Try a different way to eat tacos by preparing tacos de canasta. Also known as basket tacos, this take on a popular Mexican street snack is filled with beans and potatoes, then wrapped and steamed in hot chile oil.
Top them with a zesty salsa verde for a delicious way to curb your appetite!
Tacos de canasta are the perfect item to bring to a picnic or party because they can easily be customized to meet everyone's taste preferences. Plus, it's fun to make foods in a different way sometimes, right?
What are tacos de canasta?
You may have heard of tacos de canasta before, but possibly by other names like tacos sudados (sweaty tacos), tacos al vapor (steamed tacos), or in English, basket tacos.
They were given this name because of the way they are prepared — steamed (vapor) in a basket (canasta).
To make tacos de canasta, tortillas are filled with various ingredients (list down below), laid out on top of butcher paper, wrapped in a plastic bag, layered with salsa and onions, and steamed in a towel-lined basket.
Once it's all closed up, the hot oil-based sauce creates moisture that cooks tacos al vapor, making them tender without being soggy.
There are a variety of stewed fillings that can be served in tacos de canasta, but here are the most common ones:
- Mashed potatoes
- Refried beans
- Mashed papas con chorizo
- Mole with chicken
- Al pastor
Whichever fillings you do choose, it's best to keep them on the drier side to prevent mushy tacos.
Are basket tacos vegan?
Basket tacos are a Mexican recipe that can most definitely be vegan depending on the fillings used.
If the tacos contain meats like chicharrón or chorizo, it's safe to say they are not vegan-friendly. But, all that's required to make your tacos al vapor recipe fully plant-based is using a meat replacement or simply just beans and potatoes.
Staking claim to the infamous tacos de canasta is the state of Tlaxcala, which is also speculated to be the birthplace of tortillas.
More specifically, basket tacos are said to be from the city of San Vicente where an annual Feria del Taco de Canasta (basket taco fair) is held on the first Sunday of December.
But, the concept of selling tacos in baskets dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century time period. Apparently, this was a creative solution to keep them warm and tender while circulating around to farmers and field workers.
Whichever state, person, or reason is behind the birth of tacos de canasta, they have turned into a revolutionary dish that is sought out by taco lovers and foodies all over the world.
While it may seem like a long time to wait for your tacos al vapor to actually steam, we promise it's worth it!
You can serve basket tacos for a snack, lunch, or dinner with toppings like salsa, avocados, cashew crema, onions, or a simple squeeze of lime.
If you want to follow your tacos up with a tasty sweet, might we suggest the following:
And just to clarify, a typical basket tacos recipe utilizes corn tortillas, making this recipe both vegan and gluten-free (so you can worry less about bringing it to a gathering with different dietary preferences).
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Taste: the sauce is really what cooks (or steams) the tacos. In this salsa, we used guajillo chiles for a sweet, berry element and anchos for notes of smoke and fruitiness. These two peppers pair quite well together, especially with garlic and onion added in (always gotta have garlic and onion).
Health: it feels like we talk about the health benefits of capsaicin a lot, which is the compound that makes spicy peppers spicy. But, chiles are also rich in antioxidants that are beneficial in the prevention of diseases like cancer, diabetes, anemia, and cardiovascular disease.
Taste: to end up with extra tender and tasty tacos, try to use fresh corn tortillas (either made by you or a tortillería). Corn provides a sweet, nutty, and toasty flavor to wrap up the bean and potato fillings.
Health: this ancient cultivar is a rich source of vitamins like A, B, E, and K. Not only that, the fiber content in a single cup is equivalent to 18% of your daily requirements. Talk about a digestive health powerhouse!
Taste: the vendors we frequently walk by mostly sell tacos al vapor with meat fillings. So to make a meat-free version, we went with simple refried black beans and adobo mashed potatoes. You can honestly use any filling you want, keeping in mind that drier is definitely better to prevent soggy tacos.
Health: black beans are one of the most popular sources of plant-based protein, but they contain more than just that. These legumes have a notably high concentration of folic acid. You may already be aware, but this compound is important for women wanting to become pregnant as it prevents neurological defects in the growing fetus.
Taste: to round out this recipe, try salsa verde for a fresh, zesty, and spicy garnish. You can also add avocado or cilantro, and don’t forget the onion slices that have been steaming with the tacos!
Health: since you may be garnishing these tacos with salsa verde, we’d like to highlight the benefits of tomatillos! They're rich in potassium and fiber, both necessary in maintaining a healthy heart. And funny enough, while many think of tomatillos as green tomatoes, they are actually closer to cape gooseberries.
If you have questions about this tacos de canasta recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: prepare a batch of refried black beans, or reheat them if you are using store-bought. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add in the cubed potatoes. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until very soft.
Step 2: Drain the water, then mix in plant milk, minced chipotle chiles, garlic, and salt. Mash until it reaches your desired consistency.
Step 3: Bring a pot of water to boil, then turn the heat off and add the chiles to the water. Cover and let sit for 12-15 minutes to soften.
Step 4: in the meantime, sauté the onions and garlic. Transfer them to a blender with the chiles, remaining oil, and a pinch of salt. Mix the salsa on high until no chunks remain, then strain it back into a pot and simmer over medium.
Step 5: line a basket or large stockpot with a towel, then a grocery or garbage bag, followed by a few sheets of butcher paper. Note: if you are using a basket, line it first with aluminum foil to insulate it better.
Step 6: heat each tortilla briefly on a dry skillet or comal, then add a small scoop of beans or potatoes, fold the tortilla in half, and place it inside the prepared basket.
Step 7: once you have a full layer of tacos, top them with a handful of sliced onions and a drizzle of the hot salsa. Add another layer of butcher paper on top and continue this process until all the tortillas and filling are used up.
Step 8: once it's full, close the bag and cover the basket or pot with another towel. Leave them to steam for 60 minutes before serving. Serve with the steamed onions on top, salsa verde, crema, avocado, cilantro, etc. Happy eating!
While tacos al vapor are best eaten on the day of, they can make good leftovers if you store them right.
Once your basket tacos are cooked and you've eaten all that you can, they will keep in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Store them in airtight glass containers to lock in the flavors best.
If you'd like to reheat your tacos, we suggest transferring them into a pot with a basket steamer insert. Heat them over medium-low until warmed all the way through.
You can also just heat them on the stovetop for around 30-60 seconds per side until hot again. Note: reheating won't provide the same texture as the initial recipe, but it gets the job done.
💭 Pro tips
We'd like to share some tips and tricks we learned while experimenting with these basket tacos:
- No basket, no problem. If you don't own a basket, a large stockpot will do the trick!
- Prep the fillings. To save time on the day of cooking, prep your fillings a day or two in advance.
- Warm the tortillas. To make the tortillas easier to work with, warm them up a bit before folding.
- Heat the oil. Make sure the chile oil is quite hot before pouring it over the tacos to create enough heat in the basket or pot.
🍴 Tasting notes
Basket tacos are probably not the first image that comes to mind when thinking about a taco recipe, but we promise they're worth a try! They are:
If you try this tacos de canasta recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Tacos de Canasta
- Basket or large pot
- Knife & cutting board
- ½ recipe refried beans ($0.39)
- 3 white or yellow potatoes, roughly cubed ($0.47)
- ½ cup plant milk ($0.15)
- 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced ($0.04)
- 2 chipotles in adobo, finely minced ($0.08)
- Salt to taste ($0.01)
- ~30 corn tortillas ($0.60)
- ½ white onion, thinly sliced ($0.12)
- Salsa verde optional
- Avocados optional
- Chopped cilantro optional
- Prepare a batch of refried black beans, or reheat them if you are using store bought.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add in the cubed potatoes. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until very soft. Drain the water, then mix in plant milk, minced chipotle chiles, garlic, and salt. Mash until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium, then toast the chiles for 30-60 seconds per side, or until fragrant. Bring a pot of water to boil, then turn the heat off and add the chiles to the water. Cover and let sit for 12-15 minutes to soften.
- In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium. Sauté the onion, for 2-3 minutes, or until translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a blender with the chiles, remaining oil, and a pinch of salt.
- Mix the salsa on high until no chunks remain, then strain it back into a pot and simmer over medium.
- Line a basket or large stockpot with a towel, then a grocery or garbage bag, followed by a few sheets of butcher paper. Note: if you are using a basket, line it first with aluminum foil to insulate it better.
- Heat each tortilla briefly on a dry skillet or comal, then keep them in a towel or tortilla warmer. Add a small scoop of beans or potatoes to each tortilla, fold it in half, and place it inside the prepared basket.
- Once you have a full layer of tacos, top them with a handful of sliced onions and a drizzle of the hot chile oil. Add another layer of butcher paper on top and continue this process until all the tortillas and filling are used up.
- When it's full, close the bag and cover the basket or pot with another towel. Leave them to steam for 60 minutes before serving. Serve with the steamed onions on top, salsa verde, crema, avocado, cilantro, etc. Happy eating!
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty plant-based taco ideas, check out our:
- Ensenada-style "fish" tacos for crispy beer-battered tofu stacked on warm tortillas and covered in a creamy chipotle sauce.
- Quesabirria tacos to see what all the hype is about with these chile-dipped tacos stuffed with meaty oyster mushrooms and vegan cheese.
- Crispy black bean tacos for tacos stuffed with refried beans and lightly fried on each side. Don't forget a side of creamy avocado sauce!
- Tacos al pastor for a plant-based version of this popular taco flavored with spicy guajillo chiles, achiote paste, and fresh pineapple.
As long as you use gluten-free fillings (like potatoes and beans) tacos de canasta are gluten-free.
If your basket tacos are soggy, it's could be due to the filling not being dry enough. Although the texture may not be perfect, they will still taste good! Next time, try using a drier filling.
Once they have steamed for an hour, tacos al vapor should be consumed right away. The longer they sit, the more soggy they become.