Puffy Taco Shells


I just don't get to San Antonio, home of the puffy taco, as much as I'd like to. So I tried to recreate it at home and it worked out great! Be sure you have the meat and fixings ready ahead of time so all you have to do is fry and fill! These work best when served as warm as possible.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
3 mins
Total Time:
18 mins
8 small shells


  • 1 cup masa harina

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ cup lukewarm water

  • 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

  • ½ cup canola oil for frying


  1. Mix masa harina, salt, and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water together in a bowl using your fingertips until dough forms and pulls away from the sides, 2 or 3 minutes. Form into a firm, flattened ball and divide into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Keep dough balls covered with a damp paper towel as you fry them, one at a time.

  2. Place dough ball between 2 sheets of plastic or a split open zip top bag. Flatten to form a small circle about 1/8 to 3/16 inch thick.

  3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, slide in the first circle. Very carefully baste hot oil over the top of the shell with a spoon to keep oil circulating over the top surface. When shell has puffed (after about 15 seconds), cook another few seconds and flip it over and cook another 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat for each shell.

  4. When shells are still warm and pliable, gently push down puffed tops to create room for the fillings and slightly crease the shells for folding.

  5. Fill with your favorite taco fixings and serve while shells are still warm.

    close up view of Puffy Taco Shells on a white platter
    Chef John

Cook's Note:

You can also deep-fry the shells at 350 F (175 degrees C) for about 90 seconds.

For the best results, make the dough and use it right away. I've tried to make it ahead of time, but the tortillas didn't seem to puff up nearly as much.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

128 Calories
4g Fat
22g Carbs
3g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 128
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Sodium 243mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Protein 3g
Calcium 41mg 3%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 85mg 2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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