Easy Entertaining: Build Your Own Taco Bar

For entertaining, there’s nothing like a bar–a food bar, that is.  Food bars don’t require gourmet cooking skills; just set out bowls of components.  They also make it easy to navigate the myriad food preferences, sensitivities and allergies typical in groups these days.  Just provide a good variety of components and guests can create whatever combinations fit their tastes and needs.  Finally, because they get everyone involved, food bars are also plain fun, especially for kids.

There are plenty of food bar options, from pasta and potato bars to pizza, sushi and lettuce roll bars.  One of my favorites is a taco bar, made with soft-shelled corn tortillas from the local tortillaria.   Here’s the taco bar I set  out just last week, when I hosted the monthly potluck for Boulder Media Women (recipes follow):

2 Main Fillings

  • Shredded Salsa Beef
  • Fried Tofu with Green Peppers

2 Sides (can also be fillings)

  • Slow Cooker Red or Pinto Beans
  • Mexican Rice

Lots of Toppings

  • Shredded Cabbage
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Diced Avocado or Guacamole
  • Salsa (plain or mixed with a little mayo)
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Fresh Chopped Cilantro
  • Sour Cream


  • Fruity Iced Tea (e.g., Celestial Seasoning’s Very Berry), both with and without apple juice
  • Club Soda, plain or with Cranberry Juice
  • Lime Wedges that complement all of the beverages

Notes and Recipes

1.  Shredded Salsa Beef:  This dish is embarrassingly simple:  Brown a 3-4 lb. chuck roast in 1 tbsp. oil over very high heat, then throw in the slow cooker with a 16-oz. jar of your favorite salsa.  Cook on low 8-9 hours, until the beef falls apart when pulled with a fork.  Remove from pot and pull beef from bones and cut away fatty pieces.  Return pulled beef to slow cooker, with salsa liquid.  Serve with a slotted spoon.  (Makes enough for 8-12 servings)

Timing Notes:  If frozen, start thawing roast in the frig a couple days in advance.  Be sure to get it cooking by 8:00 or 9:00 on the morning of the event.  Pull the beef about 30 minutes prior to serving, then turn pot on high to reheat thoroughly before dinner.

2.  Slow Cooker Beans–I think slow cookers make the most tender and flavorful beans.  If you’ve never tried this cooking method, here are a couple blog posts to get you started:   How to Cook Dried Beans and “Accelerated” Slow Cooker Beans.

Timing Notes:  The night before, start soaking the beans, then start them in the slow cooker mid-morning on high heat.  They take about 6-7 hours.

3.  The Tacos:  Of course store-bought tortillas can be used if there is no tortillaria in your area.  Look for whole grain corn varieties.  Because corn tortillas harden as they cool, they need to be warmed before serving.  Wet a cloth napkin or light dish towel, then wring it as dry as possible.  Wrap about 10 tortillas inside and microwave about 1 minute, until soft and steaming.  Avoid overheating or tortillas will toughen.  Leave tortillas wrapped in cloth when adding to the food bar.

Timing Notes:  Wait until everything else is ready before warming the tortillas.

4.  Leftovers? Don’t Worry!  Mexican food leftovers are like gold.  See my Tweets from the last few days to see what I did with them.

5.  Mexican Rice and Fried Tofu with Green Peppers I put this recipe in a separate post, since this one is getting long. Fried Tofu with Green Peppers is one of the variations explained in the Notes.

Here’s an added bonus with this entertaining menu:  your guests get a wonderfully healthful meal without even trying!


One Response

  1. […] This recipe is also part of the taco bar described in Easy Entertaining:  Make Your Own Taco Bar. […]


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