I love Chipotle burrito bowls. I also love to host parties. One day I thought, why not merge the two? The DIY Burrito Bowl Party was born!
Lay out ingredients on the table. Stack some bowls and spoons. When guests arrive, they assemble their own meal — just the way they like it. Everyone’s bowl looks different!
The beauty of DIY meals is that almost everything can be made beforehand. For this party, I made as much as possible the day before. Let’s be real. Hosting any party is stressful, especially a large party. But if you can prep most of the food beforehand, you’ll be a happier, more relaxed host.
Thoughts on Party Planning
People are always asking about my hosting methodology. So, I thought I’d outline what I do and give you a glimpse of my party planning thoughts.
For this particular party, I wanted to host 20-30 people: a wide-ranging group from babies and toddlers to elementary aged kids and teens, as well as adults. My plan was for people to hang out near the kitchen and dining room and spill over into the living room. Kids could go downstairs or the park next door if they needed more space. This would not be a formal, sit-down dinner with place settings but a free-flowing event where people could help themselves and casually sit and eat where they felt most comfortable.
I wanted food that was relaxed and low-key, something that could accommodate a wide range of eaters but could still be festive and exciting. I chose Burrito Bowls with Pork Carnitas and a variety of add-ins to make it feel special. On my list were spicy and non-spicy toppings, as well as salsas that were cilantro free for those who truly detest cilantro.
Here’s what my schedule looked like.
The Day Before:
First: Cook the Pork Carnitas using Recipe Tin Eats’ recipe. Basically, you put all the ingredients into a crock pot and walk away. So simple! I love her recipes! I doubled this recipe and everything still fit into my regular-sized crock pot, although it was rather snug inside.
Second: Cook the black beans. I reheated 3 cans of rinsed, drained black beans in a pot with some chicken broth, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, salt and pepper. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and refrigerate.
Third: Make the Salsas and Sauces. I made a list and worked my way down, checking items off as I completed each one. After I finished each salsa/sauce, it was placed in a bowl, covered in saran wrap, and placed in the fridge.
This might seem like a long list, but I wanted the party to feel festive and merry. In my mind, party food becomes special when it’s something you wouldn’t necessarily make for yourself at home. That’s why I decided to go a little overboard with the salsas/sauces. For burrito bowl night with the family on a weeknight, you would maybe make 1 or 2. But a party really feels like a party when there’s lots of variety.
- Pico de Gallo – The Pioneer Woman’s recipe that’s been implanted into my brain.
- Pineapple Salsa – My own go-to recipe for sweet and spicy deliciousness!
- Corn Salsa – Same as Pineapple Salsa, but substitute 2 cups of defrosted frozen corn for the pineapple. I run frozen corn under hot water for a few minutes in a colander to defrost.
- Restaurant Salsa – A super simple 5 minute salsa from Recipe Tin Eats. All the ingredients can be whizzed in a food processor.
- Jalapeno Sauce – Another 5 minute sauce that can be whizzed in the food processor, this time from Epicurious.
- Lime Crema – Zest and juice 1 lime into an 8 oz container of full-fat sour cream.
Finally: Chop Cilantro and Romaine Lettuce. Grate Cheddar Cheese. You might think this is going overboard, but I wanted to minimize as many tasks as I could. Everything was placed in separate serving bowls, covered with saran wrap, and stored in the fridge.
Additionally, take care of the little things. Set the table. Plan a drinks station. Empty out the compost, garbage, recycling. And make sure the dishwasher is empty. You will be thanking yourself the next day!
The Day Of:
One hour before the party: Cook the brown rice. Follow the package directions and cook on the stove top. Or, for ease and convenience, cook brown rice in a Rice Cooker or Instant Pot. For the IP: DO NOT USE THE RICE SETTING!! I set the manual setting for 8 minutes, then quick release. Open the top and drape a clean dish cloth over. The rice should sit and steam for 10 minutes. Perfect brown rice every time!
45 minutes before the party: Reheat the Pork Carnitas. Nagi from Recipe Tin Eats recommends using a cast iron skillet to create those crispy edges, but I decided to reheat in the oven. I placed the shredded pork on a rimmed baking sheet (juices included) and heated at 375F until the meat was heated through and the edges looked crispy and charred. Much easier than flipping meat in a skillet!
30 minutes before the party: Make the guacamole. One day, I’ll post my own recipe. Until then, feel free to use your favorite. For this party, I used 12 large avocados. It seemed like a ginormous amount but there were no leftovers at all!
15 minutes before the party:
- Remove the chopped cilantro, romaine, grated cheese, and all the salsas/sauces from the fridge. Unwrap plastic and set on the table.
- Open up a big bag of Tortilla Chips and dump into a big bowl.
- Reheat the black beans. (Microwave works fine.) Place in a serving bowl.
- Place brown rice in a serving bowl.
- Place pork carnitas in a serving bowl.
When guests start walking through the door, you should be munching on chips and guac. All the work for the party is done!