There’s nothing better than turning a typical meal into an all-out theme night. Whether you’re with your kids, friends or family, theme nights are a great way to make healthy meals interactive and FUN! Because there are options for everyone, your kids are much more likely to try new toppings (yes, veggies!) since there’s no pressure. They can browse and pick what interests them.
Mexican at heart
Almost weekly, we have a family-friendly, super fun, Mexican-inspired meal. My husband, whose grandmother was full Mexican, grew up eating traditional Mexican dishes. Because we absolutely LOVE incorporating theme-inspired meals into our weekly routine, taco night has become a staple!
Whether stuffing the toppings into a tortilla, eating them on top of a salad or creating a masterful bowl, everyone seems to love this interactive twist on a traditional meal.
So, without further ado, here’s how to celebrate dinner, fiesta style.
Before your fiesta begins…
Consider prepping ahead
If you’re planning your Mexican-inspired meal on a busy weeknight, prep (clean, chop and cook) as much as possible beforehand.
We like to wash and chop our toppings, make our tortillas and even grill or cook our protein on meal prep day (for us that’s Sunday).
That way when you get home from work, and everyone is hungry and exhausted, you can whip out all the fixings and get right down to it with little-to-no prep or cleanup!
Now, let’s get this fiesta started!
Step 1: Get out the tortillas.
If making homemade tortillas:
Making tortillas is an art in itself (it took us a little trial and error) but it’s something that can be a lot of fun. Plus, there’s NOTHING like the flavor of a homemade tortilla. If you’re pinched for time, try making them ahead and storing them in the fridge. This tried-and-true Whole-Grain Corn Tortillas (authentic Mexican recipe) is our favorite. It uses three simple ingredients and includes a quick video demonstration
If you’re going to make your own, we HIGHLY recommend using a tortilla press, such as this 8-Inch Cast Iron Tortilla Press. If you want to take it a step further, you can make shells for your taco salads with a tortilla bowl mold, such as these taco salad bowl pans.
Kid-Friendly: Get your kids involved by making it a fun activity they can get excited about. After you roll out the balls, allow them to help with the tortilla press… they’re sure to be mesmerized!
If buying tortillas:
If you don’t plan on making your own tortillas, check the label for FfL-friendly (minimally processed) ingredients. You can find more on what to look for in our post 100% Whole Grains, Flours and Starches.
Side Note: Tortilla warmers are a wonderful way to keep your tortillas from getting cold after they leave the stove! There’s tons of options out there, but we’ve had a lot of success with this tortilla warmer.
Step 2: Cook the filling.
Choose the protein you’ll be using as the base for your tacos. We like to keep it simple by sticking to one meat, but if you have picky eaters, you can always cook two.
Step 3: Choose a side dish.
Feel free to get creative. If we’re making taco salads rather than tacos, we often keep it super simple and forgo serving a side.
Our favorite Mexican-inspired sides:
- Black or pinto beans (Try this Seasoned Bean recipe)
- Homemade Refried Beans
- Whole grain brown rice, topped with a little salsa
- Whole grain brown rice, tossed with a little lime juice, fresh chopped cilantro, black beans and a pinch of salt (Try this Cilantro Lime Rice recipe)
- Foil-pack Corn on the Cob (substitute red chili powder for Old Bay)
- Tortillas baked in the oven (so they’re crunchy like a chip)
- Rice Cake Nachos (much healthier than store-bought nachos and just as tasty)
If you’re having guests over, you can always add the option of regular nacho chips in addition to rice cakes or baked tortillas, so your guests can decide for themselves.
Step 4: Arrange the toppings!
Your toppings can be pre-prepped well in advance or chopped right before serving, it’s totally up to you and how much time you have. For easy access, arrange all your toppings in bowls or glass mason jars.
Some great toppings: Depending on which protein you're using, choose a few toppings for your tacos.
- Limes (a MUST)
- Shredded lettuce
- Shredded red cabbage
- Diced onion
- Pickled onion (our FAVORITE)
- Diced tomatoes
- Sliced avocado, Guacamole or Mashed Avocado Spread
- Finely chopped jalapeños
- Grated cheddar cheese or queso fresco
- Greek yogurt (a wonderful substitute for sour cream)
- Hot sauce (we LOVE to add flavor with an array of hot sauces)
- Black beans
How to simplify your prep
Onions: This Chop Wizard and EZ Cleaning Lift Tab is a kitchen essential when it comes to slicing and dicing onions. It chops your produce into uniform pieces and cuts your prep time in half. It’s ranked as a top 10 must-have gadget in our kitchen!
Cilantro: Using fresh cilantro to flavor your guacamole or top your tacos is awesome, but who has time to chop it? Herb shears make flavoring your food much faster and easier.
Lime juice: After dabbling with store-bought juice in different recipes we realized that fresh-squeezed lime and lemon juice tastes extremely different and can really affect the quality of your recipe. There’s nothing like fresh-squeezed lime juice on a warm homemade taco.
This Bellemain Citrus Squeezer has been an absolute LIFE SAVER when it comes to fresh-squeezed lime juice. When throwing a fiesta, we use it to garnish our tacos with lime juice and when making Skinny Strawberry Margaritas for the adults. It’s great for more than just Mexican-inspired meals.
Step 5: Assemble your meal.
This is where the fun really begins. Who doesn’t love a casual, self-serve buffet filled with whatever combination of toppings suits your mood? If you have colorful dishes, break them out. Have an old colorful tablecloth or blanket? Throw it under the buffet of ingredients to add to the party atmosphere. Then, the magic happens! Watch your family have fun and your kids try new things as they get creative with their tacos!
A few of our favorite taco-inspired recipes:
- Korean Beef Tacos (or Bowls)
- Grilled Pineapple and BBQ Shrimp Tacos
- Grilled Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Mango Salsa
- Barbacoa Beef (Tacos, Quesadillas, Bowls)
- Easy Turkey Tacos (One Pot Meal)
- Shredded Salsa Verde Chicken (Enjoy in Tacos or Burrito Bowls)
- Chipotle Honey Marinated Chicken (Simple + Healthy)
- Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Casserole (Quick + Easy)
- Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Tacos
- How to Make Baked Tortilla Chips
- Hidden Veggie Guacamole (Made with Fresh Spinach + Great for Picky Eaters)
Whether you’re with your kids, friends or family, theme nights like this Taco-Inspired Fiesta are a wonderFULL way to make healthy meals interactive and FUN.