We tapped Donnie Masterton, the chef at Taco Lab by Taco­licious in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for some modern fillings. Set them out with bowls of our favorite toppers and warm tortillas—and let your friends assemble their own while you mix the margaritas.

Recipes for the Ultimate DIY Taco Bar Menu
Iain Bagwell

Donnie Masterson shares his essential taco bar tip: “With a taco party, just put everything out at once. Have fun and try not to overthink it. For instance, instead of slicing an avocado, I just put it out there halved and pitted, with a spoon so people can scoop.” 

Here we’ve rounded up several recipes that Masterson shared with us. You don’t have to make every one, but a few key dishes from this list will make up an epic taco bar buffet that your guests will appreciate and devour no matter their eating habits. 

Chile dusted crispy shrimp makes a perfect protein base for tacos. Though shrimp is a little splurgy, it’s so delicious and it doesn’t take many to stuff a taco. Blackened guajillo chile mushrooms are a good option, too. This filing isn’t just vegetarian; it’s full-on vegan, and so tasty that omnivores will dig in, too.

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Masterson also suggested some other toppings, all of which will add crunch and lift to tacos. An unconventional mixture of snow peas, pancetta, and pecorino is a flavorful blend that provides nice texture, and which pairs well with rich fillings. Jicama and cabbage slaw fills the same role, in a more traditional way. Pineapple al pastor pico de gallo provides tangy sweetness, and blistered chiles bring the heat. Pickled vegetables, known as escabeche, are the perfect accompaniment, and make your spread seem like a restaurant buffet.

Finally, we couldn’t resist adding one key recipe from our archives. That’s one of our all-time party favorites: a foamy, salty margarita that tastes like a fiesta at the beach. 

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