Since we all need a go-to Healthy Taco Salad recipe, here are my favorite tips for a light and tasty taco salad! They’re easy to make and can be customized to fit your healthy eating goals.
*cue confetti, streamers, and buckets of margaritas*
Chances are you are
[A] reading this wasted from your hellophone while wearing a giant sombrero or
[B] at home trying to figure out what on earth you’re going to stuff in your face today.
I really hope that either way you’re wearing a sombrero.
Don’t let me down.
Anywho! If you’re in the market for a speedy lunch or dinner today, may I suggest whipping up a taco salad?
Either way I’m bombarding you with them in 3…2…1…
It’s Taco Salad Time!!!
There isn’t a single restaurant near me that makes a halfway decent one (seriously… how does that happen!?) so you can expect to see these beauties popping up in my kitchen, on my Instagram feed, and all over my What I Ate Wednesday posts all spring and summer long. Paul and I LIVE for taco salads.
We eat them almost as frequently as pasta salad which, as you know, is a freaking LOT!
What can I say?
The stomach wants what the stomach wants 😉
I don’t think I’ve ever done an official taco salad post yet, and with my recent taco salad face-stuffage coupled with the impending awesomeness that is Cinco de Mayo, how could I not?
To break it down for you crazy kids and your varied grazing habits, I’ll split the protein options into groups:
Vegan Taco Salad
Vegetarian Taco Salad
Classic T-rex Taco Salad
Same as above (because carnivores can eat veggies too!) or you can feel free add your favorite protein! I make a mean Buffalo Chicken Taco Salad when the craving strikes!
Utilize leftovers or whip something up fresh! Paul typically uses [this] chicken recipe, grills up shrimp or a steak, or makes his own ground taco meat.
Oodles of options, right? I love variety an that I can make them differently each time with whatever ingredients I already have on hand. I get particularly giddy when I have extra filling leftover from my Lentil Veggie Tacos. Shameless plug, I know, but those babies are GOOD!
Veggies for Taco Salad
- romaine lettuce
- bell peppers
- plus any extras lurking in your crisper drawer!
Grilled or roasted veggies work excellent in taco salad and even less conventional add-ins like roasted sweet potato or zucchini can take your taco salad game to the next level!
Extra Taco Salad Toppings
- grated cheese
- fresh cilantro
- chopped green onion
- black bean salsa
- pico de gallo
- jarred or homemade salsa
- sour cream
- tomatillo salsa verde
- avocado salsa verde (yessss!)
- pickled jalapeño peppers
- pickled red onion
- shredded cabbage or slaw
- crushed tortilla chips
And of course if a pile of cheese somehow jumps in the bowl too… just go with it! Spicy pepperjack… Mexican blend cheese… cheddar cheese… feta cheese… cotija cheese… anything goes!
Healthy Taco Salad Tips and Tricks
Another taco salad topping option strays a little far from the conventional side but is oh-so-tasty! If you’re a fan of squash or sweet potato, try roasting them seasoned with salt, pepper, chilli powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and a bit of cumin. In a pinch you can use your favorite taco seasoning blend as well. And while you’re at it – toss some peppers and onions on the pan and roast those too! They add a fajita-like twist to your taco salads and the combination of hot, roasted veggies on a cool, crisp salad is de-flipping-licious!
As for the dressing, I’m a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl. Translation? I’m positively horrible at planning ahead and either run out of or forget to buy crucial ingredients. This particular time I was entirely out of dairy and nondairy milks/yogurts of any sort and had just killed off my latest bunch of cilantro. The dressing I had my heart set on making was kiiiiiind of impossible! No worries! I simply stole my husband’s jar of ranch dressing and improvised! Below is an easily customizable recipe for a zesty ranch dressing that’s big on flavor an easy to whip up with nearly anything you have on hand!
Fiesta Ranch Dressing:
- a few spoonfuls of homemade ranch or store-bought ranch
- 1-2 teaspoons of chopped red onion
- 1-2 teaspoons of chopped green onion
- 1 teaspoon of fresh cilantro
- a pinch or two of garlic powder
- a dash of cayenne pepper for a little heat
Whisk together or blend using pretty much any type of food processor or blender option ever invented, lol. Anything works!
other possible dressing mix-ins:
- a spoonful of vinegar to thin/acidify the dressing
- fresh lime juice [for flavor and same result as above]
- pureed avocado or leftover guacamole [because duh, yum!]
- any fresh herbs and spices you have on hand [basil, dill, parsley, chives, cilantro, etc…]
- chopped jalapeno peppers [pickled or fresh]
- red pepper flakes [because fiery can be fun!]
- sriracha chili sauce [ok now you’re just asking to set your face on fire]
- and for a smoky dressing try adding a bit of smoked paprika and cumin
Clearly the possibilities are endless! Next time you whip up a taco salad, play mad scientist in the kitchen and invent a new dressing combo! Your taste buds will thank you.
Whenever I have avocados on hand I almost always opt for a guac dressing. Paul is a neanderthal and drizzles ranch and guac and salsa on his in a big heaping mess. He swears it’s delicious. The photos above will take you to a recipe if you need one! Adding a few heaping spoonfuls of your favorite green salsa or a little bit of vinegar will help transform your normally chunky guacamole into a more dressing-like consistancy if you prefer it — any which way it’s delicious!
make your bowl, and eat it too!
Hookay so [this] tortilla baking contraption is absolutely genius.
It’s hands-down one of the most fun foodie gifts I’ve received and you should totally gift these to all your kitchen-savvy friends. Or just run out and buy one for yourself. I love them!
In the meantime? Make your own crunchy baked taco bowls using a small oven-safe bowl to shape the tortilla and you’re good. to. go! For either option, bake at 350F for 6-10 minutes after rubbing/spritzing the tortilla with a teeny bit of healthy oil. I also microwave my tortilla first for 5 seconds to make it extra pliable, it fits perfectly into the tortilla tray this way.
Ooh! And while I’m rambling, Trader Joe’s “Habanero Lime” tortillas are easily the best tortillas of my life. So flipping flavorful! Yes my TJ’s is two hours away. Yes they are worth it. Next time I’m in the area I’m buying a bunch and freezing them!
To serve them up sans-gluten simply grab a corn tortilla for your bowl! They get just as gloriously crunchy but have the bonus of being gluten-free! Easy peasy!
All that’s left to do is… Dig in!
Hope you kids have a healthy, happy Cinco de Mayo! If you need a few more last minute dishes feel free to stalk [this] post for inspiration!