Tacos de canasta, literally, “basket tacos”

It took me awhile to warm up to tacos de canasta. They’re the soft, steamed tacos sold on the street, and they’re usually stacked in cloth-covered basket.

Unlike at the regular street taco stands, where the vendors are furiously chopping meat or dunking flautas in a fryer, nothing really happens at a tacos de canasta stand. A man, or woman, stands under an umbrella next to a basket. The end.

I didn’t try them for months, because the idea of eating food that’s been sitting in a basket all day sounded kinda gross. But then one day Alice mentioned that they were her favorite. Her eyes rolled back in her head as she described this specific tacos de canasta stand near the Chapultepec Metro. (“Oh my god, they are so good.”) I tried them for the first time shortly afterward, at a stand in Tlalpan.

I’d chosen an potato and rajas taco, and the vendor lifted up a section of the cloth and handed me an oily taco that looked nearly translucent in the middle. I was momentarily disappointed (is this going to taste like a mouthful of grease?) but then I bit into it. The potatoes and rajas had been stewed into this soft mixture that you barely had to chew. It was the taco equivalent of baby food. I loved it, because it was comforting and simple, and sometimes you need a break from all that chopped meat on the street.

I’ve eaten tacos de canasta a few more times since then. Last week, I finally visited La Abuela, a crowded tacos de canasta stand in my neighborhood. The vendor is an old man who wears a newsboy cap, and he stands underneath a red umbrella. He has this weathered, kind face, like the stereotypical grandfather character in the movies. Every time I walk by, I steal a glance at him and think: he’s so cute.

He’s not smiling here, but I promise, when he does, it’s kind of adorable.

La Abuela has a pretty extensive variety for a street stand. Crayton and I chose the frijol, papa, tinga, chicken with mole, and cochinita pibil.

All of them had been cooked in the way that I remembered: oily tortilla, stuffed with a soft, stewed filling.

The cochinita and the potato were the best — the former with just a slight whisper of spices, and the potatoes, mashed to smithereens so that they slid down your throat with this kind of slick earthiness. They reminded me of the potatoes my great-grandmother used to make. She would slice them and fry them in lard, and then let them drain on paper towels for hours and hours, until they were so soft you could practically mash them with a fork.

I would highly recommend La Abuela if you’re in the neighborhood. The stand is located at the corner of Rio Rhin and Rio Lerma in Col. Cuauhtémoc, and it’s open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. La Abuela also has other branches around the city, and they offer home delivery, if you’re having a party.

If you’re interested in making your own tacos de canasta, this site has pretty extensive instructions, including recipes for various fillings and how to properly line your basket to keep the warmth in.

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17 Responses to “Tacos de canasta, literally, “basket tacos””
  1. alice

    We have to go out for gorditas. Have you tried them? There’s this great place in Revolución near San Antonio (where the Segundo Piso ends).

    Also, now that Alice is back I’ll take you for yucatecan food. I’ll email her and see if we can set a date.

  2. Leslie Limon

    I love tacos de canasta! I have a cute “chiquihuite” that I use to steam my tacos in my vaporera (tamale pot). And it’s a great way to use leftovers! :D

  3. Joy

    Jesica has a great food poisoning story related to tacos de canasta.

  4. Alice

    Oh, I *heart* that picture! Even with that game face, I still want to give him a great big ‘ole hug.

  5. mary claire

    I love that they have a website– and, holy crap, a “plant.” This says so much about how deceiving the humble taco stand can be.

    I also love that there is one near my job in Vallejo Industrial. I’ll definitely try em out. Will report back to you.

  6. laurenquinn

    That dude is so adorable! I can only hope the future Mr. Quinn ages to something so awesome.

    Another great post, another hungry me…

  7. Don Cuevas

    The tacos de canasta I’ve sampled in Pátzcuaro are reminiscent of little puddings. Sort of like tamales wrapped in paper. Are these the same as “tacos al vapor”, which is what they are called here?

    There’s one particular cart in front of the Biblioteca Gertrudis Bocanegra. The condiments you apply al gusto are the bomb. There are the nearly obligatory hot pickled carrots and onions and there’s that dark, oily chile condiment that lifts the tacos from street level to the rooftops.

    Last time I had some, I think they were 5 pesos each. I could be mistaken.

    I only eat these but rarely, as they are so rich and seemingly loaded with grasa.

    Apart from the tacos de canasta/al vapor, I’m curious what goes into the other street treat of very crisp, dark colored folded (yes, folded) taco shells with seemingly cold foods, possibly frijoles. There are condiments here, but different.

    That’s it! I resolve to try a couple next time I have the opportunity

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

    • Lesley

      Don Cuevas: I think tacos de canasta are the same as tacos al vapor. Next time I’m in Patzcuaro, definitely going to try the ones in front of the Gertrudis library. Thanks for the tip!

  8. ade1a

    Hi Lesley, I’m a Mexican-American–born and educated in D.F.–living in New York City and I came to your blog by chance. I just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog. In particular, since I was unable to go to Mexico for the holidays this year, your description of all the delicious things I would usually have when I visit fills my heart with joy…and a little envy. I look forward to reading more of your adventures. Have you tried gorditas de requesón? If not, you must! And I highly recommend going to the quesadilla and gordita stand in the Mercado de Coyoacán, where you can also have esquites, if you like.

    • Lesley

      Hi Adela: So glad you found my blog! I’m honored that you’ve been able to connect with your culture through some of my posts. I have not tried gorditas de requesón, but they are now officially on my list. Love the Mercado de Coyoacán — I’m overdue for a visit!

  9. Ashley

    love the pack of cigarettes La Abuela has tied to his umbrella! classic!

  10. malcolm

    wow these are fantastic, i just went for some, cochinita pibil was all they had but that was all i needed. thanks for the suggestion!

  11. Chilangoso

    Hi Lesley, nice reco, I’ll get some Tacos de la Abuela one of these days. Cheers ;)

  12. leticia

    MEPUEDES DAR LARESETA PORFABOR GRASIAS

    • Lesley

      Hola Leticia: Perdón pero no tengo una receta de como hacer los tacos de canasta. (El punto de la nota en el blog era compartir de lo que son estos tipos de tacos, y recomendar un lugar en la zona donde se los puede comprar.) Puse un vínculo en la nota, no sé si lo viste, pero este website si tiene receta: http://www.sahuaromex.com/servicios/receta.php?id=27

      Suerte!

  13. Navanakamura

    Excelente Post ! Y te lo comparto yo que vivo en el DF, conozco muchos lugares donde venden (y he comido) Tacos de Canasta. Me encantan :D

  14. La Abuela

    Hi
    Lesley, i just read your post about our Tacos de Canasta, thanks for you great comments.

    we posted it in our facebook page,

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Azcapotzalco-Mexico/La-Abuela-Tacos-Finos-de-Canasta/162562173799398

    dont forget to clik “like”

    Saludos!!

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