For us, the taco is almost the perfect dish. Bring together the crunchy corn tortilla, savory beef, salty cheese, and crisp lettuce, and top with creamy guacamole and tart tomatoes, and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal.
Notice that we said…almost?
If there’s one thing that’s bad about tacos, it’s how hard they are to eat! You’ve probably done your share of neck and jaw gymnastics after biting into a taco and trying your hardest to stop the whole thing from just falling apart. There’s a reason why no one ever orders tacos for a first date!
But what if you could have all the goodness of a taco without having to bend your neck or dislocate your jaw?
You can with this delicious taco salad recipe. Now you can have all the flavors and textures of your beloved taco on a first date. It’s the best of both worlds!
What is taco seasoning made of?
While the exact ratios of the spices used to make a taco seasoning packet will differ from one manufacturer to another, there are generally some spices that you will find across the board. These are cumin, paprika, and chili powder. You might find additional spices such as onion powder, garlic powder, and oregano as well.
Technically, you CAN make your own taco seasoning from scratch, but why make life harder than it already is? If you make tacos regularly, you can even go on Amazon and buy ready-made taco seasoning in bulk!
However, we do understand that there’s something satisfying about making ingredients from scratch in the kitchen, so we would be happy to answer any questions about making your own taco seasoning in the comments below.
How to heat up frozen corn?
Heating up frozen corn is as easy as 1-2-3!
- Take out frozen corn from the freezer and place under running water until all visible ice has melted.
- Place corn in butter or olive oil over medium heat and sauté until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
- To bump up Mexican flavor for this dish, sprinkle paprika and parsley over time, and squeeze a bit of fresh lime juice on top.
Can I make taco salad ahead of time?
Yes and no. Yes, you can prep the separate ingredients ahead of time, but no, you can’t actually mix them together until you’re ready to serve the taco salad. Mixing the ingredients together ahead of time will cause the tortilla strips to become soggy, and the acidity of the tomatoes will cause the lettuce to wilt. What’s more, mixing the taco salad ahead of time will drastically shorten the shelf life of the dish.
You can prepare the ingredients ahead of time and store them separately. You can cook the beef, let it cool, and place it in the fridge. You can also do a lot of prep work ahead of time, such as quartering the grape tomatoes, chopping the lettuce, and dicing the tomatoes.
If you plan to chop the avocado ahead of time, you need to squeeze a bit of lime juice on top of the avocados to prevent them from oxidizing.
How long can taco salad sit out?
Always keep in mind that this recipe is still a salad, so you need to abide by “salad rules”. Since you’re going to be using a lot of fresh ingredients, as well as dairy (cheese) and acidic ingredients (tomatoes), the safe window is around 2 hours at room temperature.
Should taco salad be warm or cold?
For this part, it’s actually completely up to you! You can serve it warm just like the recipe, or you can prep the ingredients ahead, keep them in the fridge, and just toss them together right before serving to serve the salad cold.
Note: if you’re going to keep your meat in the fridge, you should warm it to at least room temperature before serving to prevent the meat from feeling greasy and heavy. (Cold beef fat isn’t very good!)
How can you tell if taco meat is bad?
Raw taco meat (whether it’s beef, chicken, or any other protein you choose) has very distinct signs to show that it has spoiled. It will have a strong, pungent smell, and it will show an unappealing color that can be grayish or greenish. What’s more, you will notice a sticky or slimy film on top of the meat.
For cooked taco meat, it can be harder to detect spoilage, especially if you’ve already mixed in the taco seasonings. If the meat has been sitting in your fridge for more than 5 days, or if it’s been left out overnight, it’s probably no longer good. When in doubt, throw it out!
How can I tell if my avocado is ripe?
Determining if an avocado is ripe can be difficult! You need to look for dark green skin and a firm but tender flesh.
EXPERT TIP #1: BROWN YOUR BEEF!
If you really want that deep and intense flavor with your beef, brown your beef before you toss in the taco seasoning spices. Browning your beef causes the Maillard reaction, which not only gives you beef that delicious “beefy” flavor, but also turns it into a nice golden brown color. Don’t forget that it also makes those perfect little crispy bits of beef! Skipping this step often gives you soggy, greyish beef that’s cooked through, but doesn’t have anywhere near the depth of flavor.
Here’s an easy guide to browning your beef:
- 1Heat up your pan until it is smoking. For best results, use a cast-iron pan or stainless steel skillet. NEVER use non-stick cookware for searing meats, as this kind of cookware is not built for high temperatures!
- 2Place your beef in the hot pan and let it brown for several minutes. Stir it lightly ONLY to prevent the beef from sticking.
- 3As the beef cooks, a lot of the water and fat will start to render. Scoop out as much of the fat and water as you can, as leaving those in will cause your beef to boil.
- 4Cook until all the ground beef is browned through
EXPERT TIP # 2: CHOOSE THE RIGHT KIND OF GROUND BEEF
Choosing the right ratio of fat to lean meat is critical to getting the best taco meat! We found that the best ratio is 80/20 (80% lean meat like chuck to 20% fat). In most cases, you can ask your local butcher to grind up this particular ratio for you, but sometimes, you’ll find pre-ground taco beef in your frozen food section. That’s fine too, as long as you don’t forget to brown your beef!
If you’re looking for an easy healthy taco salad recipe with ground beef, you can increase the ratio of ground lean beef to fat to around 90/10, but you’ll be sacrificing a bit of flavor in process.
Hearty Beef Taco Salad
Whether you’re making for one or for a huge party, this delicious and easy beef taco salad is a sure winner! It’ll make your taste buds sing with its salty, sweet, and tangy flavors, and you’ll definitely find yourself asking for seconds!
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 packet taco seasoning mix
- 3–4 garlic cloves
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- 4 large gluten-free corn tortillas
- 3 T. extra olive oil, divided
- 1 c. black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ head iceberg lettuce
- 1 large ripe avocado
- 2 c. cherry or grape tomatoes
- ½ small red onion
- 1 c. frozen sweet corn, warmed
- 1 t. chipotle powder
- 2 T. fresh lime juice
- ¾ c. Mexican blend cheese, finely shredded
- Prep all the ingredients. Cut the corn tortillas into thin strips and set aside. Mince the garlic finely. Chop lettuce finely. Chop avocado into medium-sized chunks. Quarter the tomatoes. Dice onion finely. Place each ingredient separately into small bowls and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400⁰F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat and brown your beef. After beef has been browned, add the garlic, taco seasoning mix, salt, and pepper, and stir well to combine.
- Cook the taco beef through on medium-high heat, around 6-8 minutes. Remember, the beef was already cooked during the browning stage, and you don’t want to overcook it! Just allow the spices to heat through and meld flavors with the beef.
- While taco beef is cooking, arrange the tortilla strips on the prepared baking sheet and brush lightly with 1 T olive oil. Place in preheated oven and bake until crispy, approximately 6-8 minutes. Remove tortillas strips immediately as they can burn easily!
- Stir in the black beans with the beef until thoroughly combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine all the fresh ingredients (lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, red onion, and corn) in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with remaining olive oil, chipotle powder, and fresh lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss gently until well-combined.
- Transfer salad to a serving platter, top with the seasoned taco beef, Mexican cheese, and crispy tortilla strips.
- Serve immediately!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 736Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 857mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 13gSugar: 15gProtein: 47g
What Other Toppings Can I Use?
Pico de Gallo vs. Salsa
You might think that pico de gallo and salsa are the same thing, but they’re actually not! While they both feature tomatoes are their main ingredient, pico de gallo tends to be made with chunky, raw tomatoes. Salsas, on the other hand, are thinner and can be cooked before serving.
Do you know the best way to spruce up a taco salad? Let everyone make their own! Some people might like a bit more beef, while others love having extra tortilla chips for that yummy crunch. For your next party, set out all the ingredients in separate bowls, and announce that it’s now a taco salad party!