Everything You Need for Cinco de Mayo

Get ready- my favorite celebration of the entire year is approaching! It's Cinco de Mayo time!!

If you've followed this blog for a while, you know that I'm a huge fan of Mexican-inspired food. Even though I'm Italian by descent, Mexican food is really my comfort zone. I love the spices, the herbs, the fresh citrus, and of course the tequila!


We usually have big Cinco party on our deck, although sadly that won't be happening this year. But we're still planning to celebrate, and I hope you are too! To get your creative juices (tequilas?) flowing, here are some of my favorite Mexican-inspired creations. Lots of these are easy to make ahead and many store well, so choose a few favorites and have some fun!

Breakfast
Start things off right with these Mexican Coffee Waffles. They're inspired by the amazing coffee of Mexico City. You might also pair them with Mexican Coffee Margaritas... you know, just to make sure the day starts off on the right foot...


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Cocktails
No party is complete without a signature cocktail! While I of course love shaking up a classic margarita, I also really enjoy changing up the routine with some unexpected, seasonal variations. I often find that a special cocktail can be the most memorable and unique element of a party, so choose a recipe and go all-out with it.

If you want to stay with a margarita but with some tweaks, these Blackberry Coconut Margaritas are perfect for spring and totally gorgeous. Check out that color! These are truly a show-stopper.


Or, if you'd rather go a bit cozier, I adore these Ginger Margaritas. They have just the right amount of zing and are lovely with reposado or anejo tequila. The ginger is so interesting and unique!

Finally, let's not forget about the delightful Paloma! A classic tequila and grapefruit cocktail, Palomas can have essentially infinite variations. This Blueberry Ginger Paloma (shown below) is perfect for spring, although I also adore this Cinnamon Cherry Paloma for a cozier feel. Maybe your choice will depend on the weather??? Want to hear my greatest secret? While store-bought lime juice is awful, store-bought grapefruit juice is great. If you're having a lot of people over, buying a bottle of (real!!) grapefruit juice is way easier than juicing a million limes. I always opt for a Paloma when we're having a load of guests.


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Dips for Chips
Is it acceptable to eat chips for dinner on Cinco de Mayo? I say yes, as long as there are awesome dips! In a lot of ways, this can be the most fun part of the meal. There's really nothing better than crunchy, salty chips with creamy, decadent guac. One year we even had an entire "salsa party" and asked everyone to bring a type of chip (very loosely defined) and a type of salsa (also loosely defined) for sharing.

Personally speaking, I adore fruit salsas of every kind. Check out my Technique Guide to Fruit Salsa to learn everything you need to know, including infinite ways to combine different fruits and herbs. Fruit salsas are way more interesting than tomato salsas and have such a summery vibe. Make one or two the morning of and you're ready to go!


My other greatest love is, of course, guacamole. No Cinco de Mayo spread is complete without it, and avocados are usually on super-sale the week before. It's definitely time to go all-out with the guac. I love the complex, toasty taste of this Roasted Corn Guacamole.


Or, if you want to really go out of the box, this Tropical Guacamole is my absolute favorite. It would pair beautifully with some fruit salsa! Also, how gorgeous would this platter be as a centerpiece? If there's any holiday where it's fair game to serve something in a pineapple, Cinco de Mayo is it.


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Finger Foods
For Cinco de Mayo, I'm all about the nibbles. Rather than a formal entree, I love to make (and have guests bring) an easily shareable dish. Bonus points if it can be served room temperature for ease. Tacos are an obvious (and wonderful) choice, especially something fun like these Rainbow Tacos. You can really use whatever ingredients you love.

While we're on the taco theme, I also adore these Green Goddess Tacos. How great are these colors?? Something about all this green just seems so fresh and springy. Rather than assembling them ahead of time, consider setting up a "make your own taco" bar where everyone can assemble their own. We love to entertain this way and have had numerous great build-your-own taco parties.


Another classic? Mexican street corn! I like to celebrate it (and make it easily portable) in these Mexican Street Corn Stuffed Peppers, which can be made with either regular-size or baby bell peppers. If you're having a party with lots of different nibbles, I definitely suggest miniaturizing them with baby bell peppers; they're the best two-bite appetizer! These colorful nibbles are lightened up by using yogurt instead of sour cream.

At the risk of seeming crazy, what about these totally gorgeous and super-summery Watermelon Nachos? They have all the flavor appeal of traditional nachos, but are so juicy and refreshing. This would be a great way to do nachos without the chips (assuming vast numbers of chips will be consumed otherwise... which you know will be the case!).


Let's not forget about some protein! This No-Cook Rainbow Black Bean Salad is a go-to on our deck because it's super easy to make, requires no cooking, and can be made ahead. It can function as a side, a main, or a chip dip depending on what else is on the menu.

Finally, if you're looking for a plant-based reinvention of a classic, I think this Jicama Ceviche is so unexpected and fresh. Instead of using fish, jicama gets marinated in citrus juice overnight (= make ahead, hooray!) for a big pop of bright, tart flavor. Make a big batch and enjoy the leftovers the next few days; this is actually a dish that gets better with time.


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Salads
While salads might not be the first thing you think of when you contemplate a Cinco menu, I think they make a great addition to your spread. A salad is such a beautiful, colorful, fresh element! Having some greens and veggies also provides a good counter-point to the more traditional (and heavier) fare.

I especially love this Roasted Corn, Strawberry, and Avocado Salad since it's really versatile (and, let's be honest, and it can serve as a chip dip too). And it's so summery with those grilled veggies and sweet strawberries!

Maybe even more on-theme is this Blistered Shishito Pepper Salad. It's absolutely loaded with interesting flavors and textures. I love the combination of spicy shishitos, sweet mango, zippy pickled onions, and decadent avocado.


Another favorite on our deck is this Mojito Corn Salad. Yes, I know that mojitos aren't the same things as margaritas. But the flavors in this salad are totally perfect for Cinco de Mayo and the ingredients are super summery. If you really want to be picky about it, use tequila instead of rum, cilantro instead of mint, and pepitas instead of macadamias.


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Finger Foods Part 2: Hot Dishes
When I host a party, I like to have one or two hot dishes. It's usually not very practical to try to cook numerous things while you're entertaining a crowd, but even just one hot thing is a nice contrast to other room temperature or cold dishes.

A recent favorite in our house is this very unexpected yet totally fun Nacho Cabbage. It's super flavorful yet also loaded with veggies, which could be a great option if everyone has already eaten a bunch of chips. I love the colors in this dish!


Another great example of veggies all dressed up and ready to party? These Orange Jalapeno Brussel Sprouts! I could eat a big bowl of these every night for dinner for the rest of my life and be thrilled. They require a bit of prep, so they might be more appropriate for a smaller gathering. Serve them hot and enjoy immediately! The sweet/spicy combination in this dish is heavenly.


You guys have probably noticed that I adore cauliflower finger food, so I can't imagine not including one of my "cauliflower is bar food" recipes in this round-up. This Margarita Cauliflower is super easy and will of course complement any sort of margarita. Look at those gorgeous crisp edges!

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Main Courses
Yes yes, I know I said that I don't usually like to do a "main course" for a Cinco party. But that's just my own preference, and dictated by the fact that we usually do a casual late-afternoon get-together on the deck. If you're aiming for a more traditional dinner, or have guests who simply won't be satisfied without a primary protein component, then a more traditional main course might make sense.

I'm over the moon in love with this Butternut Squash Black Bean Enchilada Skillet. This would work great because it can be made entirely in advance! Make it all the day before, then just reheat and garnish when you're ready to eat.


If you're more focused on the main course and not making a million other dishes, then burrito bowls could be such a fun way to do Cinco! Remember that I now have an entire guide to burrito bowls that is filled with tips, tricks, examples, and recipe links. This concept could work great for a "build your own burrito bowl" bar. Bonus points for delegating... ask your guests to each bring one burrito bowl item to share!


If you want to go (way??) out of the box, there's nothing more fun than this Nourishing Taco Pasta. It's loaded with Mexican-inspired flavors and ingredients, but in a pasta format. It's fun and unexpected in the best way possible. Bonus: you can serve it hot or cold and it's make-ahead friendly!


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Dessert
Do you really need a big dessert after an epic meal? Perhaps not, but I do love ending a meal on a sweet note. I usually just marinate some pineapple slices in tequila, vanilla bean, and brown sugar and throw them on the grill; it's always a hit and not too heavy.

If you want something light but still on-theme, these Tropic Fruit Nachos are a blast. Colorful, fresh, tropical fruit replaces the chips, coconut cream replaces the queso, and fun desserty toppings replace the classic nacho fixings. This dish comes together in a flash if you pre-cut all the fruit and lay it out the morning of the party. You could easily simplify this by just using all pineapple.


If you want a more traditional dessert, might I suggest one made with avocado?? This Vegan Chocolate Coconut MacNut Cream Pie gets all of its richness from the hero ingredient of the day. Although it takes a little while to make, it can all be done a day or two ahead; just stash it in the freezer and pull it out when you're ready to serve!


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Salud! Hope you all have a wonderful Cinco de Mayo and get to make a few fun creations!

Please share your creations so I can see what you've made! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram. I'd love to share your Cinco creations in my stories.

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