All the flavors of tacos in salad form, this recipe for Taco Salad is easy, healthy, and can be adapted for any dietary need! It is full of incredible flavor, fresh ingredients, and a bright, creamy dressing.
Every time I want to make everyone happy, I prepare Taco Salad. I can use just about any ingredients I have on hand and adapt this recipe to make it gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, or vegetarian and it can often be prepared using leftovers. Paired with a pina colada and of course lots of chips, 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?!
Not only is taco salad a bit healthier than traditional tacos, as you can pack in a lot more greens and veggies into the salad, but I also find Taco Salad MUCH easier to prepare than tacos--no shells to toast, no tortillas to make, no messy assembly. Just dump, mix, and DIG-IN!
This recipe for taco salad features a creamy, spicy dressing, tons of fresh veggies, and of course taco meat. However, 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.
Regardless of how you prepare it, Taco Salad is sure to be a favorite salad!
- Lettuce: Shredded iceberg 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: The type of meat you use for a taco salad is up to you. You can start this recipe with ground beef, chicken, or turkey, and season with homemade taco seasoning.
- Beans: Pinto beans or black beans pair the best in Mexican dishes. Add the beans of your choice to the taco meat to allow it to simmer with the seasonings.
- Taco Salad Dressing: This dressing is a creamy, spicy, fresh dressing made with just 3 ingredients. Salsa is combined with fresh lime juice and sour cream.
- Toppings: This is where you can let your imagination go wild. Add chopped onions, avocado, cheese, olives, peppers, corn, cilantro, 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
- In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, brown ground meat, breaking 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 meat is cooked through and the beans are warmed.
- Mix together salsa with sour cream and the juice of fresh lime.
- Chop up the lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and onions.
- Toss the lettuce with the meat mixture, salad dressing, shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions, and avocado.
- Serve 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 from the dressing and either use dairy-free sour cream or omit the sour cream and use salsa and lime juice to dress the salad.
- To keep this recipe Gluten-Free, just be sure to use homemade taco seasoning and gluten-free tortilla chips.
- 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, 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
- Instant Pot Pork Tacos
- Black Bean Baked Tacos
- Buffalo Chicken Tacos
- Fish Tacos
- Salmon Tacos from Gimmie Some Oven
- Easy Lentil Tacos
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