Wes Avila’s Chile Colorado, L.A. Style

Wes Avila's Chile Colorado Tacos

Los Angeles has a long-standing relationship with taco carts and trucks. Starting in the 1930s on Olvera Street, gathering steam in the 1970s with King Taco, and reaching cult status when Roy Choi started selling Korean barbecue tacos outside downtown clubs. Once the mold for traditional tacos was busted open a new style of modern Mexican-American cooking began emerging in Los Angeles – a style dubbed Alta California Cuisine by local food writer Bill Esparza. After that, it didn’t take long for someone to come along and completely redefine what we in L.A. expect from a taco. That someone is Wes Avila. He and his impromptu food truck, Guerrilla Tacos, have ambushed our taco scene, all for the better.

Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A.

The menu at Guerrilla Tacos always changes. Some days you may find classics like Chile Colorado, but you’ll also find wild boar tacos and shishito pepper tacos with fried egg and pepita salsa. There’s mussel and preserved lemon quesadillas, and tostadas piled high with sea urchin and tuna poke. There’s also a book, Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A., featuring these same L.A. style tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas.

What the book and the truck have in common is their ingredient-driven aesthetic. “I like to use ingredients that keep us interested in what we’re doing,” says Avila, whose best-selling menu item is the now ubiquitous sweet potato taco. “I’m not blocked off or walled off by borders – if I want to use Russian or Armenian or Japanese ingredients, I’m going to use them.”

After all, this is Los Angeles. A city of remarkable diversity and opportunity.

Chile Colorado Tacos

However, despite his multi-cultural, new school approach to cooking Avila grew up just east of L.A. in Pico Rivera savoring the traditional Mexican-American fare his parents brought to the table. These influences are what help keep his recipes, if not quite traditional, then at least laced with a smack of hometown authenticity.

This blend of sensibilities can be seen in his version of the classic Mexican-American comfort food – Chile Colorado. Avila’s recipe is influenced by the simple guisado (stew) his father made and he calls it “proudly inauthentic”. Though I suspect this recipe, with its big burst of bright green tomatillo, is less inauthentic than it is proudly L.A. style. GREG

Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A. Wes Avila's Chile Colorado TacosWes Avila's Chile Colorado Tacos Wes Avila's Chile Colorado Tacos

Chile Colorado Tacos 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Source Wes AvilaPublished

Reprinted from Guerrilla Tacos, copyright © 2017 by Wes Avila, with Richard Parks III.

Chile Colorado Tacos


  • 3 pound raw beef (preferably in one piece (hanger steak, hanging tender, or top sirloin), trimmed and cut into ½‑by-2-inch pieces)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 8 Roma tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 cup husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
  • 6 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 dried pasilla pepper (stemmed and seeded)
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles (stemmed and seeded)
  • 1 dried chile morita (stemmed and seeded)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 16–18 warm corn tortillas (I made my own from white corn masa harina)
  • 2 red onions (very thinly sliced)


Season the beef with salt and pepper.

In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Working in four batches, sear the beef until it is browned, about 2 minutes per batch. You don’t want it cooked too much, just coated with oil and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to another container.

In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the yellow onion and cumin seeds until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, pasilla, dried chiles, and bay leaves and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are cooked and the chiles are soft. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the water to keep it saucy. Transfer to a blender and process to make the sauce as smooth as possible.

Return the meat to the pan and cover with the sauce. Serve family-style, with the tortillas and red onions, and let everybody make their own tacos.