Every Topping You Need For The Perfect Taco Bar

1/11
Every Topping You Need For The Perfect Taco Bar

There's nothing quite like the taco. It's the perfect handheld food. Many traditional Mexican tacos are topped with white onions, cilantro, maybe some sliced radishes, a squeeze of lime, and a drizzle of salsa or hot sauce, but toppings can vary by region (both in Mexico and the U.S.) and taco type. Fish tacos are often topped with cool cabbage slaws, fruit salsas like mango or pineapple, and avocado; classic tacos al pastor always have sliced pineapple; and Tex-Mex tacos might have cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

While there's no limit when it comes to what you choose to top your tacos with, we've rounded up some of the best taco toppings you might come across—from the classic veggies and salsas to those with a bit of a twist.

Of course, the base of all good tacos is the protein. And whether you're cooking up fried fish, grilled mahi mahi, shredded chicken, carne asada, or vegan ground beef, we've got the perfect toppings (and recipes!) to keep you coming back for seconds, thirds...you get it. Here are some recipes for easy tacos and homemade tortillas to get you started.

(Erik bernstein)
2/11
1) Onions

White onions are a classic taco topping that you'll find on many street tacos. They're crisp, sharp, and add the perfect bite.

(Erik bernstein)
3/11
2) Cilantro

Another traditional taco staple is cilantro. The fragrant herb is great sprinkled on top or blended into fresh salsas.

(Erik bernstein)
4/11
3) Lime

Thanks to Samin Nosrat, we know the elements of good cooking are salt, fat, acid, and heat. When it comes to tacos, you can't skip the acid. A little squeeze of lime adds the perfect zing needed to round out all the flavors.

(Erik bernstein)
5/11
4) Radishes

Cool, crisp, and a bit peppery, sliced radishes are another traditional topping you might see on tacos.

(Erik bernstein)
6/11
5) Cabbage

Cabbage adds a refreshing crunch and is especially popular in fish tacos. You can add shredded cabbage on its own or use it in a slaw for added acid. Our fried fish tacos, easy fish tacos, cilantro-lime shrimp tacos, and air fryer cauliflower tacos all include cabbage slaw recipes.

(Erik bernstein)
7/11
6) Guacamole or Avocado

Guacamole isn't just for tortilla chips. Our guacamole recipe has onions, lime juice, and seasonings to add a punch to your tacos—especially if you aren't adding other toppings. Sliced avocado or a creamy avocado crema are other great options.

(PHOTO: ANDREW BUI; FOOD STYLING: FRANCESCA ZANI)
8/11
7) Pico De Gallo

Unlike salsa, where all the ingredients are blended, pico de gallo is a mixture, so it'll add a nice chunky texture to any taco. It's also excellent for scooping with tortilla chips.

(Erik bernstein - Hearst Owned)
9/11
8) Salsa & Hot Sauce

You can never skimp the salsa or hot sauce. With profiles ranging from spicy and smoky to sweet and tangy, your salsa or hot sauce can really change up the flavor of your tacos.

(Parker feierbach)
10/11
9) Crema, Aioli, or Sour Cream

Cremas, aiolis, and creamy sauces are popular, especially on fish tacos or those with a lot of spice. Many have mayonnaise or sour cream as their base and are dressed up with spices, although the base of this avocado crema is, well, avocado.

To try out your own, check out these fried fish tacos which include a recipe for a chipotle sauce, or these vegan tacos that are topped with a creamy avocado sauce. You can also always opt for a drizzle of sour cream.

(PHOTO: JOEL GOLDBERG; FOOD STYLING: LENA ABRAHAM)
11/11
10) Cheese

You can't forget the cheese! When it comes to topping tacos, queso fresco or cotija cheese work well because of their crumbly nature. Queso fresco is a pretty mild cheese, while cotija is saltier and drier.

(PHOTO: RACHEL VANNI; FOOD STYLING: TAYLOR ANN SPENCER)

We've rounded up some of the best taco toppings and recipes for your next taco night.