an overhead shot of a taco bar

taco week: a weeklong DIY taco bar

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Hello, happy Monday. Let’s get right to it. There’s a reason I’ve made a point of sharing my favorite recipes for corn tortillas, carnitas, guacamole, hot sauce, and salsa. This post is that reason. Move over, Taco Tuesday, it’s time to talk about Taco Week.

Taco Week is what happens when you combine bulk cooking with fresh ingredients to create a week of dinners that requires little effort for maximum flavor. It’s basically a DIY taco bar, only you eat it all week long.

At the end of this post I’ve included a few mini recipes for some of our favorite taco toppings, but you should absolutely feel free to run wild with whatever you like best.

When I was a kid, taco night was when my mom served what was essentially a deconstructed salad that we ate out of hard taco shells. It was good. It was fine. (Sorry, mom.) My tacos were filled with cheese and olives because I thought lettuce was gross and onions were “spicy.”

A close up of a taco bar with all the toppings on a counter. A pile of homemade corn tortillas wrapped in a dish towel is in the center, in focus. Everything else is out of focus around it, including an assembled taco in the foreground.

It wasn’t until college, really, when Jimmy introduced me to Qdoba, that I had any concept of tacos being anything more than that. And it really wasn’t until I moved to L.A. that I truly began to understand the whole wide world of taco possibilities — and I know I’ve still only scratched the surface there.

My point is this: I’ve learned a lot since a satisfying taco consisted of black olives and shredded cheddar inside an actively collapsing hard taco shell!

And that’s what this post is really all about. I’m going to break down everything you need to know to make A+ use of leftovers and eat fresh carnitas tacos — with homemade corn tortillas, no less! — all week long, with minimal effort.

A small metal tray with bowls of taco bar toppings. Shredded lettuce, guacamole, salsa, lemon quarters, greek yogurt sauce, and pickled red onions.

week of tacos: the game plan

The true beauty of this plan is that you can choose whether to buy or make each of these components from scratch.

Don’t want to make your own tortillas? Buy them! Really want to make your own hot sauce? Go for it! Vegetarian? Skip the carnitas and use this bulk method of cooking chickpeas instead. Looking to create a DIY taco bar for a party instead of stretching it out over the week? You’ll barely need to double the recipes to do so.

There’s a million and one ways to make this DIY taco bar your own, so I’m just going to tell you what we do, and you can pick and choose which pieces of it make sense for you.

In our house, a full carnitas taco bar includes the following:

I know it seems like a lot, but with the right prep in advance, it’s a breeze to pull off four nights in a row.

A close up of an assembled taco on a small plate. Carnitas, shredded lettuce, a squiggle of hot sauce, a sprinkle of crumbled cotija, and pickled purple onions on top.

diy taco bar/taco week grocery list

This list makes enough for two people to eat 3 tacos each for 4 nights, a total of 24 tacos. (Why not 5 nights? Because we always plan one free night in case we have plans at the last minute or are tired and just don’t feel like cooking).

And, tbh, we usually have some carnitas left over — we either freeze them or use them for a fifth night of tacos if we feel like it.

IngredientQuantityCostUse
Pork shoulder4 lbs$10carnitas
Medium white onions2$2.24carnitas, guacamole
Garlic1 bulb$0.50carnitas
Medium orange1$0.50carnitas
Cinnamon stick1$1.99carnitas
Masa Harina (4.4 lb bag)3 cups$2.49tortillas
Small avocados4$2.79guacamole
Jalapeno (or Poblano) peppers2 (or 1)$0.60guacamole
Lemons or limes4$2.00guacamole, yogurt sauce
Plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)8 oz$1.00yogurt sauce
Medium red onion1$0.75guacamole, quick pickled topping
Romaine lettuce1 head$1.69crunchy greens
Cilantro1 bunch$0.99crunchy greens
Scallions1 bunch$0.99crunchy greens
Cotija cheese1 package$3.57topping
Salsa (store bought is fine)1 cup$2.99topping
Hot sauce ¯\_(ツ)_/¯$2.00topping
TOTAL$37.09

grocery notes:

  • These prices have been pulled from my local mid-range grocery store here in L.A. The produce will be entirely used by up the end of your Taco Week, but you will have leftover hot sauce, salsa, cotija, masa harina, and cinnamon sticks.
  • If you can’t find 4 lb pork shoulder, head to the meat counter and ask if they have any in the back. We often buy 8 or 12 lb packages and divide them up into 4 lb packets to freeze for future taco nights.
  • As always, check the international aisle for cheaper spices.
  • If you’re doing a DIY taco bar situation for a party, you shouldn’t need to increase the quantities too much — these tacos are very filling. Estimate 3-4 tacos per person, and adjust accordingly. We once fed 10-12 people with this exact grocery list and still had leftovers!

Taco Week: Day 0 (Prep)

  • Prep your carnitas. We use the sous vide method, which is a long, slow cooking process that takes place over 12-24 hours. Since we usually eat dinner around 6 p.m., we start the sous vide around 6 p.m. on Sunday night.
  • Make your greek yogurt/sour cream sauce. Mix the juice of half a lemon, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, finely chopped fresh cilantro, and a pinch of cayenne directly into an 8 oz cup of greek yogurt or sour cream. If you can get one of those 8 oz containers with a lid, go for it. Otherwise, cover it and keep in the fridge.
  • Crumble your cotija. Crumble a wedge of cotija into a container with an airtight lid. You only need a small amount of this each night because it’s got such a strong flavor, but crumbling it ahead of time is one less thing to do later.
  • (Optional) Make your tortilla dough. You can make a big batch of tortilla dough on Sunday and refrigerate it. I don’t, because refrigerated dough tends to be harder to work with, but if you go this route, just use wet hands to briefly knead the dough pressing your tortillas later in the week so they don’t crumble.

Taco Week: Day 1

This is probably the day with the most work, only because you have to finish the carnitas AND make your tortillas AND make the toppings.

  • Make your corn tortillas. About 45 minutes before you’re ready to eat, make your tortilla dough. It needs to rest for about 15-20 minutes before you divide it up and shape your tortillas, and then for 20 minutes after you cook them.
  • Finish the carnitas. Take the carnitas out of the sous vide water bath, put the meat in a large sheet pan, shred it, and send it on a quick trip under the broiler. Reduce the remaining juices in a sauce pan on the stove, then strain and pour it over the finished carnitas. Transfer the carnitas to a 2 qt Cambro bucket or other large airtight container.

While the tortillas are steaming after coming off the skillet, make your taco toppings:

  • Guacamole and quick pickled red onions. My favorite guacamole recipe uses quick-pickled red onions, so it only makes sense to make these both at the same time. To make the quick pickled red onion topping, toss thinly sliced red onion in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and pinch of salt and set aside.
  • Crunchy greens. Remove the stems from 2-3 romaine leaves, roll the leaves up lengthwise and slice them into thin ribbons. Toss with a pinch of salt in a bowl along with rough chopped cilantro and 1-2 thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites).

Get out your crumbled cotija, hot sauce, and salsa, and arrange all your taco toppings on the table. Assemble your tacos and enjoy!

Taco Week: Days 2 and 3

  • Press your tortillas. Use any refrigerated dough from the night before and any fresh dough you’ve made that night. Save any leftover dough in the fridge for the next night.
  • Make guacamole, quick-pickled red onions, and crunchy greens. Yes, you will need to make these fresh each night. But they’re so easy and you can make them while the tortillas are steaming.
  • Microwave the carnitas. Transfer a portion of the carnitas from the fridge to a smaller container and microwave in 45 second bursts until heated through.

Taco Week: Day 4

The final night! The way our tortilla math (ugh, math) works out, on the final night of Taco Week we don’t actually need to make a new batch of tortilla dough. Let me explain.

One batch of corn tortilla dough makes enough 8 tortillas. Since we each eat 3 per night, I make a new batch of dough on the first 3 nights, BUT!!! I only press 6 tortillas each night.

I save the remaining dough balls in the fridge and, by the final night, I don’t need to make any new tortilla dough because I have exactly 6 balls of dough left from the night before.

Confused? Here’s a chart:

MAKE FRESHPRESS & COOKREFRIGERATE
Day 1 8 dough balls6 tortillas2 dough balls
Day 2
8 dough balls2 tortillas from fridge dough
4 tortillas from fresh dough
4 dough balls
Day 38 dough balls4 tortillas from fridge dough
2 tortillas from fresh dough
6 dough balls
Day 40 dough balls6 tortillas from fridge dough0 dough balls

Just like the previous nights, while the tortillas steam, you’ll make your crunchy greens, quick pickled red onions, and guacamole.

If you have leftover carnitas: Freeze them! Put them in an airtight container or bag in the freezer. They’ll stay good up to 3 months and are incredibly versatile.

recommended tools

a close up photo of an assembled taco on a plate

taco week: a weeklong DIY taco bar

The Practical Kitchen
Whether you’re creating a DIY taco bar or eating tacos all week long, here’s everything you’ll need to make that happen. This recipe assumes 4 nights of 2 people eating 3 tacos each. Adjust accordingly!
0 from 0 votes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 24 tacos

Ingredients
  

crunchy greens

  • 2-3 romaine lettuce leaves (chiffonade)
  • 1-2 scallions (thinly sliced)
  • 2 TBSP fresh cilantro (chopped)

Greek Yogurt/Sour Cream Sauce (make ahead, use all 4 nights)

  • 8 oz whole fat plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • juice from ½ a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 1 tsp fresh cilantro (minced)

Quick-pickled red onion topping

  • cup red onion (thinly sliced)
  • juice from ½ a lemon
  • generous pinch of salt

Instructions

make ahead

  • Prep carnitas or preferred taco filling. Whether you’re using sous vide carnitas, shredded chicken, or chickpeas, make sure you’ve built in enough time to have your filling ready when you’re ready to eat.
  • Sour Cream Sauce: Open an 8 oz container of sour cream or plain greek yogurt. Mix lemon juice, cayenne, salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro directly into the container. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Crumble cotija: Save yourself time later in the week by pre-crumbling your cotija cheese into a small bowl or airtight container.
  • Optional: Make a triple batch of tortilla dough, cover, and refrigerate.

each night for dinner

  • Cook your tortillas. Press however many tortillas you plan to eat that night, and refrigerate any extra dough balls. While the tortillas are steaming after cooking (15-20 mins), make your taco toppings.
  • Crunchy Greens: Toss thinly sliced romaine, scallions, and cilantro in a bowl with a pinch of salt.
  • One-Avocado Guacamole: Mash one avocado with chopped red onion, jalapeño, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Quick-pickled red onion: Toss thinly sliced crescents of red onion in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and pinch of salt. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • Reheat carnitas in the microwave.

Assemble your tacos

  • Tortilla –> Sour Cream –> Taco Filling –> Crunchy Greens –> Salsa –> Guac –> Hot Sauce –> Cotija –> Quick Pickled Red Onions
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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