How to Throw a Taco Bar Dinner Party

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If you want to organize a fun, casual dinner party but also want to give it a strong sense of exotic international flair, a taco bar is the way to go. I’m yet to meet anybody who does not love tacos, especially since they’re easy to customize for any kind of diet or unique culinary taste.

And allowing the guests to actually make their own adds a whole other level to how delicious the tacos are – I’ve always been a believer of the idea that food tastes better if you made it yourself.

In this post, I’ll tell you how to put together a great taco bar, from tips about shopping for toppings to recommendations about taco dishes to buy that will give off that fun “fiesta” vibe.

Taco Bar Ingredients

First of all, let’s talk about what ingredients you need to buy to put together a great taco bar! Remember that a big part of what makes a taco bar so much fun for all of your guests is the freedom of choice on offer, which is why you should try to get ahold of as many of these ingredients as possible along with other foods you think would make for tasty taco ingredients!

Tortillas

Don’t just stick to one type of tortilla. There are multiple types you should include to offer different tastes and textures, including:

  • Soft flour tortillas
  • Crunchy corn tortillas – As far as most Americans are concerned, the classic taco shell.
  • Soft corn tortillas – Be sure to serve them warm, or the texture isn’t good.
  • Soft spinach tortillas

I’d recommend having a total of 3 tortillas per person for a taco bar dinner (e.g. 30 tortillas, spread out across different types, for a 10-person taco bar).

Meats

As the defining ingredient of most tacos, it’s extremely important you offer diners a selection of meats to add. Try the following:

  • Ground beef with taco seasoning – Usually, the seasoning is sold separately and you have to cook it into some hamburger meat.
  • Cubed chicken breast
  • Pastor – This thinly sliced rotisserie pork is probably the most common taco meat in Mexico and is available at many Latino supermarkets.
  • Chopped fish – My favorite is grilled salmon.
  • Grilled jackfruit – This isn’t technically meat, but it has a texture more accurate to meat than any other substitute I’ve ever tried, which is why it’s a good vegetarian taco filling. It also has an incredibly unique flavor. All in all, I’d recommend this non-traditional taco filling whether you’re vegetarian or not!

Plan on having 0.35 pounds of meat per person for a taco bar (e.g. 3.5 pounds of meat, spread out across different types, for a 10-person taco bar).

Beans

Beans are super-easy to prepare, so there’s really no excuse for not preparing all three common types of taco beans:

  • Black beans
  • Refried beans
  • Pinto beans

Rice

Rice adds a delightful texture to tacos and you can easily buy it pre-made at most supermarkets! It’s best to include:

  • Steamed brown rice
  • Traditional mexican rice (the kind with the orange color)
  • Cilantro-lime rice or some rice with an acidic seasoning

Vegetables

The value of vegetables in tacos is three-fold. It adds a bit of nutritional value, it’s tasty, AND, in the case of most vegetables, it gives the taco a pleasant crunch. Try some:

  • Diced tomato
  • Diced white onion
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Thinly chopped radish
  • Chopped jalapenos

You might also want to add some pickled vegetables, like pickled carrots, pickled radishes, or pickled onions.

Cheese

For a nice creamy texture and an added kick of flavor, grate up some cheese! The best cheeses for a taco bar are:

  • Sharp cheddar
  • Monterrey jack
  • Gouda
  • Provolone – This is a fancy topping for tacos in Mexico.

You’ll want an ounce of cheese per person (e.g. 10 ounces or 1.25 cups of cheese, spread out across different types, for a 10 person taco bar).

Sauces

Sauces are, in my opinion, the most important part of a great taco because they balance out the heat and diverse flavors with something cold and smooth. They also add a distinct flavor of the diner’s choosing. Some good sauces to consider include:

  • Sour cream – This one is a must. A tex-mex taco staple.
  • Salsas – There are hundreds of good salsas out there, both pre-made and in recipe form. Prepare at least two for a taco bar.
  • Guacamole
  • Taco sauce – There are spicy, salsa-like sauces actually marketed as “taco sauce.” Give them a try.
  • Tzatziki – It’s by no means traditional, but one of my favorite taco bars in Mexico City gave me the idea and now it’s my favorite taco topping.
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Chipotle mayo

Taco Bar Sides

Serve some additional foods alongside your taco bar to kick up the fiesta atmosphere a notch. I’d recommend any or all of the following:

  • Corn chips – The best part is, you don’t even have to prepare any dips or toppings for them since they’re already in the taco bar!
  • Elote or esquites – Mexican style on or off the cob, respectively. They come topped with mayo, chili powder, lime, and cheese.
  • Arroz con leche – Spanish for “rice with milk,” this sweet dessert is a perfect way to cleanse your palette and top of a hearty meal.
  • Tres leches cake – This “three milks cake” is another creamy and perfectly sweet dessert that follows the Latino theme.

Drinks to Go with Tacos

Drinks are pretty much essential, both because tacos are usually pretty hot and because they’ll turn your taco bar’s fun level up to 11 after everyone’s downed a few of them. Some of the best drinks to go with tacos include:

  • Margaritas
  • Daiquiris
  • Micheladas – A beer cocktail with chili salt and lime to add some spice. They’re extremely popular throughout Mexico.
  • Mojitos
  • Tequila shots, if you like to live on the wild side
  • Good ol’ fashioned Corona!

Taco Bar Serving Dishes

A large part of making a taco bar dinner a success is getting ahold of the best taco bar dishware. Taco bar serving dishes that look good and not only important in fueling the authentic fiesta mood, but their increased functionality will help make the taco experience all the more delicious. In the table below, I’ve rounded up my seven favorite serving dishes for taco bars. They each serve different functions, so be sure to check out all of them if you want to make your taco party truly special.

Taco Bar FAQ

How do you serve a taco bar?

Once you have all your ingredients and serving dishes, transfer the ingredients to the dishes and lay them all out on a well-lit table. Try to put the different “categories” of ingredients together in “stations”. For example, have one station for different kinds of meats, one station for different beans, one station for different vegetables, one for cheeses, and so on.

The different tortilla types should always be on one end of the station. When placing out the tortillas before the buffet, warm them in the oven and place them in a tortilla tray like the Azulete Tortilla Warmer mentioned above. If you have tortilla holders, place them beside the tortillas for use during the taco bar.

What kind of cheese goes to a taco bar?

Flavor-packed cheeses with a medium-firm texture like sharp cheddar, monterrey jack, and cojita are the best cheeses for tacos.

Let’s Taco Bout It

I’ve been holding taco bar dinners more and more often since my first one a few years ago because they’re always big hits with my guests. I’ve literally never seen an unhappy face at one of the parties (at least, as far as I can remember) and I think it’s fair to say they’re my favorite types of large dinner parties to host now because they’re so easy, fun, and inexpensive.

I hope this post has inspired you to organize some taco nights of your own and has given you some good ideas as to how you can organize them!

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