We know Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. is a holiday that has grown far beyond its Mexican origins, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate. Well, that is when it’s celebrated in a way that honors Mexican heritage in an authentic way sans all the cultural appropriation aspects. We love celebrating with family and friends as often as we can and will take every single opportunity to do so, simply because it brings us joy. So, we turned to a professional to help us come up with the most fun — and delicious — way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year. We reached out to cookbook author and recipe developer, Ericka Sanchez, for tips on how to create the most epic taco table. Sanchez created her award-winning blog, Nibbles and Feasts, to preserve her family’s traditional Mexican recipes as well as to share new recipes inspired by her life in Los Angeles.
so read on for some serious food inspo.
An abundantly filled taco table looks the most appealing, and variety is key to creating the most impressive spread. “Setting up a festive taco table is all about variety. Whether your gathering is extravagant or intimate, delicious, high-quality ingredient choices are a must. Various selections of soft or crispy, corn or flour tortillas filled with different meats such as beef, pork or chicken will make everyone feel welcome,” says Sanchez.
Don’t Forget the Veggies
There’s bound to be a vegetarian, vegan or even just a veggie lover in your crew. Make sure to provide delicious options for them too. “Everyone, from kids to adults alike, love tacos filled with veggies. I love to include potato tacos because they are a kid favorite,” says Sanchez. We can totally get behind that. We love combining potatoes and beans as a taco filling, and don’t forget the aguacate. That creaminess makes any taco super sabroso.
Incorporate Authentic Recipes
If you have family taco recipes, you’re in luck. Go for it! If not, get online and search for authentic taco recipes. Sanchez is a recipe developer and shares plenty of tasty recipes on her site, Nibbles & Feasts. We recommend some of our faves including the peach mango salsa, the chipotle chicken nachos, and the Mexican-style street corn.
Get the Toppings Right
Offering a variety of taco toppings is essential, because the toppings are what allow your guests to have fun customizing their tacos to create the perfect meal. “To accompany your taco spread, toppings and sides make a nice addition to a complete meal. Shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, spicy flavored Real California Milk cremas and cheeses add that last bit of delicious flavor to your tacos. My favorite: crumbled California Queso Fresco and Cotija cheese,” says Sanchez.
Let the Food Flow
Organize your taco table in a way that allows your guests to serve themselves and customize their tacos in a way that makes sense. “Giving the guests the option to serve themselves with many options is essential in building a taco table. They have the freedom to freestyle their own personal combination. Give them a starting point and an ending point when laying out the table elements. Start with tortillas, tortilla shells and rolled tacos, move on to fillings and toppings and end with side dishes. This will create a nice flow around your taco spread,” says Sanchez.
Store-Bought Staples Work Too
If you’re short on time but still want to put out an impressive spread, there’s no shame in picking up some store-bought Mexican staples like pico de gallo, rice and beans or tortillas, for your taco table. “As long as the food is tasty, your guests won’t mind. Many Latin grocery stores sell rice, beans, salsas and pico de gallo that is just as delicious as homemade.”
Keep It Authentic
Sure, have fun with your taco table but do so with authentic ingredients. Mexican food is traditionally made with some of the freshest, most flavorful ingredients out there. Lean into that and stick with the classics. “Authentic ingredients such as guacamole, various salsas, traditional cremas and cheeses [real milk] will elevate your taco table’s authenticity,” Sanchez suggests. Be selective and avoid ingredients that aren’t true to Mexican cuisine.
Create a Visual
Visual appeal is so important when it comes to food. You want your taco table to feel festive and inviting, and to look absolutely delicious. “To give your taco table a nice, impressive feel, use trays and plates in different sizes and shapes. Festive napkins and textured placemats or table runners give your feast an inviting feel. And a variety of colors always bring a smile to your guest’s faces.”
Using traditional Mexican decor items to create your tablescape will make it feel special and well thought out. “Etched wooden trays, handmade talavera dishes and authentic clay bowls give it that wow factor,” says Sanchez. “Separate your toppings and sides in individual serving bowls. Use Mexican molcajetes, talavera, Mexican clay pottery, wicker placemats and brightly colored papel picado to set the tone.”
It’s All in the Details
The little details can go a long way when it comes to making your Cinco de Mayo party or any other festive celebration memorable. Again, do your best to keep it authentic, and your taco table spread won’t soon be forgotten. “Decorate with fresh produce and colorful flowers for a freshness feel. A taco table can be lots of fun to set up. To tame the heat, don’t forget a pitcher of agua fresca. To keep the party going, don’t forget the tequila and lively mariachi music to sing along to.”