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Why order takeout for your tailgate, graduation party or other festive gatherings? For a customizable budget-friendly party menu, whip up a spread of easy Chipotle copycat recipes so guests can build their own bowls, burritos, tacos, or salads.
In addition to spreads of charcuterie and barbecue, one of the most popular graduation party themes in the Midwest is a build-your-own taco bar. With a guest count of 100 (plus or minus 50, depending on the weather), a menu you can stretch and customize is clutch for grad parties, or honestly any time you’re hosting a crowd.
Considering you already have to deal with tidying up your home and coordinating drinks and decor, many hosts opt to outsource to a caterer or restaurant. I’m all for delegating, but once you consider that Chipotle catering clocks in at $8 to $13.50 per person not including chips, salsa, and guac, you might be considering cancelling the festivities all together.
Before you call things off, take a deep breath, brush up on my budget-friendly hosting tips, and then read on for a DIY Chipotle buffet menu. My restaurant copycat recipes taste just like the fast casual fare you know and love, but that payoff comes at a fraction of the price. Choose a protein or two, add rice and beans, warm up some store-bought tortillas, set out a big bowl of lettuce, sprinkle in some cups of shredded cheese, salsas, and guac (bonus scoops never cost extra here!), and round things out with a cooler full of sodas and pitcher of margaritas.
Rather than canceling, you might just want to pull out your calendar to see how soon you can recreate this Chipotle buffet menu again.
Table of Contents
Chipotle Buffet Proteins
Chicken, pork, or beef? Nope, I’m not asking your preference for a wedding prix fixe; I’m offering up your centerpiece options for this Chipotle buffet! You can’t go wrong with any or all of the above, but I’m particularly partial to barbacoa and carnitas for parties since both of these Chipotle copycat recipes come together (and can stay warm in) a slow cooker.
For plant-based guests, consider my copycat Chipotle Sofritas, a delicious, spicy braised tofu.
Position your protein next to bowls or plates, then reserve space for a stack of small and large tortillas and a big bowl of chopped greens. Before guests arrive, I like to post a sign with a “checklist” to walk guests through the stations to build their own bowls, tacos, burritos, or salads.
Chipotle Barbacoa (Copycat)
Chipotle Carnitas Copycat
Chipotle Chicken (Copycat)
Chipotle Steak (Copycat)
Chipotle Sofritas (Copycat)
Chipotle Buffet Side Dishes
Whether you’re building a bowl, salad, or burrito, rice and beans are a must in my opinion. Plus they can act as sides for tacos. Station these after the proteins and foundation-setting carbs or greens, along with fajita veggies to act as bonus toppings or a “protein” for those who’d prefer a vegetarian option.
Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice (Copycat)
Chipotle Black Beans (Copycat)
Fajita Veggies (Chipotle Copycat)
Chipotle Pinto Beans (Copycat)
Chipotle Buffet Sauces and Snacks
Just like no outfit is complete without a piece of flair or two, no Chipotle buffet is guest-ready until you add the accessories. Tortilla chips, guacamole, and salsa(s) are a must, and if you’ll be recommending salad as an option, don’t forget a bottle or jar of the most addictive dressing you’ll ever drizzle.
Chipotle Tomato Salsa (Copycat)
Homemade Tortilla Chips
Chipotle Guacamole (Copycat)
Chipotle Hot Salsa (Copycat)
Chipotle Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa (Copycat)
Chipotle Corn Salsa (Copycat)
Chipotle Buffet Drink Pairings
Alongside a cooler or two of sodas and sparkling waters for those under 21 and a few cases of beer, I like to mix up a signature cocktail that matches the Tex-Mex theme. Tequila certainly says “party time,” if you ask me!
If you don’t want to commit to a full batch of spiked sips, consider making pitchers of Watermelon Agua Fresca to offer alongside bottles of tequila, vodka, or rum so the adults can dial in the strength and flavor of their cocktail.
Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)
Agua de Horchata (Rice Water)
- Chipotle Chicken
- Chipotle Barbacoa
- Chipotle Carnitas
- Chipotle Steak
- Chipotle Soritas
- Chipotle Cilantro-Lime Rice
- Chipotle Black Beans
- Chipotle Pinto Beans
- Chipotle Fajita Veggies
- Chipotle Guacamole
- Chipotle Tomato Salsa
- Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa
- Chipotle Corn Salsa
- Chipotle Hot Salsa
- Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette
- Quantities will vary depending on the number of guests.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.