This is the best guide to help you plan an easy taco bar menu for your next party or Cinco de Mayo celebration! Discover tons of great tips and party ideas on how to host a DIY taco bar and plan a delicious taco bar menu that's affordable and fun!
A taco bar party is a great way to serve a big crowd at tailgates, birthdays, showers, graduation parties and even weddings!
- Why Host a Taco Bar Party?
- How to Plan a Taco Bar Menu
- Choosing a Theme
- The Best Taco Shells
- How to Keep Tortillas Warm
- Filling Ideas
- How Much Taco Meat Per Person?
- Taco Toppings List
- Sides That Go Well With Tacos
- How to Set Up a Taco Bar
- Decorating Ideas
- Festive Drinks and Desserts
- Recipe FAQs
- Storage and Freezing
- Mexican-Style Recipes
- Recipe Card
Why Host a Taco Bar Party?
- Easy and fun - your guests will absolutely love a build-your-own taco bar!
- Can be made ahead - make all of the meats and toppings several days ahead
- Crowd pleaser - everyone loves delicious tacos with a festive party drink!
- Portable - street tacos are easy to eat while mingling
- Feeds a large crowd - a taco buffet can feed anywhere from 25 to 100 people!
How to Plan a Taco Bar Menu
The first rule when planning a taco bar menu is to keep it simple. Providing too many choices can be overwhelming. You could end up with a lot of leftovers and a hefty bill at the end of the evening.
Even though there are many taco bar ideas in this article, it's best to only choose a few for your guests. Here are some important points to remember:
- Keep the menu simple and affordable.
- Choose one party theme and stick to it.
- Select one or two taco fillings and offer a vegetarian option.
- Use soft tortillas (made of corn) that are gluten-free and will save you money.
- Provide three to four toppings and supplement with heartier side dishes.
Choosing a Theme
There are literally hundreds of favorite taco toppings and fillings to choose from, so your first task is to pick a theme and stick to it.
It's a good idea to think about your guests when planning a taco bar menu. Do they have a favorite recipe? What are their favorite Mexican restaurants? What type of event will this be?
Once you've decided on the party theme, it's easy to plan a fun and fabulous taco bar menu your guests will love. Feel free to let your creative juices flow and come up with the party of your dreams!
Here are a few taco theme ideas to help you get started...
- Authentic - offer taco fillings and toppings that feature traditional Mexican recipes like barbacoa, pork carnitas, pickled red onions, cotija cheese and fresh cilantro.
- Taco Night - if your guests enjoy eating at Taco Bell, serve seasoned ground beef with cheese, lettuce and salsa. This is a popular choice with teenagers and kids!
- Baja Style - make Baja chicken tacos or fried fish tacos with a creamy sauce.
- Tex Mex Style - create Texas-inspired food like smoked meats and chili con carne.
- Southern BBQ - add a unique spin by serving BBQ fillings with creamy slaw and a variety of barbecue sauces.
- Brunch - offer candied bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheddar cheese topped with tomato gravy or white gravy. Or, create a huevos rancheros taco bar just for fun!
- Vegetarian - provide roasted vegetables, beans, plant-based cheese and meatless toppings.
- Taco Salad - offer tortilla chips instead of shells and encourage guests to make their favorite taco salad recipes!
The Best Taco Shells
To make things easy, provide only one type of shell on your taco bar menu. My preference is soft corn tortillas. Why is this the best choice?
- Smaller size - requires less fillings and toppings so it saves you money
- Gluten-free - satisfies the folks who require a gluten free menu and works for everyone else
- Easy to serve - takes up less room on the bar and doesn't break when bending or eating
You can also offer small flour tortillas or hard shell tortillas. But, remember if you provide more than one choice, it will be a greater expense.
Another issue with hard shells is breakage. Crispy shells tend to break easily which creates a lot of waste and awkward moments while eating. This is fine for Taco Tuesday at home, but not very fun while walking around at an event.
How to Keep Tortillas Warm
The best way to warm tortillas is in a crockpot or tortilla warmer. These items keep a large stack of tortillas toasty for an entire evening with no scorching.
If choosing crispy tortilla shells, you'll need to warm them in an oven first.
Choose one or two fillings for a great taco bar. If choosing meat, be sure to offer veggies or beans for guests who are meat-free.
- Shredded beef (barbacoa) - a popular choice for authentic Mexican tacos
- Pulled Chicken - leaner meat without as much fat content
- Carnitas (pulled pork) - moist and juicy with tons of flavor
- Roasted vegetables or black beans - great addition for vegetarian friends
- Seasoned ground beef - make homemade taco seasoning or use a packet
- Grilled or fried fish - create a delicious Baja taco with seasoned fish!
How Much Taco Meat Per Person?
Most people will eat an average of 2 tacos if side dishes are provided. Each taco contains about 2 ounces of meat, for a total of 4 ounces per person. So, 1 pound of taco meat (16 ounces) will serve 4 people. For a party of 24, that adds up to 6 pounds of meat.
A party of 100 would require a little over 4 times that amount, or 25 pounds of meat if serving 5 inch corn tortillas. Remember to allow for shrinkage when cooking fresh meat. It's better to prepare more and have leftovers than not have enough.
Taco Toppings List
There are many combinations of topping ingredients that can be served on a taco bar. For a large event, choose 3 to 4 toppings to go with your theme. For a smaller gathering, it's easier to add more choices.
Don't forget sour cream and lime wedges because they're a crowd favorite!
Sides That Go Well With Tacos
At big parties, I like to set out a huge tray of nachos with layers of toppings as a side dish. I assemble the nachos on sheet pans and serve them directly from the oven to the table. For smaller parties, it's a good idea to include a big bag of chips and queso or salsa.
Here are some tried and true sides that go great on a taco bar menu:
How to Set Up a Taco Bar
Setting up a taco bar is as easy as finding a table and setting out the food! If you want to add a pop of color, consider using bright flowers and adding napkins or tablecloths. Here are some ideas (with affiliate links):
- A long rectangular table is preferred, but you can use any size if it's big enough to hold all of the ingredients and easy to reach serving containers.
- Think about how your guests will travel through the line and what they'll need from start to finish. Nacho trays are an easy way for guests to hold tacos and toppings.
- Set out napkins, plates and silverware at the beginning of the line. Tortillas come next, with fillings and toppings nearby. Sides should be offered at the end.
- Provide plenty of tongs and spoons for service.
- Use medium size bowls and refill as needed to preserve freshness.
- You'll need coolers and warmers for food. Nested aluminum pans work well. Fill with ice to keep toppings cold. Or nestle two bowls together and fill the bottom one with ice. Use a sterno kit, warming tray or connected crockpots to keep meat and fillings warm.
- Always provide drinks at a separate location for guests who just need a refill and don't want to go through the food line to get one.
The best part about setting up a taco bar is planning the decor! You don't have to spend a lot of money to make your table and surroundings festive. Try these ideas (most are affiliate links):
- Colorful serving bowls: use mismatched items from your house or order colorful bowls online
- Bright napkins, placemats, plates and tablecloths to drape on the tables and other decorative items can be found at discount stores or Amazon
- Festive vases for flowers: purchase vases at a dollar store and add fresh flowers such as Gerbera daisies and bright colored sweetheart roses
- Fun music to set the mood: check out Spotify or Apple music for a Fiesta playlist!
Festive Drinks and Desserts
PARTY TIP: Get the party started by having drinks ready in pitchers when guests arrive. Guests can help themselves, or you can serve drinks to keep quantities at bay. Whatever you do, save some for you! You've earned it!
It depends on how many guests are invited, the type of fillings and toppings provided, and how many sides are offered. The choice of meat can drive up the cost, but if you make it yourself, you can save quite a bit of money. Ground beef is the most inexpensive option, followed by shredded chicken. Pulled beef and pork can be costly depending on where it is purchased. Shopping at discount stores is an affordable option.
Choose seasoned ground beef as a filling and make it yourself. Provide corn tortillas and 3 toppings such as cheese, lettuce and salsa. Supplement with seasoned rice and a big pot of refried or black beans. Rice and beans are inexpensive if you make them at home. They're also filling, which will satisfy guests and keep them from wanting to return to the food line.
To prevent guests from going back and getting seconds, drape a large tablecloth over the bar once everyone has gone through the line, or instruct helpers to pack up leftovers in to-go boxes and refrigerate promptly.
Storage and Freezing
Make Ahead - prepare meat and pickled onions ahead of time. Refrigerate meat in airtight containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before party. Process pickled onions in jars and store for up to 4 weeks in the fridge.
Vegetables and cheese can be processed 2 days in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Limes should be cut the day of the party or the day before.
Freezing - meat and cheese can be frozen up to 3 months in advance in airtight containers. Other items such as pickled onions and cilantro do not freeze well.
Planning a big Fiesta? Try these other popular Mexican dishes at your next gathering:
Easy Taco Bar Menu
*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.
Carnitas Taco Bar
- 48 small corn tortillas (warmed)
- 6 pounds shredded pork (carnitas)
- 4 pints pickled onions (sliced thin)
- 3 large bunches cilantro (chopped thin)
- 3 blocks cotija (or feta) cheese - 8 ounces in each block (finely crumbled)
- 6 medium fresh limes (cut into wedges)
- 16 ounces each of salsa and sour cream (optional)
- Cook the pork as directed in this Dutch Oven Carnitas recipe.
- Make pickled onions as directed in this Sweet Pickled Onions recipe.
- Chop cilantro into small pieces.
- Crumble blocks of cotija or feta cheese into small crumbles.
- Cut 6 limes into 4 wedges each for a total of 24 lime wedges.
- Set out tortilla shells and instruct guests to add 2 ounces of meat, then top with cilantro, cotija cheese and pickled onions.
- Squeeze lime juice on top of each taco and enjoy!
- Provide bowls of salsa and sour cream if desired. (optional)
- Prep time to chop vegetables and set up taco bar is 30 minutes. The time needed to make shredded pork and pickled onions is 3 hours.
- If you choose a different type of filling and toppings, the prep time and cook time will change.
- Please read the detailed notes and instructions in the blog post to create the perfect taco bar party!
- View the Google Web Story about Taco Bar Ideas!
Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.