Healthy Taco Salad

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.

Healthy Taco Salad Tips and Tricks!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

*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:

vegansaurus chefs

Top with black or pinto beans, taco-style lentils, or taco roasted chickpeas; you can also crumble up a triple-bean veggie burger to make a faux-meat

brontosaurus chefs

Same as above, or if you’re pescatarian you can try them topped with salmon or shrimp!

t-rex chefs

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!

the veggies

  • lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • olives
  • corn
  • jalapenos
  • avocado
  • onion
  • and anything lurking in your crisper drawer!
Healthy Taco Salad Tips and Tricks!
And of course if a pile of cheese somehow jumps in the bowl too… just go with it! Cheddar… spicy pepperjack… feta/goat cheese… cotija cheese… anything goes!
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!
Fiesta Ranch Dressing

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 your favorite *natural!* store-bought dressing
1-2 teaspoons of chopped red onion [oh the flavor!]
1-2 teaspoons of chopped green onion
1 teaspoon of fresh or dried cilantro [or fresh if you have it!]
a pinch or two of garlic powder [or fresh minced/smashed garlic!]

a pinch or two of cayenne pepper

whisk together or blend using pretty much any type of food processor ever invented. 

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.

Guacamole and Salsa also make a phenomenal dressing for taco salads!

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!

Healthy Taco Salad Tips and Tricks!

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! [or to simply laugh at what I did to Paul’s photo. I regret nothing!]

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  • These look AMAZING!!! So colorful and I LOVE your cute taco bowls!

  • If you have a Cafe Rio near you, you must try their creamy cilantro dressing and then try to mimic it. It is the best salad dressing!

  • A friend of mine bought the shell maker thing & loves it. I keep meaning to get one but I keep forgetting. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Anna @ Your Healthy Place

    I did not celebrate Cinco de Mayo as I was super busy with other stuff going on and I am SO bummed – Mexican food is my favourite! I reassure myself by reminding myself that every day at my house is Cinco de Mayo haha. And that we have a long summer of warm summer nights and barbecues where taco salad is the perfect vegetarian bringalong so I will make sure I do that! Love these ideas!

  • I’ve got a large amount of sauteed veggies left from Cinco de Mayo party, and I’m thinking this is a great way to use them. Perfect timing, as usual.

  • I definitely had a healthy and happy Cinco De Mayo. We had steak tacos 🙂

  • Reading this post was like going to a party! So cute! Love the recipe.

  • I haven’t had taco salad in forever! Thanks for inspiring me to make some 🙂

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  • YUM I love Cinco de Mayo, your recipes look delish!!! I had a party since it’s also my birthday and definitely enjoyed margaritas and tacos too 🙂

  • tom play jackpot slot

    The dish really makes my mouth watering and I feel I have to prepare it now and have it soon.

  • Yummmmmmm! 🙂 Pinned!

  • Yum! Your salads look delicious!

  • Tara

    Yum! I love taco salad!

  • Oh girl, I absolutely LOVE this post! Mexican food (especially taco salads) are one of my favorite things to make at home since you can throw practically anything at it and still end up stuffing your face with deliciousness! I really like the idea of fajita-ing the squash/sweet potatoes (seriously, WHY/HOW did I just type “poptart”?!)! I’ve never thought of that before! And I’m with P…ranch, guac, and salsa is one of the best combos EVA!!

    Hope you had a great weekend…poptart! <- Yeah, that’s where that was coming from! 😉 xoxo

  • Is it wrong that I totally forgot what day it was?! Oh the joys of having a newborn!

  • Taco salads are some of my FAVORITE dinners! Though I should admit I’m quite excited about the fish tacos and margarita I had last night (w/ leftovers tonight)! 😉

  • This looks great! Those taco bowls are genius 🙂

  • No sombrero, currently but I DID wear one last night, for several hours. Ole! 🙂

  • Loveee all of the bright colors! We haven’t tried those tortillas from TJ’s but I love the hint of lime tortilla chips so I can only imagine how tasty they are 😀

  • Happy Cinco de Mayo! Yum!! I’m going to cook a Mexican feast today too!

  • i want to lick the bowl then bite it!

  • This looks so yummy. So easy to mix and match based on preferences. I keep seeing this in the store and wanted to get one. I think I will now. Love taco night!

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