Tacolicious Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails, and More

A collection of recipes for fun, accessible taqueria fare–including colorful salsas, tasty snacks, irresistible cocktails, and of course tacos galore–from the wildly popular San Francisco restaurants and acclaimed Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market food stand, Tacolicious.

Tacos may be the most universally loved, happy-making food on earth. After all, who can say no to a juicy, spicy Chile verde taco; a decadently deep-fried Baja-style fish taco; or a gloriously porky Carnitas taco? At Tacolicious, the San Francisco Bay Area’s most popular Mexican restaurant, tacos are a way of life. And now, in this hotly anticipated cookbook, co-owner Sara Deseran shares all of the restaurant’s tortilla-wrapped secrets. Whether you’re seeking quick and easy weeknight meals or inspiration for a fabulous fiesta, Tacolicious has you covered. With recipes for showstopping salsas, crave-worthy snacks, cocktails and mocktails, and, of course, tacos galore, this festive collection is chock-full of real Mexican flavor—with a delicious California twist.

“The restaurant Tacolicious doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love it for that. From delightfully non-traditional recipes such as chile con queso to Yucatán salsas with serious street cred, Tacolicious unapologetically combines Californian and Mexican influences. It may not be ‘classic’ Mexican, but who cares? It’s tasty stuff.”
Jake Godby, co-owner of  Humphry Slocombe

“Tacolicious makes consistently delicious Mexican food and solid cocktails, and now with this book, home cooks can do the same. Things I crave: their deliciously minty salsa, carnitas tacos topped with bright cilantro and white onion, and—true confession—their chile con queso dip. Let’s call it my guilty pleasure.”
Michael Tusk, chef/owner of Quince and Cotogna

“Tacolicious is my favorite after-work snack and tequila stop, and this cookbook lets readers who aren’t lucky enough to live in the neighborhood recreate the restaurant experience in their own homes.”
Craig Stoll, chef/owner of Delfina

Roasted tomato–mint salsa

Guajillo-braised beef short rib taco

Roasted tomato–mint salsa
roasted tomato mint salsa

Served with chips, this is the salsa that greets you when you sit down at Tacolicious. We make others, of course, but this is the one that seems to hit home with everyone. Although the ingredients are mostly expected, the uplifting note of fresh mint keeps diners guessing. The recipe was inspired by a chef whom Joe came of age with—Reed Hearon, one of San Francisco’s former greats who cooked at Restaurant LuLu and Cafe Marimba. In our house, Hearon’s cookbook, La Parrilla, is well worn and loved. Don’t just limit this salsa to chips. It also pairs wonderfully with Bistec adobado (page 110), Carnitas (page 124), and Achiote-rubbed grilled chicken (page 134).

Makes about 21/2 cups

6 small Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 small jalapeño chile,
Stemmed 1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons packed chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Position a rack on the top level of the oven, about 4 inches from the broiler.

Turn on the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the tomato halves, cut side down; the onion slices; and the chile on the prepared baking sheet and broil for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and a bit charred. Let cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, combine the roasted vegetables and any juices from the pan with the vinegar, cilantro, mint, and salt and pulse until the mixture is almost, but not quite, smooth. If necessary, add up to 1/4 cup water to achieve a consistency similar to that of a thick soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Serve now or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To puree or to chop, that is the question

At the restaurant, we go through so much of this salsa that pureeing it in a food processor is the only way to make enough. But it’s fun to play around with the texture of just about any salsa. At home, try processing your salsas less or more for a chunkier or smoother result. Or, if you’re not making a huge batch, try skipping the food processor altogether, get out the cutting board and chopping knife, and go old-school. A roughly chopped salsa has a completely different personality from a pureed one.

Guajillo-braised beef short rib taco
guajillo braised beef short rib taco

Everyone has his or her favorite Tacolicious taco, but this is mine, hands down. These short ribs cooked slowly with guajillos break down into the perfect braised meat: rich, a tad spicy, and appropriately messy—a true sign of greatness. You can ask your butcher to bone the ribs for you, or you can just cook them with the bone in and then bone them before shredding the meat. You’ll need 5 pounds of bone-in short ribs to yield the required 3 pounds of meat. This dish can be on the spicy side, so if you’re really sensitive to heat, cut back a little on the chiles.



8 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless beef short ribs
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 (12-ounce) bottle Negro Modelo or other dark
Mexican beer
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
11/2 tablespoons dried
Mexican oregano
11/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup water
Corn tortillas, warmed (see page 108), for serving
Chopped white onion,
chopped fresh cilantro, salsa of choice, and lime wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Working in two batches if necessary to avoid crowding, lightly toast all of the chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 30 seconds on each side, until fragrant but not blackened. Set them aside on a plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches to avoid crowding, add the meat and sear for about 3 minutes on each side, until the pieces have formed a uniformly browned crust. Add more oil to the pot as needed to prevent scorching. As the pieces are ready, set them aside on a plate.

Add the onion to the same same pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour in the beer, add the toasted chiles, and turn down the heat to low.

Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the chiles have softened and are pliable. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and reserve the pot. Add the cumin, pepper, oregano, salt, and water to the blender and blend the mixture on high speed until smooth and the consistency of cream, adding more water if needed to thin the mixture a bit.

Return the seared meat to the pot and pour in the chile mixture. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork-tender.

Remove from the oven and, using tongs or a couple of forks, shred the meat in the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, salsa, and lime.


Reprinted with permission from Tacolicious, by Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave, copyright © 2014, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Alex Farnum

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