chicken, low-cost, main courses, make ahead / reheat, weeknight cooking

Easy Chicken Tacos

Chicken Tacos

I volunteer to cook at a local shelter with my church, and this month I’d signed up to prepare the main dish. It seems like every time I’m there cooking, I’m always rushing to finish on time, like I’m on an episode of a cooking show. I was able to prepare the recipe for 60 people in 2 hours, but I did have help shredding the chicken. When scaled back to a recipe for a family instead of 60 people, this is a very easy and quick weeknight meal. I’m posting two versions of this recipe – the large crowd version, and the family version. I tagged this as a low-cost recipe because it cost less than $2 per serving.

Thank goodness I was that kid who actually liked word problems in math class. I talked to a coworker who cooks for large groups a lot. His advice was that 1 pound of boneless chicken yields about 6 tacos. He also said he usually assumes a ratio of 3/2/1 tacos for each man/woman/child. For calculating how much chicken I needed, I assumed two tacos per person because I wasn’t using quite as much meat since I was adding peppers and onions as fillings. If I wasn’t doing that, I would have assumed 2.5 tacos per person. I was also serving the tacos, so you might want to increase the quantity if people will be serving themselves. Ultimately, this resulted in an estimated 20 pounds of chicken:

  • 1 pound chicken = 6 tacos
  • 2 tacos per person x 60 people = 120 tacos
  • 120 tacos / 6 tacos per 1 pound = 20 pounds

Ingredients

This table includes ingredients for the chicken filling different quantities of tacos. If you’re a math person, and you’re wondering why the smaller quantities aren’t exact proportions from the big recipe… well, I’m not going to tell you to use 0.6 cups of something, so I did some rounding to make it easier.

120 tacos 16 tacos 8 – 10 tacos
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts 20 lbs 2½ lbs 1½ lbs
Onion 2 lbs 1 medium 1 small
Green Pepper 4 lbs 1-2 peppers 1 pepper
Lime Juice 1½cups 3 tbsp 1 tbsp
Salsa (from jar) 8 cups 1 cup ½ cup
Taco seasoning (recipe follows) 1 cup 2 tbsp 1 tbsp
  • Taco seasoning ingredients:
    • ¼ cup cumin
    • ¼ cup paprika
    • ¼ cup garlic powder
    • ¼ cup onion powder
    • ¼ cup cilantro
    • ¼ cup chili powder
    • Add some cayenne (~1 tsp) if you want a spicy seasoning
  • Tortillas
  • Topping options:
    • Shredded cheddar cheese
    • Sour cream
    • Lettuce

Instructions

Cook the chicken and shred or cut into thin slices.

  • Weeknight cooking tip: Cook and shred boneless, skinless chicken breasts and freeze. Just pull out of the freezer in the morning and thaw in the fridge during the day for recipes like this one.
  • Shredding chicken tip: If you have a stand mixer, cut each cooked chicken breast in half, and toss in the mixer bowl. Use the paddle attachment and turn on medium speed for about 30-45 seconds. Cover the mixer with a kitchen towel so the chicken doesn’t fly everywhere.

The rest of this recipe assumes that the chicken was cooked and shredded/cut in advance. If you didn’t cook it in advance, just start the rest of these steps while the chicken is cooking.

Slice the peppers and onions. Toss in a small amount of olive oil and roast in the oven at 375° until they begin to soften.

In a large bowl, mix the shredded chicken, onions, peppers, lime juice, salsa, and taco seasoning. Transfer to a large baking dish or roasting pan (I split the big recipe into 3 steam table pans since I was in a commercial kitchen), and add some water (about ½ cup per pan). Cover with foil and transfer to a 375° oven for about 5 minutes, until the taco filling is heated all the way through.

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