Tacos are the perfect busy night dinner – quick and easy to prepare and customizable, making even your pickiest eaters happy. You can use ground beef, bison, turkey, even ground elk! Or go vegetarian, and make them with chopped zucchini and carrots. Serve the toppings on the side, allowing family and guests to load up on ingredients they love and leave off those they don’t.

(Photo by Rick Souders)

Family Tacos!

Cousin Jim Kidwell and his daughter Sarah are both fabulous cooks, and their Kidwell Family Tacos are the best you will ever eat, just ask our other cousins!

Have you ever tried Elk Tacos?

The creators of this recipe, Jim and Sarah, like to use ground elk meat, but I’ve found this recipe is equally delicious with ground beef, bison or turkey (just omit the butter). They don’t really measure the ingredients, so the measurements in the recipe below are approximate. The best approach to this recipe is to mix together, cook, taste and season again. These tacos are not only delicious, they are quick and easy to prepare – and customizable to your tastes!

like to serve our tacos with pico de gallo and guacamole. While both these items can be purchased already prepared, I provide instructions below to make your own.

Family Tacos Ingredients

The beauty of tacos is not just their ease of preparation, but also their flexibility. You can use a variety of fillings, with a mix of seasonings (check out my Chipotle Lime Shrimp Tacos recipe for another take on tacos). Here’s are the ingredients in our amazing Family Tacos:

First, the meat filling:

  • Ground meat. I like to use ground elk meat -it’s lean and good quality elk is not gamey tasting.You can also use ground beef, bison or turkey.
  • Chili powder. There are lots of different chili powders available today. A mixture of various kinds (e.g., mild, medium and hot) works well.
  • Garlic powder or granules.
  • Ground cumin.
  • Kosher salt.
  • Dried Mexican oregano or common oregano. I prefer Mexican oregano in this recipe – it is more lemony while common oregano is more minty.

And for the toppings:

  • Prepared guacamole
  • Pico de gallo or salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (see below for other cheeses you can use)
  • Chopped green onion
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

And, of course, you’ll need taco shells!

Best Cheese for Tacos

I recommend using sharp Cheddar cheese in these tacos – it pairs well with the ground meat. Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack would also work well. You could also be a bit more adventurous and use a Mexican cheese, like Queso Blanco.

platter with Kidwell Family Tacos
(Photo by Rick Souders)

How to Cook Corn Tortillas for Tacos

It’s really very easy to make your own taco shells from corn tortillas. I learned from the Kidwells! Here are the easy steps (to cook 1 tortilla):

  1. Heat oil.
    Place vegetable or canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If you have a thermometer, it should reach 375 degrees before adding tortilla.
  2. Add one tortilla.
    Gently place a corn tortilla in the hot oil. Using tongs, grab one side of the tortilla and fold it over, so the tortilla has the shape of a taco shell. (Only one side of the shell will be in the oil.) Keep holding on and cooking that side of the shell until it is crispy and beginning to brown (doesn’t take long – around 15 to 20 seconds).
  3. Cook second side.
    Using tongs, gently rotate the taco over, so the uncooked side is now in the oil. Hold the cooked portion (that is now out of the oil) with the tongs. You can stick the tongs inside the taco to hold it open. Cook until second side is crispy (again only around 15 to 20 seconds).
  4. Drain and cool.
    Place cooked tortilla on a paper towel to drain and cool.
Should you fry corn tortillas for tacos?

I prefer meat-filled tacos in a taco shell. For softer fillings, like vegetables or shrimp, I often serve them in soft tortillas.

What is the best way to heat corn tortillas for tacos?

I follow the Kidwell family method, which is to heat the corn tortillas after both forming them into taco shells and filling them with cooked taco meat. See directions above for “How to reheat tacos.”

Best Way to Assemble Tacos

I’ve been eating tacos since I was a little girl, and I’ve only ever know one way to assemble them:

  1. Spoon cooked meat into taco shell.
  2. Top with shredded cheese (so it melts into the warm filling).
  3. Spoon guacamole over top of cheese.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of sour cream over guacamole.
  5. Spoon pico de gallo (or salsa) over guacamole.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped green onion and cilantro.

How to Store Tacos

The best way to store taco shells – either store bought (once the package is open) or homemade – is in an airtight container at room temperature. Store the cooked taco meat and toppings separately, also in airtight containers, in the refrigerator.

How to Reheat Tacos

Reheat tacos the same way you finish them in this taco recipe (start with the taco meat at room temperature):

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Spoon cooked meat in the taco shells and place in a baking dish that will hold them snugly in one layer.
  3. Place in oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Can you reheat taco meat in the microwave?

Yes, if you’re just reheating the taco meat, place it in an oven safe bowl, cover it with a paper towel and hit “reheat” on your microwave.

How do you reheat crunchy tacos?

See directions above for “How to reheat tacos.”

How do you reheat soft tacos?

If you prefer to eat tacos with soft tortillas (corn or flour), wrap a stack of tortillas (around 4 to 6) tightly in foil and place them in a 350 degree oven for around 15 to 20 minutes.

What goes good with tacos?

Refried beans and Cheese Grits Soufflé are perfect sides to serve with our family tacos!

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platter with Kidwell Family Tacos

Kidwell Family Tacos

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Kidwell Family Tacos are quick and easy to prepare, and customizable to your tastes. You can use ground beef, bison, turkey – even ground elk! Or go vegetarian, and make them with chopped zucchini and carrots.

  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


  • 1 to 1 1/4 pound ground elk (preferably with more than 5% suet), beef, bison or turkey
  • Chili powder, to taste (preferably a blend of flavors)
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano or common oregano
  • 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, sliced (only use with elk)
  • 8 to 10 taco shells, preferably home made
  • Pico de gallo *
  • Prepared guacamole**
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Chopped green onion
  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet, cook elk meat over medium heat, breaking up meat with a spatula as it browns. Sprinkle a heavy coating of chili powder over the top. Sprinkle with garlic powder to taste, then the cumin, salt, and oregano. Cook, stirring and continuing to break up the meat, until the meat is slightly brown. Add butter, stirring until it melts. Sprinkle with another light coating of chili powder and continue cooking until a deep red-brown color (don’t overcook otherwise it will dry out).
  3. Divide meat equally between the taco shells.
  4. Place in a baking dish that will hold them snugly in one layer; bake 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Serve with guacamole, sour cream, cheese, onions, cilantro, and pico de gallo on the side.


* Pico de gallo: If prepared pico de gallo isn’t available in your area, make your own by chopping and mixing together grape tomatoes, red onion, cilantro and jalapeño pepper. Season with salt and cumin (you can also add some chile powder if you want). Alternatively, substitute purchased salsa.

** Guacamole: To make your own guacamole, chop and mix together avocado, tomato, shallots or green onions, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno or Serrano pepper. Stir in fresh lime juice and hot pepper sauce. Season with cumin, chile powder, salt and ground pepper.

Gluten free: Use gluten-free corn tortillas.

  • Author: (From “Fresh Tastes” by Lee Clayton Roper)
  • Category: Main dish, meat, gluten free

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  1. It’s just the two of us so we halved everything. Also added a bottom crust(not deep dish). I was nervous because it looked like a long time to make, but it was fine because it was mostly idle time just letting the filling cook and please visit us: https://www.beckandbulow.com

platter with Kidwell Family Tacos

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About the author

Hi, I'm Lee.

I am inspired by my mother, Sally’s, love of cooking and entertaining to gather friends and family together over great meals and conversation. In fact, I held my first dinner party at the age of 16. Throughout the years, I’ve provided recipes, menu advice and cooking tips to friends seeking uncomplicated and delicious ideas for home entertaining.

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