Setup Secrets for the Perfect Build-Your-Own Taco Bar

Let guests craft their own tacos, DIY-style

Has there ever been a more perfect meal? 

Tacos are delicious, easy to prepare and budget-friendly. But while tacos are a clear crowd favorite, they can also be tricky: No two people fill their tortillas the same way. That’s where a DIY taco bar comes in. 

A build-your-own taco bar helps ensure that every attendee leaves their seat happy, with bellies full. Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose your base.

Set out a variety of vessels. Some guests prefer crunchy taco shells, while others go for soft tortillas. Then there is the corn vs. flour dilemma. In general, a heartier taco lives best in a flour tortilla, but corn tortillas are traditional and will satisfy those eating gluten-free

2. Pick your protein. 

For the traditionalists in your mix, keep a large helping of ground beef on hand. More adventurous taco lovers may also gravitate to skirt steak, chorizo, ground turkey, shrimp or fish. Don’t forget options for vegetarians: Taco “meat” can be crafted from unique sources, from quinoa to cauliflower and walnuts.

3. Lay out the fixin’s.

The more variety, the better. Start with standard taco fare, including:

  • Mexican rice
  • Beans, including refried, black and pinto varieties
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sliced white onion and scallions
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Jalapenos 
  • Cheese, such as cotija, queso fresco and shredded cheddar
  • Sour cream 
  • Guacamole

Then, get adventurous. Mango and grilled pineapple, for example, complement taco flavors nicely.

4. Get saucy.

The last step to a perfect taco: salsa. Because some salsas rank spicier than others, offer a variety of sauces to meet different palates. Those who prefer mild flavors will love pico de gallo, a fresh tomato salsa, while others who revel in fiery fare will lean toward medium and spicy hot salsas. 

How to Make the Taco Station Pop

Now that you’ve got all the ingredients together, it’s time to set up the taco bar. Include traditional bold colors to your serving table, such as red, yellow and green, with brightly colored plates, bowls, napkins and serving skillets.

Think logistics, too: The longer guests have to wait in line for tacos, the less fun they will have and the more agitated they might become. To keep the line moving, be sure all toppings and sauces are clearly labeled and leave room for serving on both sides of the table.