Year of living Mexico City and travelling to Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende made me fall in love with regional Mexican food. For me, the smell of fresh corn tortillas is simply food for the soul.
When it comes to cooking at home, I love the simplicity of a gathering that revolves around tacos, fresh vegetables and spicy margaritas. For a lively, stress-free get-together, I’ll set out a taco spread, and everyone can help themselves. I’ve created these recipes to reflect some of my favourite fillings—like plump, spicy shrimp and deliciously charred cauliflower—and toppings.
There’s also a creamy green tahini sauce that you’ll be able to use not only on the tacos but also on salads and grain bowls. The best part? You can easily prep some of these recipes the day before.
Day before: Pickled onions, cilantro sauce, fish (if pan-fried), flan.
Morning of: Avocado and mango salad, freshly chopped taco toppings.
Just before: Roasted eggplant, chipotle shrimp, cauliflower.
Wash, dry and remove leaves from 1/2 bunch of cilantro stems and coarsely chop shortly before ready to serve.
Place onion slices in a bowl or large mason jar; pour in vinegar and water. Add salt, sugar and bay leaf. Mix and cover with a lid. Let stand for 20 min. Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 1 day. (Get a more detailed version of this recipe here.)
Cut 4 or 5 limes crosswise, then quarter each half. Keep in a sealed bowl in the fridge; wedges can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.
4. SHREDDED CABBAGE
Place 1/2 small cabbage,shredded, in a bowl; drizzle 1 tbsp lemon juice overtop. Set aside.
Hands-down my favourite cocktail, this pairs perfectly with any of the tacos you’ ll have on this spread. Get this spicy pineapple margarita recipe.
This deliciously smoky shrimp recipe has only a handful of ingredients. Get this smoky chipotle and chiles de árbol shrimp recipe.
This salad pairs two of my favourite fruits for a healthy and incredibly delicious dish that you can serve as a side, to accompany a taco feast, or even to top tacos themselves. Get this avocado and mango salad recipe.
Eggplant on tacos? You bet! Crispy and spiced with za’atar, this is a topping both vegetarians and meat lovers alike will adore. Get this roasted eggplant with za’atar and sumac recipe.
This sweet and tangy topping is also perfect for salads or grain bowls. Get this charred BBQ cauliflower recipe.
Once you make this creamy, versatile sauce, you’ll always keep a jar in the fridge to drizzle over tacos, salads and grilled fish. Get this green cilantro sauce with tahini recipe.
Fish tacos are one of my all-time favourites. The cumin and lime give the fish so much flavour! You can pan-fry the fish or grill it—whichever way you choose, you’ll come back for more. Get this spiced fish with cumin and lime recipe.
There are dozens of types of Mexican cheese out there, each with a different flavour and texture. Here are some of our favourites for tacos, available at your local Latin American grocery store.
This white farmer’s-style cheese translates to “fresh cheese” and is typically made from cow’s milk or a mix of cow’s and sheep’s milk. The flavour is milky and bright—it’s perfect for crumbling over spicy stews and taco fillings.
This aged cheese is also crumbled, but is firmer, with a salty, sharp flavour.
This curd-style cheese is prepared in a manner similar to mozzarella but doesn’t melt as easily. It soaks up flavours beautifully and can be grated into tacos or baked.
While technically creamlike in form, queso crema has a thick texture and half-sour flavour that nudges it into cheese territory.
“When I was growing up in Santo Domingo, every celebration, birthday and Sunday lunch would end with a delicious flan. This one is made with coconut milk, which creates a velvety- smooth custard and adds a rich tropical flavour.” Get this coconut flan recipe.
Diala Canelo is a cookbook author and the recipe creator and writer of Diala’s Kitchen, a food and travel blog, where she shares recipes inspired by trips around the world. She lives in Toronto.