Who Invented Taquitos? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Taquitos literally means ”little tacos.” It is important to establish this, so you do will not be confused when the article mentions tacos and taquitos, since the two dishes are related, although there are slight differences. Despite the Mexican-sounding name, taquito is an American invention, because a Mexican immigrant who had a handmade tortilla factory conceived it in California. 

If you love American-Mexican cuisine, you will find the history and evolution of taquitos very interesting. 

Who invented taquitos?

In the way it is prepared and served today, the recognized inventor of taquitos is Ralph Pesqueira, Sr., a tortilla factory owner. He coined the word taquito, which means, ”little taco.”

Taquitos’ key contributors (and evolution)

  • Miners at Mexican silver mines

    Taco was one of the foods eaten by miners at Mexico’s silver mines in the 19th century. It was the first true type taco, and they called it “taco de minero.” Mexican immigrants brought taco to the U.S. in 1908. The taco hard shell was an American invention, to prolong the taco shell’s shelf life. 

  • Aurora Guerrero and Natalia Guerrero
    Homemade taquito recipe

    According to records, Aurora Guerrero worked to create her recipe for taquitos that she sold in her small food stand at Olvera Street in 1934. Her taquito recipe includes guacamole sauce. Her daughter, Natalia, continued what her mother started, and taquitos are still served using her mother’s unique recipe at their restaurant, Cielito Lindo. 

  • Ralph Pesqueira, Sr.
    Taquito invention

    Although Aurora Guerrero developed her own taquito recipe, Ralph Pesqueira, Sr. claimed to be the inventor of the taquito in 1940. He used to run a tortilla company until his customers persistently asked him to serve prepared food items. Some say that Pesqueira, Sr. developed taquitos to increase the sales of his tortillas. 

  • Glenn Bell
    Taco Bell

    Glenn Bell brought taco to the mainstream market by establishing Taco Bell in 1962. He rode on the demand for the American versions of Mexican food that many non-Mexicans craved. As of August 2022, there are 7,639 Taco Bell locations across the U. S.

  • Van de Kamp
    Frozen taquitos

    Frozen food manufacturer, Van de Kamp, started selling frozen taquitos in 1976. Taquitos were one of the early Mexican food items developed as frozen food. The U.S. government determined that frozen taquitos should have at least 15 percent meat. 

When were taquitos invented?

It is claimed that taquitos were invented in August 1940.

A brief history of taquitos

It is impossible to discuss the history of taquitos without mentioning the advent of Mexican cuisine in the U.S., tortillas, tacos, and the overall uniqueness of Mexican cuisine. 

With the increased migration of Mexican workers in the 1900s, Mexican cuisine slowly influenced American cuisine. Mexican women sold food items on street corners, which later evolved into Mexican food trucks. In Texas, where the mining and agriculture industries were enjoying a boom in the early 1900s, migrant families from Mexico spread their culinary practices in the area. As a result, they had a tremendous influence on the development of Tex-Mex cuisine.

Tex-Mex food is distinct as they use shredded cheese heavily. They also use plenty of ranch meats, such as goat, pork, and beef. Moreover, Tex-Mex uses non-traditional spices like cumin, blended with Mexican spices and peppers.

In California, they had Cal-Mex, a fusion of traditional Mexican cooking and California cuisine. Cal-Mex uses seasonal and fresh ingredients, lighter proteins, and more fruits and vegetables. They also innovated on various Mexican dishes such as tacos, tamales, quesadillas, alambres, tlayudas, and tacos gobernadores.

It is no wonder that California is the origin of taquitos. The state has a diverse population, and restaurants and other food vendors can access more fresh ingredients. Further, California was once a part of Mexico. Thus, Californians are more familiar with Mexican cuisine. Therefore, the abundance of fresh produce, meat, and seafood inspire them to be more creative with their food.

Taquitos are an American invention, given a twist with the use of flour tortillas as the wrapper. It was invented in 1940, almost a year after World War II started. Women had to take over the work their husbands and sons left behind to fight in the war. The women got busier and did not have time to prepare home-cooked meals. Having ready-to-eat food available near their place of work became a standard. While some say that Ralph Pesqueira, Sr. created taquitos to promote his flour tortilla business, it was a blessing for the workers from nearby factories. They can have delicious and affordable foods that are easy to eat.

Taquitos remain to be a huge favorite in California. The state is commercialized and industrialized, and taquitos fit their busy lifestyle. It makes taquitos a filling meal on the go. People still line up to get their traditional taquitos from restaurants and food stalls established in the 1940s.

Taquitos timeline

  1. 1800 to 1300 BC
    Corn tortilla

    The Maya and Aztec civilizations grew maize, and one of the things they prepared was corn tortillas. They ate tortillas as is or dipped them in chili sauce. They also stuffed the tortillas with various ingredients, including squash, beans, and meats, and sold them in the market.

  2. 1519
    The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors

    Hernan Cortes arrived to conquer Tenochtitlan, the Aztec Empire’s capital. They saw the flatbread people made from corn, which they called tortilla (cake). The Spanish brought tortillas out of Central Mexico and into the world. When wheat was brought from Spain to the New World, it gave birth to flour tortillas.

  3. 18th century
    First taco

    Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a taco expert, said tacos originated from Mexico’s silver mines. Taco was the term for the paper used by miners to wrap gunpowder they used for blasting rocks. They also had the first true taco they called tacos de mineros, a filling dish they can easily bring from home.

  4. The 1890s
    Mexican migration

    The booming mining and agriculture industries in the American Southwest attracted Mexican laborers. By 1908, more Mexicans migrated to the U.S., and soon Mexican women started selling tacos. As Americans started to enjoy Mexican cuisine, small shops selling Mexican food began to appear. In Los Angeles, Olvera Street became the hub of small Mexican restaurants. 

  5. 1940
    Invention of taquitos

    Ralph Pesqueira, Sr., had a tortilla factory where he made tortillas by hand. During WWII, his customers from Convair, Consolidated, and other factories nearby, started requesting Pesqueira, Sr. to serve them ready-to-eat food for lunch. So he thought of making them taquitos, using a recipe he invented and rolled into the tortillas he made.

Where were taquitos invented?

Based on the recognized inventor, the taquitos started in southern California, when the customers in the tortilla factory of Ralph Pesqueira Sr. requested that he serve prepared food items. Later, his tortilla factory became the El Indio Restaurant. 

Why people love taquitos?

  • Easy to prepare

    Taquitos are very filling. They are easy to prepare and require only a few ingredients. You can make a big batch, freeze them, and satisfy your craving instantly.

  • It is comfort food

    Taquitos are an American invention, and while the food has a Mexican influence, it is comfort food. Many Americans grew up with Mexican-inspired food that gives you the feeling of having home-cooked meals with the entire family.

  • They are available everywhere

    You can find Mexican food trucks and restaurants almost everywhere. So it is easy to have taquitos when you want them. You can have a range of choices today, from the traditional meat-filled and deep-fried taquitos, to the more elaborate and innovative variations, served fried or baked, with different fillings and toppings.

  • They are diet-friendly

    Taquitos suit different diets. You can have meat, pork, or chicken fillings with plenty of cheese. You can also choose gluten-free taquitos, fish taquitos, or even vegan taquitos.

  • They are not messy to eat

    You can enjoy taquitos without the mess since they are small, wrapped in flour tortillas, and deep-fried. On the other hand, while tacos are delicious and enjoyable like taquitos, it is impossible to bite into them without creating a mess since they are like open sandwiches, overflowing with various fillings and have crunchy, easy-to-break shells.

Taquitos by the numbers 

  • 6A Mexican individual consumes an average of six tortillas per day.
  • 9.98The size of the tortilla market is projected to grow by $9.98 billion from 2021 to 2026.
  • 64In a February 2022 study of convenience stores, retailers carried 64 percent taquitos in their menus. The same report indicated that sales of taquitos in convenience stores rose by 41 percent.
  • 200You get 200 calories from one serving of taquitos, which contains three pieces. The three pieces are equivalent to 81 grams.
  • 48,207There are 48,207 Mexican restaurants operating in the United Stats in 2022. The number is 25.8 percent lower than the number of restaurants operating in 2020.

Five facts about taquitos

  • American invention

    While taquito sounds like a Mexican dish, most people, particularly those from the San Diego area, believed it is an American invention, a part of Cal-Mex as opposed to Tec-Mex. Csl-Mex is a fusion of California cuisine and traditional Mexican dishes. 

  • Flour tortilla

    Taquitos use flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas. On the other hand, flautas, the bigger version of rolled tacos, use corn tortillas.

  • Honoring tacos and taquitos

    Americans have a special fondness for tacos and taquitos, and you cannot say that it is slight. Their love for tacos/taquitos prompted them to declare October 4 as National Taco Day, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. It started in 2009.

  • Small taco

    The word taquito means small taco. It is an American-Mexican dish typically consisting of tortilla with a filling of cooked shredded beef or chicken and grated cheese. The tightly rolled tortilla is then deep-fried and topped with guacamole and sour cream.

  • Light lunch

    Taco, from where the taquito is based, roughly translates to “light lunch.” A taco has all the ingredients to make a quick and filling lunch: hard corn tortilla shell, cooked ground beef/pork/seafood/chicken, beans, shredded cheese, cilantro, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado slices, and chili pepper.

FAQs about taquitos

  • How do you ensure that taquitos do not fall apart?

    Many complain that their taquitos fall apart during prep time or frying. Some people pierce the individual taquito with a toothpick. Experts suggest that you should make sure that the tortillas are warm. When you warm the flour tortillas, they will become softer, preventing them from cracking and falling apart while you roll them.

  • What is the difference between taquitos and rolled tacos?

    While they are similar in shape, rolled tacos and taquitos are different. Taquitos are always served fried. Rolled tacos can be baked or fried. The rolled tacos are placed in a baking pan, sprayed with oil, and baked until they are golden brown. They are less crunchy than the crisp fried taquitos.

  • How long can you store taquitos in the freezer?

    You can freeze leftover taquitos. Place them on a baking sheet, ensuring the pieces are not touching. Let them freeze for one hour. Once frozen, you can place them in a Ziploc freezer bag and return them to the freezer. If your taquitos contain meat, you can keep it for up to three months.

  • Can you refreeze taquitos?

    If you thaw cooked or raw taquitos inside the refrigerator, you can safely refreeze them without heating or cooking. However, there will be some loss of quality because of the moisture from thawing.

  • Can you air fry frozen taquitos?

    Yes, you can use an air fryer to fry taquitos. First, preheat the air fryer to 389 degrees F. Next, spray the fryer basket with nonstick cooking oil if needed. Finally, place a single layer of frozen taquitos in the basket and fry them for eight to ten minutes.

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