Even before I tried a Big Mac taco, I threw shade at the concept on social media. The viral recipe has racked up well over 250 million views on TikTok alone, making it a bona fide hit—but come on, are these tacos really all that good? More importantly, are they even tacos, or are they burgers? I decided to reach out to a few trusted sources in the taco and burger world to get their take on the trend.
It might have been @tenktacos, aka Isidro Salas, who first inspired my ire toward the Big Mac taco trend. Isidro advocates for the Mexican American food community through videos that call out content creators for cultural appropriation in their insatiable hunt for views. He also posts videos about his youth growing up working in his dad’s taco truck in Northern California.
Tackling these Big Mac taco TikToks has been an interesting journey for Isidro. While he was initially dismissive of the entire concept—a lazy repackaging of tacos dorados, as he saw it—he became surprised and a bit humbled to find out that they had a deeper history than most people know. In fact, Mexican Americans have been making these tacos for decades; a friend called him in tears over his dismissive review of a burger taco. She grew up on the dish, and it was every bit as important to her as any other more well-known Mexican dish. Still, for Isidro, the sting of erasure lingers when they are renamed “smashburger tacos” or “Big Mac tacos.”
“I have a problem with people renaming them,” he told me.
In the midst of the viral trend, the bigger truth lies in plain sight: the tasty tradition of burger tacos. I asked Jose Ralat, Taco Editor for Texas Monthly, for his thoughts on the sensational “trend” of Big Mac tacos. As a taco scholar, Ralat was quick to highlight their greater cultural context.
“The viral sensation is pulled out of context, and context is important,” he said. “It’s not new. It’s part of a regional cuisine that has been under the radar. It has been a part of peoples’ homes for decades, and all of that is being erased.”
In his recent article on the subject of burger tacos, Ralat cites Don Toño in Mexico City, which has long served hamburguesa tacos, and he points to multiple taqueros who grew up on tacos with a hamburger patty as the star protein.
“I don’t know why anyone would want to follow the directions of any TikToker,” Ralat said, though when it comes to their concoctions, he acknowledged that some have merit: “They can be good, they can be great, they can be horrible.”
In order to test the merits of the Big Mac Taco viral sensation myself, I had to trace the TikTok trend back to its early 2023 origins—patient zero, if you will.
That’s when I connected with Brad Prose, aka @chilesandsmoke on TikTok and Instagram. Brad is a social media recipe developer with a following of nearly 200k over both platforms. While I was initially skeptical of the Big Mac taco recipe, to say the least, his video from earlier this year absolutely got me both hungry and curious, so I guess it did its job.
“This is a mashup,” Prose told me, clarifying that the dish is equal parts taco and burger (“A burger does not have to be on a bun,” he noted). At the risk of sounding like a downer, I did broach the subject of countless copycat videos diluting the magic of his “original.”
“The majority of people did not follow the specific rule,” Prose said of the videos piggybacking on his own. “I cook it on a flattop grill; you have flip it into the cool side of the grill when it hits the tortilla, [which] keeps it from getting greasy.”
Armed with some important history and advice on technique, I decided to broaden my horizons and make two burger tacos of my own, incorporating Ralat’s research on the OG recipes and Prose’s particular smashed patty technique. Each would be my best approximation of the traditional and the TikTok-ified format, respectively.
The first burger taco I tried was the “Don Toño,” topped with habanero guacamole as the Mexico City restaurant often serves them. I also made my own tortilla here, formed from high-quality masa. All I can say is, I encourage every wannabe taquero to try making this simple and tasty taco. While it’s not an easy feat to stay in the taco business in Mexico City for three decades, this recipe makes such a feat far more likely. I think the key is the simplicity of a good corn tortilla, a spicy, tangy, and fatty condiment, and the deeply seared beef achieved by smashing the patty.
Now, on to the hypebeast version: a “smash burger” taco with Big Mac toppings on a homemade flour tortilla (see photo at the top). If you think about it, the best part of an actual Big Mac is the middle; right in the center is where you taste every ingredient in a balanced way. The outer bites of a Big Mac are dry and lifeless, kind of like the surface of Mars. The Big Mac taco resolves the issue of the dry, bland exterior of a Big Mac by the very fact of its structure: spread to the edge, the filling is the first thing you taste in every bite. You get a rush of all those flavors at once, plus a superior beef experience because of the improved carb-to-meat ratio and the deep sear on the patty from smashing.
Having eaten both varieties, I’ve come to a few conclusions. The Don Toño is a true taco experience that happens to use a hamburger patty. The Big Mac Taco, especially with a thick and buttery homemade flour tortilla, delivers a burger tasting experience… but it’s a taco. Okay, I’m clearly still confused. I asked Alvin Cailan of The Burger Show for his take on the Big Mac taco. Yes, he has made them too.
“[Tortillas] are not as satiating as buns,” Cailan said. “The Big Mac flavors are awesome—I understand the trend. But they’re not burgers. They eat like the most American tacos you’ll ever have.”
So maybe they are tacos, as our resident burger expert suggests?
Last call on the subject goes to author and burger expert George Motz, who has not only written multiple books on burgers, but also co-hosts Burger Scholar Sessions on the First We Feast YouTube channel. Motz, for his part, considers the Big Mac taco more burger than taco, but he also helped us see the bigger picture: that however we classify them, Big Mac tacos ultimately deserve the hype.
“Any burger appreciation is always good for the burgerverse,” he said. “I love it all—except for the Mac ’n cheese burger, of course.”