EASY ENTERTAINING: HOW TO SET UP A TACO BAR

One of my favorite ways to entertain is to set up a D-I-Y station or interactive bar and one of my favorites is a DIY Taco Bar. You can dress it down or make it more upscale- that all depends on your budget and your crowd. 

A taco bar is one of the easiest ways to serve your party guests! (Photo by Arden Photography)

A taco bar is one of the easiest ways to serve your party guests! (Photo by Arden Photography)

THE MENU

The centerpiece of my DIY taco bar is always my Slow Roasted Chipotle Pork recipe and/or, based on my budget, my Tequila Lime Tuna. They are both so good- inside a taco or on their own. Add a couple of salsas... I always have one mild, one spicy, and one spicy-sweet like my Pineapple Tomato Salsa for the perfect fresh toppings.

When building a taco bar, it is important to consider the flavor of everything you offer;  the flavors need to work well together. Your guests will love this easy to make, easy to serve menu and you can have fun at your own party!

My Slow-Roasted Chipotle Pork is always on my taco bar. Simply shred it using two forks and dress with a squeeze of lime, and a pinch of cilantro. Add a fresh salsa or slaw. (Photo by Arden Photography)

My Slow-Roasted Chipotle Pork is always on my taco bar. Simply shred it using two forks and dress with a squeeze of lime, and a pinch of cilantro. Add a fresh salsa or slaw. (Photo by Arden Photography)

If you have the budget for it, my Tequila Lime Tuna makes incredible tacos! (Photo by Arden Photography)

If you have the budget for it, my Tequila Lime Tuna makes incredible tacos! (Photo by Arden Photography)

Other options for your tacos are hamburger, chicken, shrimp, or steak. Provide two or three options so guests have a choice. Keep the meat warm in a warmer, slow cooker, or on the stove.

host a taco party taco bar set up
how to set up a taco bar for a party

SET UP

Start with a big basket of chips. Use two kinds if you can find them; I used corn and blue corn. Add sliced limes, cilantro, salsas, a hot Queso dip, creamy guacamole, pico de gallo, sliced jalapenos, lettuce, and cheese for the condiments. I like to warm the tortillas in a damp kitchen towel in the microwave. Or put them into the oven; wrap in foil with a damp paper towel inside to steam them slightly. I prefer corn tortillas. If your store doesn't have them, inquire at your favorite Mexican restaurant. (I always pick up tortilla chips from my favorite Mexican restaurant. Serve them warm and hit them with a pinch of salt... soooo much better than store bought chips!)

For a big crowd, there is no shame in using paper plates and napkins for serving to make clean up easy.  I like the square, white Chinet plates you can find at the grocery store. They are made in the USA from recycled material and are biodegradable for home composting. I LOVE that. Caspari makes pretty plates and napkins in all sorts of patterns and themes. Find at higher end gift or specialty stores.. The folks at SustyParty.com (they were on Shark Tank) make hip and environmentally friendly paper products that you can now find at Target. You can find a million different options of inexpensive paper products at the party store.

Pineapple tomato jalapeno salsa recipe Martie Duncan

Get my Pineapple Tomato Salsa recipe... And thank you to my great and oh-so-talented friend, Tena Payne of Earthborn Pottery for the beautiful bowl and serving pieces.

DRINKS AND COCKTAILS

You can have a taco party without margaritas... but why would you?

Pre-mix drinks ahead and put them in a dispenser or pitcher so guests can help themselves. No bartending duties. Offer options for non-drinkers and designated drivers, too. I love pomegranate juice on ice topped with club soda for fizz. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Here are my two favorite margarita recipes: CLASSIC MARGARITA RECIPE and POMEGRANATE MARGARITA RECIPE.  

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RECIPE: SLOW-ROASTED CHIPOTLE PORK

This Slow-Roasted Pork recipe is one of my favorite recipes for entertaining because you can do so much with it. You can serve it over creamy, cheesy grits or put it into tortillas with a squeeze of lime to make street tacos. Best of all, you can make it ahead and it is super inexpensive to feed a big crowd. Get my party plan for a DIY Taco Bar where guests have a variety of condiments and serve themselves. Set it and forget it... nothing easier for game day, tailgating, a Super Bowl party, or New Year's Day.

My Slow-Roasted Chipotle Pork is one of the most delicious and easiest recipes I have to feed a big crowd. You can also cook it in your slow cooker but I usually put mine in my cast-iron Dutch oven. (Photos by Arden Photography)

PREP TIME: 1 hour     COOK TIME: 3 1/2-4 hours depending on size

SLOW-ROASTED CHIPOTLE PORK

INGREDIENTS

 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

1 ½  tablespoons chipotle powder  **

1 pork shoulder roast (Boston Butt) about 3-1/2 -4 pounds

2 dozen small corn tortillas***

2 limes, cut into wedges

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Before you plan to cook the pork, take it out of the refrigerator for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together kosher salt and chipotle powder and rub in into the pork, being sure to cover the entire surface of the meat with the mixture. Put the pork in heavy covered cooker, Dutch oven, or roasting pan. Allow it to sit for one hour before you put it in the oven.  

 Place in the oven. Turn the heat to 275 degrees.  Cook until the port falls apart when you press it with the back of a fork—approximately 3-1/2 to 4 hours or about an hour per pound.  Remove it from the oven and let it rest covered for 15 minutes. (Of course, you can also cook this in your Crock-Pot or slow cooker,)

For the tortillas: Heat the tortillas on a medium-hot griddle, turning them frequently, until they are warmed through and soft (or heat them in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel).  Wrap them in a towel and place in a basket.  Transfer the pork to a large serving platter and use tongs or two forks to shred into chunks.  Add the lime wedges to the platter, place the cilantro in a small serving bowl and serve immediately, with the warm tortillas on the side.

To fill the tortillas, double them up so they don’t tear apart; place one on top of another on a plate, spoon some of the pork on top, squeeze a little lime juice over the pork, sprinkle some cilantro on top and fold in half.

 ** McCormick brand chipotle powder is what I use.  If you can’t find the powder, look for the whole dried chilies and grind them.  If you can’t find that, use the canned chipotles in adobo sauce and puree them in a blender.

 *** Tip: Get fresh, homemade tortillas at a favorite restaurant! Cheaper and better!

GET MY PARTY PLAN FOR A DIY TACO BAR!

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RECIPE: PINEAPPLE TOMATO SALSA

I love the sweet spiciness of this salsa... pineapple, tomato, and a onion and jalapeno for heat. I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to jalapenos. I always add 1/2 of the recommended amount. Taste. Then add more if I want to. You can't take it out if it is tooo hot! Sometimes, I make the recipe with half the jalapenos then split it into two bowls. I add the remaining jalapeno to one of the bowls and label that one HOT for my guests who like a lot of heat.

Pineapple Tomato Salsa is great on fish, grilled meat, pork, or even on its own. I always serve it with my  Slow-Roasted Chipotle Pork  or Tequila Lime Tuna recipe. (Photo by Arden Photography and bowl by Earthborn Pottery)

Pineapple Tomato Salsa is great on fish, grilled meat, pork, or even on its own. I always serve it with my Slow-Roasted Chipotle Pork or Tequila Lime Tuna recipe. (Photo by Arden Photography and bowl by Earthborn Pottery)

PINEAPPLE TOMATO SALSA

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 20 minutes    Cook Time: no cook recipe 

INGREDIENTS

3 cups fresh pineapple, diced very small

1 large ripe red tomato, seeded and diced very small          

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

¼ cup lime juice                       

½ cup red onion, diced very small

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced very small

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients and chill. Taste and add more jalapeno pepper if you like a spicy hot salsa. This has medium heat. Perfect condiment with fish, pork, and chicken. Let this sit out about 15 minutes before serving time.

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