Ain't no party like a taco party.
July 26, 2017 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Help me expand on this menu for a taco party and think of awesome vegetarian options. Bonus round: suggest a visually impressive dessert.

I am having a taco and lantern party in August for my 30th birthday. I am looking for some ideas of awesome vegetarian taco fillings. I am also looking for more interesting sides. I am also trying to think of a dessert that is visually impressive. I would especially love it if the dessert fit with the Mexican-ish menu, or used local seasonal fruit. I have considered a tres leches cake, or an assorted pie bar.

I am also wondering how realistic it is to make and keep warm tortillas for ~20 people. Any tips, tricks, or trusted recipes would be greatly appreciated.

Here's my menu so far:
Melon and cilantro agua fresca
assorted Mexican beers

Guacamole and chips
Homemade salsa (pineapple; watermelon and jicama, standard red, standard green)
Fish tacos al pastor style with homemade corn tortillas
Tacos carne asada with homemade flour tortillas
Unknown vegetarian taco option
Street corn
Feta, mint, and watermelon salad

Unknown dessert
posted by unstrungharp to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The super-traditional taco spot near me does a vegetarian taco with rajas (strips of roasted poblanos), squash blossoms, fried zucchini, black garlic and queso fresco, and they're outstanding. Some of those ingredients can get a little hairy to get, but I'm sure you could whittle it down to poblanos, zucchini, garlic and cheese and they'd be still pretty good. Maybe optional beans.
posted by General Malaise at 12:14 PM on July 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

Warm tortillas as you go.

Tempeh would make a great filling.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2017

dessert should be taco cake

I would substitute carefully cubed strawberries for those fondant squares she's using for the "tomato"
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by *s at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Jesus, this taco party sounds amazing.

I used to make vegetarian taco filling by making tofu fajitas: grill or sauté onions and bell peppers, then add extra firm tofu cut into rectangular strips when the veggies get a bit translucent. Add lime juice and salt when you're nearly done. There's a restaurant in Seattle that does tofu fajitas in a similar manner, actually. I think that's where I got the idea.

How comfortable are you making flan for dessert? Because flan, I think it should be said, is sublime.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Visually impressive dessert: try a baked alaska! It sounds daunting, I swear it isn't, you just have to do it in a few steps a day or two beforehand. There are options to keep it on-theme - use a tres leches cake as the base, choose an ice cream flavor that fits, use tequila to set it on fire...

Vegetarian taco filling: this charred corn taco filling is wonderfully summery and seasonal.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, although I am not a vegan/vegetarian, I frequent a vegan taco truck/restaurant called Taco Party, and my favorites of late have been crunchy fried tofu, cornmeal-crusted mushroom, marinated jackfruit, and fried plantain.
posted by mskyle at 12:19 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Jackfruit is the shit, but a late and lamented taco joint here in Austin used to have some amazing roasted cauliflower tacos that I was yearning for just yesterday, so make these and invite me. This chowhound recipe looks close.

Paletas! Super simple and you can make them in little paper cups, tear the tops, and make your own push-pops which would then cause you to win summer. I checked out the Paletas cookbook by Fany Gerson and had to return it before I could try any of them, but the avocado is super intriguing and you could always make the rest fruit or coffee flavored for the less adventurous.
posted by theweasel at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Use a low setting on a slow cooker lined with cotton towels to keep the tortillas warm. Expect that the towels may get a little scorched, but this is what I have done in the past. You might also google "bread warmer."

As for dessert...

Some sort of Panna Cotta or Flan!
posted by jbenben at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2017

I've had jackfruit "pulled pork" and it's amazing how much it tastes like meat. There are lots of recipes for jackfruit taco filling online like this one. I haven't personally tried the recipe though. If you want jackfruit that tastes like meat, it needs to be designated as "young" or "green." The ripe jackfruit is supposedly too sweet. The young, green jackfruit comes in cans and pouches.
posted by FencingGal at 12:33 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

We had a taco party a few weeks ago in which we marinated tempeh in Alton Brown's Skirt Steak marinade.

Also you could make vegan refried beans using olive oil as the fat (or butter for vegetarian). If you've never made homemade refried beans, they are insanely good. We use Mark Bittman's recipe and usually add extra cumin and stir in some lime juice at the end. (These could obviously be used on both tacos or as a main taco ingredient)

Dessert: A friend of ours made home-made choco tacos...
posted by czytm at 12:33 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

You could also adapt a Tiramisu recipe to be more "in theme" by adding cinnamon to the cocoa powder, and maybe using Kahlua. I feel like I've used Ameretto instead of Cognac and been really happy with the result, so you can play around with the flavors somewhat.
posted by jbenben at 12:35 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

cactus tacos are both traditional and vegetarian, and even impressive, although personally they aren't my favorite. If I could choose a taco from this thread, it would be General Malaise's suggestion.
posted by R a c h e l at 12:35 PM on July 26, 2017

There are some great clone recipes for Chipotle's tofu sofritas, which make wonderful taco filling.
posted by Grandysaur at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another vegan filling option (again from Mark Bittman), we follow his recipe for sauteed mushrooms 'dry style' and add some taco seasoning (cumin, chili powder, paprika etc)... the dry style give the mushrooms a good chewiness, and powerful mushroom flavor.

This is the only recipe I could find online.

Mushrooms Dry Style (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

4 oz mixed mushrooms (mine were mini potabella, porchini and button)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

In a pan with a tight-fitting lid on medium-high heat, add the oil, the mushrooms, and the salt and pepper. Mix slightly, turn to medium low heat and cover with the lid and let cook for 6-7 minutes. Then, take off the lid, stir again and put back to medium high heat and cook for another 3 minutes undisturbed until the water has evaporated. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally until they get crispy brown.

posted by czytm at 12:40 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Black beans
posted by mani at 12:47 PM on July 26, 2017

Response by poster: Update: I'm considering three kinds of cupcakes: lime margarita, spicy chocolate, and coconut tres leches.

OR different frozen treats: paletas and ice cream sandwiches made with spicy chocolate cookies and choco tacos
posted by unstrungharp at 12:50 PM on July 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think you could keep the tortillas nicely warm in a slow cooker.

Your dessert options both sound fantastic.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of the best tacos (including meat varieties) I've had in recent memory was the double decker broccoli taco at No. 7 Restaurant in Brooklyn. According to their menu it includes feta, fried shallots, and black bean hummus. SO GOOD!
posted by Grither at 12:56 PM on July 26, 2017

If you can find them at a farmer's market, consider tacos de flor de calabaza (squash blossom tacos)!
posted by donovan at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2017

Black beans are obvious anyway.

A Korean fusion place near me makes what they call "nirvana mix" -- a combination of shiitake mushrooms, tofu, cashews, and water chestnuts all chopped up and mixed together (and seasoned, of course -- they use ginger, mostly, but a good taco seasoning blend would work). It's surprisingly "meaty" without being too fake. I've always meant to try to replicate it.
posted by darksong at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2017

At our last taco party we warmed the tortillas in aluminum foil packets in the oven. Experiment, but I think about 5 or 6 tortillas in a packet, multiple packets at a time- took about 5 min. to heat at 350 degrees and they could stay maybe an additional 15 min. in there before they started to dry out so there was some flex time. They stayed quite warm once out of the oven, too.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:02 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you going to provide any crunchy shells? I would have some available and maybe warm them with a sprinkle of cheese inside before serving.
posted by soelo at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Black bean and butternut squash with standard taco seasoning (cumin, onion, oregano, cayenne, salt) is my go-to veg taco.

Also, nopales. The Mexican grocery store by me will take the pokey bits out for me. Maybe yours will too.

Fajita vegetables (peppers, onions, summer squash, mushrooms) make a nice taco.
posted by OrangeVelour at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2017

This party sounds amazing! As a vegetarian taco and cupcake lover I would only say the only thing that could put this party over the top would be margaritas. Is a batch of those out of the question?

If not, another dessert that would be delicious are margarita bars.
posted by LKWorking at 2:26 PM on July 26, 2017

Lentil taco filing is super satisfying, but not pretty. It's easy enough that you could offer up a bowl of taco seasoned lentils along with one of the fancier vegetarian offerings.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:23 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

For side dishes I love making some easy beans:

1 can black beans drained.
1 can refried black beans
1 cup of favorite salsa
Shredded cheese.

Mix all together in a big skillet, bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then brown cheese under broiler for about 5-10 minutes.

Feeds about 6, so double or triple to get the amount you need.
posted by brookeb at 3:26 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Black bean chili and mashed sweet potatoes (make these with some ginger and hot sauce, not brown sugar)
posted by travertina at 3:49 PM on July 26, 2017

Brown some onions. Add fresh chopped nopalitos and garlic. Saute until the nopalitos are tender. Make a taco of nopalitos, avocado, cotija cheese, and whatever kind of salsa you prefer. Seriously delicious vegetarian taco.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Papas bravas are absolutely delicious on their own, but they also taste fantastic in a taco.
posted by meese at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2017

I made some lentil taco filling that is basically lentils mixed with shredded cheese and salsa. The base recipe is here:

(Use vegetable broth, not chicken broth, of course.)

You can also make a similar filling with black beans, but you probably have to cook that a lot longer.

Lentils are cooked in about a half hour, and are a great substitute for ground beef in tacos.
posted by my-sharona at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2017

I heat my (white corn) torillas in the microwave a stack at a time by taking them out of the plastic, "fanning" the stack to separate them and wrapping them in a kitchen towl (3.5 minutes does it for me but mine is a weak one). I serve them semi-wrapped in the towel so they stay warm. People constantly ask me when I'm making tacos again FWIW.
posted by STFUDonnie at 5:32 PM on July 26, 2017

I've hosted several a taco bash, and each time I've made significantly large batches of this Mint Cilantro Flank Steak Salad, cut into smaller pieces for easier tacofication, and it gets absolutely *devoured* near immediately every time.

Also, I recently tried my hand at crafting a large batch of Mint Basil Cucumber Soda for another party and it was a similarly rave success - super simple to make, too! Prep the simple syrup ahead of time and then just mix it with the club soda in a big punch bowl or pitcher or some beverage dispenser like this right as the party kicks off. Fantastic served virgin or as a mixer with just about anything!
posted by FatherDagon at 6:54 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am a taco party expert! For the shells, you really can't heat them up if you are feeding twenty, just put them on the buffet table first. I use soft and hard, and tortilla chips because nachos are a great option. Then, I use three protein fillings: beef, shredded chicken, and black bean dip (use whatever recipe looks good to you. Keep them warm in the small sized crock pots, borrow a few. Then place big bowls of the toppings: grated cheese, jalapeños, avocados, salsa, green onions, black olives, sour cream, lettuce, whatever else sounds good. As you move down the buffet, next comes side dishes. This hot corn dip is really good and cowboy caviar works.
posted by raisingsand at 7:07 PM on July 26, 2017

Calabacitas! A mix of sauteed summer squash, corn, onion, tomato, and green chile (plus some garlic, cumin, etc as you please), usually with queso fresco stirred in, unless it needs to be vegan. It sounds boring but is actually delicious, and makes a great vegetarian taco filling. There are lots of recipes all over the internet; what I make is usually New Mexican style but you can experiment pretty widely with the options.

Strips of grilled poblano, bell pepper, and onions (kind of like fajitas) also works well, with beans added if you want protein.

For the dessert, paletas sound awesome, and I'd suggest adding a horchata flavor (nice bonus if you have people who can't do dairy). And tamarind-chile paletas are the bomb if you like spicy desserts.
posted by karayel at 7:15 PM on July 26, 2017

I have been dying to make Rick Bayless' calabacita-style tacos. Watch the video, doesn't that look amazing?
posted by lunasol at 8:53 PM on July 26, 2017

Here's one of those tofu sofritas recipes Grandysaur mentioned above. SO GOOD. I'm not vegetarian or vegan but this is a regular staple in my household because it's so delicious, and we often eat the leftovers as taco filling.
posted by misskaz at 5:28 AM on July 27, 2017

Thirding the suggestion for lentils for veg* tacos.

Vegetarians or Vegans love to get in some good healthy protein! We love isa chandra's recipe.
posted by mgogol at 7:05 AM on July 27, 2017

Response by poster: Here's my updated menu

Melon and cilantro agua fresca
assorted Mexican beers

Guacamole and chips
Feta, mint, and watermelon on toothpicks
Ceviche in shot glasses
Homemade salsas (pineapple; watermelon and jicama, standard red, standard green)
Fish tacos al pastor style with homemade corn tortillas
Tacos carne asada with homemade flour tortillas
Calabacita style tacos with optional black beans
Roasted cauliflower tacos with optional black beans
Street corn
Carpaccio style heirloom tomatoes with avocado and tomatillo salad and fresh herbs

Homemade choco tacos
Peach and blackberry tres leches cake
horchata paletas (for vegans)
posted by unstrungharp at 9:35 AM on July 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Coming in late here, but nobody has mentioned walnut and sun-dried tomato taco "meat" filling. There are lots of versions on the internet. It's easy to make and excellent.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:04 AM on July 27, 2017

Hi! A recipe note for you about Horchata, with the disclaimer that I live in LA so this might be a regional difference in the basic recipe...

I like cinnamon, but find Horchata to be one of the most disgusting liquids to drink on planet Earth because it is always TOO SWEET.

Start by halfing the sugar in your basic recipe! You can easily tweak the sweetness after it cools by stirring in confectioners sugar or sugar syrup to taste. The perception of sweetness WILL change as it cools. For the love of heaven, please go easy on the sugar. Often I find the sugar obliterates the cinnamon.

You have the opportunity here to tweak the cooled beverage and strike the perfect tasty balance rather than following a recipe with bad ratios. I hope this tip helps!
posted by jbenben at 10:52 AM on July 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

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