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How Much Taco Meat Should I Make? The Guide To The Perfect Taco Party

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

If you want to throw a taco party for your family and friends but don’t know where to start then you’re in the right place!

There’s a lot to think about when you’re planning a party, especially a big one. The last thing you want on the day of the party is to discover that you didn’t prepare enough food.

How Much Taco Meat Should I Make?

In our article we’ll take a look at how much taco meat you should make per person, as well as how to make your meat go further, what to do if you have meat leftover, and even ideas for more dishes you could serve!

So whether you want to plan a terrific Taco Tuesday or be well-prepared for a tailgate, we’ve got you covered.

How Much Taco Meat Should You Serve At A Taco Party?

People need 4 ounces of protein on average for a meal with side dishes. Meanwhile, tacos tend to hold around 2 ounces of meat with toppings. So you will need around 2 tacos per person for a taco bar that has side dishes like beans and rice.

Still, if some of your guests have large appetites it might be a good idea to boost the amount of meat to 5–6 ounces per person.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that meat loses around 25% of its weight when it’s being cooked. So if you want to cook 4 ounces of meat, it needs to weigh around 5.33 ounces when it’s raw.

To work out how much taco meat you need to serve, just multiply how many guests are attending by 5.55, then divide by 16 to find out how much protein the meat contains in pounds.

For example, if you’ve invited 20 people to your party, multiply 20 by 5.33, then divide by 16 which equals 6.7 pounds of meat.

You can also use this formula to work out how many pounds of chicken you need for shredded chicken tacos, as well as any other meat options.

Let’s take a look at some basic serving amounts to get you started:

  • 10 People = 3.4 pounds
  • 20 People = 6.7 pounds
  • 25 People = 8.3 pounds
  • 30 People = 10 pounds
  • 40 People = 13.4 pounds
  • 200 People = 66.6 pounds

Luckily, a taco bar calculator exists to do the math for you! Just enter how many people you need to serve and it will tell you how many pounds of meat you’ll need.

How To Make Taco Meat Go Further

Buying meat isn’t cheap, especially when you’re feeding a lot of people. So to be kinder to your wallet, let’s take a look at how you can make the meat go further.

To pad out your tacos and take the meat further you can include black beans, canned, fresh or frozen corn, pinto beans, or tomatoes with green chilies. You may have to tweak your seasonings to ensure the meat maintains its flavor.

How To Keep The Taco Meat Warm

It’s essential that your taco meat stays warm throughout your party. Temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F are considered the danger zone for cooked foods, this is because dangerous bacteria can grow at these temperatures and may lead to food poisoning.

You should never leave food sitting at room temperature for over 2 hours. If you do this, it’s better to throw out the meat to avoid your guests getting sick. But how do you keep your taco meat warm? Let’s take a look:

  • You can place the taco meat in a saucepan with a lid on simmer or low heat.
  • You can place the taco meat in buffet chaffing dishes.
  • You can place the taco meat in food warming trays.
  • You can keep dairy products such as sour cream and cheese cold by putting them in a bowl of ice.

If you do end up eating spoiled meat, look out for symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, nausea and stomach pain. If you experience this, get medical attention immediately.

The Basics Of A Taco Party

How Much Taco Meat Should I Make? The Guide To The Perfect Taco Party

Tacos tend to contain 2 ounces of meat as well as taco fillings such as cheese, lettuce, onion, and tomatoes.

You should ensure you have plenty of taco shells and corn or flour tortillas. We recommend working off the assumption that each guest will have two tacos each. But it never hurts to have some left over!

What Meats Should You Serve?

There are a few different meats you can serve at a taco party. But ground beef always reigns supreme, because it’s delicious, and also quick and easy to cook.

However, other meats you can try, include chorizo, fish (de pescado), flank steak (carne asada), shredded chicken (pollo asado), shredded pork shoulder (carnitas), and shrimp (de camarones)

While you can season your meat with a premade taco seasoning mix, you can also experiment with homemade seasonings.

Chilli powder, cumin, garlic powder, garlic salt, onion powder, oregano, paprika/smoked paprika, pepper and regular salt are some popular ingredients for seasoning.

Citrus fruits also make an amazing tenderizer for meat. If you would like to marinate your meat, you can mix your chosen seasonings with citrus juice and a touch of neutral oil. You can use lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, or pineapple juice.

You should let your meat marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes or a maximum of 8 hours in the fridge. If you let the meat marinate for longer this will affect the texture of the meat.

What Toppings Should You Use?

You will of course need many toppings on offer too! There are many toppings you can go for and these will vary according to what tacos you’re serving.

Some of the most popular taco toppings include cabbage, diced onion, diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro, fresh or picked jalapeño, guacamole (i.e. avocados), lettuce, lime, and pico de gallo.

Dairy-based toppings you can use include cheddar cheese, Cojita cheese, queso fresco, or sour cream. Meanwhile, the sauces you can use include cilantro lime dressing, hot sauce, hot or mild salsa, and salsa verde (i.e. green salsa).

What Side Dishes Should You Serve?

A taco party isn’t complete without some tasty side dishes! Sides are also an amazing way to make sure everyone has something to eat.

If there are some guests who don’t get as many tacos as others, then they can fill up on side dishes.

Traditional dishes to serve at your taco party include black beans, fruit salad, grilled pineapple, guacamole, Mexican rice, pinto beans and refried beans.

What Desserts Should You Serve?

You can finish your taco party right with desserts! You can serve classic Mexican desserts like churros, flan, fried ice cream, Mexican corn cake, rice pudding, sopapillas, and tres leches cake.

What Beverages Should You Serve?

And of course, you’ll need to serve some beverages to quench your thirst! Let’s take a look at some amazing beverage options that you can make with or without alcohol.

Non-alcoholic and child-friendly options include Agua Fresca, Horchata, and Jarritos soda. Meanwhile, drinks that can be made with or without alcohol include margaritas, mojitos, palomas, piña coladas, and sangria.

How Should You Store Leftover Taco Meat?

It’s crucial to correctly store any leftover taco meat so it doesn’t go to waste. Make sure you put the meat in an airtight container and put it near the back of your fridge where it’s coldest.

You may also place your meat in a strong Ziplock bag, making sure it’s tightly sealed so no air can come in.

If you would like to freeze your leftovers, portion them into containers in the amount of one serving. This means you can only thaw what you need at a time.

How Long Can You Keep Leftovers?

Any taco meat you have leftover – whether that be chicken, ground beef, or shrimp – will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge when correctly stored.

But you should always check your meat for indicators of spoilage before you eat, to be on the safe side. Signs of spoilage include:

  • Texture changes.
  • Changes in color.
  • Mold.
  • An off taste or smell.

According to the meat, frozen leftovers will be good for about 2 to 4 months.

More Delicious Tex-Mex Recipes

Below you’ll find some more delicious and simple Tex-Mex recipes to try. You can serve these as a side dish for large parties, or as a back-up dish to serve for those who are not taco fans.

1. Tex-Mex Potato Salad

While we all have a tried-and-true potato salad recipe, if you’d like to mix it up then we definitely recommend giving this recipe a shot.

Firstly, the dressing is a seriously delicious mix of chopped chipotle pepper, mayo, and ranch dressing, making it creamy and perfectly spicy.

If that wasn’t enough, this fancy potato salad also features black beans, cherry tomatoes, chopped boiled eggs, and corn.

2. Quick Tex-Mex Black Beans

Who doesn’t love black beans? They are a lot tastier than other beans, and make a stunning contrast next to tomatoes and bright corn.

These homemade refried beans are ideal in a breakfast bowl, as a base for huevos rancheros, and, yes, your tacos!

3. Tex-Mex Corn Casserole

If you love corn then you’re going to love this Tex-Mex casserole recipe! It’s colorful, bright, as well as totally delicious and packed with chilies, peppers, and sweetcorn. It’s the ultimate cornbread!

It’s also brimming with cheese, butter, and half-and-half, making it an indulgent casserole full of calories. This casserole is truly addictive. Trust us, one slice is not enough!

4. Tex-Mex Chili

Classical Texas chili is a delicious mix of meat and chili peppers. This Tex-Mex twist includes beans and occasionally corn.

We love this recipe because as well as including ground beef it also has beef stew meat that becomes tender in the pot and gives the dish amazing texture and flavor.

Chili is best made low and slow the day before serving. As the chili cools it thickens up and the flavor is enhanced.

5. Texas Style Nachos

I think we can all agree that the best way to enjoy nachos is when they’re served in a large bowl with a good cheese-to-chip ratio.

After all, who wants a big stack of dry, hot chips? Luckily, these nachos have the best cheese-to-chip ratio!

This recipe will take a while to make, but trust us, every bite is worth it. You can also make your own tortilla chips! Each bite is like a canapé with jalapeños, cheese, and beans.

6. The Best Steak Fajitas

What makes these steak fajitas the ‘best,’ you may be wondering? Well, it’s marinated in cumin, garlic, and lime juice for hours before it’s cooked.

The trick to getting the meat as tender as possible is to marinate and cook the steak whole, so it gets a nice crust. You should also give it time to rest.

When the steak is cooked, slice it up and serve with onions and peppers.

7. Perfect Tex-Mex Enchiladas

Enchiladas are a classic Tex-Mex meal. The cheese and spiced meat gives you amazing flavors, but when it’s drenched in a stunning sauce, it’s delicious and seriously messy.

8. Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s pie is a hearty, and classical comfort dish, but this Tex-Mex Shepherd’s pie is putting a twist on the classic ‘meat and two veg,’ and we’re sure you’re going to be obsessed with it.

It has the foundation of a chili recipe, calling for beans, corn, ground beef and tomatoes, but it is then covered in cheesy, creamy mashed potatoes.

If you’d like your filling to be a bit thicker, whip up a roux with some flour and mix it with the canned tomatoes until it’s beautifully thick.

9. Tex-Mex Cheese Quesadillas

Quesadillas translates into ‘little cheesy thing,’ which we think sums them up perfectly – tortillas paced with lots of cheese and cooked until it’s deliciously gooey.

If you have leftover meat in the fridge then you can use it to make these quesadillas. If you have good quality cheese then all you need is a good dipping sauce.

10. Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

Peppers and taco seasoning are always a good combination, and so it’s no surprise this dish is a winner. Plus, stuffed peppers make for a fabulous make-ahead dinner.

Filled with beans, cheese, corn, enchilada sauce, ground beef and Mexican rice, they’re sure to be a hit at the dinner table.

Final Thoughts

We hope our article has given you some insight on how much taco meat you should make for a taco party, and some other recipes you can make for your party as side dishes and alternative Tex-Mex meals.

Before we sign off, let’s go over how much taco meat you should serve per person:

The average person needs 4 ounces of meat for a meal including sides. This works out to around 2 tacos each. As the weight will decrease as it cooks, you should start with 5.33 ounces of raw meat.

To work out how much meat you will need to buy, multiply the number of guests by 5.33 and divide it by 16. This will give you the amount of meat you need in pounds.

Make sure you also prepare plenty of sides like beans, chips, fruit salad, or rice so each guest has a filling meal.

If you’re concerned by how much taco meat you have, you can make your meat go further by adding ingredients such as corn, beans, and tomatoes with green chilis.

And if you have too much meat, that’s not a problem either! It’s better to have too much and not enough. You can use this leftover meat to whip up other tasty meals, like the recipes we’ve provided above!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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