If you are looking for a fresh new take on taco bar ideas – then you have to try brat tacos!
Tacos made with bratwurst meat… who would’ve thought?
Most people don’t realize that there are many ways to cook brats. If you are familiar with Italian sausage (or any kind of sausage for that matter) bratwurst can be treated in much the same way. They’ll impart a nice flavor to any dish you add them into, especially since they come in countless flavors, and they can be served up in a variety of ways.
If you live in Wisconsin like I do, you don’t have to go far to find new taco party ideas like a bratwurst taco… no farther than your local grocery store or butcher shop. Brat tacos are as simple as making a regular taco, too. All you need to do differently is sub bratwurst meat in place of the ground beef and change out a couple of toppings.
If you don’t live in an area that sells brats in the local grocery store, ordering bratwurst meat is as easy as going online. Check out the following retailer and search ‘brat’… then grab some other meats while you are there!
You can use gourmet brats if you choose, but plain ol’ ones ones will work just as well. Just keep in mind that brats are a wee bit different in flavor than Italian sausages are.
So… being directed to the Italian sausages when you ask where the brats are in the grocery store is NOT ok.
No offense to all you New Yorkers out there, but I can’t tell you how many times that happened to me when I lived in New York.
Brats are not the same thing… no! no! no!
What is bratwurst, exactly?
Brats – the common name for bratwurst sausages – are a German sausage. Brats are a fresh link sausage typically made of pork, beef, veal, or a combination of these ground meats. Brats have a distinct flavor characterized by the spices of nutmeg, caraway, sage and ginger. They lack the sweetness of fennel or anise, which are more common to Italian sausage, and they are not sold smoked like kielbasa is.
Brats are best used in savory dishes, so if you have them with your morning eggs instead of breakfast links, steer clear of the maple syrup. Think more along the condiment lines of sharp cheeses, mustard, kraut, pickles… or just wait a little bit and have them for lunch instead.
Ways to cook brats:
Because brats are rich and tangy, they pair well with beer and can be used in things like beer cheese dips or as a filling for stuffed cabbage.
The most common way to cook brats is to grill them. Much like a hot dog, a brat can be served in a bun with ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut.
Bake brats over a bed of kraut, or boil them in beer or water and serve them with spaetzle (my favorite!), Germanicana potato salad, potato pancakes, cabbage or baked beans.
Then, of course, there are bratwurst tacos, which is what I want to focus on today.
How I discovered this bratwurst recipe idea:
The idea of brat tacos came to me several years ago when Mark and I were dating. It was one of the first times I had visited him at his apartment, and in lieu of going out, I decided to make tacos for him that night.
Tacos are pretty basic, and that evening was one of those nights when an easy meal was just what we both needed. We were both working full-time then, and easy weeknight meals are necessary when you just want to kick back and relax, watch a movie, and still have time to get a good night’s sleep without going hungry.
You know, because going out or making a fancy meal at home can take… well, time.
All was fine and dandy when I began to pursue Mark’s kitchen inventory. Both of us usually had those individual packets of taco seasoning on hand, a few pounds of ground beef in the fridge or freezer, taco shells, cheddar and jack cheese, olives, onions,… you get the idea here (the basic staples of busy working folk)… on hand at any given time.
Mark had everything needed to make tacos that night – except for ground beef.
There was, however, a pack of brats in the fridge.
Hmmmmm…… what do do? What to do?
I knew how to cook taco meat and I knew how to cook brats. As far as knowing how to make tacos – check! I had that one mastered, too.
Brat taco tip: If you are making bratwurst tacos deliberately, it will be easier to buy bratwurst patties simply because you won’t have to remove the meat from the casings as part of the meal prep. It will save you a few extra minutes. If you want to get creative though, you’ll find more brat flavor varieties available in sausage form, especially if your local butcher makes their own brats onsite.
What I did was remove the bratwurst from their casings and as a new taco idea that I had never tried before, used the bratwurst meat as my ground meat instead of beef. With the exception of the mustard sour cream (because, you know, mustard and brats go so well together), everything else regarding traditional taco bar ideas stayed the same.
The result was a huge hit. Mark still talks about brat tacos, and he always gets excited when I tell him that we are having them for dinner.
Need taco tailgate ideas?
I’m from Wisconsin, and tailgate parties are what we do around here – regardless of how cold it gets. Traditionally someone brings a portable charcoal grill and we all sit around in the parking area and load up on brats, hot dogs, burgers, chips, and beer. The camaraderie will keep you nice and warm even when the temps drop and the winds pick up, and when you need to warm your hands, there is the grill.
But… what if you don’t have a portable grill?
Or… what if you can’t go to the big game because of stuff like pandemics, etc?
(I know, I shouldn’t be using all these ‘what ifs’, right? When it comes to cooking, however, this what-iffing is how I come up with some of my greatest recipe ideas.)
You can still get the Wisconsinite tailgate feel with brats and think away the cold weather outside with spicy Mexican tacos. Taco bar ideas of all kinds involve food that is easy to tote or set out, like taco shells, meat, and the fixings that get chopped, shredded, or mixed ahead of time or just served right from their jars.
Now I have seen brats in flavors like Philly cheese steak, Greek gyro, buffalo blue cheese, jalapeño cheddar… it all depends on where you get yours from. So feel free to play around and dress up your taco bar to stay in theme with your brat flavors.
For the sake of keeping it simple, though, a plain brat or a cheese brat is the best bet if this is your first go-around with brat tacos. Most likely you already have – or can easily get – sour cream, mustard, onions, jarred jalapeños, cheese, taco sauce…. you know, the stuff that goes great on brat tacos.
- medium skillet
- 2 lbs bratwurst casings removed and discarded
- 2 packets taco seasoning
- 2 cups water
- 12 taco shells
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 tbsp stoneground mustard
- shredded cheese for garnish
- diced onions for garnish
- pickled jalapeños for garnish
- chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- taco sauce for drizzling
- Preheat oven to lowest setting, usually just under 200°F.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add bratwurst meat to skillet and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. While the meat is cooking, chop into small pieces with a wooden spoon and stir frequently.
- Add taco seasoning and water to meat in skillet and cook according to instructions on seasoning packet.
- While the meat is cooking, place the taco shells into the oven to warm them. Whisk together the mustard and sour cream, set aside.
- To set up your taco bar, place taco shells carefully into small bowls or on a plate. Transfer meat to a heat-proof bowl and set next to taco shells. Follow with ramekins of mustard sour cream, shredded cheese, diced onions, taco sauce, pickled jalapeños, fresh cilantro, or any other toppings of your choosing. Set out serving spoons, napkins, and plates.
- Have fun and enjoy your brat tacos!
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