Does Taco Cabana make their tortillas?

Taco Cabana is a popular Tex-Mex fast food chain founded in San Antonio, Texas in 1978. They are known for their famous tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, nachos and other Tex-Mex favorites. One of the most commonly asked questions about Taco Cabana is whether they make their own tortillas fresh in-house or if they are store bought.

Quick Answers

Yes, Taco Cabana makes their own flour tortillas fresh daily in each restaurant. They do not use pre-made or store bought tortillas. The tortillas are made from scratch using flour, water, shortening or lard. The tortillas are pressed and cooked on a special tortilla machine in each Taco Cabana location.

Taco Cabana’s Tortilla Making Process

Taco Cabana takes pride in making their tortillas in-house from scratch every day. The process starts early each morning in every Taco Cabana location. Their team members prepare the tortilla dough using their proprietary recipe of flour, water, shortening or lard, and a pinch of salt. The exact measurements and blending process is a closely guarded secret!

Once the dough is prepared, it is portioned out into balls and let to rest. This allows the gluten in the flour to relax and makes the dough easier to press. When it is time to make the tortillas, the dough balls are pressed one at a time on an automated tortilla press machine. The tortilla press flattens the dough balls into thin circles between two hot metal plates. The flattened tortilla dough is then cooked on the built-in griddle on the tortilla machine for about 30 seconds per side.

The freshly pressed hot tortillas are puffed up and speckled with brown spots when they come off the tortilla machine. Taco Cabana’s tortilla presses can make between 200-300 tortillas per hour! The tortillas are hastily stacked and placed in the warming drawers until needed to fill customer orders. Fresh tortillas are pressed continuously throughout the day to replenish the supply. Nothing beats the taste and texture of a warm, freshly made flour tortilla!

Why Taco Cabana Makes Their Own Tortillas

So why does Taco Cabana go through the effort to make their tortillas in-house rather than buying pre-made tortillas? There are a few key reasons:

Quality and Freshness

By making the tortillas on-site daily, Taco Cabana can ensure top quality and freshness. Machine pressed tortillas often sit for days before being served, losing their softness and flexibility. Taco Cabana tortillas are served within hours of being pressed. The texture is noticeably soft and supple.


Taco Cabana carefully crafts the tortilla dough recipe to get the perfect flavor and consistency. Pre-made tortillas may use inferior ingredients or have a bland flavor. Taco Cabana can control the ingredient proportions and cooking process to achieve superior tortilla taste.


Freshly cooked hot tortillas right off the press bring an added warmth and aroma to tacos, quesadillas and other menu items. Pre-made tortillas are often cold or only lukewarm.

Cost Savings

Believe it or not, making tortillas in-house is more cost effective for a high-volume restaurant like Taco Cabana. Buying pre-made tortillas in bulk for hundreds of locations would be very expensive.


By producing their own tortillas, Taco Cabana doesn’t have to rely on third-party suppliers. They have total control and can better deal with any variability or supply chain issues. Running out of tortillas would be catastrophic!

Requirements for Making Tortillas

While making fresh tortillas is not overly complicated, it does require some specific equipment and ingredients:

Commercial Tortilla Press

These rugged machines can continuously press and cook hundreds of tortillas per hour. They are much faster and higher volume than a hand tortilla press. Taco Cabana locations use commercial electric tortilla presses with automated dough presses, griddles and conveyors.

Commercial Mixer

To knead the tortilla dough, a large spiral dough mixer is needed. These can mix up to 60 lbs of dough in one batch. Hand mixing would not be feasible for the volume of tortillas Taco Cabana produces.


Taco Cabana most likely uses high gluten all-purpose flour. The gluten provides the elasticity and chew needed for the tortillas to puff up nicely. Masa harina corn flour is more common for corn tortillas.


The right ratio of water to flour hydrates the dough properly for pressing and cooking. Too much or too little water affects the tortilla texture.

Shortening or Lard

Some amount of fat is needed to impart tenderness, flatten-ability and layerability. Vegetable shortening or lard are commonly used.

Warming Drawers

After cooking, the tortillas must be kept warm until used. Special insulated heated cabinets allow air circulation to keep them warm and steamy.


The whole tortilla making process takes several hours each morning. Time is needed for mixing, resting, pressing, cooking and continually replenishing the supply all day long.

Taco Cabana’s Other Menu Items

While the tortillas are the foundation, Taco Cabana serves a wide variety of classic and innovative Tex-Mex menu items that keep diners coming back. Here is an overview of some of Taco Cabana’s most popular offerings:


Tacos are the headliner at Taco Cabana. Fillings include spicy ground beef, shredded chicken, carnitas, barbacoa, crispy fish and more. The tacos are topped with cilantro and onions and wrapped in two warm homemade tortillas.


Cheesy enchiladas are smothered in flavorful red or green enchilada sauce. Fillings include ground beef, chicken, cheese or beans. An enchilada dinner comes with rice and beans.


These melted cheese classics can be filled with fajita chicken or steak and peppers. Extra sauce and pico de gallo add fresh flavor. Giant 12 inch quesadillas are big enough to share.


Crisp tortilla chips are piled high with beans, queso, pico de gallo, guacamole and jalapenos. Taco Cabana’s nachos are an appetizer favorite.


Sizzling fajitas come with your choice of chicken, steak or combo. They are served with flour tortillas, grilled peppers and onions, rice, beans, pico and guacamole.


Beyond tacos, Taco Cabana has entree-sized salads like the Fiesta Salad with crispy chicken, corn, black beans, cheese and creamy chili lime dressing.


Thick masa cake discs are fried and topped with beef, chicken or beans, lettuce, pico, queso fresco and avocado salsa. Sopes make a tasty authentic starter.


For dessert, warm Mexican-style churros coated in cinnamon sugar and served with chocolate dipping sauce hit the sweet spot.

Taco Cabana’s Rise to Fame

Felix Stehling opened the first Taco Cabana in San Antonio, Texas in September 1978. Inspired by the open-air cabanas of Mexico, he wanted to replicate the south of the border ambiance. The first location only had four items on the menu – tacos, fajitas, quesadillas and nachos. But the food was delicious and authentic.

Word spread quickly about Taco Cabana’s late night tacos. In the early days, they were open 24 hours a day. It became a go-to spot after a night out on the town. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Taco Cabana rapidly expanded across Texas with its laid-back patio dining concept.

By 2000, Taco Cabana had over 200 locations concentrated primarily in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. In the same year, the company was acquired by Carrols Corporation. Carrols owns several other U.S. restaurant chains including Burger King and Popeyes.

Under Carrols Corporation, Taco Cabana continued expanding into new markets like Georgia and Florida. They also upgraded facilities, added new menu items and rolled out drive-thrus to enhance convenience and accessibility.

Today, there are nearly 170 Taco Cabana locations across 7 states serving fresh, Tex-Mex flavor to over 40 million guests per year. Their authentic approach to food and hospitality remains unchanged after over 40 years. It all starts with good food, cold drinks and their famous handmade flour tortillas.

Taco Cabana vs Other Texas-based Chains

Taco Cabana competes in the crowded Tex-Mex fast casual space against other beloved homegrown brands:

Torchy’s Tacos

Like Taco Cabana, Austin-based Torchy’s Tacos makes their tortillas in-house daily. Their taco menu features unconventional flavors like Brush Fire (jamaican jerk chicken) and the Dirty Sanchez (scrambled eggs and fried poblano pepper). Torchy’s also offers breakfast tacos and queso. They have expanded beyond Texas to over 80 locations.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

This Fort Worth, Texas chain serves Baja-style tacos and nachos with a casual, beachy vibe. Their extensive margarita menu is a major draw. Fuzzy’s now has nearly 150 corporate and franchise locations after starting in 2001.

Freebirds World Burrito

Freebirds, launched in Calfornia in 1987, specializes in customizable mega-sized burritos and bowls stuffed with southwestern flavors. With around 70 locations, they are smaller than Taco Cabana but popular for burrito variety.

While all four chains have their loyal fans, Taco Cabana stands apart for its adherence to tradition,Housemade tortillas, sizzling fajitas, chill-lined dining patios and consistent quality since 1978 make it a Texas institution.

The Future of Taco Cabana

Taco Cabana is well positioned to continue thriving, even in the highly competitive fast-casual space. Here are some predictions for Taco Cabana’s future growth and innovations:

Expanded Footprint

There is room for expansion into new U.S. markets outside the core Texas region. They likely will not reach national scale like Chipotle or Qdoba but can double their current location count over the next decade.

Menu and Concept Diversification

A fast casual breakfast menu, alcohol sales, drive-thrus and fusion taco concepts provide avenues to maintain relevance and meet changing consumer preferences.

Digital Experience Innovation

Contactless ordering, mobile apps, loyalty programs, personalized offers and social media engagement will improve customer convenience and brand loyalty.

Emphasis on Food Quality and Transparency

High quality ingredients, responsible sourcing and transparent food safety practices will further support the core brand promise.

New Restaurant Formats

Smaller footprint express models, food trucks, airport locations or other non-traditional spaces can help penetrate untapped markets while retaining Taco Cabana’s signature style.

Staying true to its roots while evolving with the times, Taco Cabana is ripe for continued expansion. Fans can expect more craveable Tex-Mex flavors, hand-pressed tortillas and that welcoming cabana atmosphere for years to come. The future looks bright!


Taco Cabana certainly takes pride in making all of their famous flour tortillas completely from scratch in each restaurant every day. Rather than outsourcing this critical component, they control the tortilla making process using proprietary recipes and equipment to deliver fresh, high quality tortillas full of flavor. It may be more labor intensive than buying pre-made tortillas, but the difference in taste and texture is noticeable. Homemade tortillas are worth the extra effort and align with Taco Cabana’s commitment to authentic, quality ingredients. They will likely continue perfecting their tortilla recipe and process as the company grows. With nearly 45 years in the Tex-Mex business, they clearly know a thing or two about how to make a superior flour tortilla!

Leave a Comment