The Best and Worst Taco Shell Options and How to Eat Them

The Best and Worst Taco Shell Options and How to Eat Them

The taco. The staple of Mexican cuisine. The thing that Tuesdays are named after. The taco has evolved from the simple days when the only battle you had to fight was hard or soft shell. But now there are many options for taco casings which range from god-level to can you even call this a taco?

Now that there are so many options for taco night which one do you choose? Do you go with the classic crispy corn shell taco, or do you try something different, like a pocket that looks like an ice cream cone? Or, you could be my family and just buy them all.

But in case you don’t want to spend a week’s worth of grocery money on taco shells, here’s a definitive ranking of all the taco options and how to use them.

Taco Pocket

taco pocket old el paso
Image: Old El Paso

I’ll give it to Old El Paso, they like to keep things interesting. The taco pocket has the potential to be one of the most mess-free taco options around. Although, don’t overfill it or it will burst. The taco pocket is basically a burrito with the bottom end sealed, allowing you to fill your taco like an ice cream cone. This is easier said than done.

Fortunately, the taco pocket box does provide instruction on the back of how to fill a tortilla pocket correctly. Unfortunately, no one in my family realised this and we all proceeded to create monstrosities out of our tacos.

So, here’s how to avoid that. If you’re looking for a balanced taco pocket the best thing you can do is layer your fillings. Use a spoon to spread your sauce on the inside of the pocket and then layer your meat and vegetable choices from back to front. This is not the easiest but can be much more rewarding. The other option that worked for me was to pre-mix my fillings on a plate and then pile them into the taco pocket.

You could also sit your pocket upright and layer your fillings from bottom to top, but you’ll end up with individual mouthfuls of cheese, lettuce, meat etc as your work your way down. So, in my opinion, not the superior taco pocket experience.

Stand and Stuff Tortilla

old el paso stand and stuff tortilla
Image: Old El Paso

The stand and stuff tortilla, or what I like to call the taco boat, is another soft taco option. The tortilla lifts on all sides to form a wall, allowing you to easily build up your taco fillings. This one is basically a self-standing taco in the soft variety.

No complaints here — easy to fill, easy to eat. Occasionally, the tortilla taste does overpower the other flavours but it’s a small price to pay. You should be aware not to pile up your boat as high as possible because this will make it very difficult to eat. But on the whole, a stand-up taco option.

Soft Shell Taco

soft shell taco
Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post via Getty Images

We’re back at the old debate: hard or soft shell taco. No matter which you choose, mess ensues.

The battle for the hard or soft taco basically comes down to taste. Do you like the crunchy corn flavour of nachos? Or do you like the tortilla taste of a burrito? The taco is Mexican cuisine that lets you go either way.

Soft tacos can come in standard or mini sizes. Or you can upgrade to a normal wrap size but at that point, you’re just eating a burrito.

There is an art to filling a soft shell taco. The advantage is that you can shape and hold a soft taco much easier around your fillings than a hard shell. Overall they are delicious, particularly if your tortilla is warmed up or slightly toasted.

Hard Shell Taco

image of hard shell tacos
Photo by L. Fritz/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Sorry non-believers, but the hard shell taco is the end-all of tacos. If you’re looking for a taco emoji it’s gonna bring up a hard shell taco. End of story.

The hard shell taco is extremely messy to eat, but that’s also part of the joy. They do indeed have a balancing problem, which is why stand ‘n’ stuff is the genius invention saving taco fillings everywhere. There’s also stand and stuff nacho cheese variety, which is fine if you want to feel like you’re eating a Dorito at the same time.

Hard shell tacos have that satisfying crunch sensation, as the shell cracks and all your carefully prepared fillings spill out the bottom. Overstuff or understuff it doesn’t matter because it all ends up on your plate in the end. But there is a sense of achievement when you perfectly layer your taco and it doesn’t fall over. Hard shell tacos are messy, tasty and a unique shape — everything a taco should be.

No matter which type of taco you prefer, we can all agree they are simply the best. And at the end of the day, we should all remember the Old El Paso girl’s mantra: porqué no los dos. Why not both?

This article has been updated since its original publication.

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