If your taco nights consist of ground beef and a seasoning packet, we're here to help. Let this year's Cinco de Mayo celebration inspire you to master the art of the taco. Though taco parties are often a free-for-all, there's a serious method to the madness, and a great taco is all about one thing: balance. Crack the code for perfect tacos with this foolproof guide.
Related: 10 Sensational New Mexican Recipes
We won't take sides on the hard versus soft or corn versus flour debate. There's a time and a place for everything, so do what feels right. We only insist on one thing-warm them up! Bland, rigid tortillas will ruin any taco. Either wrap them in in parchment-lined foil and pop in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, or toast them over medium heat in a heavy skillet. We love to see few spots of char dot the surface. Even those crunchy tortillas need a few minutes to toast up in the oven. Really want to wow your guests? Make them from scratch.
The Protein (or Veg!)
Your options are endless. From pork carnitas to shrimp to grilled steak and even black-eyed peas, the world is your oyster. For a great taco party, consider preparing multiple options to please everyone. To ensure juicy, flavorful fillings, use a trusted recipe as your starting point. Visit our taco archive here -- some of our favorites include Smoky Beef, Tangy Cilantro Chicken, Shredded Pork, Tilapia, and Portobello-Zucchini. Visit our taco archive here.
Salsa is everyone's favorite way to add heat, but let's not ignore our other options. Bottled hot sauce and jalepeño slices are excellent taco bar additions. Chipotle in adobo also makes a fiery marinade with a super smoky punch. For the faint of heart, consider making a fresh tomato salsa with just a hint of spice; for everyone else, try salsa picante or fresh tomatillo salsa for a real party.
Related: The Best Summer Salsas, Sauces and Spreads
A little pop of freshness goes a long way in tacos. Diced white onion, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime can offer the perfect counterpoint to rich, spicy fillings. Scallion, diced tomato or even pineapple relish can also provide that much-needed zip.
Get ready for the good stuff. We love a good guacamole above all else, but there are so many other ways to bring creaminess into your tacos. You can always go with cheese, but don't limit yourself to shredded cheddar. Authentic Mexican cheeses like queso fresco, cotija, and oaxaca are exciting choices, and goat cheese can add an unexpected tang. If you love sour cream like we do, consider making a crema, a tangy sauce perfect for drizzling.
The final taco necessity is all about texture. Make sure to include at least one crunchy component in your Cinco de Mayo taco bar. Classics include crisp lettuce, thinly sliced radishes, or shaved cabbage. Our suggestion? Go all out and whip up a flavorful, crunchy slaw.
Taco nights are all about having fun, so play around. Pick and choose your favorite combos from these categories, and you're guaranteed a successful night. Just don't forget to mix up a pitcher (or two) of margaritas!
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