This easy taco salad with taco-seasoned ground beef, beans, cheddar cheese, and all the taco fixings makes a favorite easy dinner any night of the week.
If there’s one Mexican meal I might love even more than my mother-in-law’s recipe for ground beef tacos that taste just like Taco Bell tacos, it’s turning her tasty tacos recipe into a taco salad. When I was a kid and spied taco salad on the menu, I was all in for ordering that huge, puffed-and-fried flour tortilla shell overfilled with taco fixings. These days, instead of ordering those calorie-filled fried flour shells, I whip up taco salads at home. They’re easy to make with crunchy tortilla chips layered with fresh iceberg lettuce, taco seasoned ground beet, black or pinto beans, shredded cheese, and all the fixings. And if you make the taco meat ahead of time then reheat it before assembling, these taco salads make fast weeknight eats.
Ingredients In Taco Salad
This easy, Tex Mex taco salad starts with a homemade ground beef taco meat recipe with a simple combination of Mexican spices, tomato juice that keeps the meat moist, and cornmeal that thickens the recipe and adds an earthy corn flavor.
- 85% lean ground beef
- White onion
- Ground cumin
- Chili powder
- Garlic salt
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Tomato juice—this is added to the ground beef and spices to deglaze the pan and pull up all those browned bits (you could also use V-8, or water)
- Finely ground yellow cornmeal—This ingredient tightens up the beef mixture and adds another layer of Mexican maize/corn essence
- Pinto or black beans—Use good-quality canned or cook your own
- Tortilla chips, or Doritos
- Iceberg lettuce or romaine
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Salsa or pico de gallo
- Avocado or guacamole
- Sour cream
How to Make Taco Salads
Brown the ground beef with onions, garlic, and the homemade taco seasonings. My MIL’s tip for the best taco meat is to brown it really well and chop it fine.
Add the tomato juice to the meat mixutre. Deglazing the pan, tomato juice adds flavor and moisture to the meat.
Add fine ground cornmeal to thicken and tightent the taco meat. If needed, add more tomato juice or water to thin the meat mixture.
How to Layer Taco Salads
Like wearing clothes in winter, how you layer your taco salad is key to the best taco salad. Here’s the order I like to layer mine:
- Tortilla chips
- Chopped or shredded lettuce
- Taco meat
- Cheese, so it melts on the warm meat. Or like nachos, melt the cheese on top of a layer of tortilla chips before adding to your bowl.
- The rest of the fixings with a big dollop or two of sour cream
- Finish with a big squeeze of lime
Taco Salad Dressing
I’m a taco salad purist and salsa and sour cream with a squeeze of lime is all I need for my taco salads. However, if you’re more of a saucy type, try drizzling one of these on top:
- Creamy Avocado Salsa Verde
- Homemade Ranch Dressing
- Queso Dip
- Chunky Citrus Guacamole
- Fresh Mango Salsa
- Hatch Chili Salsa Verde
More Mexican-Style Salads to Try
- Chopped Mexican Kale Salad
- Mexican Corn Pasta Salad
- Easy Mexican Coleslaw
- Sriracha and Lime Roasted CauliflowerTostadas
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How to Make a GREAT Taco Salad
- 1 pound 85% lean ground beef
- ½ white onion , diced
- 2 cloves garlic , pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups tomato juice
- ¼ cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 15 ounce can pinto or black beans
- 8 ounces tortilla chips I prefer white corn chips
- 8 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup salsa
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 avocado , chopped
- 4 tablespoons sour cream
- ¼ cup sliced jalapeños
- ¼ cup minced white onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 lime , sliced
- Add the ground beef to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes, breaking into small pieces as it browns. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until the beef is well browned and the onion is translucent. Add the cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, kosher salt, and black pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the tomato juice and cornmeal. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the juice has cooked down and the cornmeal softens, stirring occasionally. Add more tomato juice or water if the mixture clumps.
- Add the beans to a small saucepan and heat over medium until warm.
- To assemble individual taco salads, place a handful of tortilla chips in the bottom of each bowl. Divide the lettuce between each of the bowls then top with the taco meat. Add a few spoonfuls of the warm beans. Top with cheddar cheese, salsa, chopped tomatoes, avocado, and dollop with sour cream. Add a few jalapeños and sprinkle the minced onion and chopped cilantro. Give each salad a squeeze or two of fresh lime and serve.
More Taco Inspired Recipes
- Easy Taco Soup
- Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Crema
- Taco Stuffed Avocados
- iCarly Spaghetti Tacos
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