The wonderful thing about innovation in tacos is that it’s a continuum—an infinite push forward into creative, appealing ways to make this fan-favorite format exciting and new. It shares that rarefied air with other always-popular menu items like sandwiches and burgers. With tacos, anything goes today. We’re seeing seriously inventive takes on classic proteins, like a lamb carnitas or a tandoori pulled chicken.
On the plant-based side, chefs are moving well beyond the perfunctory veggie taco, harnessing instead the wild innovation fueling the veg-centric movement, then tucking it all into a craveable, no-trade-down taco. At Big Star, a Mexican street-food restaurant in Chicago, the Yuba Guisado Taco stars tofu ribbons smothered in a spicy guajillo salsa, topped with white onion and cilantro.
“Having an actual vegan taco on the menu that anyone (vegan or not) can enjoy is unique,” says Julie Warpinski, chef de cuisine. “The process of marinating the tofu ribbons in the guajillo salsa and charring it on the plancha creates this meat-like texture that does not fit any tofu stigma. Combine that with the style of a normal taqueria taco, and it’s just as delicious as a meat option.”
And that’s how the taco trend is evolving—ensuring a craveable, modern taco that features complex, thoughtful flavor building. Other examples here come from concepts like the newly opened plant-based Mexican eatery in Las Vegas, Tacotarian, which promises to “turn Vegas vegan one taco at a time” with items like the Barbacoa Taco, starring jackfruit, onion and cilantro, the Avocado Baja Taco, with beer-battered avocado, cilantro and lime slaw, and the Veggie Taco with roasted poblano, mushroom, onion, lettuce, mashed potato, pico de gallo and cilantro-lime dressing.
On The Menu: Tacos
- Vegan Taco with pinto beans, tofu, diced onion, cabbage, cilantro, topped with a lime wedge
—Moe’s Southwest Grill, based in Atlanta
- Hibiscus & Guac Taco: Sautéed hibiscus and guacamole
—Hunger Street Tacos, Winter Park, Fla.
- Kale con Arroz Taco: Braised kale and rice, roasted tomato salsa, pico, queso
—Santa Rosa Taqueria, Washington, D.C.