This post contains affiliate links.
There’s nothing that quite compares to a fresh, and hot taco. When you can’t get them quite that fresh, you have to figure out how to keep them warm.
Keeping tacos warm is best done through the use of warming trays, slow cookers, and tortilla warmers. For a more professional setup, chafing racks will warm large quantities of food. The specific method will depend on the serving style and whether soft or hard-shelled tacos are used.
I love to make tacos for my friends, sometimes the groups get pretty big. When this happens I have to look beyond just leaving the food in the pot that it was made in, and just serving it fresh.
We have some great articles on recipes, and guides for preparing and serving tacos. For some tips on how to make a lot of tacos check out our articles here
Warming for a Self-Serve Taco Bar
Taco Tuesday and you’re in charge? One of the most common serving styles is to use the self-serve taco bar approach. There’s so much time saved by leaving the preparation for each one of your friends or guests. They won’t be upset by your portions either!
Warming the Meat
In our article on prepping tacos for tons of people, we talk about the merits of using a slow cooker. Check out this one that keeps food warm for up to four hours. If you make your tacos in a slow cooker, this is an elegant solution because all of the juices from cooking will still be in the pot. This will help to keep in tons of flavor.
When keeping meat warm for more than 45 minutes, it is best to use a powered source like a slow cooker. When you need to keep the meat warm for less than 45 minutes, and you have more than 5 pounds of meat, the meat itself will retain a substantial amount of heat.
Foods get cold because of dissipated heat, and evaporative cooling. To keep meat cold, make sure it’s not spread out on a sheet or shallow tray. Keep it in a covered bowl, or another container.
Keep Taco Shells Warm
For soft shell tacos, this is really easy. A tortilla warmer is a purpose made to keep tortillas warm. I was able to find a three-pack of tortilla warmers for less than $20. Each warmer holds eight tortillas. Some options are microwaveable, so the tortillas can be warmed and served in the same containers.
If that isn’t enough tortillas for your gathering, another elegant solution is to warm the tortillas on a pan, or in the microwave, and then place them into a small crockpot on the warm setting. This should be able to fit an 80-pack of tortillas or more. Depending on how you want to layer it.
For hard-shelled tacos, use a baking sheet. Layout the tortillas so that they are in neat rows, on their sides, leaning on each other. Cover them with foil. These are thin, and have low moisture content so they will be quick to lose their heat. This method will keep tortillas warm for 15 minutes or less.
If you need to keep them warm for longer, you can put multiple baking sheets into an oven set to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit. When they do need to be pulled out, consider using a more insulating covering on top of the foil that covers them. Some people use a warm towel, you might have a more purpose-made solution.
Warming for Pre-Made Tacos
Sometimes you want a little more classy setup. Maybe your event has a time crunch, or you have a few germophobes to watch out for. Pre-made tacos are a great option. People will be able to pass through the serving line a lot faster. There are also nowhere near as many points of contact in the serving process.
The Baking Sheet Method
Working with pre-made tacos is a little bit of a different ball game from the self-serve taco bar. Two kinds of foods are being mixed in the warming process. The dry shells, and the juicy, delicious taco meat. A delicious combo when fresh quickly becomes a slimy mess after too long in the wrong conditions.
Pre-made tacos can be warmed in a similar fashion to the hard shell tacos in the first example. A baking sheet can hold a large number of tacos, and they will keep their heat better when covered with foil and another insulation layer.
Soggy Taco Warning!
These can’t be left too long because the meat from the juices or the sour cream will begin to soak through the shells. In my experience, tacos will begin to get soggy after 20 minutes or more of sitting without being eaten.
Using less juicy meat, and frying the tortillas can help to keep the tacos less soggy for a longer time period. Another helpful tip is to double up on corn tortillas if you’re using soft shell tacos.
Taco Tuesday Pro Tip
Some people really just need to go the extra mile. If you’re like me, you want to know what kinds of methods pros are using to keep foods warm.
A lot of professionals will use chafing racks. The pro-grade racks are made of stainless steel and are quite expensive. Wire racks are cheap, but a professional option that will take your event to the next level. These are a very low maintenance option for keeping large amounts of food warm.
For around $40 you can purchase a 24 piece party serving kit with includes three chafing kits plus serving utensils. These can be had on Amazon, or in most major stores. These do use a flame and require a little more setup, but they’ll give you’re gathering an extra touch of class that’s hard to get any other way. Here’s a quick video on how to use them:
Using tools like a common baking sheet, or even a fancy chafing rack you’ll be able to deliver that fresh taco experience to large groups of people. It’s possible to keep food warm with the things around your house, but sometimes you just need a pro solution.