Here’s the tastiest taco salad recipe: a healthy and easy dinner everyone loves — and customizable for any diet! Don’t miss this hack for a quick salad dressing.
Here’s an easy dinner recipe that seems to please just about everyone: Taco Salad! This Tex-Mex salad has been impressing for decades, and it gives us all the 1990’s nostalgic vibes. Here’s why we love this concept: it’s customizable for any eater and easy to scale up for a crowd. In fact, my mother in law often whips this up to feed anywhere from 4 to 20 people, all with different diets. Here are the tricks to how to make the best taco salad…that’s pretty darn healthy, too!
Essential ingredients in the best taco salad recipe
There are many ways to make a taco salad; it’s more of a concept than an exact recipe. The original idea is Tex-Mex in origin and started back in the 1960’s. Here we’ll cover all the essential parts of a taco salad, then you can customize it to your heart’s content! With that in mind, here are the essential ingredients in a taco salad recipe:
- Taco meat: To fit many diets, try either this killer vegan taco meat or traditional ground beef.
- Taco salad dressing: There’s a secret to the easiest dressing…scroll down.
- Veggies: You’ve got to have romaine lettuce, canned corn, and either tomatoes or pico de gallo.
- Optional toppers: Beans, cheese, avocado, etc are all optional
- Tortilla chips: Chips are absolutely required for a taco salad recipe: both for the crunch and the corn flavor. Do not omit!
For the taco meat: use vegan or ground beef!
This taco salad recipe is flexible enough to feed any eater. Around here we eat a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes. But when we serve a crowd, we want a concept that works for everyone. This recipe is a classic taco salad, vegan taco salad, and healthy taco salad: all in one! That, in our minds, makes this one stellar meal worth putting in your regular rotation. Here are the two types of taco meat to use, vegan or classic:
- Walnut taco meat is incredibly delicious. No judgement zone, here. This walnut taco meat might be a little different, but it receives rave reviews from meat eaters and vegetarians alike! Walnuts, mushrooms and spices make a texture that’s incredibly similar to real meat. (Promise. Try it!)
- Or, use ground beef. The recipe below has instructions for how to cook the ground beef. In fact, you’ll use the exact same spices as the meatless taco meat.
Taco salad dressing: a quick and easy hack!
Our other favorite thing about this taco salad recipe: the dressing! Why make a fancy dressing when you can mix together a few fridge staples? Here’s what to mix together for this taco salad dressing:
- Red salsa
- Greek yogurt (or purchased vegan yogurt)
- Sour cream (skip or use vegan mayo)
- Hot sauce
The sour cream adds a needed richness to the Greek yogurt, making a creamy, zingy dressing that takes no time at all to put together! You can also use mayo if you prefer. For vegan or dairy free, just use purchased vegan versions of these dairy products. You can also try our Cilantro Sauce or Chipotle Sauce. But this dressing is so tasty…essentially what we put on our taco salad anyway, but better.
Taco salad toppings
Once you’ve got the taco meat and dressing, it’s on to the toppings! There are some taco salad toppings that we believe are required, and then lots of optional ideas. We’ll start with what we think is absolutely required, then mention a few other ways to customize it:
- Romaine hearts: Required! We like crunchy romaine hearts if you can find them, but you can also use a romaine lettuce head and make sure to mix in those crunchy inner leaves.
- Canned corn: Something about the canned corn just makes it right. Trust us.
- Organic corn chips: Chips are 100% required for crunch and flavor. For a healthy taco salad, look for organic corn chips that have only 3 ingredients: corn, oil, and salt! Check the back of the package when you’re shopping.
- Tomatoes or pico de gallo: A tomato element is also required: chopped tomatoes or pico.
- Avocado or guacamole: Use whatever you prefer. This starts to get into optional territory.
- Other ideas: The sky’s the limit! Try our easy black beans, refried beans, or shredded cheddar cheese. Also add a zing with hot sauce, taco sauce or pickled jalapenos!
Make it a meal!
Taco salad is a complete meal in itself: the original bowl meal! But you may want to add a few sides if you’re entertaining or serving a larger crowd. Here are some ideas:
- Corn muffins: Try these Classic Cornbread Muffins: like the Jiffy box, but homemade!
- Cornbread: This Easy Vegan Cornbread always gets high marks, as does our Best Homemade Cornbread
- Chips & salsa or guacamole: Put less chips in your salad so you can enjoy them with salsa or homemade guacamole
- Margaritas: Why not? Try all these Best Margarita Recipes, from classic to jalapeno.
And that’s it! Let us know if you try it…especially that vegan taco meat (wondering what you’ll think!).
More Tex Mex recipes
Love Tex Mex cuisine? Here are a few more stand-out recipes you’d love:
- Try Tex Mex Migas, the best way to use up tortillas
- Mix up a highball of Ranch Water, a bubbly drink with lime and tequila
- Make a big bowl of Texas Caviar (Cowboy Caviar), a colorful vegetable chip dip
- Fry up a load of Homemade Tortilla Chips
This taco salad recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.Print
Here’s the tastiest taco salad recipe: a fast and easy dinner everyone loves — and totally customizable for any diet! Don’t miss this hack for a quick salad dressing.
For the taco salad
- 1 recipe Vegan Walnut Taco Meat or 1 pound ground beef
- 3 romaine lettuce hearts (enough for 8 cups chopped)
- 1 cup canned corn, drained
- 1 handful ripe cherry tomatoes or pico de gallo (purchased or homemade)
- 1 ripe avocado or 1 cup guacamole
- 2 handfuls finely chopped red onion or thinly sliced green onion, or both
- Crushed tortilla chips (about 1 handful per serving)
- Optional toppings: Easy black beans or refried beans, shredded Colby jack or cheddar cheese, taco sauce, or pickled jalapenos or pickled onions
- 1/2 cup red salsa (mild or medium)
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or vegan yogurt*)
- 1/4 cup sour cream (or mayonnaise or vegan mayo)
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 2 pinches kosher salt
- Make the Walnut Taco Meat. Or if using ground beef, add it to a skillet with 1 tablespoon cumin and 1 teaspoon each smoked paprika (or chili powder), onion powder, and garlic powder. Cook for about 8 minutes until browned, then drain the fat.
- Chop the romaine, drain the corn, half the tomatoes and dice the avocado. Thinly slice the onion. Prep any additional toppings.
- Make the taco salad dressing by stirring together all ingredients.
- To serve, place romaine in a bowl or on a plate. Top with veggies, taco meat, crushed tortilla chips, and drizzle with taco salad dressing.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Tex Mex
Keywords: Taco salad, Taco salad recipe, Healthy taco salad
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.