Celebrate Taco Tuesday with a healthy twist by skipping the standard tacos and making Taco Salad instead. This salad has all the components of a taco but has loads more vegetables without compromising on flavour. It’s quick and easy to make and much better than takeout because you can customize the veggies to your liking and what’s in season.
The first time I made Taco Salad I was trying to stick to a low carb diet. I’m just not meant to live in a carb free world! But this is one of those healthy meals that doesn’t feel like punishment when you eat it. I don’t make Taco Salad because it’s healthy, I make it because I LIKE it. In fact, I LOVE it! I add black beans because they add some extra nutritional value. They’re high in fibre, protein and potassium. If you’re feeding this to kids or picky eaters, you can hide the black beans by smashing them up really well before you add them to the meat mixture. They won’t even notice!
Easy Taco Salad
You can make a taco salad the easy way. Pick up a container of chili from a takeout joint, or even worse, buy a can of chili. There are packages of taco seasoning you can add if you want more taco flavour. Then tear or cut up some lettuce and dump the chili over top with some sour cream, shredded cheese and salsa. Crush up some corn chips and you’ve got yourself a Taco Salad.
But making your own isn’t that hard and it doesn’t take long. Oh, and it works out to be much cheaper than buying Taco Salad. For instance, this recipe will make 4 good sized salads and uses only one pound of ground beef. For a thrifty girl like me, that’s a bonus.
Use a lean ground beef so you don’t have too much fat and liquid in the pan and brown it up with some garlic. Once the beef is browned you want to add some seasoning. Toasting spices always brings out their flavour so add the dried spices to the beef and heat them well, then add a jar of taco sauce. The jarred sauce comes in mild or hot so you can customize the heat level to your liking. Building heat in layers works well so for maximum heat use hot taco sauce, cayenne pepper in the seasoning and pickled jalapeños as a topping.
You can easily substitute packaged taco seasoning if you don’t have the dried spices on hand. One package is a bit too much, probably half the package is enough. It has thickening agents in it so you may have to add a bit of liquid to the meat sauce if it gets too dry. It also has some mystery ingredients and lots of sodium so using real spices is a much better option if you have them on hand.
Rinse and drain the black beans. A typical sized can is a little too much so about half the can should be enough. Add them to the meat mixture and let them heat up and soak up some of the flavour.
While you’re browning the ground beef, chop up the lettuce and any other veggies you want in the salad. I like to add sweet peppers, cucumber and carrot. You can use any lettuce you like but in our house it’s crunchy romaine most of the time. Then get out any other toppings you want for the salad. The more the merrier!
Here are our favourites: cherry tomatoes, black or Kalamata olives, sliced avocado, green onion, red onion, pickled jalapeños and fresh cilantro. Any tomatoes will work but cherry tomatoes have the best flavour, especially off season. If you put all the toppings on a plate, everyone can dress their Taco Salad the way they like.
There’s no actual dressing for this salad. Instead, spoon some salsa and sour cream over top, squeeze a wedge of lime, then sprinkle on shredded cheese. Cheddar is a good choice, but feel free to mix it up. This time I used a combo of cheddar and jalapeño havarti.
This wouldn’t be Taco Salad without some crunchy taco or tortilla chips. Either crumble them over top or serve on the side. I like to warm them on a baking sheet in the oven right before serving so they taste like they’re just made.
Once you’ve had a few bites and the toppings start mixing together it looks a bit messy but it tastes great.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 lb ground beef lean is best
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 215 ml jar taco sauce hot or mild
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- pinch cayenne pepper optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 can 540 ml black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 heads Romaine lettuce
- 1/2 carrot, shredded
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced
- cherry tomatoes, halved
- sliced black or Kalamata olives
- green onion, minced
- red onion, thinly sliced
- avocado slices
- fresh cilantro
- pickled jalapeno peppers
- sour cream
- salsa hot or mild
- 1 lime, quartered
- shredded cheddar cheese
- warm taco or tortilla chips
- Brown ground beef, breaking up larger pieces as it cooks. Mince garlic and add to beef for the last few minutes.
- Add chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper (if using) and salt and pepper to the meat. Cook for a minute or so to ensure spices release their best flavours.
- Add jarred taco sauce and combine.
- Rinse and drain black beans. Add to meat mixture and heat through.
- Arrange taco or tortilla chips on a baking sheet and warm in oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.
- Prepare salad by shredding or cutting lettuce, carrots, cucumber and sweet red peppers. Prepare other desired toppings and arrange on a platter.
- To assemble salad, add lettuce mixture to large plate. Top with warm beef mixture. Add toppings to taste. Drop sour cream and salsa by spoonfuls over salad. Squeeze fresh lime over top and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Crush tortilla chips over top if desired or serve on the side.