‘Bar’ style parties continue to be a trendy and delicious way to get together with friends and family. Build your own pizza parties are super popular for both adults and kids, but for something a little different why not host a build your own taco dinner party. There are so many different types of tasty toppings, the possibilities are endless. A taco bar is also a great way to feed guests of different tastes and ages. You don’t have to worry about your brother who doesn’t like fish or your daughter who hates tomatoes. Everyone can enjoy and savor a meal they love, custom-made to their palate.
I threw this dinner party in December. The weather is pretty drab and miserable here in the late fall and winter, so I wanted to spice things up a bit. But you can throw a taco dinner party any time of the year. Most of the recipes came from the Bon Appetite website, their recipes are consistently excellent and their taco recipes online all link to recipes for recommended fixings. No guesswork required!
We had a small group so we made suggested pairings while seated at the table, but if you’re hosting a large gathering and are perhaps serving food on a buffet table you may want to provide a menu of possible tacos guests can build.
A build your own taco party is an easy one if you’ll be somewhat short on time the day of your event. Most of the fillings can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge. The exception being any deep-fried food, you’ll want to make that just before serving. We served deep-fried fish and deep-fried avocados, this must be made just before serving. Even if you re-heat them in the oven they’re never quite as good as fresh out of the fryer.
Decide at least a week in advance what your menu will be and come up with your shopping list. Depending on how authentic you want your meal to be, you may need to spend some time sourcing out ingredients. If some ingredients aren’t in season or are impossible to find you may want to adjust your menu, so it’s best to give yourself lots of time to deal with this.
Your best option is a Latin foods market. They typically have a great selection of chili peppers and other vegetables that you may need for your recipes. If you don’t live near one a specialty or whole foods market might be another good option. I find it frustrating to drive from shop to shop in search of a couple ingredients so I usually just call ahead of time to make sure they have what I’m looking for if it’s something specific.
We had only four adults at our taco party, so I chose to serve everything at the main table. We made quite a number of dishes so the table was full, but for such a small group I didn’t want to have a separate table for food. We had five kids there as well but I setup their own table with a mild tomato sauce-based turkey taco filling, and other kid-friendly toppings such as shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and cheddar cheese.
I went a bit overboard with the tablescape so I ended up moving most of it to the side when we were ready to eat. You don’t need to do anything too fancy for a taco bar, but a brightly colored table linens are a nice touch. I pulled out my wedding china that we rarely use for the party; one of my new year’s resolutions to stop saving special things for ‘special’ occasions. Everyday is a special occasion if you want it to be! Check out my post here for some other tablescape ideas.
The Main Filling
There are so many delicious possibilities for the ‘meat’ fillings, which don’t have to be meat at all! We chose to do fish, chicken, and avocados. We did grilled chicken thighs (get the recipe here), which were so amazing; juicy and flavorful. You can make these ahead of time along with grilled veggies as well. When you’re almost ready to eat heat these up in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F.
The avocados and fish were both deep-fried. We don’t eat deep-fried foods often, but if you do on occasion having a deep fryer rules. We also served freshly made churros for dessert so a batch of oil went a long way. We had everything made ahead of time except for the fish and avocados, these we made just before serving.
The fish tacos were simply delightful (Get the recipe here). Crunchy, light, and perfectly cooked. The avocados (get the recipe here) were amazing. You can also make deep friend avocados as an appetizer. I know almost anything taste good deep-fried but these are seriously phenomenal. I highly recommend you try these out. Crunchy and creamy, they are simply delightful.
It’s time to think beyond store-bought salsa and shredded cheddar. Preparing your own fixings will take your tacos to the next level and beyond. Most salsas and other sauces can be made well in advance, some even enhancing their flavors over a day or two.
Here is a list with links to all the fixings I made:
- Cabbage and parsnip slaw (this recipe is actually for cabbage and jicama slaw but after checking three different markets for jicama I gave up and omitted it, we added parsnips instead).
- Fresno chili hot sauce (this is SPICY. And so good)
- Charred tomatillo salsa Verde (the runaway favorite fixing)
- Pico de gallo (cilantro lovers rejoice)
- crumbled queso fresco
- shredded Monterrey jack cheese
You can also include sliced radishes, pickled and/or fresh jalapenos, shredded lettuce, sliced avocados, and cilantro. We also served both flour and corn tortillas, warmed in the oven.
Give your guests some suggestions if you use specific recipes, or just let them choose whatever looks good to them. A casual taco dinner party is a great way to share food with friends and family.
If you have any questions or would like to share your own favorite dinner party ideas please leave a comment below!