Back to School Taco Bar Party

Every year, as classes start again, my family hosts a back to school party the night before everyone gets busy again. This year, with the whole me-going-to-university thing, it was a little more complicated, and instead of our traditional barbecue, a couple days before we had a taco bar with a few of my friends. With the options of Tinga de Pollo, black beans, and every topping you could want, there was something for everyone-perfect for situations with large groups of people and any kind of food restrictions.



So many options-fillings to toppings, we even had a couple different types of tortillas!


Something for everyone – an easy way to attend to the needs of vegetarians, gluten-free, dairy-free, or just picky eaters without having to prepare something separate.


Tinga (Tinga de Pollo) is a comfort food for us, as the recipe was passed to my mum by a close family friend and has been a household staple ever since. As it’s not your typical “taco” filling, it gives a fresh take on the subject-and who knows, maybe it’ll be a new favourite!


There are quite a few parts to this, so pick and choose what you want-and don’t be afraid to change it up to suit your tastes!


Lulu’s Tinga de Pollo

The ultimate comfort food. Chicken, chipotle, garlic, tomatoes, and good herbs; how could you go wrong?


  • 5 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
  • 3 large tomatoes or approximate weight equivalent in cherry tomatoes
  • 3 onions, sliced as thinly as possible-we used a spiralizer on the thinnest setting, but you can simply cut into semilunar slices. Just cut in half along the centre, and then cut into 1mm thick slices
  • +half a small onion, chopped roughly
  • garlic
  • 2-3 epazote(or oregano) sprigs
  • canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 bay leaves



first off, poach your chicken breasts in water with a couple cloves of garlic, bay leaves, and epazote sprigs until cooked through. Strain and save the broth you poach them in! Then shred the chicken breasts. Tip: you can do this in a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, but keep a close eye on it and only do 2 at a time. Otherwise, the chicken gets mushy.


Roast tomatoes in a pan for around 20 minutes on medium heat-you want to get a little bit of charring and bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.


Put the tomatoes, 5 cloves of garlic, and the chipotle peppers into the blender. blend until smooth, adding the caldo (broth) from the poached chicken if it’s not blending properly. you want a thick sauce by the end.


These peppers are THE KEY to tinga. There’s something about the smoky hint of spice that really brings everything together.


Saute the onions in a pan until translucent with a little bit of oil. Your kitchen will smell amazing by now, so try not to eat any.


Add in the chipotle-tomato-garlic broth to the onions, and stir until combined. Make sure you have a big enough pan(unlike us) because otherwise, it’ll be a mess.


Throw in the shredded chicken


Stir until uniform-again, careful of the mess!


Ta-da! This can sit on low heat until everything else is finished. Typically this is served on tostadas, not tortillas, so if you’re not doing the full taco bar, try those out!

Tip: Tinga also makes THE BEST leftovers. It reheats perfectly, and the longer it sits, the more the flavours integrate and develop.

Guac(that isn’t extra)


  • 2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 3 avocados (about 1 pound)
  • juice of a lime



Smush everything together except for the avocados and salt. Make into a paste. Your eyes might hurt from the jalapenos, but if you’re a student, you’re probably used to it. Or you will be soon.


Add the avocado, and mash it all together with a fork. Season to taste.

Black Beans

adapted from Cookie and Kate


  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 sprigs of epazote(or oregano)
  • a chili pepper
  • ⅓ cup water
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste



Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium. Throw in the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring whenever you remember to until the onions have softened and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the cumin and stir it all in.


Pour in the beans, epazote and ⅓ cup water. Stir, add the chili pepper, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for ~5 minutes. Remove from heat, season generously with salt and pepper, to taste, and cover until you’re ready to serve.

Assembly(+extra toppings)


additional ingredients/toppings:

  • sour cream or crema
  • salsa(homemade or store bought)
  • shredded red cabbage
  • cheese
  • sliced green onions
  • chopped cilantro
  • pickled jalapenos
  • salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
  • corn tortillas
  • mini wheat tortillas
  • tostadas
  • lettuce leaves (to use as a wrap for )

Set everything out in a bar format. Heat the tortillas in tin foil in the oven or on the barbecue. Call all your friends, because you realize just how much food you have. Serve with margaritas, and cheers to the fact that everyone is going back.

2 thoughts on “Back to School Taco Bar Party

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