Cooking at home, even for the most kitchen-adverse, has become the norm these days. And some of us might be stuck in a rut — especially when feeding several mouths, which probably means cooking for a variety of preferences. But there’s an easy and fun way to please everyone: taco night!
Taco nights have several things in their favor, the biggest being the opportunity for everyone to choose from the spread and craft something suited to their tastes.
And that’s just the beginning. There are usually leftovers, which means cooking will be off the menu the next night (hooray!). Plus, adults can whip up margaritas with a countertop margarita machine to make it feel like a night at their favorite taco place.
Without further ado, here’s everything you’ll need to create the perfect taco night at home, as recommended by chefs and our editors.
Cooking up the best taco fillings
The first step is cooking the main taco filling. Some classic favorites are chicken, beef, shrimp, fish and roasted veggies.
For cooking beef, Boston-based chef Jason Santos, of Citrus and Salt Mexican restaurant — whose blue hair you may recognize from “Bar Rescue” — says, “I LOVE skirt steak. It is slightly chewy in a good way and takes on a marinade unbelievably, and because of the fat, chars up nicely.”
For chicken, if you have leftovers lying around that aren’t too strongly seasoned, this is the perfect opportunity to dice them and throw ‘em in a bowl for tacos. Or, get about a pound of boneless, skinless thighs and season them with cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Throw them in a skillet and cook completely, before dicing or shredding.
Of course, don’t forget that pulled pork, chorizo sausage and ground beef make tasty tacos, too.
Chicken Drumsticks, Four 18-Ounce Packs ($28; rastellis.com)
Have the flavorful dark meat delivered straight to your home from Rastelli’s. (Here’s what we thought after we recently tried this meat delivery service.)
Wild Caught Icelandic Cod Box ($45; rastellis.com)
Try baking cod filets in the oven with a little olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. This mild fish will flake right into your tortilla. Or hop on the air frying trend for a crispier option.
For a veggie taco, Santos says, “It’s a tie between either sweet potatoes or mushrooms. I love them both and they both hold up well in a taco.”
Daring Plant-Based Chicken ($69; rastellis.com)
Another idea for veggie tacos? A plant-based meat substitute, like this one from Rastelli’s, that cooks up just like chicken.
Frontera Red Chile Barbacoa Seasoning Sauce ($1.99; target.com)
This mild beef marinade will give your skirt steak just the right kick of flavor.
Badia Marinade Mojo Criollo, 20 oz ($2.59; target.com)
This classic lemon pepper marinade is perfect for seasoning skirt or flank steak for tacos.
La Victoria Red Mild Sauce ($2.29; target.com)
Another great option for beef, this red sauce also brings exciting flavor to chicken.
Prepping the best taco toppings
Taco toppings can vary wildly, from the traditional, like raw onions and cilantro, to lettuce, different styles of salsa, sour cream, guacamole, shredded cabbage and much more. The options, truly, are only limited by your imagination.
“Personally, I love pickled onions on tacos,” says Santos. “It adds a bright pop of acidity and color. The main items to have on hand include: citrus, salt, a good attitude and/or cilantro.”
TLP Molcajete Handmade Mexican Mortar and Pestle ($39.49; amazon.com)
This traditional Mexican molcajete (mortar and pestle) turns making homemade guacamole into a ritual in and of itself. It’s made of volcanic rock and is 8 inches across — large enough to make enough guac for an appetizer and a taco topping in one go. Another benefit is that you can make it and serve it in the same container. Hello, fewer dishes! Volcanic rock is cool and all, but if a budget option sounds even cooler, try this plastic, footed 56-Ounce Molcajete and Salsa Bowl ($15.87, originally $20.03; amazon.com).
Fuego Hot Sauce Gift Box ($29; Food52.com)
You’ll be sure to have a variety of hot sauce on hand with this box of three: one inflected with honey, one made with classic habanero pepper, and a ghost pepper verde sure to spice up the night.
Hot Sauce Kit ($54.95; amazon.com)
If you’re planning far enough in advance, you can create your own lineup of hot sauces with this kit. The set provides everything you’ll need to make seven bottles of delicious gourmet hot sauce just the way you like it — including peppers sourced from local farmers.
Extra tasty touches for the perfect taco bar
From a frozen margarita (nonalcoholic, if you prefer) to homemade crispy taco shells, these extra tasty touches will make the night memorable.
Margaritaville Bahamas Frozen Concoction Maker ($189.99; target.com)
Before you start plating your tacos, rev up this top-rated margarita machine and make boozy (or virgin) frozen drinks to cool the crew. Keep it simple by using a tried-and-true margarita mix like the Master of Mixes Margarita Mix, Ready to Use, 96 oz ($14.99; amazon.com). Just add tequila (or leave them virgin) and get the party started.
Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative ($25; amazon.com)
If you’re not feeling like getting saucy, but are craving the taste of an authentic margarita, sub traditional tequila with this zero proof alternative by Ritual. We’ve tried it and it tastes like the real thing — especially in a mixed drink — but has no alcohol. Literally, zero. As in, you don’t have to be 21 to purchase it.
Norpo Taco Press ($6.95; amazon.com)
For a small group, this simple handheld tool is a safe way to make freshly fried taco shells on the spot — and they’ll all rave!
Instant Vortex 4-in-1 Air Fryer ($99, originally $200; amazon.com)
You can quickly make hard taco shells in this customer-fave air fryer. Just toss them in the basket for about two minutes and you’ll be good to go.
Chicago Metallic Professional 6-Shell Baked Taco Rack ($14.99; amazon.com)
Get that hot and crunchy shell you want without deep frying, with this tool that goes right into the oven.
Dexas Tortilla Warmer ($9.95; surlatable.com)
Display and keep your soft tortillas warm in this charming, microwave-safe polypropylene container.
Putting it all on the table
Whether you’re pouring salsa from a jar or making it from scratch, how you plate your toppings and tacos can take your taco bar to the next level.
Mud Pie Circa Guacamole Serving Dish Set ($19; amazon.com)
If you’re more of the store-bought guacamole type, this guac serving dish is a fun reminder to keep it light. The scoop makes perfect guacamole presentation easy.
Singkasa Sauce Bowls-Condiment Set with Bamboo Tray ($16.99; amazon.com)
This 4.7-star set of condiment bowls is perfect for salsa, shredded lettuce and sour cream, plus it comes with a bamboo tray so you can easily take it outside.
Cravings by Chrissy Teigen Ceramic Condiment Bowls ($6.99 for three; target.com)
This affordable three-pack of bowls features a pottery-style look, and they’re microwave-safe, so you can warm up your salsa before serving.
Colorful Taco Holder Stands Set of 6 ($14.99; amazon.com)
These highly rated tray-style plates are all the rage at taco joints. You can now get the colorful — and convenient — look at home.
Funwares, T-Rex Dinosaur Taco Stand ($17.99; amazon.com)
Want your taco party to be ridiculously fun for the kiddos? This T-rex stand holds two tacos and will have the whole party roaring with delight (and comes in two other dino styles).
Unicorn Taco Holder Kids Plate ($15.95; amazon.com)
Or, try a little whimsy with this magical unicorn taco holder that’s fun and practical. One Amazon reviewer says, “A great way to make eating fun for kids or adults frankly since you can put more in each taco since they don’t spill out.”
Libbey Colors Margarita Glass Set ($27.95, originally $36.95; amazon.com)
Fill their glasses with this colorful, sturdy set that reviewers love — and that’ll help people remember which glass is theirs.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.