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National Taco Day

Tacos are a very old food innovation. Long before Europeans landed in Mexico, there’s historic evidence of people enjoying tacos near Mexico City; over the centuries a long tradition of street food and classic cooking alike centered around tacos has evolved in Mexico and elsewhere.

National Taco Day will be celebrated Wednesday, October 4, 2023 making this year extra special with National Taco Day falling on Taco Tuesday!

In the United States, National Taco Day is October 4. This fun annual observance celebrates all things related to enjoying tacos. It’s not a federal holiday with school closures and down-days for the stock market, but it does mark some important contributions overall to American culture using the taco as a metaphor for what happens when two or more cultures collide in awesome ways.

Scroll Down for a List of Taco Recipes ⬇

National Taco Day

A Brief History Of National Taco Day

Gustavo Arellano’s 2013 book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, notes that the saga of National Taco Day begins in San Antonio, Texas during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was sent a giant taco (more than 50 pounds!) by Roberto Gomez, who was trying to raise awareness about the Hispanic community’s contributions to America.

This public relations gimmick was so successful that some credit it being part of the inspiration to form the National Taco Council.

Enter National Taco Week

After the giant taco stunt, the National Taco Council got to work trying to convince San Antonio political leaders to have the week leading up to Cinco de Mayo proclaimed as National Taco Week. National Taco week wound up happening, thanks in part to Congressman Henry Gonzalez announcing the week during a session of Congress in 1968.

And that achievement led to discussions of National Taco Month. Some sources report that in 1974, a few corporate entities tried to start a month-long celebration of the taco, but when Roberto Gomez died in 1983, the momentum seemed to be lost and National Taco Month just…faded away.

Taco Bell and Del Taco Versus National Taco Day

Over time many chain restaurants tried to step in to make National Taco Day their own special holiday. These Taco Day suitors included Taco Bell. Texas fast-food stalwart Taco Cabana, with its headquarters San Antonio (in the birthplace of National Taco Day) managed to “land” October 4th as the official Taco Day in the United States.

There likely was no rhyme or reason why October 4 simply caught on, but the revival being based at least in part in San Antonio likely didn’t hurt.

But some suggest that Del Taco may have also had a hand in the establishment of October 4 as Taco Day. The revival of the day itself seems to have gotten its start in 2004, with Taco Day gaining some major cultural traction circa 2009 and beyond.

Whatever the reality is, it’s great to have a day you can use as an excuse to eat more tacos.

Celebrating National Taco Day

The obvious choice for celebrating this holiday is to eat more tacos. But learning how to make them, traditionally or otherwise, is also a great way to expand your horizons. Up your taco game with your favorite recipe or learn some new ones! There are too many taco varieties to count but you could consider using the following protein options in a hard shell or a soft tortilla:

  • Al pastor (pork)
  • Barbacoa (lamb, beef, or goat)
  • Carne asada (steak)
  • Carnitas (pork)
  • Chorizo (pork sausage)
  • Lengua (beef tongue)
  • Pescado (fish)
  • Pollo (chicken)
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan

When making soft tacos at home, it’s good to toast the tortillas a bit in a frying pan, and garnish your tacos with a twist of lime. If you use avocado or guacamole in your tacos, be sure to use some citrus (lemon, lime or a combination of the two) to prevent your guac or avocado slices from turning brown due to oxidation. Brown avocados are a bit like brown bananas–technically edible but fairly unappetizing.

Taco deals on National Taco Day are also a great way to celebrate. Do you have a locally owned mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant near you? If you do, it may be a great idea to support them in general but ESPECIALLY on National Taco Day. There may be local specials and even discounts offered from national and regional chains like Chuy’s or Del Taco.

If you have a favorite taco joint that has a rewards program, check to see if there are any expanded benefits or perks for buying on National Taco Day. You may also find some establishments take Taco Day a lot farther, offering specials for the entire month of October. Others might not, but the luck of the draw might bring some great taco deals your way.

Taco Day At National Chains

Did you know there are nearly 100 national chains of Mexican restaurants in the United States? That’s an impressive number. Those chains include, but are definitely NOT limited to the following:

  • Taco Bell        
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • Qdoba Mexican Grill
  • Del Taco
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill
  • El Pollo Loco
  • Taco John’s – Free taco with purchase on 10/4/22
  • Taco Cabana
  • Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
  • Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill
  • Taco Bueno   
  • Taco Del Mar
  • On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
  • Freebird’s World Burrito
  • Tijuana Flats Burrito Company
  • Taco Mayo
  • La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill
  • Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina
  • Alberto’s Mexican Food
  • Panchero’s Mexican Grill
  • Filiberto’s Mexican Food
  • Café Rio
  • El Chico Mexican Café          
  • Chevys Fresh Mex
  • Pepe’s Mexican Restaurants
  • Chuy’s
  • El Charro Mexican Restaurant
  • Rosa’s Cafe Tortilla Factory
  • Azteca Mexican Restaurants
  • California Tortilla

Taco Recipes for National Taco Day

Want to celebrate National Taco Day with, um, tacos? Here are some great taco recipes to try.

See our Big List of National Food Holidays & Observances

Monique McArthur
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