Here's an easy way to feed a big crew of your friends and family: Chicken Taco Bar for 12!
I grilled up some brined chicken breasts for this batch, but you are welcome to cook the chicken any way that is convenient.
More importantly, you'll be giving your peeps plenty of fixings to choose from -- this will ensure everyone can create their own personal masterpiece 🙂
How To Make Chicken Taco Bar for 12
Here's a look at the line-up for your Taco Bar:
brined and grilled chicken
Pico de Gallo
Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa
Then all you need is a stack of tortillas, ensuring your hungry crew will have plenty of options to choose from!
And feel free to swap out any fixings from the above pic. For example, if you don't have tomatillos on hand then you can make a simple Tomato Jalapeno Salsa instead.
I love giving the chicken a quick brine when making big batches like this -- it gives you a nice bump in flavor and takes the pressure off any additional seasoning.
So for this batch I added 1/2 cup Kosher salt to 2 quarts of cold water and then let the chicken breasts rest in this brine for an hour or so. I usually cover the bowl and tuck it away in the fridge.
I try to do this whenever time allows -- in the past I've even done a rushed 30-minute brine and still noticed an improvement in flavor.
Next, I like to get the tomatillos roasting. What are tomatillos?
You'll need a single pound of tomatillos, and that usually translates to 8-10 tomatillos.
De-husk the tomatillos and give them a good rinse, then roast them in the oven for a half hour or so (400F).
If you don't want to turn the oven on you could always roast the tomatillos in a pan or on a grill. See 4 Different Ways To Make The Same Salsa.
Then I usually build some cutting board stations and hand out dishes to willing helpers!
For this dinner that meant recruiting a chopper to make the Pico de Gallo using these ingredients:
1 small onion
15-20 sprigs cilantro
3/4 teaspoon salt
And a helper made these awesome refried beans using the following ingredients:
3 cans black beans
1 small onion
4 garlic cloves
2-3 chipotles in adobo
1 teaspoon cumin
1.5 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1.5 cups stock (or water)
The Guac is a good dish to give to a young helper. Here's all you need for a quick batch:
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
juice of 3-4 limes
I'll put detailed instructions for all those side dishes in the recipe box below.
By the time you get all those going the tomatillos will be done roasting.
Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa is typically a three ingredient Salsa, so it's quite easy to put together. Just add the following ingredients to a blender and combine well:
the roasted tomatillos (approx. 1 lb.)
3-4 garlic cloves
2-3 chipotles in adobo
If you want a milder batch then I recommend starting with only a single chipotle (or even less).
I used 2 1/2 chipotles for this batch and it had some zippppp!
Note: I usually scrape out the seeds of the chipotles, but this is optional. More info on working with chipotles in adobo.
I also want to mention that I added a sliver of raw onion to this Salsa. I will do this sometimes if it seems like the tartness of the tomatillos is too prominent. It depends on the freshness and growing conditions of the tomatillos, so I usually do some taste testing after the first blend. For this batch I added a sliver of raw onion and a pinch of salt.
Once you've got all these side dishes in the finishing stages you can cook the chicken. I handed this batch off to a grillmaster, but you could also bake it in the oven for 20 minutes or so (400F).
Note: as mentioned, once you brine the chicken you won't need to sweat the additional seasoning too much. I simply tossed the chicken breasts with oil, black pepper, and a couple tablespoons of adobo sauce from the can of chipotles.
And now it's time to line everything up! So the complete Taco Bar went like this:
grilled chicken breasts sliced up
corn and flour tortillas
shredded cheese (I used 1.5 lbs. Jack cheese)
Pico de Gallo
Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa
And it was a success!
One final thing to consider for your friends and family...
Whenever possible, I like to offer peeps the option of crisping up their tortillas.
This house had a portable flat grill that could cook 6 tortillas at a time, so I had two people man this grill at the beginning of the meal.
Each tortilla gets a thin layer of beans and cheese, then it's cooked until light brown spots are forming on the underside of the tortilla.
These warm, semi-crispy tortillas are the perfect foundation for the taco masterpieces your friends and family will build!
But this step is definitely optional. As an alternative, you can just warm up your tortillas in the oven or microwave right before serving. Other Ways To Warm Up Corn Tortillas.
Okay, I'll put the recipe box for this Chicken Taco Bar for 12 down below. It's a great option to keep in mind when you need to feed a hungry crew.
Chicken Taco Bar for 12
- 6 chicken breasts (approx. 3 lbs.)
- 6 plum tomatoes
- 8-10 tomatillos (approx. 1 lb.)
- 3 onions
- 2 jalapenos
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 6 limes
- 1 head garlic
- 1 can chipotles in adobo
- 3 cans black beans
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1.5 cups stock (or water)
- 8 avocados
- 2-3 bags tortilla chips
- 1-2 lbs. cheese (I used 1.5 lbs. Jack cheese)
- 40 tortillas (I used both corn and flour tortillas)
- Kosher or sea salt
- black pepper
- olive oil
- I usually start by brining the chicken, but you can consider this step optional. Add 1/2 cup Kosher or sea salt to a mixing bowl along with 2 quarts cold water. Stir to dissolve the salt, then add the 6 chicken breasts, ensuring they are submerged in the water. Cover and let brine in the fridge for an hour or so.
- Next I like to get the tomatillos roasting. De-husk the tomatillos and give them a good rinse. I usually de-stem them as well, knowing that any juices leftover in the roasting pan will be used. Roast the tomatillos in the oven for a half hour or so (400F). Other ways to roast tomatillos.
- At this point, I usually build a few cutting board stations and hand out the side dishes to some willing helpers.
- For the Pico de Gallo, you'll need 6 tomatoes, 1 small onion, 1-2 jalapenos, 15-20 sprigs cilantro, the juice of 2 limes, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Give the tomatoes, jalapenos, and cilantro a good rinse, then de-stemming the tomatoes and jalapeno. Remove the bottom portion of the cilantro stems, but you can use the upper portion that holds the leaves together. Finely chop the tomatoes, onion, jalapenos and cilantro, adding them to a mixing bowl along with the juice of 2 limes and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Taste for salt and lime, adding more if necessary. Note: use a single jalapeno for a milder version, or 2 jalapenos for a more fiery version.
- For the Guacamole, finely chop 1/2 small onion. Use the back of a fork to smoosh the onion until it turns translucent. Add the onion to a bowl along with the flesh of 8 avocados, 2 teaspoons of salt, and the juice of 2-3 limes. Mush and mix well. Taste for seasoning, adding dashes of salt and lime until you like it.
- For the Refried Beans, start by peeling 4 garlic cloves and roughly chopping 1 small onion. Cook the onion and garlic in a glug of oil over medium heat in a big skillet (you can leave the garlic cloves whole). Once the onion is starting to brown add 3 cans of beans (drained and rinsed), 2-3 chipotles in adobo, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1.5 teaspoons salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and 1.5 cups stock (or water). You can use less chipotles for a milder version. Let simmer for a few minutes until heated through and then add everything to a blender, combining well. Take a final taste for seasoning and heat. Add more salt if necessary and if you want more heat simply add more chipotle. Feel free to add another splash of liquid to get the beans to combine in the blender.
- Once the tomatillos are roasted, add them to a blender along with any juices leftover in the roasting pan. Add 2-3 chipotles in adobo and 4 peeled garlic cloves. I usually scrape out the seeds of the chipotles but this is optional. More info on working with chipotle in adobo. Combine well and take a taste for seasoning. I used 2 1/2 chipotles for this batch. I also added a sliver of raw onion and a pinch of salt because these tomatillos were particularly tart, but I frequently skip the onion with this Salsa.
- Once the chicken has brined you can remove it from the brine and pat it dry with some paper towels. The seasoning on the chicken is optional, so feel free to get creative. I tossed the chicken breasts with a big glug of oil, some freshly cracked black pepper, and a couple tablespoons of adobo sauce from the can of chipotles. This chicken was cooked on the grill until the inside temp registered 160F. You could also bake the chicken breasts in the oven for 20 minutes or so (400F).
- Finish prepping the final fixings. I shredded 1.5 lbs. Jack cheese, and I also sliced up a few lime wedges.
- You can optionally crisp up some tortillas before serving. It adds some additional steps, but I try to do it when manpower is available. You can use a griddle or a couple large skillets. Give a bunch of tortillas a thin layer of refried beans and some shredded cheese, then cook them over medium heat until light brown spots are forming on the underside of the tortillas. Alternatively, you can warm up your tortillas in the oven or microwave before serving. How To Warm Up Tortillas.
- Now it's time to line everything up! Your final serving table will have: tortillas, chicken, refried beans, shredded cheese, Pico de Gallo, guacamole, Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa, tortilla chips, and maybe a few lime wedges. Once everything is in place you can ring the bell and let your peeps have at it! Enjoy!!