Build the Taco Bar of Your Dreams

By , Elizabeth Lowry, Staff Writer
The signs of spring are undeniable: Warmer weather, greener grass, blooming flowers, birds chirping at 5:00 a.m., the looming threat of cicadas and, of course, Cinco de Mayo celebrations. 

Regardless of heritage, religion or ethnic background, people all over the United States still celebrate this colorful and delicious holiday. All of your Taco Tuesday training comes down to this. When the day comes, will you be eating the same sad, soggy, drive-thru tacos you have every year or will you change it up and host your own taco bar fiesta?

If you chose the second option, game on. With a little planning, you can make a taco bar that pleases every palate—while making it healthy and budget-friendly, too.

Get the Party Started

To make my first taco bar, I considered both the typical food items you might put on a taco and then added in a few fun ones, as well. For the décor, get funky. You don't need to spend a lot on your table decorations, either: A tablecloth, flowers and a decorative banner from a party store will do. I chose neutral plates and serving dishes and let the food add pops of color. If you prefer to embrace the colorful culture of the Mexican people, add in brightly colored dishes and serving ware as you like. Just have fun with it.

The night before our party, I recruited my husband and together we marinated the beef, shrimp and chicken; soaked the beans; sliced and pickled the cabbage, onions and jalapenos; and made the pico de gallo and corn relish. The next night, we grilled the beef, shrimp, chicken and peppers; made the rice, beans and guacamole; sliced the lettuce; shredded the cheese; and put out the sour cream. For our base, we chose corn tortillas as they are lower in fat and calories than flour tortillas.

Feel free to get creative with your taco toppings. We grilled up the peppers and onions for an added fresh vegetable crunch. Pickled onions and cabbage put a nice pop of magenta on our bar. Jalapeños, corn relish and pico de gallo are not only fun to look at, but each adds a little bit of spice. Guacamole and sour cream lend a tried-and-true creaminess, while lettuce and queso fresco offer up the crunch and tanginess you want to top off your taco.   

To get your guests going, set out a variety of hot sauces, fire up some Buena Vista Social Club on iTunes, and let the party go on all night.

Make It Your Way

To make a taco bar like ours, start here:  

Grilled Chipotle Chicken Breasts
 (137 calories)
Grilled Cilantro-Lime Flank Steak (244 calories)
Grilled Shrimp (245 calories)
Grilled Peppers (48 calories)
Mexican-Style Rice (174 calories)
Mexican Black Beans (136 calories)
Pickled Red Onions (59 calories)
Coach Nicole's Fresh and Skinny Guacamole (76 calories)
Pico de Gallo (22 calories)
Corn Relish (29 calories)
Pickled Cabbage (follow onion pickling recipe, 65 calories)
Pickled Jalapeños (follow onion pickling recipe, 10 calories)
Queso Fresco (91 calories)
Light Sour Cream (40 calories)
Lettuce (10 calories)
Corn Tortillas (62 calories)
What items to you like to put on your tacos? Add your ideas and recipes in the comments.