Everyday Food Blog

6 Steps to Building a Better Taco Bar

Posted by

If your taco nights consist of ground beef and a seasoning packet—we’re here to help. Let this year’s Cinco de Mayo be your inspiration for mastering the art of the taco. Great tacos all have one thing in common—balance. Though taco parties are often a topping free-for-all, there's a serious method to the madness. Let us help you crack the code for perfect tacos with this foolproof guide.

The Base

We won’t take sides on the hard versus soft or corn versus flour debate. There’s a time and a place for everything, so do what feels right. We only insist on one thing—warm them up! Bland, rigid tortillas ruin any taco. Either pop them (wrapped in parchment-lined foil) in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, or toast them over medium heat in a heavy skillet. We love to see few spots of char dot the surface. Even those crunchy tortillas need a few minutes to toast up in the oven. Really want to wow your guests? Make them homemade:

Corn Tortillas

The Protein (or Veg!)

Your options are endless. From pork carnitas, to shrimp, to grilled steak, and even to black-eyed peas, the world is your oyster. For a great taco party, consider preparing multiple options to please everyone. To ensure juicy, flavorful fillings, use some of our excellent recipes as your starting point. Some of our favorites include Smoky Beef, Tangy Cilantro Chicken, Shredded Pork, Tilapia, and Portobello-Zucchini (below).  If you’re looking for even more options, just visit our EDF taco archive.

Portobello Zucchini Tacos

Something Spicy

We know salsa is everyone’s favorite way to add extra heat, but let’s not ignore our other options. Bottled hot sauce and jalepeno slices are excellent taco bar additions for the serious heat-seeker. Chipotle in adobo also makes a firey marinade with a super smoky punch. For the faint of heart, consider making this Fresh Tomato Salsa with just a hint of spice. For everyone else, whip up some batches of these for a real party:

Salsa Picante

Classic Roasted Salsa

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Something Fresh

A little pop of freshness goes a long way in tacos. Diced white onion, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime can offer the perfect counterpoint to spicy or rich fillings. There’s a reason so many of our recipes use them. Scallion, diced tomato, or even Pineapple Relish can also provide that much-needed zip. Take a look at how we’ve used fresh components like these to the fullest in our Fish Tacos with Salsa Verde:

Fish Tacos with Salsa Verde

Something Creamy

Get ready for the good stuff. We love avocado above all (check out our guac recipes), but there are so many other ways to bring rich creaminess into your tacos. You can always go with cheese, but don’t limit yourself to the shredded kind. Authentic Mexican cheeses like queso fresco, cotija, and oaxaca are exciting choices. We even add goat cheese to these Black-Eyed Pea Tacos. If you love sour cream like we do, consider making a crema—a tangy sour cream-based sauce perfect for drizzling.

Cilantro-Lime Crema

Something Crunchy

The final taco necessity is all about texture. Make sure to include at least one crunchy component on your Cinco de Mayo taco bar. Classics include crisp lettuce (like romaine), thinly sliced radish, or shaved cabbage. Our suggestion? Go all out and make a flavorful, crunchy slaw like these:

Citrus-Mango Slaw

Cucumber-Jicama Slaw

Shredded Cabbage and Radish Salad

Taco nights are all about having fun, so play around. Pick and choose your favorite combos from these categories and you're guaranteed a successful night. Just don't forget to mix up a pitcher (or two) of margaritas!

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.