This delicious Taco Salad is my go-to meal when I’m craving Mexican food, but want something a little lighter than your typical enchilada dinner. This recipe is easy to make with lean ground beef, and a rainbow of fresh ingredients like bell pepper, ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, beans, sweet corn and avocado, all tossed in a zesty light Catalina dressing and topped off with tortilla chips. Impress your friends and family with this blend of fiesta flavors and textures!
We’ve been enjoying this hearty, flavorful Taco Salad for years! One of my girlfriends used to make this salad anytime we got together, and now it’s one I turn to whenever I crave Mexican food, but want something healthy.
This isn’t your typical taco salad filled with sour cream and other heavy ingredients. This healthier taco salad consists of lean ground beef or turkey cooked with onion, bell pepper and taco seasoning thrown into a bowl with romaine or iceberg lettuce (love the crunch), a can of black beans (with the juice drained), corn and tomatoes. Top with a small amount of Mexican cheese, sliced avocado and a few broken up tortilla chips. Last, toss with a light Catalina dressing, which adds a tanginess that’s absolutely amazing.
The warmth from the meat mixed with the cool, crisp lettuce and veggies makes this one of my favorite salad recipes. Yum!
This easy taco salad recipe is loaded with common, pantry staples, so you can make it at a moment’s notice. It’s also easy to customize by using more or less of your favorite ingredients. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Lean ground beef. I like to use 90% lean ground beef in this recipe. It’s got plenty of flavor without all the grease. Feel free to use ground turkey, chicken or bison instead.
- Onion. Cooked along with the bell pepper to add wonderful savory flavor to the ground beef.
- Bell pepper. Any color of bell pepper works. I like to use red bell peppers because they are the sweetest. Yellow and orange peppers are mild, and green peppers can be somewhat bitter.
- Taco seasoning. Use your favorite packet of taco seasoning or homemade taco seasoning. For a quick homemade mix, try adding 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin + ground paprika, 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Lettuce. We like romaine lettuce best for most salads, but iceberg, green leaf or even spinach will work. You can even use a combination of greens!
- Beans. I love adding beans to this salad for a little extra protein and fiber. You can use black, kidney or pinto beans.
- Corn. Mexican-style corn is great in this, but add any corn you’d like – fresh, frozen and thawed or canned.
- Tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes or cherry tomatoes add bursts of juicy fresh flavor.
- Cheese. I typically add cheese sparingly and choose a light Mexican blend. To keep this salad dairy free, use a dairy-free cheese or omit.
- Avocado. Adds healthy fats and delicious creaminess.
- Tortilla chips. For the perfect salty crunch! You can even use seasoned tortilla strips for a little added flavor. Fritos are great too!
How to make this recipe
You may have tried other taco salad recipes, but this one’s our favorite! It’s so flavorful and super easy! Here’s a quick rundown of how to make it:
- Cook the meat. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat with the onion and bell pepper. Once the meat is cooked and the vegetables are soft, stir in the taco seasoning and follow the packet instructions for adding water and simmering. Remove from heat when fully cooked..
- Prepare fresh ingredients. While the meat is cooking, you can prepare all of the other salad ingredients. Chop the veggies, and rinse and drain the beans and corn.
- Assemble taco salads. Once the meat has cooked and cooled slightly, you can put the taco salads together. Layer the salads however you’d like.
- Enjoy! Toss the salad in Catalina dressing or another dressing that you love. Don’t forget the tortilla chips or strips and dig in!
This taco salad recipe really is a breeze to make, but here are some tips to make sure you serve up the perfect dish every time!
- To make the salad easier to assemble and eat, I recommend chopping the lettuce into small bite-sized pieces.
- In my opinion, salad recipes are just a guide. Feel free to use as much or as little of the ingredients as you like. And if there’s a specific ingredient, like beans, that you don’t really love, simply leave it out or swap it with something else.
- Taco salads are great to serve to a crowd! I love to set up a taco salad bar for get togethers with friends and/or family. Simply put out separate bowls of ingredients and lots of fun toppings, and let your guests assemble their own salads. You can even give them choices of different meats, cheeses and dressings.
Frequently asked questions
This taco salad recipe calls for light Catalina dressing, which is a sweet and tangy tomato-based dressing. You can really use any favorite dressing you’d like for your salad. Classic ranch would be great or Bolthouse Farms makes some great Mexican-flavored dressings that are low in calorie. These can be found in the produce department of your grocery store. If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, try their cilantro dressing. It’s SO good on this salad and really low in calories and fat too. You could also just use salsa as your dressing to save a few calories. For a homemade dressing option, try this cilantro lime dressing. It’s super tasty!
You can serve it either way! We like to enjoy it with warm or room temperature beef. To enjoy leftovers with warm meat, be sure to to keep it separate from the rest of the salad ingredients so you can reheat it.
A taco salad recipe can be made as healthy as you want! This particular recipe healthier and filled with nutrients. It uses lean ground meat, fresh produce and doesn’t use a fried taco bowl like a taco salad you might find at a restaurant. It’s under 500 calories for a large salad and is packed with 40 grams of protein.
There are a variety of ways to customize this healthy taco salad recipe. Here’s some options:
- Meat. Use any ground meat that you like. Some great choices are ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken or ground bison. If you use a full fat beef, be sure to drain the fat before adding the spices.
- Cheese. We typically sprinkle a Mexican blend over the top, but cheddar cheese is great or crumble cotija or queso fresco over the top.
- Taco salad dressing. See the FAQ section for ideas. We like Catalina or another Mexican flavored dressing, but even ranch dressing is delicious.
- Garnish. Feel free to add a garnish of fresh cilantro, black olives, green onions or pico de Gallo.
When I serve this, I like to keep the sides simple because a taco salad is pretty much a complete meal with plenty of protein, veggies, and carbs. However, here are some side ideas that would pair well:
- Rice. This simple cilantro lime rice or cilantro lime cauliflower rice is the perfect pairing with taco salad.
- Beans. Instead of adding beans into the salad, you could serve them on the side and you could even do refried beans on the side.
- Cornbread. My Mexican cornbread is a family favorite recipe and goes really well with any Tex-Mex dish.
- Margarita. Don’t forget the skinny margarita! This jalapeño margarita is refreshing and delicious.
- Homemade salsa. You can use my salsa as a dressing or serve with some tortilla chips on the side.
The components for this salad, if stored separately, will stay fresh in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Place all ingredients in separate air-tight containers.
Meal prep option
Taco salads are fabulous to make ahead of time and enjoy later. You’ll just want to be sure to store the ingredients separately.
To make in advance, chop the veggies and cook the meat in advance, storing them individually in the refrigerator. Having all of the ingredients prepped and ready makes it so easy to quickly put together salads and add any other toppings you’d like for lunches or dinners throughout the week.
I hope you guys love these flavorful, veggie-packed taco salads as much as my family does! They’re healthy, crowd pleasing and super delicious!
More favorite Mexican recipes
- Taco Casserole
- Super Simple Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
- Skinny Enchilada Casserole
- Flavorful Turkey Tacos
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
- 1 pound lean ground beef , (turkey or chicken work too)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 medium bell pepper (any color), diced
- 1 package taco seasoning
- 8 to 10 cups romaine or iceberg lettuce (feel free to use any amount you would like) , chopped
- 1 (15 ounce) can black, kidney, or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup canned corn, drained
- 2-3 medium tomatoes (or about 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes), chopped
- 1.5 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
- light Catalina dressing (use as much or little as you like)
- 1-2 medium avocados, sliced
- Tortilla chips or Fritos
- In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground meat until almost fully cooked and then add in the diced onion and bell pepper. Continue cooking about 5 minutes and until veggies are soft and meat is cooked.
- Stir in the taco seasoning and follow the packet instructions for adding water and simmering. Remove from heat when fully cooked.
- While meat is cooking, prepare your other salad ingredients. In a large bowl, add the lettuce, drained beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese, meat mixture and dressing. Toss to coat all of the ingredients in the dressing. Add sliced avocado to individual servings and enjoy with tortilla chips or Fritos!