This recipe for Taco Salad is made with flavorful, fresh ingredients, perfectly seasoned taco meat, and a bright and creamy dressing, to deliver an easy, healthy dinner recipe.
Paired with a pina colada smoothie, this Taco Salad is hands-down a favorite family meal.
But the taco-inspired recipe that receives the most love at our house is Taco Salad. I mean when you can put chips on a salad, what is NOT to love?!
This recipe for taco salad features a creamy, spicy dressing, tons of fresh veggies, and of course taco meat and is guaranteed to become a favorite dinner recipe at your house as well!
why you'll love this taco salad recipe
- Crowd-Pleaser. Everyone loves tacos, so it just makes sense that everyone loves Taco Salad. Especially when you allow your dinner guests to assemble their salad themselves.
- Allergy-Friendly. This recipe for Taco Salad can be adapted to be gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, and/or vegetarian.
- Easier than Tacos. I find that Taco Salad is MUCH easier to prepare than tacos. No shells to toast, no tortillas to make, and no messy assembly. Just dump, mix, and DIG-IN!
Options on Ingredients
- Lettuce: Shredded iceberg lettuce or hearts of romaine are classic choices for a Taco Salad. While I love the nutritional benefits of dark leafy greens, they are not ideal for the flavors in taco salad. Plus iceberg or romaine give this salad a crisp crunch, adding texture to the salad.
- Taco Meat: You can prepare the taco meat using ground beef, chicken, or turkey, and season it with homemade taco seasoning.
- Beans: Use either pinto or black beans.
- Taco Salad Dressing: This dressing is made with salsa, fresh lime juice, and sour cream to create a creamy, spicy, fresh dressing perfect for your taco salad. Use any salsa you like to make the dressing.
- Toppings: This is where you can let your imagination go wild. Add chopped onions, avocado, cheese, olives, peppers, corn, cilantro, or anything you like to your tacos!
- Tortilla Chips: Tortilla chips are a must for taco salad. Use your favorite brand of tortilla or corn chips.
How to Make Taco Salad
The options for preparing and assembling taco salad are endless. Use this recipe as a guide to making Taco Salad the way you like it by swapping out a few ingredients or adding some additional favorites like Guacamole or Corn Salsa.
Step One: Prepare Taco Meat
This recipe starts off using my perfected recipe for perfect taco meat and works for beef, chicken, or turkey. Adding the beans to the taco meat mixture is optional, but does help to flavor them.
- In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, brown ground meat, breaking it up into small chunks as the meat cooks.
- Once the meat is browned, drain off any fat, and then add in taco seasoning, tomato sauce, and beans.
- Simmer on low until the meat is cooked through and the beans are warmed.
Step Two: Prepare Taco Salad Dressing
I absolutely love this simple taco salad dressing and feel that it finishes the salad with just the right level of creaminess and flavor. However, you opt to skip the dressing and simply serve your taco salad with sour cream and salsa on the side.
- For the dressing, mix together salsa with sour cream and the juice of fresh lime in a small mixing bowl.
Step Three: Assemble Taco Salad
When ready to serve, you can opt to toss your taco salad ingredients together or serve the components separately for a make-your-own taco salad bar.
- To serve as a composed dish, toss the lettuce with the meat mixture, salad dressing, shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions, and avocado.
- Serve the taco salad with the chips on the side to prevent the chips from getting soggy.
Preparing in Advance
Taco Salad is best assembled immediately before serving. However, you can assemble all the ingredients up to 24 hours before serving. When ready to serve, warm up the taco meat slightly. Toss the lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and onions, with the meat and bean mixture and salsa dressing. Serve with the chips on the side.
- Make-It-Yourself: Instead of tossing the taco salad ingredients together, place all ingredients out and allow everyone to serve themselves. This is my preferred method when serving this taco salad to a crowd or to picky eaters or a group with dietary restrictions.
- Low-Carb Taco Salad: To make a low-carb taco salad, omit the beans and use 1.5 pounds of ground meat instead of just 1 pound of meat. Omit the chips as well.
- Dairy-Free Taco Salad: Omit the cheese and use salsa to dress the salad.
- Meatless Taco Salad: In place of the ground meat, use an additional 2-3 cups of beans OR start this salad by using up leftover Sofritas.
- For the Taco Salad Dressing: Use plain Greek Yogurt in place of the sour cream to keep this dressing lighter.
- Using Leftovers: Taco salad is a great time to put leftovers to use. Instead of starting this recipe with raw ground meat, use leftover taco meat, leftover chicken taco meat, Crockpot Salsa Chicken, Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa, or instant pot pork carnitas.
- Frozen Meat: Forget to thaw your meat out? Use my method for Instant Pot Frozen Meat and then proceed with simmering the meat with the beans and seasonings.
More Taco Recipes
If you enjoyed this simple recipe for an irresistibly good Taco Salad, I would love for you to share a comment and review below.
Taco Salad Meat
Taco Salad Base and Toppings
- 1 head iceberg or romaine lettuce chopped
- 2 avocadoes diced
- 2 large tomatoes diced
- 1 small onion minced
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 8 ounces tortilla chips for serving
Taco Salad Dressing
- 1 cup salsa
- ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- 1 lime juice
Prepare Taco Meat
- In a large skillet, brown ground meat, breaking up into small chunks as you cook the meat.
- Once meat is browned, drain off excess fat. Add in beans, taco seasoning, tomato sauce, and water. Simmer on low until water is evaporated, about 5-7 minutes.
Prepare Taco Salad Dressing
- Mix together sour cream/yogurt with salsa and juice of fresh lime.
Prepare Taco Salad
- Place chopped lettuce into a large serving bowl. Top with taco meat, diced tomatoes, onions, avocados, cheese, and any other desired toppings. Toss well to combine.
- Add taco salad dressing and toss to combine again.
- Serve with tortilla chips.
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ⅛ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
This post was originally published in 2018 but was updated in 2020 with a new video.