Fajitas and tacos may appear to be the same thing at first glance.
After all, they can be generalized as meat and vegetables and wrapped in a tortilla. However, despite some similarities, they each have their distinct position in Mexican cuisine.
Knowing the differences between them can help you make more informed menu selections when dining out. You can also make your own cuisine more authentic and delicious.
Thus, you can always impress your Mexican friend with this knowledge. So, get ready to discover the differences between taco vs fajita as listed below.
A fajita is any stripped grilled meat served on a flour or corn tortilla with stripped pepper and onions in Tex-Mex cuisine (the fusion between Mexican and southern American dishes).
In Spanish, the name “fajita” means “small belts,” and it solely refers to meat from the skirt steak (even though the word is used to reference all kinds of fillings in the U.S., like chicken or seafood). Hence, the phrase originally referred to the cut of meat used in the dish.
The meat for this dish is usually skirt-steak. Yet, the options are limitless. Chicken and various cuts of beef are also regularly utilized. Also, vegetables can be used in place of meat if you choose the vegetarian option.
Meat is frequently sautéed with onions and bell peppers before being topped with shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, and diced tomato. With this way of cooking and eating, fajita is the ideal filling for taco and tortillas. Yet, the important thing to remember is that fajita is but the way meat is cooked.
The taco is a traditional Mexican cuisine consisting of corn or wheat tortillas topped with a filling. After that, the tortilla is folded around the filling and eaten with one hand. Tacos are a popular type of antojitos, or Mexican street cuisine, that has become popular all over the world.
The word “taco” means “wadding” or “plug” in Spanish, referring to the way the tortilla is folded over the meat and ingredients. Tacos, unlike fajitas, frequently include more than just grilled meat with peppers and onions. Instead, they can be filled with ground meat, meat strips, beans, eggs, or almost anything else.
A taco can be filled with a variety of ingredients, such as beef, pork, chicken, fish, beans, veggies, and cheese, giving it a lot of versatility. In addition, they are frequently topped with condiments like salsa, guacamole, or sour cream, as well as veggies like lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and chiles.
As you can see from this brief introduction, meat is only a part of the popular taco.
Fajita Vs Taco: 3 Key Differences
The boundary between the two can be unclear at times, especially when you can make fajita tacos by combining the two. While tacos have become practically endless in their variety, fajitas are still typically cooked with grilled meat and vegetables.
The taco’s origin dates back to the invasion of Mexico by the Spaniards. According to anthropological evidence, the traditional form of tacos packed with little fish was the staple of indigenous peoples in the Valley of Mexico’s lake region.
At present, tacos are a type of antojitos, or Mexican street cuisine, that is widely loved. In addition, the stuffing becomes much more diversified.
Meanwhile, the first trace of fajita (the cut of beef used and the cooking technique) dates back to the 1930s in the ranchlands of South and West Texas.
At this time, people cut meat into strips and directly grill it over a campfire or on a grill. For a long period, the dish did not travel far from its birthplace. Luckily, a meat market manager opened the first fajita taco stand in 1969, bringing this way of cooking to the masses.
In fajitas, the meat is generally mixed with grilled or sauteed peppers and onions that are chopped into similar-sized strips. Although fajitas are usually served with tortillas and can easily be made into a taco, the meat is always the main focus.
Meanwhile, the vegetables in tacos are frequently chopped or sliced and served uncooked as a topping. In this way, meat is but the filling of taco and has to work with other ingredients.
Thus, meat is by no means a crucial ingredient in taco and can be replaced by others. If you want your taco to be vegetarian, you can get rid of the meat altogether. A taco is like a sandwich in which any filling may work.
Thus, fajitas are usually cooked in a specific way, while any grilled meat would work with a taco. Slices of beef (or any kinds of meat) are often sautéed with bell peppers and onions to make proper fajita. This is what makes fajita a fajita. If the grilled meat comes in its whole piece, chances are it is carne asada instead of fajita that you are having.
Because fajita spice contains more citric acid, the meal will have a sour, acidic flavor. Thus, garlic powder is used in fajitas, but not tacos. Hence, the tastes are by no means identical.
In traditional Mexican cuisine, fajitas also have a distinct red color. You can marinate fajita with a taco seasoning with the addition of garlic powder to replicate the taste of fajita. Yet, this way won’t give you the same color and the same taste if you are looking for the authentic fajita.
Moreover, fajitas usually have the earthy cumin flavor, while tacos add more chili powder for its distinct taste.
Yet, despite the difference, you can always use your fajita to make a delicious fajita taco.
Are taco and fajita seasoning the same?
Since the tastes of the two dishes are different, the answer is no. Although taco seasoning is convenient and widely available, we will not recommend this mix for your homemade fajita.
Why is Mexican fajita meat red?
Annatto, also known as Achiote (Seeds from the Achiote Tree), is the source of this distinct red hue. To replicate this color, you can add a packet of Sazon (find it in your local supermarket) to your seasonings. Another option is to buy premade red Fajita seasoning at several Mexican Meat stores for the most authentic look and taste.
Is the chicken taco a fajita?
Fajitas with grilled chicken strips are a more modern variation on the classic dish. Hence, depending on the way the chicken strips inside your taco are cooked, it can be fajita or not. Fajita has its specific cooking method above.
What is the difference between tortilla and fajita?
Tortilla is but the thin wrapping for tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and many other foods. This wrapping is made from corn flour or wheat flour.
Meanwhile, fajitas contain grilled meats or vegetables that are typically served with grilled onions, bell peppers, guacamole, sour cream, and jalapenos.
Fajita can be served with tortilla, and tortilla makes excellent wrapping for the fajita as well. Yet, the difference, as you can see, is quite significant. Fajitas are meat cooked in a certain way, and tortillas are wrappings. So don’t get confused now that you have had the answer to this question.
By the end of this article, hope that you’ve got all the necessary information to distinguish fajita vs taco.
Remember, fajita is the meat cooked in a specific way, and taco is a Mexican wrapping with various fillings. Thus, fajita has a distinct red hue, while not all the meat inside your taco wrap will have this color.
Next time you get confused between the two, look closely at your dish, spot the distinction, and see whether the central stage is the meat or the whole wrapping.
Mariana Rouco is the editor-in-chief of Elpasony.com. She loves traveling and writing about foods and cooking in general. She has a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Chinese cuisines the most.