Everything You Need To Know About French Tacos

Everyone knows tacos don't come from France. They're thoroughly Mexican, of course, possibly originating around that region's silver mines in the 1700s (via Smithsonian). The French may not have invented tacos, but they have embraced them. Forget about tradition and history: France has reinvented the taco so that it looks nothing like what you might get from a Mexico City street vendor — or from an American Taco Bell, for that matter.

The French borrowed the Spanish word, "tacos," to name this new dish that is having its moment in French cuisine. (The French keep the "s" on "tacos," even when talking about just one, according to The New Yorker.) If a real taco can be described as a corn tortilla loaded with fillings and sauce, the French tacos doesn't even meet this broad definition. It's meat, cheese, and condiments folded into a flour tortilla and then grilled. A newsletter for a village that may be the birthplace of French tacos described it as "a rather successful marriage between panini, kebab, and burrito" (via The New Yorker).

No single inventor is credited with making the first French tacos, but it most likely originated in one of the many snack shops outside Lyon, run by someone of North African descent. Far from taking Mexican tacos as their inspiration, French tacos may be a variation on a North African stuffed pancake. Someone from the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food called French tacos "a mutant product, France's own junk food."

The fillings in French tacos are distinctly French, down to the fries

French tacos come in as many varieties as you can imagine — or as someone familiar with French food might imagine. You can get French tacos with turkey lardons (kind of like bacon), Boursin cheese, mushrooms, or Algerian sauce. The cheese sauce from the massively popular O'Tacos chain in France is made from crème fraîche and Gruyère. The five-and-a-half pound gigatacos at O'Tacos comes with five kinds of meat: merguez sausage, ground beef, chicken nuggets, grilled chicken, and chicken cordon bleu (via The New Yorker). Oh, and french fries come standard inside most French tacos.

Actual Mexican restaurateurs in France are less than impressed with French tacos. A Mexican-born caterer in Paris told The New Yorker she was upset to see a customer throw one of her tacos in the trash because the Frenchman didn't think it was a real taco. "What shocks me is that they call it a taco," the caterer, Mercedes Ahumada, said. "It's like if we made a wine and started calling it Mexican champagne."

The French don't seem too bothered about their tacos' inauthenticity. From an American's perspective, this might be understandable. As The New Yorker points out, cuisine changes whenever it crosses borders. Even making the short jump to the U.S., Mexican food became something un-Mexican. For proof, just swing by your local Taco Bell.