

 Your taste buds will be dancing with every bite of this puffy shell.
Your taste buds will be dancing with every bite of this puffy shell.

After you have made your delicious puffy taco shells, it’s time to start thinking about how you will serve and enjoy them. The best way to enjoy these tacos is by filling them with anything that tickles your fancy. I like to fill mine with ground beef, finely chopped onions, and seasoned with a bit of salt. The puffy taco shell provides the perfect crunch followed by a soft and chewy texture that will satisfy your taste buds.

When it comes to pairing these tacos, there is no need for elaborate side dishes or complexity. This is where simplicity is king. I usually like to serve it with some freshly made guacamole and a cold cerveza. If you want to add a bit more spice to your meal, I recommend serving some salsa on the side or some hot sauce.

Alternatively, try making chicken tacos for a lighter option or deep fried chalupas for something slightly more indulgent. You can also pair your puffy taco shells with some homemade tortilla chips on the side for extra crunch.

Overall, this dish is a true crowd-pleaser that will leave your guests coming back for seconds. Don’t be afraid to experiment and create new fillings! These tacos are so versatile the possibilities truly are endless.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 These shells may be puffy, but they won't weigh you down.
These shells may be puffy, but they won’t weigh you down.

When it comes to puffy taco shells, sometimes it’s nice to know that you can prepare them ahead of time without sacrificing their signature texture. If you want to make your puffy taco shells in advance for a quick and easy meal later on, I’ve got great news for you: they store beautifully!

To make your puffy tacos ahead of time, let the shells cool completely on a wire rack before storing them in resealable plastic bags. You can keep them at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. When you’re ready to eat them, simply reheat them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 5 minutes or until warm and crisp again.

If you have extra ground beef filling that you also want to save for later use, be sure to store it separately in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat it, cover it with foil and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.

Storing puffy taco shells is easy so you can enjoy these delightful tacos anytime at your convenience.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Impress your friends and family with your homemade taco shells.
Impress your friends and family with your homemade taco shells.

As a chef with years of experience, I’m here to share with you some tips and tricks to ensure that your puffy taco shell recipe comes out perfectly every time.

First things first: when preparing the masa dough for your puffy taco shells, make sure to use warm water rather than cold. Lukewarm water helps the masa harina absorb the liquid better, resulting in a smoother and more cohesive dough.

Next, it’s important to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes before shaping it into taco shells. This allows the gluten in the masa harina to relax, making it easier to work with and preventing the shells from shrinking too much during frying.

When shaping the dough into taco shells, be sure to keep them thin – around 1/16th of an inch or less. Thicker shells will not puff up as well, and may end up tough or chewy.

Speaking of frying, it’s crucial to maintain a consistent oil temperature of around 375 degrees Fahrenheit while cooking your puffy taco shells. If the oil is too cool, they won’t puff up properly; if it’s too hot, they may burn before fully cooked through.

To prevent overcrowding in the pot and ensure even cooking, fry your taco shells in batches of 2-3 at a time depending on their size. The shells should take about 30 seconds per side to cook through and turn golden brown.

Once fried, transfer your puffy taco shells to a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack to drain off excess oil. And finally, don’t forget to give them a sprinkle of salt while they’re still hot – after all, who doesn’t love a salty and crispy taco shell?

With these simple tips in mind, you’re ready to make perfect puffy tacos every time!

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this puffy taco shells recipe is a true culinary gem that is easy to make and guaranteed to satisfy those Southwestern cravings. With its humble ingredients, from masa harina to finely chopped ground beef, the recipe embodies the essence of classic San Antonio dishes like chalupas and deep-fried corn tortillas. Whether you want to impress your loved ones with a homemade taco or simply munch on some delicious puffy taco shells as an afternoon snack, this recipe is the perfect fit.

With so many customization options available, this recipe allows you to experiment with different fillings and toppings to create your unique take on the beloved puffy tacos. From chicken tacos to homemade tortillas and tortilla chips, the possibilities are endless. Plus, with our expert tips and advice, you can ensure perfect results every time.

So why not give it a shot? Don’t limit yourself to store-bought taco shells when you can make your own fresh and warm puffy taco shells right at home. Trust us; there’s nothing like biting into a crispy yet fluffy shell filled with all your favorite toppings. So gather your ingredients, heat up that oil, and let’s get cooking!

Puffy Taco Shells

Puffy Taco Shells Recipe

I actually saw these made on Bobby Flay’s "Throwdown" on the Food Network and couldn’t resist reposting this for future use. They’re simple to make and are a great way to mix things up on Taco Night!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer/Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 14 tacos
Calories 89.2 kcal


  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water


  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • When the dough is consistent begin rolling dough balls about the size of a ping pong ball.
  • Using a tortilla press that is lined in a thick plastic, press out the dough. You use the plastic (it can be a ziploc bag that has been cut) so that the dough does not stick to the tortilla press.
  • Meanwhile have a deep pot filled with cooking oil approximately 2 inches high and heated to 250 degrees.
  • Drop the flat tortilla in the hot oil and using a metal spatula repeatedly douse with the oil.
  • You will see that it will begin to puff up.
  • Flip it over and using the spatula make an indention in the middle of the tortilla to forma taco shape.
  • Remove from oil and allow to drain.
  • Fill with ground meat, shredded chicken, guacamole, bean and cheese or your favorite filling. Top with shredded lettuce and diced tomato.
  • Caution: Be very careful when making these. Make sure there is proper ventilation and do not allow the oil to get too hot. Also, if you can’t get your hands on a tortilla press then use a clean counter. You will still need the plastic so that the dough does not stick to the counter. Place your dough ball on the plastic and cover with more plastic and then using something heavy to press it out.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 884gCalories: 89.2kcalCarbohydrates: 18.6gProtein: 2.3gFat: 0.9gSaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 251.1mg
Keyword < 30 Mins, Deep Fried, Easy, Grains, Inexpensive, Mexican, Southwestern, Tex-Mex, Vegan
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

You’ll Also Like These Vegan Recipes

Kaye's Okra Fry Bread

Crispy Kaye’s Okra Fry Bread: A Southern Delight!

Posted on
As the saying goes, “you don’t make friends with salad,” and sometimes you just want to indulge in something hearty and delicious. Luckily, I have just the recipe to satisfy…
No Milk Bread Machine Potato Bread

Easy No Milk Bread Machine Potato Bread Recipe

Posted on
Welcome to my no milk bread machine potato bread recipe! I’m excited to share this recipe with you because it’s one of my all-time favorites. Making bread from scratch is…

Chef Chloe


Chloe is passionate about creating unique dishes that draw on the flavors of her favorite cultures. She loves experimenting with new ingredients and pushing the boundaries of traditional recipes. Her enthusiasm for cooking is infectious, and she is always eager to share her creations with friends and family.