27 Taco Toppings for Your Meal Prep
San Diego is home to delicious Mexican eateries and markets, meaning fresh tortillas and marinated meats are a regular part of my diet. I’m going to share some of my favorite taco toppings, whether you’re prepping for the week or putting together a taco bar for friends.
I like mixing and matching ingredients when meal prepping to keep it interesting. Meat, beans, rice, tortillas, and toppings can easily be remixed into burritos, tacos, rice bowls, omelets, nachos, and the list goes on.
Start With The Basics
First thing’s first. Before you even consider your taco toppings, make sure you have a strong base to build off of. Choose at least 1-2 proteins, tortillas, and rice. If I’m building a taco bar, I like to provide 3-4 types of protein depending on the number of guests.
If you’re creating a taco bar, provide multiple types of tortillas. For example, try street style corn tortillas and soft flour tortillas. You can even use flavored tortillas like spinach or tomato. I also like to season my rice. A few ideas:
- Flour tortillas
- Corn tortillas
- Spanish rice
- Cilantro-lime rice
If you don’t buy your meat preseasoned, there are plenty of copycat recipes inspired by restaurants. Two of my favorites are Chipotle style and El Pollo Loco style chicken.
- Ground beef
- Black beans
- Fish (preferably blackened)
- Carne asada
- Shrimp (tips for reheating shrimp)
Prep Your Toppings
Now that you’ve figured out the base of your taco, it’s time to get creative with taco toppings! Stick with the basics, like lettuce, tomato, cheese, and salsa, or opt for an unconventional option like portobello mushrooms, pickled onions, and coleslaw.
Vegetables & Fruits
1. Pickled Onions
Once I learned how easy pickled onions were to make, they became my go-to side. All you need is red onions, vinegar, sugar, and salt. You can pickle multiple vegetables together. Sometimes I like to throw in carrots and jalapenos.
Diced raw onions are also a great choice to top tacos.
2. Bell peppers
Raw or cooked, bell peppers are a welcome addition to any taco. I like to saute red and green bell peppers with onions and chili powder to make flavorful fajita veggies.
If you don’t think you can eat all your bell peppers before they go bad, remember that you can freeze them to cook later.
3. Serrano Peppers
Serrano peppers are one of my all-time favorite peppers. In addition to being used as a taco topping, they are the perfect base for vegetarian tacos. I like grilling or blistering the peppers, and then smothering them in creamy cilantro sauce. If you’d prefer a subtler veggie taco, try using air fried cauliflower instead!
Add some greens to your taco with shredded lettuce. It’s also useful for making taco salads with all the fixings.
Cabbage provides a crunchy texture and it is rich in Vitamin C! If regular cabbage is too bitter for you, you could try mixing up some cilantro lime coleslaw. Cabbage is a great topping for fish tacos.
Every time I see elote on the menu I have to order it. It’s one of my favorite snacks when visiting Baja California. How could you not love mayonnaise, cheese, and corn? You can make an elote-style taco topping or keep it simple with grilled corn.
Creamy avocados compliment bold, spicy taco flavors. If I’m slicing or cubing avocados ahead of time, I like to sprinkle lemon or lime juice on them to reduce browning.
If you’re using a chunky salsa, you may not need tomatoes too. If you’re not, try dicing roma or cherry tomatoes. Both those types tend to be firm and sweet, keeping your taco from getting watery and soggy.
Pickled or plain, radishes add a spicy, yet crisp flavor to any taco. You could add them to salsa or slice them up and eat them on the side, too.
Like serrano peppers or cauliflower, jackfruit is a good vegetarian option. It even comes in a can if you’re worried about finding fresh jackfruit at your local market. Cook up jackfruit carnitas for a savory meat-free alternative.
A classic taco topping, you can’t go wrong with guacamole. You can easily make your own by smashing avocados and adding lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic or garlic powder, and cilantro to taste.
12. Mango salsa
Mango salsa is a triple threat — easy, versatile, and flavorful. Not only is it a fantastic taco topping, it also pairs well with white fish, chicken, and chips. To make it, I mix diced mango, black beans, red onion, cilantro, cumin, salt, lime juice, and olive oil to taste.
13. Greek yogurt or sour cream
Greek yogurt is a high-protein sour cream alternative (and you can barely tell the difference). If your Greek yogurt is too thick to drizzle, dilute it with water or lime juice. Sour cream and vegan sour cream are other taco topping alternatives.
When I say Cholula, I really mean any hot sauce. But as a Southern Californian we have strong opinions about what hot sauce is the best, and the right answer is Cholula.
15. Chipotle crema
If you haven’t cooked with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, go make some chicken tinga for your taco bar. Chipotle peppers are flavorful without being too spicy, which is what I love about them. Make a chipotle crema sauce using canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, mayo, sour cream, garlic, and lime juice. It may not be the healthiest, but it sure is tasty.
16. Pico de gallo
Pico de gallo is another salsa that you can easily make yourself. All you need is tomatoes, onion, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno, and salt. Cut up the vegetables and mix the ingredients together to taste.
17. Salsa verde
Salsa verde, or green salsa, is made with tomatillos, which are slightly sweet. You can make salsa verde yourself or there are plenty of canned options.
Real queso was foreign to me until I visited Texas. It won me over as a breakfast taco topping.
19. Refried beans
Buy canned refried beans or make your own. They’re better if you use dried pinto beans and take about an hour and a half to make, but you can make a healthier version and customize the flavor to your liking.
20. Black beans
While black beans are delicious plain, they’re even better if you simmer them with onion, garlic, salt, and cumin. Add some cilantro for a flavorful taco topping.
21. Pinto beans
Similar to black beans, you can simmer pinto beans with onion, garlic, and seasoning. If you don’t have refried beans (or want to spend time making them), try smashing the pinto beans for a similar texture.
Cotija is a mild, creamy, crumbly cheese that is great to sprinkle on top of tacos. It’s a delicious topping for any type of taco, but I especially enjoy it on shrimp tacos.
23. Shredded cheese
You could also use Mexican style cheese blends. Pro tip: melt the cheese on your tortilla and spread it with beans before adding meats and vegetables.
Cut limes into wedges and squeeze the juice over your taco. I make sure there’s 2-3 wedges per person.
Chopped cilantro and onions are essential taco toppings. Did you know that you can grow cilantro from its cuttings? I have a little kitchen herb garden so that all the basic herbs are at my fingertips.
Jalapeños are a flavorful taco topping, even if you don’t like spice. Just make sure to take the seeds out and wash your hands after handling them.
27. Green Onions
You can chop up green onions and use them raw, grill them whole, or turn them into salsa!
Serve & Enjoy!
Taco Bar Tips
If you’re hosting a big group, a taco bar is an easy and affordable option, especially if you’re hosting picky eaters or people with a variety of food restrictions. Even better, you can prep the items ahead of time so you’re not rushing as mealtime approaches.
- Keep meat warm in the oven: If people arrive at different times or are coming back for seconds, you may want to heat your oven to 150℉ – 200℉ and keep the meat in there covered in aluminum foil. I don’t recommend leaving it in there for over an hour.
- Arrange the ingredients proteins, beans, veggies, and sauces from left to right: If you’ve created a buffet-style option, consider the order people would top the tacos in and arrange your bar that way.
- Provide options that can double as sides: Rice and beans can either be sides or taco toppings. So can fajita veggies. Consider what people may eat as sides and make larger portions of these.
Meal Prep Tips
If you’re meal prepping tacos or taco salad bowls, you may wonder what to do with all the ingredients. Typically, I’ll store them in separate containers and combine when I’m ready to eat them, but if you prefer to measure out all the ingredients into single servings beforehand:
- Keep sauce separate: Store it in an individual container and pour it on right before eating.
- Try deconstructed tacos: Portion out tortillas in a bag on the side so they don’t get soggy.
- Minimize moisture: Just like you want to put your sauce on the side, you don’t want moisture causing your ingredients to get soggy. Use a container with two sides to separate wet and dry ingredients or place the wettest ingredients on one side of the container and the driest on the other.
You can also meal prep (and freeze) burritos.
Hopefully you’re inspired to create unique and delicious tacos! Let us know your favorite taco toppings below.
27 Creative Taco Toppings
Vegetables & Fruits
- pickled onions
- bell peppers
- cabbage or coleslaw
- mango salsa
- Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Chipotle crema
- pico de gallo
- salsa verde
- refried beans
- black beans
- pinto beans
- shredded cheese
- green onions
- Choose flour or corn tortillas.
- Decide on 1-2 proteins like chicken, ground beef, or fish.
- Top with any toppings and sauces of your choosing!
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