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Taco Rice タコライス

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  • Tex-Mex and Japanese – a surprisingly delicious fusion of cuisines.  It’s best represented by Okinawan Taco Rice, a simple mashup of taco fillings and Japanese white rice.  It’s satisfyingly, unique comfort food that’s quick to make for a weeknight dinner!

    Okinawa Taco Rice on a colorful plate consisting of white rice, taco seasoning ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese, topped with tomato salsa.

    As a delicious addition to our Okinawa Travel Series that Mr. JOC has been writing (Here’s Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4 coming soon), I’ve been sharing Okinawan recipes including RafuteSata Andagi, Taco Rice, and Okinawa Soba (coming soon).

    Among these dishes, Taco Rice (タコライス) was my son’s favorite, begging me now to make it every week.  Mr. JOC wasn’t sure about the combination of tacos and Japanese steamed rice, but he was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted.

    Whether or not you’re a big fan of Tex-Mex tacos, give this recipe a try.  Your family will love it!   It’s so easy to make, and is perfect for a weeknight meal.  You can prepare taco meat and individual toppings ahead of time, and assemble right before you are ready to eat.

    How to Make Taco Rice

    Tex-Mex and Japanese – a surprisingly delicious fusion of cuisines. It’s best represented by Okinawan Taco Rice, a simple mashup of taco fillings and Japanese white rice.

    What’s Taco Rice?

    Taco Rice is an Okinawan dish in which the ingredients of a Tex-Mex taco – ground beef, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes – are served on a bed of warm rice, with salsa on top.

    This fusion dish was first created in 1984 by a Japanese restaurant owner, Matsuzo Gibo, who wanted to create an affordable yet fulfilling meal that can be made quickly and enjoyed by the young American military. His restaurant was nearby the American military base and he thought combining tacos, which were already popular among the American military, and Japanese staple dish, steamed rice would be a winning team. True enough, a simple twist to something familiar not only opened the door of his restaurant to more American customers, it had also created quite a sensation in the island that the locals quickly embraced.

    It may not be a classic Okinawan dish like RafuteSata Andagi, or Okinawa Soba, but Taco Rice encapsulates the spirit of the island where cultures are constantly evolving and influencing each other. Now a new Okinawa’s specialty food, you can find taco rice being served on family dinner tables throughout the prefecture.

    Okinawa Taco Rice on a colorful plate consisting of white rice, taco seasoning ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese, topped with tomato salsa.

    Homemade Taco Seasonings

    If you look up a Taco Rice recipe in Japanese online, you will notice that a lot of recipes use soy sauce, Tonkatsu sauce, curry powder, or ketchup.  In Okinawa, you can get a packet of taco seasoning easily since American military base is there.  But in the mainland, taco seasoning is not easy to get.  I think that’s why the taco meat is always seasoned with some common Japanese condiments that are available in a Japanese kitchen.

    For my recipe, I followed this taco seasoning recipe online to make my taco meat as I have all the seasonings at home.  If you don’t want to get individual bottles of spices just to make this recipe, consider getting a packet of taco seasoning for a quick fix.  But these spices are fairly common and you either already have them or will be using them in other recipes.  So it is a good investment too!

    Okinawa Taco Rice on a colorful plate consisting of white rice, taco seasoning ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese, topped with tomato salsa.

    Popular Taco Rice Restaurants in Okinawa

    During our recent trip to Okinawa, we couldn’t make it to the original restaurant that taco rice was created due to the limited time we had.  It’s called King Tacos (キングタコス) and currently there are 6 King Tacos locations within Okinawa.

    The Nagata and Futenma locations in Ginowan, the Misato location in Okinawa city, the Agena and Yokatsu locations in Uruma, and the flagship location in Kin.

    The original King Tacos store is located:

    The original taco rice (タコライス, ¥400/$4) is composed of ground beef, seasoned with taco spice seasoning, served on a bed of Japanese rice.  Then taco rice cheese (タコライスチーズ, ¥500/$5) additionally includes cheese on top.  And Taco rice cheese vegetable (タコライスチーズ野菜, ¥600/$6) additionally includes shredded lettuce. If you’re on a budget or want something that is kid-friendly when visiting Okinawa, definitely stop by these Taco Rice restaurants.

    For now, you want to add this Taco Rice to your Taco Thursday menu! It is gluten-free friendly too. I keep my toppings fairly simple, but this fusion rice bowl is open for customization. Feel free to dress them up with whatever you have in hand. Avocado slices, crumbled feta, pickled jalapeno or roasted vegetables. Just don’t forget to finish it off with plenty of bright, fresh cilantro and the lime slices!

    Okinawa Taco Rice on a colorful plate consisting of white rice, taco seasoning ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese, topped with tomato salsa.

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    4.61 from 38 votes
    Okinawa Taco Rice on a colorful plate consisting of white rice, taco seasoning ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese, topped with tomato salsa.
    Taco Rice
    Prep Time
    20 mins
    Cook Time
    10 mins
    Total Time
    30 mins

    Okinawan Taco Rice, a simple mashup of taco fillings and Japanese white rice.  It's a satisfyingly, unique comfort food that's quick to make for a weeknight dinner!

    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Japanese
    Keyword: taco rice
    Servings: 2
    • ½ lb ground beef (I used 85% lean)
    • 1 clove garlic
    • ½ red onion (¾ goes to taco meat, ¼ goes to salsa)
    • 2 leaves iceberg lettuce
    • 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
    • Mexican cheese
    • 3 cups  cooked Japanese short-grain rice (I cooked 1.5 rice-cooker-cups (240 ml uncooked rice *See Notes)
    Taco Seasoning
    • 1 Tbsp chili powder
    • ¼ tsp garlic powder
    • ¼ tsp onion powder
    • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    • ¼ tsp dried oregano
    • ½ tsp paprika
    • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; Use half for table salt)
    • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • ½ tomato
    • 5 strands cilantro
    • ½ lemon
    1. Gather all the ingredients.
      Taco Rice Ingredients
    Make Homemade Taco Seasoning
    1. Combine all the ingredients for taco seasoning in a mason jar (or a plastic bag) and shake well to mix together.
      Taco Rice 1
    Cut ingredients
    1. Mince the garlic clove and set aside (we will use this for stir frying with meat).
      Taco Rice 2
    2. Mince the red onion.
      Taco Rice 3
    3. Cut the tomato into small cubes (you need about half tomato, although it’s shown as a whole tomato here).
      Taco Rice 4
    4. Chop cilantro into small pieces.
      Taco Rice 5
    5. Combine chopped red onion, tomato, cilantro in a medium bowl and squeeze half of the lemon into the bowl. Mix well together.

      Taco Rice 6
    6. Cut the iceberg lettuce into thin strips.
      Taco Rice 7
    Make Taco Meat
    1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the garlic cloves until fragrant. Then add the red onion and sauté until coated with oil.
      Taco Rice 8
    2. Add the ground beef and break into small pieces using a spatula.
      Taco Rice 9
    3. Add 4 tsp Taco Seasoning (Roughly 2 tsp for every 1/4 lb) and combine well with the meat. Turn off the heat.
      Taco Rice 10
    Assemble the Taco Rice Bowl
    1. Serve the steamed rice on a plate/bowl. Put the ground beef on top. Then top with cheese, lettuce, and tomato salsa as much as you like. Serve with extra salsa and enjoy!
      Taco Rice 11
    Recipe Notes

    Steamed Rice: 1.5 rice cooker cups (240 ml) yields roughly 3 American cups. 


    Taco Seasoning: This taco seasoning recipe is from All Recipes


    Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook.  All images and content on this site are copyright protected.  Please do not use my images without my permission.  If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source.  Thank you.

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