Party Planning

Ultimate taco bar ideas & recipe guide

Ultimate taco bar ideas & recipe guide

A Mexican-themed party with a help-yourself taco bar is one of the easiest events to plan.

Most of the prep for a taco party can be done ahead of time to minimize stress on the big day. The toughest part of being the hostess for a taco buffet is dicing fresh veggies and mixing margaritas!

You can easily take your fiesta-themed party to the next level with a few side dishes, desserts and drink recipes. I can help you with all that!

If you’ve never planned a taco bar party, everything you need to know is right here in this blog. So grab your sombrero and read on for the best taco bar ideas and recipes!

How to prepare a taco bar

A taco buffet bar with a few taco stations is an inviting experience for your guests. It’s also a great way to enjoy the party yourself instead of working up a sweat in the kitchen.

Here are some tips on how to prepare a taco bar:

1. Plan the menu | What do you serve at a taco bar?

custom frosted cups and custom napkins for taco bar

First, decide which type of taco shells to offer. The most popular is the traditional U-shaped, hard-shell taco. Round, soft tortillas are also a great addition to a taco bar but are a tad sloppy for guests to handle. Flour taco shells and tortillas are favorites but authentic varieties are made with corn.

What are the most popular taco toppings?

Delicious toppings for tacos include:

  • Seasoned ground beef
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Lettuce (romaine and iceberg)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Cheddar, cotija and mozzarella cheese
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Black beans
  • Avocados
  • Cilantro
  • Red and green onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Sliced black olives

A large variety of toppings will allow guests to make their tacos extra flavorful. It also makes each attendee a food prep specialist, which can add a tremendous amount of fun to your party.

What sides are good with tacos?

Sides will bring additional flavors and textures to your taco bar menu. Here are a few popular sides with recipes to enhance your taco party:

What are some ideas for desserts for a taco bar?

tres leches cake for taco bar

Dessert is an important part of any meal, and it’s no exception at a taco bar. You can choose from traditional desserts like cake or ice cream, but it makes more sense to choose a Mexican-themed treat for your taco bar menu.

My personal favorite taco bar dessert is the Tres Leches Cake. This light and luscious cake is made with three types of milk and a heavy cream to give it a rich texture. Yum!

In addition to your main sweet treat you can add a lighter option like sorbet. However, you will need to surround the sorbet container with ice or use another means to keep it frozen.

What are some ideas for taco bar drinks?

customized drinkware with taco theme design

You’ll find a variety of drinks to enjoy at a taco bar such as margaritas, salt and vinegar shots and spiced iced teas.

A crowd favorite is the Mojito! The combination of white rum, lime juice and mint achieve the perfect balance with tacos.

If your guests include children or those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages, give the fruity and invigorating taste of Agua Frescas a try! It’s simple to make and a large pitcher can be mixed up ahead of time.

2. Purchase taco bar supplies

Go through your menu and jot down all the food ingredients you’ll need such as taco shells, meat, seasonings, vegetables and condiments. Take a close look at each recipe you intend to make so you aren’t dashing for the grocery store the day of the party.

Other taco party supplies you’ll need include plates, utensils, napkins and cups. It’s easy to customize these items with Mexican-themed artwork or phrases such as “Vamos de fiesta!,” which means “Let’s party!”

Consider store-bought or DIY decorations to spice up the event. (See #5)

Taco party guest favors

purple fiesta themed custom koozies

How about guest favors or “regalos” to match your taco-themed party? Here are a few great, budget-friendly ideas to order now:

Customize your guest favors with the same Mexican-themed design printed on your party supplies. It will add consistency to your taco party decorations without spending a lot of money.

3. Prep the food

Most of the food preparation can be handled the day before your event. This is especially true for toppings that need sliced and diced such as tomatoes, peppers, onions and lettuce. Keep each prepared item in a separate container in the refrigerator.

Check the recipes for your side dishes, desserts, dips and sauces to determine how early they can be prepped. Some food items such as avocados require special care after slicing to keep them looking and tasting fresh.

How to make taco meat

taco meet in a crockpot

Taco meat is the star of the show so it has to be properly cooked and seasoned. Use quality ingredients if you want your tacos to taste delicious and be filling. Select ground beef that is 70 to 80 percent lean for the best flavor.

How much ground beef will I need for my taco party?

One taco requires about 4 ounces of meat. This means that 1 pound of ground beef will make approximately 3.5 tacos.

Follow this easy guide to determine how much ground beef you’ll need to feed your guests:

How to season your taco meat

You’ll find plenty of taco seasoning packets in the store but I prefer to create my own. This allows me to use the spices I like best. It also helps me to control the amount of salt; store-bought taco seasonings often are high in sodium.

Seasoning for 1 pound of taco meat:

Step 1: Cook 1 pound of ground beef until completely browned. Drain the grease and return the meat to low heat.

Step 2: Combine the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder

Note: This recipe will season 1 pound of meat. Be sure to adjust the amount of spices if using more than a pound of ground beef for your taco party.

Step 3: Add the combined tomato sauce and spices to the ground beef and stir until completely blended.

Step 4: Simmer on low for 5 to 10 minutes or until heated thoroughly.

The taco meat can be cooked, seasoned and kept in a refrigerator for up to three days. If prepared earlier, store it in the freezer and thaw the day of the party.

4. Set up the table(s)

taco bar toppings on a table

Place the table(s) in an area where it will be easy for guests to access. Make it as near the kitchen as possible for convenience. If you have the space, create separate stations for the tacos and toppings, side dishes, desserts and drinks.

Add a little zing to your décor by personalizing a tablecloth at Totally Promotional. Each style we carry is made with liquid-repellent material to easily clean up spilled salsa or guacamole. You can reuse your Mexican-themed table cover for Cinco de Mayo celebrations or future taco parties!

Use small placards to identify the types of meat, toppings, side dishes and desserts on each table. Do the same for any beverages you prepare ahead. Include the types of liquor and mixers in each.

5. Decorate!

Examine your budget before deciding which direction to go with taco party decorations. It’s definitely easier to buy decorations at a dollar store or other discount retailer. A quick search online displays millions of taco bar decorating items from mini piñatas to giant fiesta paper flowers!

If you’re trying to save a few bucks, here are a couple DIY taco party decorations you can try:

Still have questions? You’ll probably find the answers here:

How many tacos do you need per person?

The number of tacos you need per person depends on whether you are also serving side dishes and/or desserts.

  • Plan for three tacos per person if there are no side dishes or desserts on your menu.
  • Plan for two tacos per person if you also are serving side dishes, even if it’s just rice and refried beans.

How do you keep tacos and tortillas warm?

Taco shells and tortillas are delicate and need to be kept warm before filling. Here’s how to keep them warm when serving a large crowd:

Hard taco shells: Separate them onto a baking sheet and cover the taco shells in foil. Place them in a 250-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Leave them inside the foil until they are ready to be served.

Soft tortilla shells: Cover three or four tortillas at a time with a slightly damp paper towel and microwave for about 20 seconds. Store them in a damp tea towel or in a crock pot on a warm setting until ready to serve. If you indulge in tacos often, you might consider purchasing a tortilla warmer!

How can I make sure my taco bar is a success?

The key to pulling off the best taco party is planning. I’m a list person. As a hostess, my sanity stays in check by creating an Excel sheet or using a simple notebook to keep organized.

Use the valuable information in this blog to create a list of all the items you’ll need. Check each off when the item is in hand.

Set dates — and times in some cases — to perform specific tasks. Be sure to place orders ahead of time for items such as customized cups and taco-themed can coolers. Color-code reminders (red for urgent!) to borrow tables, clean the floors and other pre-party duties.

It’s a comforting feeling to know you’re on top of things. If you’re relaxed, your guests will be, too. And isn’t that what parties are all about?

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