The L.A. Taco Guide to the 21 Best Tacos de Canasta in the City, From Van Nuys to Long Beach to Covina—Mapped
11:19 AM PST on February 11, 2020
acos!! Tacos de Canasta!”
If you ever hear this set of words being chanted...follow it, and do not stop until you are biting into the juicy, steamy, and savory tortilla bombs that are tacos de canasta.
You are hearing it here at L.A. Taco first: Tacos de Canasta is the next biggest taco trend to hit Los Angeles.
These tacos stand out among the taco pantheon because instead of being made to order, they are proudly cooked and pre-packed early in the morning to be served streetside throughout the day. This traditional cooking process allows the flavors to rest and become more delicious as the day goes by. The kicker in this type of taco is the bubbling hot oil that is poured into the layered tacos after they have all been neatly assembled, creating a velvety folded taco with a tortilla that is deeply enriched with the flavor of it’s filling. The hot oil also ensures that the tacos stay warm all day.
The most common fillings you’ll find inside these specialty tacos are frijol, papa, and chicharrón—the taco de canasta holy guisado trinity. The term “de canasta” (from the basket) is used because they are folded in half and stacked inside a plastic-bag lined wicker basket, pot, cardboard box, foil, or a bunch of towels.
Each taco then arrives tender and ready to satisfy even the deepest of midday hungers. They should also be served with a handful of pickled vegetables like carrots and jalapeños, minced raw cabbage, and an exceptionally fresh-tasting salsa to cut through the rib-sticking taco juices.
Tacos de canasta are sometimes also referred to as “tacos al vapor” in some regions of Mexico like Nuevo Leon and other states in northern Mexico. This can create some confusion since tacos al vapor is also the term used for another regional style that involves water-steamed beef head tacos. It doesn’t help that a couple spots that call them “Tacos de Canasta al Vapor” or “Tacos al Vapor de Canasta.” The only way to find out? Stop and try a plate yourself. No one said the taco life was going to be linear.
Tacos de canasta are also notoriously known to be among the most affordable. They are probably the most consistently cost-effective tacos you will ever find. In L.A., the average price is six for five dollars or five for three, depending on the size of the tacos.
Will we see more tacos de canasta on the menus this year?
Macheen has already concocted an impressive deconstructed Pozole Taco de Canasta at a Northgate Market x L.A. Taco event. Chef Wes of Guerrilla Tacos took a stab at it with San Marcos products at Tacos Madness 2019. And Balam took a taco de canasta to the Thrillist taco competition last year.
According to the Canasta episode on the Taco Chronicles on Netflix, in Mexico a taco de canasta “comes to you—you don’t look for them, they arrive.” Well we’re not in Mexico, so here’s where you can find these tacos in Los Angeles. The list is organized into three parts: streetside baskets, basket shops, and restaurants with tacos de canasta on the menu.
These are tacos de canasta that you will find in the street. They may be shouting “tacos!” as you walk by, have only a sign, or may have their own IG personality. They all offer a unique experience. Most of these spots sell out early. Avoid taco heartbreak and go as early as you can, or call or DM before to make sure they are still there.
2810 E. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023
With a following of 28k on their Instagram page now, these have become the go-to spot for tacos de canasta for many followers of the taco lifestyle all over Southern California. Here, they use an actual basket and have all the toppings ready for you on the side to help yourself. And when you get too trigger-happy with the salsas, some nice agua frescas and cafe will be waiting for you after. The stand is also perfect for early birds since they set up at the crack of dawn. On the menu is frijol, chicharrón, and my favorite, papa con chorizo. If you follow them on IG, you’ll hear someone’s tío voicing over a video tempting you to stop by while stirring the horchata or showing off the tacos.
2401 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90057
There are two taco de canasta vendors competing right at the consulate’s entrance and it’s probably the most authentic experience outside of Mexico. “Los mejores tacos de canasta” is a chant you’ll hear from a man on one side of the driveway while across it, a lady just yells “tacos” referring to her own. They are both there during consulate hours only.
Herrera Tacos de Canasta y Dorados
These tacos de canasta are unique because they are lavishly prepared with lettuce, crema, cotija, pickled red onions, and green or red salsa. These garnishes, along with the good-humored taquero makes for an unforgettable experience. Who was there first? When asked, the taquero responds: “Hombre, si yo soy al sazón original!” This can best be translated to, “Man, I’m the original sauce!” His options are chicharrón prensado (seasoned, pressed chicharrón with some meat still attached), papa, pollo en mole, chipotle, and frijoles. Definitely try the pollo en mole and chipotle here; you won’t find these fillings anywhere else.
Tacos de Canasta y Tacos Dorados Estilos Guadalajara y D.F.
The biggest difference between this vendor and Herrera is the whopping 10 different canasta fillings she offers. The tacos are also smaller, so you can probably try all of them and still be good for dinner. She has chicharrón, papa, papa con longaniza, papa con huevo, frijol, mole con pollo, pollo a la mexicana, picadillo, carne deshebrada, and cochinita pibil.
Tacos de Canasta Los Mas Buscados
1214 E. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
If you haven’t been to el Mercado Olympic, a.k.a., the Piñata District, you’re in for a trip. If you can get past all the crowds, guisados, bootleg CDs, al pastor trompos, colorful fruits, cheeses, chiles, and of course, piñatas, somewhere in the middle along the sidewalk you will find a man and his pot selling tacos de canasta. It’s probably why he calls himself “Los Mas Buscados” because he is not the easiest to find among the hustle and bustle of the rest of the vendors. The address listed is his most approximate location. He is on the south sidewalk of Olympic Boulevard, offering the traditional canasta trinity: papa, frijol, and chicharrón. Again, definitely get the chicharrón. Bonus El Random Hero pro tip: Get some of the spicy barbacoa and consomé from the guy next to him as well. You might as well. Note: He is only there on Saturday and Sunday.
Ricos Tacos de Canasta
7140 Louise Ave, Van Nuys, CA
This one is for the Valley. I reached out to all my sources and scoured the entire Valley for tacos de canasta. Just when I had given up driving up and down the large boulevards, I found a new pop-up. Taco trucks and pupusas have found a home at Louise Park on Sherman Way and recently a lady selling tacos de canasta has taken up residency. She has papa, chicharrón, frijol, and papa con chorizo. Now you don’t have to drive over the hills through all the traffic just to get a taste. Available on most days. Go thank her for serving the Valley.
These are Taco de Canasta-focused shops. In addition to visiting these locations, these shops are especially suited for catering and large-party orders so next time, skip the dozen donuts, lukewarm coffee from Starbucks, and Dominoes. Instead, order a basket of tacos from these specialists.
For Orders: 213-318-8585
1) Plaza El Faro: 4433 S. Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90058
2) Callejones (Alleys in the Fashion District): 1285 Maple Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Plaza el Faro turns into a big party scene on the weekends with Bandas and Grupos blasting music by request for folks enjoying everything from basket tacos to mariscos. If you just want to try their tacos, weekdays are pretty calm. Otherwise go early on the weekends and be ready for a loud and festive atmosphere. The same goes for their second location in the Fashion District. These are excellent tacos with a unique sense of quality you can immediately taste. According to La Salsa’s website, they are uncompromising: “That’s why we source our fresh ingredients from local farmers markets.” They offer the canasta trifecta: papa, frijol, and chicharrón.
“Subsidiary of Tortas Ahogadas el Rey”
For Orders: 323-522-7894
1) 6503 Pacific Blvd, Huntington Park
2) Plaza Mexico, 3100 E. Imperial Hwy, Lynwood
3) 11537 Garvey Ave, El Monte
The one thing that the folks from El Rey pride themselves in is authenticity. They’ll go through great lengths to ensure their food legitimately represents Mexico. Take their Torta Ahogada for example: They fly in fresh bread from Guadalajara on a weekly basis, which is why they made the number one spot for L.A. Tacos Torta Ahogada list last year. What I loved about this taco the most is its tortilla. It had a great flavor at first bite. Apart from the frijol, papa, and chicharrón that they offer at all their locations, they have mole available for special orders. And as far as I know, they are the only taco de canasta vendor in L.A. to offer vegan options.
“Subsidiary of La Chiva Jr.”
For Orders: 562-287-3466
7022 Greenleaf Ave, Whittier CA, 90602
Out of all the locations on this list, this is the only one that takes the traditional taco de canasta, and not only improves it, but does it subtly and fantastically. Jerry of La Chiva Jr. wanted to take his family’s taco de canasta and make it his own. He did so by changing the seasoning a bit, and adding a little citrus to the salsa. The effect is much like increasing the contrast on a picture; you get a bit of depth and complexity that results in a brighter flavor without sacrificing the traditional taste. They have frijol, papa, and chicharrón on deck with picadillo at special request.
From the family that brought you La Chiva Jr. and Tacos de Canasta 562, this is the original. Known for their tortas ahogadas, their menu also boasts a great selection of Tapatio (someone from Guadaljara, not the hot sauce) food favorites. They make the traditional tacos de canasta offering the trinity and serve them in miniature baskets. The salsa slaps and you can enjoy a good michelada as well.
747 S. Atlantic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022
These are the girthiest tacos de canasta you’ll find in the city. While in other spots you could easily eat six or more, you’ll be stuffing yourself with just a couple at Ameca. The tacos are generously filled and are flavor bombs. Beware of the innocent-looking salsa, you’ll be glad there’s plenty of guisado to help sooth your mouth if you overdo it. They also have several different options for you to try aside from the usual like frijol con chorizo and frijol con chicharrón (beans make everything better.)
- 306 W. Anaheim St., Long Beach
- 100 N. Citrus Ave, Covina
- 11583 Lower Azusa Rd. El Monte
- 15914 Gale Ave, Hacienda Heights
- 1347 S. Azusa Ave, West Covina
- 1115 Washington Blvd, Montebello
The Long Beach location is a great hole in the wall to stop by and get a quick taco. It’s also a good option to learn the difference between tacos al vapor (steamed beef tacos) and tacos de canasta. They do a great job with both tacos and have multiple locations around L.A. They offer frijol, papa, and frijol con chorizo.
8111 Rosecrans Ave, Paramount, CA 90723
6042 Santa Fe Ave, Huntington Park, CA 90255
Pika and Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara are grouped together because as I learned, they both have the same owner and essentially the same menu. It’s a great spot to come in, have a plate of tacos with a michelada, and chill for a bit. They offer frijol, papa, and chicharrón—the almighty taco de canasta trinity.
Memo Torres is a multi-media taco journalist and Director of Partnerships for the James Beard award-winning L.A. Taco. He was a finalist for the Ruben Salazar Award for Latino Journalists. He has functioned as a taco scout for numerous shows and can be seen on Netflix's Taco Chronicles and Pressure Cooker. Memo is also currently hosting a food guide on all iPhones' Apple Maps.
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