How To Make A Homemade Taco Bar: 9 Delicious Recipes

Year of living Mexico City and traveling to Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende made me fall in love with regional Mexican food. For me, the smell of fresh corn tortillas is simply food for the soul.

When it comes to cooking at home, I love the simplicity of a gathering that revolves around tacos, fresh vegetables and spicy margaritas. For a lively, stress-free get-together, I’ll set out a taco spread, and everyone can help themselves. I’ve created these recipes to reflect some of my favorite fillings—like plump, spicy shrimp and deliciously charred cauliflower—and toppings.

There’s also a creamy green tahini sauce that you’ll be able to use not only on the tacos but also on salads and grain bowls. The best part? You can easily prep some of these recipes the day before.

PREP TIMELINE

Day before: Pickled onions, cilantro sauce, fish (if pan-fried), flan.

morning of: Avocado and mango salad, freshly chopped taco toppings.

Just before: Roasted eggplant, chipotle shrimp, cauliflower.

An array of tacos, drinks, and components, including pickled red onions, shrimp, salsa and shredded cabbage, laid out on a teal tablecloth

1. CILANTRO

Wash, dry and remove leaves from 1/2 bunch of cilantro stems and coarsely chop shortly before ready to serve.

2. PICKLED RED ONIONS

Place onion slices in a bowl or large mason jar; pour in vinegar and water. Add salt, sugar and bay leaf. Mix and cover with a lid. Let stand for 20 min. Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 1 day. (Get a more detailed version of this recipe here.)

3. LIMES

Cut 4 or 5 limes crosswise, then quarter each half. Keep in a sealed bowl in the fridge; wedges can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.

4. SHREDDED CABBAGE

Place 1/2 small cabbage,shredded, in a bowl; drizzle 1 tbsp lemon juice overtop. Set aside.

THE MENU

A cropped image of a table with a teal tablecloth laid out with a variety of taco dishes and fillings, and cropped to show parts of the diners sitting or standing around the table, with hands reaching in to serve

Hands-down my favorite cocktail, this pairs perfectly with any of the tacos you’ ll have on this spread. Get this spicy pineapple margarita recipe.

Four spicy pineapple margaritas in different glasses, three rimmed with salt, one with japan peppers garnish, beside a bottle of ginger beer and tequila and alongside a plate of pineapples

This deliciously smoky shrimp recipe has only a handful of ingredients. Get this smoky chipotle and chiles de árbol shrimp recipe.

A pink plate with tacos filled with smoky chipotle and chiles de arbor shrimp with lime wedges on a teal tablecloth beside a salad and a turned bottle of jarritos

This salad pairs two of my favorite fruits for a healthy and incredibly delicious dish that you can serve as a side, to accompany a taco feast, or even to top tacos themselves. Get this avocado and mango salad recipe.

A pink plate with tacos filled with smoky chipotle and chiles de arbor shrimp with lime wedges on a teal tablecloth beside a salad and a turned bottle of jarritos

Eggplant on tacos? You bet! Crispy and spiced with za’atar, this is a topping both vegetarians and meat lovers alike will adore. Get this roasted eggplant with za’atar and sumac recipe.

a plate of roasted eggplant with pickled onion topping

This sweet and tangy topping is also perfect for salads or grain bowls. Get this charred BBQ cauliflower recipe.

A green platter on a teal tablecloth holding charred cauliflower with tongs resting on the side

Once you make this creamy, versatile sauce, you’ll always keep a jar in the fridge to drizzle over tacos, salads and grilled fish. Get this green cilantro sauce with tahini recipe.

Fish tacos are one of my all-time favourites. The cumin and lime give the fish so much flavour! You can pan-fry the fish or grill it—whichever way you choose, you’ll come back for more. Get this spiced fish with cumin and lime recipe.

A woman in a blue jumpsuit smiles and holds a taco

QUESO 101

There are dozens of types of Mexican cheese out there, each with a different flavor and texture. Here are some of our favorites for tacos, available at your local Latin American grocery store.

Queso fresco

This white farmer’s-style cheese translates to “fresh cheese” and is typically made from cow’s milk or a mix of cow’s and sheep’s milk. The flavor is milky and bright—it’s perfect for crumbling over spicy stews and taco fillings.

cotija

This aged cheese is also crumbled, but is firmer, with a salty, sharp flavour.

Queso panela

This curd-style cheese is prepared in a manner similar to mozzarella but doesn’t melt as easily. It soaks up flavours beautifully and can be graded into tacos or baked.

Queso cream

While technically creamlike in form, queso crema has a thick texture and half-sour flavor that nudges it into cheese territory.

“When I was growing up in Santo Domingo, every celebration, birthday and Sunday lunch would end with a delicious flan. This one is made with coconut milk, which creates a velvety- smooth custard and adds a rich tropical flavor.” Get this coconut flan recipe.

A coconut flan with shavings of coconut on top drizzled with caramel sauce on a white plate with a brown patterned border with a slice cut out of it and a vintage cake server lifting a slice up on a teal tablecoth

Diala Canelo is a cookbook author and the recipe creator and writer of Diala’s Kitchen, a food and travel blog, where she shares recipes inspired by trips around the world. She lives in Toronto.

The cover of the September 2022 issue of Chatelaine, depicting a table set with a taco feast and spicy margaritas, with hands reaching in to serve themselves