Whether you are serving your family of 4 or entertaining 100 people, a taco bar can be a guaranteed hit. There are 3 basic components of a taco bar – the meat, the condiments and something to hold it all together. Within each of those components, the possibilities can seem endless. You can make it as simple or gourmet as you would like. Here is some information on the options to help you guide your choices.
The meat of it!
When serving a taco bar, it is best to limit the meat choices to 1 or 2 options. Too many choices will make will make serving more difficult.
Ground beef is a very common way to serve tacos. It’s easy to brown the meat and season with packaged taco seasoning mix.
Shredded beef is very easy and convenient to serve large crowds. You can make the meat ahead in the slow cooker. Before serving, shred the beef with two forks and your meat is ready to go when you are.
Shredded Beef Tacos
Chicken or Turkey
You can use ground chicken or turkey and cook it just like ground beef. Another option is to use thinly sliced grilled chicken.
Cheesy Chicken Tacos
Fish can be a little more delicate to work with and does not hold as well. Use fish if you are serving a small group and are able to prepare and serve immediately.
Grilled Fish Tacos
Another options is to skip the meat altogether. Black beans or refried beans are great substitutes for the meat protein.
The condiment complements!
The condiments are what personalize the meal and make it special. You can start with purchased prepared product or you can make it from scratch. A combination of the two may work best depending on your time and budget. A rule of thumb to remember: the more choices you have, the less quantity you will need of each item. Also keep in mind you will need serving bowls for each item and plenty of table room for the options you choose.
With salsa you can go traditional or be creative, whether hot or spicy. Having a homemade salsa made with fresh tomatoes is definitely worth the effort.
Roasted Tomato & Chiles Salsa
Salsa can be used interchangeably with taco sauce or picante sauce. Another creative option is to try pico de gallo - a fresh relish similar to salsa but can include other ingredients like jicama, cucumbers, lemon or lime juice, bell peppers, and possibly fruit like oranges or mango.
Shredded Cheddar cheese is most commonly served but there are several other wonderful cheeses to choose from - Monterey Jack, hot pepper, smoked cheddar... You can be authentic and use a Mexican cheese like Chihuahua or try the quick melting, creamy American cheese.
Tomatoes add color and freshness to a taco. Roma tomatoes are nice because they are “meaty” and will hold nicely. Purchase vine ripened tomatoes to get a bright red color and better flavor. It’s best to remove the seeds before chopping so the juice doesn’t water down your taco.
Any lettuce will do. A nice leaf lettuce like Romaine adds color and texture. Simply shred the lettuce by cutting it into thin strips. Substituting shredded coleslaw mix will add a nice crunch to the tacos.
There are some great new prepared guacamoles introduced in the grocery stores the past couple of years. Nothing compares to making it with fresh avocado if you have the time.
If you don’t want to go through all the effort of guacamole, you can serve cut up an avocado for great flavor and texture. To keep the avocado from turning brown, toss it with a little lime juice.
Serving warm refried beans not only tastes good but it can help hold the taco together. Black beans are another great choice for adding protein, especially for vegetarians.
Other things to consider
Cilantro, sliced green onions or sour cream make great additions to any taco bar.
Pulling it all together
There are two main options for taco shells – either soft or hard shell. A combination of both is nice because most people have a specific preference. For optimum serving quality, be sure to follow the package directions for heating and serving.
Tortilla come in a variety of sizes and can be made from corn or flour. For tacos, the 10 inch flour tortillas work best because they are flexible and large enough to hold all the filling. For variety, you can try green spinach tortillas or red tortillas.
Corn taco shells come in either white or yellow corn, both will work great. Crispy salad shells are a fried shell in the shape of large bowls that can also be used.
Completing the meal!
If you don’t think this will be enough, you can always add a simple side dish of refried beans or Spanish rice.
Now that you know how to put together the perfect taco bar, you're guaranteed to have a fun (and delicious!) party your guests will enjoy.