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S.A. Puffy Tacos vs. H-town Puffy Tacos

“Everybody in San Antonio makes puffy tacos the same way,” Ray Lopez at Henry’s Puffy Tacos told me. You make tortillas out of raw masa and throw them in the deep fryer in a form to keep their shape. The resulting taco shell has a bubbly, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside texture that Tex-Mex fans in the Alamo City love. Puffy tacos are also popular in the Valley, in Austin, and elsewhere. But in Houston, puffy tacos are something entirely different.

At Loma Linda, a tortilla is deep-fried until it bubbles up into a crispy shape, then its filled. But it’s nearly impossible to pick up these “puffy tacos” and eat them, they tend to shatter and fall apart. Then you eat them with a knife and fork. They’re good, but they’re not the same thing as San Antonio puffy tacos.

In our cooking experiments for the El Real Tex-Mex Cafe menu, Bryan Caswell and I are making the fresh masa variety. We both love them and we’ve found that many taco lovers swoon over them too. (Especially if they ever lived in San Antonio.) But Tex-Mex fans from Houston find them unfamiliar–they are suspicious of the fresh masa flavor. One wag said they tasted like they were made out of hush puppies.

What’s your take on puffy tacos?

18 comments to S.A. Puffy Tacos vs. H-town Puffy Tacos

  • hedrives

    SA style are best.

  • SA style. There’s nothing close to it.

  • Jim Washburn

    I prefer the San Antonio style, too.

  • Anon today

    I would totally eat a taco shell that tastes like hushpuppies.

  • That bottom one looks like a puffy sope.

    I like the Mex-Mex style, which they call a quesadilla frita. Basically, you take the filling and close it up in a fresh, uncooked tortilla, like an empenada. Then, once it’s fried, crisp, and golden-brown, you serve it up with salsas, guacamole, queso fresco, and sour cream — al gusto.

  • Buddy

    SA puffy tacos rock! My favorites are at Henry’s.

  • David Ross

    My verdict: if it’s good enough for San Antonio, it should be good enough for Houston. I would expect San Antonio to feel the same way about boudin and _banh mi thit_!

  • Tim

    Got to add my vote for the SA style.

  • SA style for sure (and my SA-raised hubs would agree).

  • SA style Puffy Tacos are a league of their own. I’ve lived in Houston since ’90 and have not encountered anything that is remotely close. Oscars-Taco-House puffy tacos are always 1st thing on our radar on visits and is a no frills standard since first opened in ’60.

  • I am sorry to say I have never had the pleasure of a puffy taco. I am from San Antonio but I have not ben there in over fifty years, long before the Puffy Taco was invented.
    Does anyone know the history of how the puffy Taco came about?

  • Alan Stout

    What you are preparing is going to rock! That type of shell reminds me very much of what they serve at Caro’s in Ft. Worth, and it is amazing.

  • Jeff H

    SA style ese! Good luck on your new restaurant Robb. I look forward to trying it.

  • Ray

    Nicha’s in San Antonio, on Roosevelt (between Military and Southcross) has good puffy tacos.

  • Frank

    Taco Palenque on Hwy 36 in Richmond has S A style puffy tacos. The owner worked at a restaurant in San Antonio and brought the recipe here.

  • Joe

    Jacala on West Avenue in San Antonio the best puffy tacos ever!

  • Yolanda Audrey Miorelli

    The first puffy taco I ate was at Rays drive in /(Henry’s puffy taco older brother. This was in 1959 . Ray passe away, his brother Arturo Lopez bought the business. I go to Rays drive in once a month since live across town. If I am in the area of Bandera road I go to Henry’s puffy tacos. The Lopez’s brothers are the experts when it comes to this taco, but Rays has always. Been voted #1 in San Antonio.

  • Brian

    It’s not a Houston thing. Never heard of “puffy tacos” until my fantasy football group message were reminiscing. All 11 are from SA. If there are not 10-15 establishments selling and promoting them, they’re NOT a thing Houston. Crawfish in SA? Exactly