Walking Tacos

Proof dinner really can be fun.

Walking Tacos
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
40 mins

So-called for how easy it is to wander around with them in hand, Walking Tacos are bags of snack-size Fritos—and/or Doritos or any kinds of chips, really—that are garnished with a variety of taco or nacho toppings. The garnishes, ranging from meat to cheese to guacamole, are added right in the bag. Then the whole thing is eaten with a fork (or your fingers, if you don't mind getting pretty messy).

What Is in a Walking Taco?

The walking taco, also called taco in a bag, is tied to the Frito pie. A Frito pie is essentially a pile of Fritos corn chips with chili ladled on top. But in the case of walking tacos, the bag is laid on the side and split open. The chili is then spooned right into the bag.

Frito pie is typically garnished with shredded Cheddar cheese and raw chopped onions. Walking tacos, too. Some versions also include sour cream and pickled jalapeño slices. Walking tacos resembles nachos more than tacos.

Are Walking Tacos a Texas Thing?

The origins of Frito pie, which led to the more gussied up walking taco, are in some dispute. New Mexicans say that a woman named Teresa Hernandez created the dish in the 1960s at a Santa Fe Woolworth store. Texans claim that Daisy Doolin, the mother of the inventor of Fritos, is actually the one who thought of topping her son's brainchild chip with chili, cheese, and onions some 30 years earlier. Hearsay aside, the oldest published recipe that cites Fritos brand chips was published in Texas in 1949.

And as far as the walking tacos' ancestry is concerned, the Midwest lays claim to reframing and renaming the Frito pie into that handheld treat. As they were in Texas, walking tacos proved to be very popular at football games and other outdoor get-togethers.

Today, versions of walking tacos are sold in Mexico City (and elsewhere in Mexico) with any number of interesting toppings. Street vendors sell Dorilocos, which start with a snack-size bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, sliced open lengthwise. This is topped with any or all of the following: jicama, cucumber, carrots, corn, watermelon, cueritos (pickled pork skin), japonés (soy sauce-flavored peanuts), gummi bears, lime juice, chili powder, hot sauce, and chamoy (sweet-sour fruit sauce).

Dorilocos are related to Tostilocos, which are made with Tostitos. And there are other Mexican versions of the walking taco as well, including but not limited to Tosti Elotes (with corn) and Los Crazy Chips (barbecue Lays with salsa and Clamato).

How to Make Walking Tacos

Whether you're making this recipe on a busy weeknight or a relaxing Saturday night before a big gme, the great thing is it's super speedy and easy to pull together. Here's how you do it.

Step 1. Cook the meat sauce

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes. Cook until the onion pieces are tender, about 5 minutes.

sauteeing onions, peppers, and tomatoes
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

If you want, you can substitute lean ground beef for the turkey. Even ground chicken would work. All of these ground meats are lean and will absorb the flavors of the sauce well.

Once the peppers, onions, and tomatoes have softened, go ahead and add the ground turkey to the skillet. Use a spatula to break up the meat into bite-sized pieces. Cook and stir the ground turkey until it's browned and no pink meat remains.

cooking turkey, tomato, onion, and pepper
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Add taco seasoning and water to the skillet with the turkey mixture. Let simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly. If the mixture is very watery, let it simmer longer so the water can evaporate.

walking taco topping
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Add the black beans, green chiles, and 1 cup of the prepared salsa. Bring to a simmer, and let cook 5 to 10 minutes. Again, you want the mixture to thicken up so it's not watery, but a bit of sauce is good to have. It'll help soften the corn chips.

Just when the sauce is nearing the thickness you want, put the top on the skillet, and lower the heat slightly. Let the meat mixture cook for 10 more minutes, or until you're ready to serve it.

walking taco sauce

Step 2. Prepare the toppings and chip bags

While the meat simmers, prepare all the toppings for the walking tacos. We call for some favorites in this recipe, but you can pick and choose what your family or your crowd of guests will enjoy.

So that folks can easily serve themselves, put each of the prepared toppings in a small bowl with s spoon. If you don't have that many bowls (or that much space), prepare everything on a large platter or serving plate. There's not harm in some of the toppings getting mixed up.

three bags of fritos corn chips
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Go ahead and prepare the bags of Fritos or Doritos, too, so everyone is left trying to open their bags and serve themselves.. You can open them at the top for a slightly smaller opening. For a bit more space, slice open the bags along the long side. That'll give you more space for adding toppings and forking up a bite.

We also recommend you crush the chips slightly before opening the bag. The smaller chip pieces are easier to get out of the bag with a fork.

When to Serve Walking Tacos

Whatever the variation, walking tacos are a great DIY treat to set out for tailgates, parties, picnics, and other kinds of gatherings where you want guests to mingle. We also like walking tacos during summertime in the South, when dining outside is a treat but bugs land on your food and the humidity makes a big bowl of chips turn soggy in mere seconds. These individualized portions prevent both of those hazards from happening.

Making a walking taco bar for the garnishes is also fun. The sky is really the limit here. You can provide the expected toppings such as salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, sliced black olives, and sliced pickled jalapeños—all of which are easily found in the grocery store.

In this recipe, we included cilantro for freshness and used scallions instead of raw onions for a more subtle flavor. You can also take a cue from Mexican street vendors and offer some more interesting additions like grilled shrimp, pulled pork, barbecued beef, corn, jicama, pumpkin seeds, fire-roasted poblano peppers, pineapple, mango, watermelon, queso blanco, salsa verde, hot sauce, lime juice, and aioli.

ingredients for walking tacos
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox


  • 1 Tbsp. cooking oil

  • ½ cup finely chopped onion

  • ½ cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper

  • ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes

  • 1 lb. ground turkey (or lean ground beef)

  • 1 (1-oz.) packet taco seasoning

  • ¾ cup water

  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained

  • 1 (4-oz.) can green chiles, drained

  • 2 cups prepared salsa, divided

  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 cup prepared guacamole

  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

  • 1 cup black olives

  • 1 cup sliced pickled jalapeños

  • 1 cup chopped scallions

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves

  • 12 (1-oz.) bags Fritos corn chips (or Doritos)


  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and tomato. Sauté until the onion is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey, and cook, breaking the meat up with a spatula into small pieces, until it's no longer pink. Drain if necessary.

  2. Add the taco seasoning and water. Stir well. Cook until the water is absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add black beans, green chilies, and 1 cup of salsa. Stir and allow to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until ingredients have combined and the mixture is hot. Let it rest, covered, about 10 minutes for sauce to thicken around the protein and beans.

  3. Set out the remaining cup of salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, black olives, jalapeños, scallions, and cilantro in small bowls. Pour the turkey mixture into a bowl with a serving spoon.

  4. Lightly crush the bags of Fritos and/or Doritos, then open them. Spoon some of the turkey mixture over the chips. Add any or all of the toppings. Eat immediately from the bag with a fork.

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