Forget Burgers: At Your Next Cookout, Serve Mix-n-Match Tacos

(Bloomberg) -- The key to a successful taco spread is variety in textures and flavors: spicy vs. cool, creamy vs. crunchy. It’s also an ideal time to mix homemade sides with store-bought ones such as pickled onions and pepitas (pumpkin seeds without shells). With these three recipes, your guests will love the chance to mix and match to build their own tacos. 

Carne Asada Tacos

Forget Burgers: At Your Next Cookout, Serve Mix-n-Match Tacos

Makes about 10

  • 3 lb. flank steak
  • 1 cup salsa de molcajete (recipe below), plus more for serving
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Warm tortillas

In a baking dish, cover steak with salsa de molcajete. Refrigerate for 1 to 8 hours.

Heat grill to medium-high and brush the grates with a little oil. Season steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill steak for 7 to 10 minutes per side, turning once, until medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest for 5 minutes to allow juices to settle. Thinly slice steak on the diagonal and serve with additional salsa de molcajete and warm tortillas, plus toppings of your choice.

Mole Carrot Tacos

Forget Burgers: At Your Next Cookout, Serve Mix-n-Match Tacos

Makes about 10

  • ½ cup mole spice (recipe follows), plus more to taste
  • 2 lb. carrots, stemmed and cut lengthwise into quarters
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Warm tortillas

In a pot of boiling water, stir in ½ cup mole spice blend. Add carrots to water and simmer until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool. Toss carrots in olive oil; add more mole spice to taste. Heat grill to high. Carefully arrange carrots on it and lightly char for about 4 minutes. Let cool, then cut into 1-inch chunks and toss with lime juice. Serve with warm tortillas and choice of toppings.

Achiote Grilled Fish Tacos

Forget Burgers: At Your Next Cookout, Serve Mix-n-Match Tacos

Makes about 10

  • 2 lb. firm skinless white-fleshed fish fillets, such as snapper, grouper, or striped bass, cut into 4-inch strips
  • Salt
  • 1 cup achiote paste (recipe follows)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 limes, halved
  • Warm tortillas

In a baking dish, coat fish pieces with achiote paste. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. Heat grill to medium-high and brush grates with oil. Grill fish until it’s cooked through and flakes easily, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and squeeze lime on top. Serve with warm tortillas and choice of toppings.

Mexican-style Asparagus

Forget Burgers: At Your Next Cookout, Serve Mix-n-Match Tacos

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 lb. asparagus, tough ends discarded
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise or aioli
  • 1 tbsp. crumbled Cotija
  • or grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp. preferred chile spice blend

Heat grill to high. Toss asparagus with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on grill or use a grill basket. Cook until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to platter, top with lime, mayonnaise, cheese, and spice.

Big Star Salsa Verde

Makes 4 cups

  • 8 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 4 serrano chiles
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp. lime juice
  • Salt

Heat grill to high. Char tomatillos. Transfer to a bowl and let residual heat soften them. In a small saucepan, cover chiles and garlic with water. Simmer over medium heat until tender. Drain, transfer to blender with tomatillos, and blend until slightly chunky. In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add tomatillo sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add lime juice and season with salt.

Pro tip: A grilled cucumber garnish packs a refreshing flavor punch. Cut a large seedless cucumber lengthwise in half, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until browned on both sides, then cut into cubes.

Lime Yogurt

Makes 1 cup

  • 8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 finely grate garlic clove
  • ½ chopped shallot
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • Salt

In a bowl, mix yogurt with garlic, shallot, and the lime zest and juice. Season with salt and whisk to combine.

Achiote Paste

Makes 2 cups

Note: You can substitute store-bought achiote paste for this one. Then add orange juice, lime juice, cinnamon, and cumin to taste.

  • 3 tbsp. annatto seeds
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 3 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 3 tbsp. black
  • peppercorns
  • 1½ tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 6 garlic cloves

In a small bowl, soak annatto seeds in orange juice until softened, 15 minutes. In a small skillet, toast coriander, cumin, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, and cinnamon over medium heat until fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Let cool, add oregano, then use a spice grinder to finely grind. Transfer to a small blender and add annatto seeds, orange juice, lime juice, and garlic and blend to a paste. Add water if necessary to thin.

Chipotle Yogurt

Makes 2 cups

  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 canned chipotle in adobo, mashed to a paste
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup lime yogurt
  • or plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt
  • Lime juice (optional)

In a bowl, combine honey with chipotle and buttermilk. Mix in yogurt. Season with salt and lime juice if necessary.

Salsa de Molcajete

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 or 3 jalapeños
  • 5 plum tomatoes
  • 1 Spanish onion, halved
  • 4 garlic cloves, skins on
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • Salt

Heat grill to medium-high. Grill jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions until skins are charred. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Carefully grill garlic in a grill basket until skins darken. Let cool, then peel and add to bowl. Using a food processor or mortar and pestle (the molcajete), blend until lightly chunky. Add lime juice and salt to taste.

Big Star Guacamole

Makes about 5 cups

  • 5 avocados, skinned and pitted, in large chunks
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 minced serrano chile
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • ¼ cup lime juice, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt
  • Radishes, julienned (optional)

In a bowl, combine avocado with red onion, serrano chile, and garlic clove. Mix well with a fork until still chunky. Add lime juice and cilantro and season with salt. Garnish with radishes and more cilantro. Serve with chips and salsa.

Mole Spice

Makes 2 cups

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup garlic powder
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 2 tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tbsp. ancho chile powder
  • 2 tbsp. pasilla chile powder
  • 1 tsp. chile de árbol powder
  • ¼ tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican

In a bowl, combine all ingredients.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gaddy at, Chris Rovzar

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