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Sunday, May 17, 2020

How to Make Crispy Taco Shells (You’re Welcome)

Two years ago I finally got my hands on fresh masa and learned how to make fresh masa corn tortillas. I thought at that point I had outdone myself when it came to homemade tacos. Then COVID-19 lockdown happened and I wasn’t hitting the tortilleria every week for fresh masa. Because I only had access to already-cooked corn tortillas, I thought to myself, “Self, what could make these store-bought corn tortillas taste better?” And then myself was like, “Self, fry them.” And that is how I figured out how to make crispy taco shells and, honestly, I think it might even be better than fresh masa corn tortillas…and I do NOT say that lightly.  

Picture of ground beef tacos inside homemade crispy taco shells

(I must admit that Jack In the Box tacos also inspired me to make these crispy taco shells at home. I know, Jack the bobble head inspired me in the kitchen. I’m as surprised as you are.)

Top view of ground beef tacos inside homemade crispy taco shells with hot sauce

For real, please don’t ever buy crispy taco shells at the store ever again. Buy corn tortillas and fry them. They really truly are the most delicious crispy taco shells you will ever eat. And they are fast to make. And unlike most frying recipes, you don’t use that much oil so clean up is easy, too.

Step-by-step photos for how to make crispy taco shells

The photos above show the step-by-step process for how to make crispy taco shells, and the details are explained in the recipe below. Below is a photo of what they look like fresh out of the pan! Enjoy!

Homemade crispy tacos shells on a plate, two empty two with meat

How to Make Crispy Taco Shells
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Oil for frying (something with a high smoke-point and neutral flavor: peanut and vegetable, for example; I used avocado oil and it worked great perfect)
  1. I find the tacos are at their most delicious when you add the taco meat to the taco shell immediately after frying. I like to set up my taco shell frying station like so: Stack of corn tortillas, tongs, pot with oil on the stove, large plate lined with paper towels, taco meat. (This recipe for Cora's Ground Beef Taco Meat is amazing, but you could put any kind of meat for tacos in here: steak, chicken, whatever!)
  2. Add oil to a medium-large pot. It doesn't need to be that deep - it should cover the bottom of the pan and then add a bit more, probably about ⅛" - ¼" deep.
  3. Heat oil over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. A drop of water in the oil should sizzle.
  4. Using tongs, place one tortilla into the oil and let fry on the first side for 5-10 seconds.
  5. Flip the tortilla. Let it fry on the second side for just a couple seconds, then using your tongs sort of fold the tortilla in half. When I do this, I hold the folded half that is out of the oil up a little so you get kind of a flat bottom to the taco shell, if that makes sense. As it fries it will start to hold its shape on its own.
  6. Once the shell is holding its shape (this happens quickly), flip it over. I kind of push the side of the shell that's in the oil down into the oil so that the inside of the shell is frying, too. Just keep flipping and pressing until the shell starts to brown lightly.
  7. Once shell is done frying, remove form oil, let drip onto the paper towels, then set down on the paper towel-lined plate. Fill immediately with meat.
  8. For each shell, frying time total is only around 30 seconds or so. They fry up quickly!




  1. 1
    Greg H.

    Better than fresh masa tortillas — that’s a pretty bold statement, Jane! 😉
    I agree with you about Jack’s tacos/taco shells. They are the best tacos out there, mostly because of their shells (and their taco sauce) — had them for lunch last week (first time in a while).

  2. 2

    This sounds like exactly what I need in my life. I can’t wait to try!

  3. 3

    We usually have tacos at home about once a week – it’s a family favorite. I’ve always used just the soft shells, but this is a game changer! Thanks Jane!

  4. 4

    You are ridiculous! You take the trouble to give a recipe and say you buy them ready … Americans …

    • Hi Max. I do make corn tortillas from fresh masa often and I love those homemade, fresh tortillas very much.

      This post is sharing a technique for how to fry corn tortillas if you’d like to serve them that way. This technique works for both homemade or store-bought corn tortillas. If one has time to make the tortillas from scratch, that’s great! But if people are short on time, frying up store-bought tortillas is a great option. I was happy to learn this cooking technique myself and excited to share with others.

    • Simon Motin

      What an awful comment – why is it ridiculous? – It is just an idea to elevate something that can be bought. It doesn’t make the claim of being anything other than what it is.

  5. 5
    Dannii Grima

    These look amazing, trying them out tonight.

  6. 6
    Yliyah S Hawkins

    Really liked your recipe for the ease of
    Following it. The taco shells turned out incredible for taste and super crunch. I used a 6 inch in store brand tortilla at pennies per shell. Tomatoes, lettuce onions and shredded Jack cheese were added to chicken ( pollo) with taco seasoning topped with homemade Salsa verse. TO DIE FOR!!!!

  7. 7
    Nellie Duat

    Imy shells used t look come crispy now they get like sogy and can’t bite them I am so fustraated

  8. My tacos shells used to come out crispy now they come out soggy can’t. Bite through them what can I do?

    • Hi Nellie!

      Sounds like you need to cook them longer. If you find they are getting too dark by the time they are crispy, lower the heat. If you don’t cook long enough they will get soggy. Good luck!

  9. 9
    Antonio Quidgley

    It’s a lot better if you fry them in lard, like the Mexican do.

  10. 10

    I tried your recipe with store bought corn and flour tortillas. They turned out crispy and delicious. Thank you

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