chicken tacos being served

There’s a reason pretty much everyone loves chicken tacos: A taco can be customized in so many ways that just about anyone can create a handheld piece of culinary perfection. The key to making a family taco dinner a success, says chef and food writer Laura Sampson of Little House Big Alaska, is to "set up your taco toppings using whatever your family prefers."

But taco toppings are only half the story: You need a few great ingredients to anchor a truly terrific taco. When those ingredients are onions, peppers, and rotisserie chicken mixed with perfect blend of taco spices, a winning dinner is easy to serve up. And note that while the spice blend Sampson recommends will produce a classic taco taste, you can always adjust things to suit your family. Back off on the chili powder as needed for a milder taste, add in some cayenne for kick, or try your own unique spice blends once you are comfortable with this crowd pleaser of a meal.

Also, "If you don’t have rotisserie chicken on hand, any cooked chicken will work," Sampson says. "The best part of these tacos is that you can serve them with whatever you love on tacos. For my kids, that’s always guacamole. For me, it’s always lots of vegetables."

What will your spin on the classic chicken taco be?

Gather your ingredients for these chicken tacos

taco ingredients cooked for chicken tacos

With all of these chicken taco ingredients, you’re in for an amazing meal. You’ll need ten corn tortillas, a tablespoon of oil, a half cup each of chopped onion and chopped bell pepper, and one pound of cooked chicken. For the spice blend, make sure you have garlic powder (or granules), onion powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and chili powder. Also, have some salt on hand, used as per taste preferences.

Now, for the optional toppings, Sampson recommends diced tomatoes, salsa, chopped lettuce, shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, and shredded cabbage. But you can go wild here with anything from Brussels sprouts or sweet potato to chopped chives to red onion to roasted corn and more. You know what your taste buds want topping off those tacos.

Let’s get started on these chicken tacos

chicken chopped for chicken tacos

Begin to heat the cooking oil in a large, ten-inch pan. A cast iron frying pan works best, but anything is fine here, including a Dutch oven that can perch on a stove burner. Once the oil is warm (but not sizzling), toss in the chopped onion and pepper and stir well to get them coated in oil.

Let the veggies for your chicken tacos cook for about four to five minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, put the garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, and onion powder in a small bowl and stir them to combine into a taco spice blend, then set it aside.

Now, roughly chop the cooked chicken. Sampson notes that "leftover rotisserie chicken breast works here, but any [cooked] chicken meat will work."

Bring the chicken and spices together for these chicken tacos

chicken cooking for chicken tacos

Once the onion and pepper has been cooking for about five minutes (the onion should be growing translucent and the kitchen should be growing quite fragrant), toss in the chopped chicken. Now immediately sprinkle the taco seasoning you just made over the top of the chicken, onions, and peppers, and stir everything well to coat the vegetables and the meat with the spices.

Cook everything for another four or five minutes until the mixture is well heated through, and taste and adjust with salt as needed during the last few minutes of this step. And if dinner time tends to be hectic, Laura Sampson says: "All of the chicken for these chicken tacos can be made ahead and chilled until ready to serve. A quick reheat, and you’re ready to roll. I usually set the rest of the family to shredding or chopping toppings, setting the table, and getting drinks while I reheat the fillings."

Build your chicken tacos

chicken tacos being built

As noted, everyone in your family will likely want their tacos a little different. But as a base given this recipe, you’ll want to at spoon about two heaping tablespoons of the seasoned chicken, onion, and pepper mix into the center of each corn tortilla. Serving the meat and veggie blend while it’s fresh and hot can help melt the cheese that you add next. Then, the cold, crunchy veggies mixed with hot, fresh-cooked ingredients makes a delightful contrast

Alternately, you can put each ingredient in its own bowl and lay everything out buffet style or on a lazy Susan and make it a DIY feast. "We use a large lazy Susan for serving tacos," says Sampson. "It just makes everything so much easier. We also decided that restaurant plates are the perfect way to make tacos, so you put everything on your plate that you need for a couple of tacos — that way, we don’t spin the lazy Susan every 30 seconds!"