A lighter take on Taco Salad with seasoned ground turkey, black beans, loads of fresh veggies, tortilla chips (obviously), and a sweet citrus dressing that makes a satisfying and gluten-free main course salad. Ready in 30 minutes!
I feel like Taco Salad is a love-hate kinda meal. Either you grew up eating it and love all the different textures and flavors or the idea of putting seasoned ground beef in a salad is a total turn-off.
Whether due to nostalgia or my love of highly crunchy foods, I’m in the first category. As a kid I relished those deep-fried flour “taco” shell bowls. They were so greasy and flaky and had absolutely nothing to do with an actual taco.
But oh they were so good filled with shredded cheese and taco meat, a handful of minced iceberg lettuce and maybe a spoonful of pico de gallo. It was called a salad but was definitely more like a cheese and beef bowl. In an actual, edible, deep-fried bowl. Not exactly health food.
In the spirit of adulting and also caring about my health, I’ve decided to reclaim the taco salad and make it not only healthier but also tastier, more complex, and full of flavor without losing any of that addictive crunch.
I hope it becomes your new favorite taco salad recipe (the dressing is to die for btw). Enjoy!
Why You Will Love This Taco Salad
All around healthier. We are lighting up every aspect of Taco Salad recipes by subbing ground turkey for the ground beef, adding fiber-rich black beans plus mountains of other vegetables, and a dressing that is bursting with fresh-squeezed citrus juice. Yes, there are still tortilla chips but you could substitute baked tostadas if you’d like instead.
Easy to make. An easy taco salad is a weeknight dream and this one is pretty simple. Chopping the veggies and browning the meat is as hard as it gets and all of that can be done in advance.
Awesome for meal prep. This makes an excellent dinner but also great to take for lunch. Prep the meat, veggies, and salad dressing in advance and layer in a sealed container for lunch the next day. Keep the taco salad dressing in a separate small container and toss right before eating.
Taco Salad Ingredients
The list is long but all the different components is what makes it so special. The hot, the cold, the spicy, the sweet all wrapped up in one beautiful bowl.
- Ground turkey. Options here could be ground chicken, tofu crumbles, or even homemade chorizo.
- Olive oil. My favorite olive oil is California Ranch it is harvested and pressed right here in California making it much fresher than imported oils.
- Kosher salt. I always use Mortons kosher salt unless otherwise noted.
- Onion powder. These spices are used to season the ground turkey and are the same ones in the salad dressing.
- Dried Mexican oregano. Mexican oregano has a pleasant lemony flavor because it is actually in the same family as lemon verbena not oregano. You can substitute Mediterranean oregano if you can’t find it.
- Black pepper. Freshly ground please.
- Chipotle chili powder
- Romaine lettuce. Romaine is classic and I love the crunch but if you wanted to get really healthy, use thinly sliced kale.
- Black beans. I use canned in this recipe but if you have home cooked beans those would be great too.
- Red bell pepper or orange or yellow bell pepper, just not green.
- Queso fresco or the more Tex-Mex style cheddar but if you are going that route use aged white cheddar not the pre-shredded stuff.
- Tortilla chips or make your own baked tortilla strips.
- Avocado. Ripe and sliced or diced. I like to put it on top after I toss the salad so it doesn’t get mushy.
- Red onion
- Cherry tomatoes. If they are in season and tasty, otherwise substitute a different vegetable. In the winter, balanched cauliflower or roasted beets would be good.
- Microgreens. Bougie I know but so pretty. They sell reasonably-priced packages of them at Trader Joes. Great on sandwiches too.
- Watermelon radish or any thinly sliced radish would work. Watermelon radishes are really pretty though.
- 1 recipe of the BEST Taco Salad Dressing
How To Make This Taco Salad Recipe
The hardest part of this recipe is all the slicing and chopping, but you can do it! Make the dressing a day or two in advance if you’d like. It makes enough for two salads so you’ll have plenty leftover.
Make dressing. The first step is to make the best ever Taco Salad Dressing. It is as easy as squeezing some lime juice and other citrus and shaking together in a jar with some olive oil and spices. You can do this up to a week in advance. In fact, I make this dressing all the time for all kinds of salads—not just taco salads.
Brown the ground turkey. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey and spices and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.
Drain the black beans. Drain the black bean can into a strainer and rinse the black beans. Let sit and dry before adding to the salad.
Prep remaining ingredients. Wash, dry, and tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Crumble the queso fresco, chop the cilantro, and slice the avocado, bell pepper, red onion, and watermelon radishes. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Arrange salad. Place lettuce in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Arrange ground turkey, cheese, avocado, tortilla chips, radishes, bell pepper, cilantro, red onion, and tomatoes on top. Drizzle with dressing and toss with salad tongs to combine. Divide between four plates and enjoy!
More Healthy Recipes To Try
- Papas con Chile
- Salsa Verde Chicken
- Sofrito Black Beans
- Chipotle Black Bean Chili
- Step-by-Step Huarache Recipe
- The BEST Pinto Beans Recipe
- Citrus Seafood Ceviche Recipe
Get a copy of my vegetarian cookbook Plant Powered Mexican!
Let’s Take Taco Salad Back!
Give this healthy version a try and remember why you loved it so in the first place! Let me know when you do by snapping a pic and tagging me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno so I can see or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating) ! Also, sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!
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