If you usually go out for tacos and cervezas on Cinco de Mayo, make this year different: invite everyone over for a fiesta instead! Theme dinners are a fun and easy way to show off your hosting skills. Add in some yummy dishes and danceable tunes, and the evening will be unforgettable.
Not sure where to start with planning? We’ve got this one covered. Here’s our guide to the essentials for hosting a Cinco de Mayo party.
Don’t take the easy way out by serving chips and tacos! Cinco de Mayo is a day for honoring the “real” Mexican culture – and that includes the food. There are plenty of authentic Mexican dishes that are even tastier than the typical Tex-Mex cuisine we love in the U.S.
The Cinco de Mayo battle took place in the city of Puebla, which makes it the perfect inspiration for your dinner planning. Try your hand at one of Puebla’s top dishes for your Cinco de Mayo party.
The most popular dish in Puebla is mole poblano, a thick, dark sauce that somehow manages to be sweet, spicy, bitter, smoky, and earthy – all at once. All that, plus a kick at the end! Mole can be paired with any meat dish but is usually served with turkey or chicken.
This Mexican staple got its start as Puebla’s favorite street food. Chalupas are typically thick tortillas, lightly fried and layered with salsa, onion, and shredded chicken or beef. You can even add a bit of queso fresco for some extra goodness.
Chiles en Nogada
If you want a dish that looks as good as it tastes, you’ve found it! The picadillo-stuffed peppers are lightly battered and fried, then topped with the colors of the Mexican flag: white walnut sauce, red pomegranate seeds, and green parsley.
If you don’t feel like cooking, you can always pick up authentic dishes from your favorite Mexican-owned local restaurant. Ask them for their specialties and order a variety of different dishes. Then set up serving trays across your dining room table or kitchen island, buffet-style, so that everyone gets a taste.
Pro Tip: It isn’t a fiesta unless you end it with churros! These cinnamon-sugar delights go perfectly with warm chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.
Margaritas? You could…but if you’re hosting the ultimate Cinco de Mayo party, we encourage you to get more creative. A thick and creamy horchata is authentic and unexpected. It’s delish as is, but you could add a splash of rum to spice it up. Or try one of Mexico’s most famous cocktails: the Paloma. This refreshing drink combines lime juice, grapefruit soda, and your favorite tequila.
Of course, you’ll want to have a non-alcoholic option, too. Cool, zesty Agua Fresca is made with your choice of fruits. Maybe some strawberries and limes, to keep to the Mexican color scheme?
Take your theme decor up a notch by trading the traditional red, white, and green balloons for a “rustic glam” look. Mexico is all about the gorgeous, handcrafted artisanry. Think warm woods and rich colors. So instead of using a tablecloth, set your table with a long, festive runner and let the wood of your dining table show.
Then, warm up your table decor with a collection of candles. To keep the look light and casual, use a variety of heights and finishes for the candle holders. Antique finishes, common in Mexican culture, would add just the right touch.
And of course, the table isn’t really set without flowers. Bright, happy flowers are generally associated with fiestas. But for a touch of authentic Mexican whimsy, mix in small potted cacti. Just keep the cactus away from the food – and your guests’ fingers!
You might be worried about seating when you have a house full, but don’t be. In addition to your dining chairs and any kitchen stools, pull in chairs from other parts of the house – accent chairs, vanity chairs, ottomans, whatever you need. The eclectic mix is part of the fun!! But if you’re worried about them matching, you can always layer throw blankets to tie together the overall color scheme.
One last word on decor: Mexico is a bright, happy, vibrant country where people love being outside. If your Cinco de Mayo party is indoors, bring in some greenery with tropical potted plants (real or silk) scattered around the house. Your guests will feel like they’re in a Mexican plaza!
It’s not a fiesta without music! A curated playlist will have everyone tapping their toes to a salsa beat. Spotify and other music apps have special Cinco de Mayo playlists ready to go.
If you’d rather pull together your own music, mix in some of Mexico’s top singers. Thalia, Selena, Luis Miguel, Carlos Santana, and Gloria Trevi will spice up an impromptu Cinco de Mayo dance party with their Latin pop. Then add some of the more Mariachi sounds with Vicente Fernandez or the all-female band Mariachi Mujer Latina.
Need more inspiration? Look through Billboard’s Top 100 Mexican for artists you’ll fall in love with.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! What are some of your favorite Mexican recipes or traditions? Share in the comments!