I have a weakness for make-your-own bars. Bruschetta bar. Bellini bar. Waffle bar. Pizza bar. Burger bar. Pasta bar. Baked potato bar. Ice cream sundae bar. Taco Bar. I’ll take them all. I love the spread. All of the colorful and enticing options laid out before you. It’s the opposite of ordering from a menu. Instead of not knowing what you’ll get and feeling like you are asking for a favor when you request “a little extra of this” or “none of that,” the world is yours with a make-your-own bar. Everyone gets exactly what they want. It’s like a buffet without the clash of shrimp cocktail next to French toast sticks (#buffetdilemmas).
I used to only prepare make-your-own bars for dinners at home with family because these dinners are casual and a little messy. Then, I discovered that the best dinner parties were always the casual ones. Sure, a roast lamb is delicious, but it can make guests feel like, well, guests. Sometimes, fancy is fun, but calm and casual tends to be more my style these days. In the expat world, expat friends come and go frequently. It’s like adult summer camp. You go from strangers to BFF in a matter of weeks, especially if one of you is only in country for a few months. We’ve meet people at parties one weekend and had them over for dinner the next week. We’ve even had people we’d never met before over for dinner after being introduced by email via a mutual friend.
Enter taco bar. It’s the best. It can be vegetarian friendly and gluten-free and satiate the meat lovers of the world. Admittedly, my taco bar is Americanized, but hey, I’m an American. That’s the culture I’m sharing. I like to include a combination of grilled, pickled, and fresh components to my taco bar to make sure there is something for everyone. The spread is inviting and delicious, and so much easier than it looks. I buying provigil online as the meat main, but I’ve substituted beans and rice and turned this into an all vegetarian bar too!
Here’s my process for getting the taco bar on the table in about half and hour. You can even make the pickled onions and pico de gallo at various times in the day when you have a few minutes to spare. This is an easy crowd pleaser that’s perfect for a weekday dinner with family or company. And, if you’ve got a family on different schedules, with everything is ready to go, just re-heat the chicken and the taco bar is ready on everybody’s schedule!
- For the grilled chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
For the pico de gallo
- 2 small tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup corn kernels, rinsed and drained
- ¼ of a medium onion, diced
- 1 small jalepeno pepper, seeded and diced finely (optional)
For the pickled onions
- ¾ of a medium onion, sliced thinly (use the remainder of the onion from the pico de gallo)
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar or honey
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
For the peppers and onions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 bell peppers, sliced
- 1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 2 cups shredded cheese
- 1 package of soft tortillas or hard taco shells, your preference
- First, give the onions a quick pickle while preparing all of the other components. Slice ¾ of a red onion thinly, then place the onions, with the sugar or honey, and the red wine vinegar in a small container with a tight fitting lid. Give it a quick shake and let it rest at room temperature while you prepare everything else.
- Next, season the chicken (or steak) generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Set aside.
- In a large heavy bottom grill or sauté pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add the peppers and onions, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the peppers are soft and the onions are starting to caramelize.
- Meanwhile, while the onions and peppers are cooking, prepare the pico de gallo. Dice the remaining onion and jalepeno pepper. Chop the tomatoes. Then toss the onion, pepper, tomato, corn and cilantro (optional) together and salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the onions and peppers are ready, remove from the pan and place on a serving platter and cover with foil. On the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil and place the chicken breasts on the pan over high heat. After 4 minutes, flip the chicken. Do not lift the chicken before flipping, give it the full 4 minutes to develop a nice golden crust. Then turn the chicken over and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Take care not to overcrowd the chicken. If you have to, do this in two batches. Remove the chicken from the plan and place on a cutting board and let the chicken rest for 3-4 minutes.
- Meanwhile slice the avocados and plate the avocados, shredded cheese, and sour cream or yogurt in serving dishes.
- Lightly grill or microwave any flour tortillas to warm them up then place on a serving plate covered with a clean kitchen towel.
- Finally, slice the chicken lengthwise and place on serving platter. Uncover the pickled onions, the lay out your taco bar and enjoy!
What is your favorite make-your-own bar?
Don’t forget to check out these other great 30 minute meals in this week’s #WeekdaySupper lineup!
Monday –Freezer Friendly Chicken Taquitos by Sew You Think You Can Cook
Tuesday –One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese by Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
Wednesday -Island Teriyaki Chicken Packets by Palatable Pastime
Thursday -Taco Bar by eating in instead (That’s me!)
Friday -Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Pork with Homemade Sauce by Caroline’s Cooking