There are a lot of places to get tacos in every relatively large city. From a full-blown Mexican restaurant to a Taco Bell or John's. There are also so many ways to actually MAKE a taco. But what is the best taco? And no, I don't mean what restaurant has the best, I mean, off all the way to make one, what's the best? Well for us Iowans, there's an answer to that question and, it's a (perhaps) unsurprisingly Americanized way to prepare a taco.

Iowans are picky about their tacos, but are they authentic?

When you think Iowa, you likely don't think, "oh, there's a state with TONS of authentic Mexican food!" But, you'd be surprised when you see what an authentic taco is, just how many local Mexican eateries nail it. While an Iowan's favorite taco is not quite how having tacos made authentically should be, it's not as far off as other states. First off, we need to define what is an authentic taco, right? Let's use the website Mashed for this. Here is what they say makes a taco authentic:

  • Corn tortilla
  • SOFT shell (tortilla), not hard
  • Protein is usually pork-based but can be beef - just not ground beef
  • Filled with homemade salsa (or fresh pico de gallo), not taco sauce
  • Does not contain shredded cheese
  • Authentic tacos only ever have two or three ingredients (not counting the tortilla)
  • Splashed with freshly squeezed lime

Alriiiighty, now that we've settled what is an authentic taco, how do Iowans like their taco made? The website Gurney's says we want our tacos to include the following:

  • Soft flour tortilla
  • Protein is ground beef
  • Other toppings include lettuce, cheese, and sour cream

So if we compare we see that our favorite taco is a soft tortilla made from flour (odd as Iowa produces so much corn). That's half authentic, right? We then use ground beef. Beef is acceptable as an authentic ingredient, but not so much ground beef.

A very authentic tacos -- Photo by Christine Siracusa on Unsplash
A very authentic taco -- Photo by Christine Siracusa on Unsplash


So again, half-credit... maybe one-quarter credit. Then last, we have our toppings. We like lettuce, cheese, and sour cream. None of which appear on an authentic taco. Oh, and where's the pico? Alas, our taco loses big points here and is, therefore, an Americanized taco and not authentic.

How do other states like their tacos?

Of the 50 states, 46 want cheese on their tacos. Not authentic (but very tasty). Most states, 35, like ground beef as their protein just like Iowa. Again, not authentic. And last, 41 states want those flour tortillas which, are not authentic. Iowa falls into the pretty standard, Americanized taco. Despite this, show me one person who would turn down either of the options, authentic vs. Iowa? That would be criminal.

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