This fast and easy Taco Salad is filled with all your favorite taco toppings like seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, onions, avocados, shredded cheese, and anything else you want to add! Taco Salad pairs perfectly with homemade avocado ranch dressing.
This salad is so delicious because of the savory and simple ingredients, but it holds a special place in my heart for one major reason – it tastes like tacos! And, you can put chips on it! While the chips aren’t a strict requirement for this salad, they certainly provide a very satisfying added crunch.
The other ingredients that make this salad so downright delicious are the seasoned ground beef, homemade avocado ranch dressing, fresh vegetables, and shredded Mexican cheese. If you have little ones in the house that are picky eaters, this is a great recipe to make. It’s so good, they probably won’t even realize they’re eating veggies!
While some salads are best served as a side or a light lunch, this hearty taco salad is packed with protein and makes a wonderful dinner. It could also still be a light lunch or side salad is proportioned correctly, but I love making this taco salad as an entrée and enjoying it all on its own.
Ingredients for Taco Salad
To Make the Seasoned Beef:
- Canola Oil – This is a neutral flavored oil that’s best for cooking the meat. However, avocado and vegetable oils are also neutral and will do the trick.
- Ground Beef – Ground chicken, pork, turkey, or even a vegan alternative will also work. While beef is my favorite ground meat for this recipe, this ingredient is certainly very versatile. Don’t use ground beef that is too lean or it will be dry!
- Taco Seasoning – Any brand should work or use a homemade taco seasoning mix. If you want to make the taco seasoning a little spicier, consider adding a pinch of cayenne powder.
For the Taco Salad:
- Iceberg Lettuce – You can use other types of lettuce as well. Romaine and spinach are both also delicious in this salad! Note, if you want to use kale, make sure to rub it first. Simply massage the kale for a few moments with vegetable or canola oil, as this will help soften it and make it easier to chew and digest.
- Avocado – When picking out avocados, things get a bit trickier. I recommend buying hard, unripe avocados a few days in advance, then letting them soften and get ripe before using them. Once the avocado gives a little when gently squeezed, it’s ready to be eaten.
- Tomato – A large, ripe, and juicy tomato is the best choice for this taco salad!
- Red Onion – Red onions have a strong flavor but also have a little sweetness to them. However, in a pinch, a white or yellow onion will also do the trick.
- Shredded Mexican Cheese – To keep things simple, just buy a bag of Mexican cheese mix from the store. You can also grate off a block of Monterrey Jack, Manchego, Colby or get crumbled cheeses like Cojita cheese, queso fresco, or queso añejo.
For Avocado Ranch Dressing:
- Avocado – Make sure it’s ripe.
- Sour Cream – You can use light sour cream or regular, it won’t make a difference.
- Mayonnaise – Similarly to the sour cream, feel free to use light or regular mayonnaise.
- Whole Milk – Whole milk helps to provide the perfect amount of thickness and creaminess to the dressing.
- Garlic – use fresh garlic clove for best flavor.
- Worcestershire Sauce – The tanginess and depth of flavor that this sauce provides cannot be substituted!
- Dill Weed – This fresh herb is very flavorful, so avoid adding any extra. If too much dill weed is in the dressing, it will have a strong pickle flavor.
- Parsley – As with all herbs in this dressing, use fresh parsley, not dried.
- Cilantro – This ingredient gives the dressing a lovely fresh flavor that really makes it stand out.
- Salt and Pepper
How to Make Avocado Ranch Dressing
I recommend making the ranch first. That way when your salad is prepared, you can toss it in your ready-to-use dressing!
First, toss all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor.
Thoroughly blend the avocado ranch dressing until it’s completely smooth with no lumps.
Transfer the dressing to a glass jar once smooth.
How to Make Taco Salad
Once you’ve made the dressing and placed it in a glass jar, make the seasoned ground beef.
Heat a pan over medium heat and add the canola oil. Once warmed, add the ground beef, cover, and cook it.
Once the ground beef starts to release juices and turn brown, mix it up and break down the larger clumps.
Season with the taco seasoning and mix it thoroughly.
Once the meat is thoroughly cooked, allow it to cool for just a few minutes before adding to the salad. In fact, I like to prepare my salad as the beef cools.
Dice all of the vegetables and toss them together with the homemade dressing and ground beef. If desired, sprinkle the salad with crushed tortilla chips, and enjoy!
Can I use chicken instead of ground beef?
Absolutely! And if ground chicken isn’t your thing, don’t worry. You can bake chicken breasts seasoned with taco seasoning or use leftover taco seasoned chicken.
What else can I top this salad with?
One of the best things about taco salad is how customizable it is. Here are just a few ways you can really make this easy recipe your own!
- One of my favorite additions is black beans and corn for a Southwest flair.
- If you like spice, add some jalapeños or other chili peppers for more heat!
- You could also substitute the shredded Mexican cheese for cotija cheese.
- Still hungry for more? Add some salsa, pico de gallo, or guacamole or top.
More salads that actually hit the spot?
Greek Chicken Salad – a light and healthy salad made with all the wonderful Greek flavors and easy homemade dressing
Cheddar Bacon Ranch Tortellini Salad – this pasta salad is loaded with crispy bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, and tossed in a creamy ranch sauce
Avocado Shrimp Salad – this shrimp salad is made with delicious boiled shrimp, fresh avocado, fresh dill weed, green onions, and some celery for added crunch
Kale Salad – This Kale Salad is so flavorful and healthy, packed with fresh kale, red onions, avocado, cranberries, nuts, and feta cheese.
- 1-2 tbsp canola oil for cooking
- 1 lb 85/15 ground beef
- 1 oz taco seasoning
- 1 head of iceberg lettuce
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 large tomato
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mix
Avocado Ranch Dressing:
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp fresh minced dill weed
- 1 tbsp fresh minced parsley
- 1 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
- 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
- 1/2-1 tsp salt to taste
- Preheat a cooking pan over medium heat and add oil. Add ground beef and bread it up as much as possible. Cover and cook for a few minutes.
- When the meat starts to release juices and brown, mix it up some more and break up more clumps. Season with taco seasoning and mix well. Cover and let it cook until completely done, mixing it every few minutes and breaking up the clomps in the process.
- Let the meat cool just a little bit before adding to the salad.
- Combine all the ingredients into the food processor and pulse until the dressing is completely smooth.
- Transfer into the glass jar.
- Dice and chop all the ingredients for the salad and layer them in serving salad bowls.
- Serve with avocado ranch on the side or you can mix it all together and serve it mixed with dressing.
- Note: I highly recommend that you crush a few tortilla chips and add them to the top of the salad for a pleasant, salty crunch.