Taco Salad
This easy Taco Salad recipe is bursting with bold, satisfying Tex-Mex flavors and layers of fresh, creamy, crunchy textures. It’s beloved by everyone for lunch, easy dinners, potlucks, or parties and is guaranteed to become a repeat favorite. This easy Taco Salad recipe is loaded with common, pantry friendly taco ingredients so you can make it at a moment’s notice: spicy ground beef, crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, hearty black beans, creamy avocados, charred sweet corn, pepper Jack cheese all doused in creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing. You can customize the Taco Salad by using more or less of your favorite ingredients and/or make it healthier by using turkey and baked tortilla chips (instructions included). I’ve also included instructions on how to bake your own tortilla bowls! This Taco Salad recipe is perfect for make ahead entertaining, meal prep, on the go lunches or easy dinners any night of the week.
Servings Prep Time
6-8 servings 20minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 servings 20minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
BEST Taco Salad
Ingredients
BEEF
  • 1pound lean ground beef
  • 1tablespoon chili powder
  • 1teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2tsp EACH smoked paprika onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt
  • cayenne pepper to taste optional (I use 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2cup mild salsa
SALAD
  • 1 large head romaine lettucechopped (about 8 cups)
  • 1 1/2cups cherry tomatoeshalved (or 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1cup black beansrinsed and drained
  • 2 ears sweet cornsee notes how to char
  • 1/4cup chopped red onions
  • 2 Avocadossliced or chopped
  • 1/3cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2cup grated pepper jack cheese or sharp cheddaror more to taste
  • Tortilla Chips or Doritosslightly crushed to taste (the more the better!)
Instructions
  1. Prepare Cilantro Lime Dressing according to directions. Best if chilled at least one hour.
  2. Brown beef over medium heat in a large skillet, breaking up any clumps. Drain any excess grease.
  3. Stir in all seasonings except cayenne followed by 1/2 cup salsa and simmer 1-2 minutes until thickened and warmed through. Add cayenne to taste (optional).
  4. To make salad, place lettuce in a large bowl (or individual bowls) and layer with beef, salad ingredients and drizzle or toss with desired amount of dressing. Serve immediately. (See notes below on how to serve.)
Recipe Notes

HOW TO CHAR CORN (optional)

  • ON THE GRILL: Lightly brush each ear of corn with olive oil, and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Grease and heat grill to high heat. Once hot, add corn and close the lid. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, rotating the corn until all of the sides are lightly charred, about 10-12 minutes, closing the lid in between rotations. Set the corn aside and allow to cool enough to handle. Cut the kernels off of the cob and transfer to a large bowl.
  • OR IN A SKILLET: Cut the kernels off of the cob. Heat the olive oil in large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn starts to char approximately 5 minutes. Transfer kernels to a large bowl.
 

HOW TO SERVE TACO SALAD

  • If you don’t expect or want leftovers: add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl except for tortilla chips and toss with desired amount of dressing. Add tortilla chips when ready to serve.
  • If you expect leftovers:  add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl except the avocados and tortilla strips.  Let individuals dress their own salad plates with avocados, tortilla chips and dressing.
  • Create a taco salad bar: line up all of the ingredients in separate serving bowls and let guests assemble their own taco salad.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE TORTILLA BOWLS

Taco Salad is often served in tortilla bowls at restaurants.  These make a fun presentation and are deceptively easy to make (and healthy baked!), but I don’t suggest using them instead of chips but in addition to chips.  You are going to want crunch in every bite and not have to tear your bowl apart as your eating your salad.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Spray the inside of 4 oven safe bowls with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. If tortillas have been refrigerated or are not pliable, wrap them in a slightly dampened paper towels or dish towel and microwave 20 seconds. Gently press tortillas inside prepared bowls.
  4. Place bowls on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove tortillas from bowls and place the tortillas back on the baking sheet. Broil until golden (watch carefully so they don’t burn!), flip over and broil the other side until golden.

HOW TO STORE

Taco Salad will last approximately 3 days in the refrigerator. The avocados should be removed from the salad if they’ve been tossed or else they will discolor and become mushy. The chips should be stored in an airtight container and added to the salad when ready to serve.

HOW TO MAKE AHEAD

The secret to making taco salad ahead of time is to layer the ingredients so they don’t get soggy.  This requires a specific order, with the most wet on the bottom.  To prep Taco Salad ahead of time, layer the ingredients in the following order:

  • Ground beef
  • Beans and corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese

You will want to store the salad dressing separately and add the chips and avocados just before serving.

healthy taco salad

This classic Taco Salad can be customized with different options to make it Healthy Taco Salad such as:

  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in the dressing.
  • Use light cheese and less of it.
  • Use lean ground beef which is 29% lower in saturated fat.
  • Use half a pound of beef (and half the seasonings) and replace the other half with additional beans or veggies.
  • Use ground turkey instead of beef (my recipe is below).
  • Use homemade baked tortilla chips or strips instead of store-bought chips so you can control the oil and salt (recipe in post).

TURKEY TACO SALAD

You can easily swap the beef for turkey to make Turkey Taco Salad.  If you do this, I suggest following the below recipe:

  • 1-pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup Homemade Salsa or your favorite store bought
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high.
  2. Add ground turkey and all of the seasonings and cook until almost cooked through, but still slightly pink then add salsa and water simmer an additional 5 minutes or until cooked through and reduced.
  3. Taste and add salt or additional cayenne or hot sauce to taste.