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Build-Your-Own Taco Salad!

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A family favorite this quick easy make-ahead Taco Salad is perfect on a busy weeknight or a hot summer night! All the salad fixings with the addition of ground beef and beans and crunchy fried taco strips allows everyone to build their Taco Salad the way they want it.

a mix of lettuce, tomato, cheese, avocado and a dressing on a plate

Let’s cool things down! Whew! It is hot out there…and when it’s hot outside I want an easy, cool, refreshing, and yet filling meal. One that is easy to put together that the whole family will like. This is that meal!

plate full of taco salad

When my kids were younger the mere mention of salad caused their faces to contort into all kinds of hideousness. It was down right frightening!

However… I knew they loved tacos…and being the exceptionally brilliant mother that I am (cough, cough, hack, wheeeezzzz!  Add teenage eye roll!) I decided to take all those taco ingredients and make my version of taco salad!

How To Make A Taco Salad Bar

Making a taco salad bar is easy! Prepare you lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheese, sliced olives, and any other toppings you enjoy. I have a great list below.

When it comes to the meat…I add black beans to the ground beef for a little extra protein! (Honestly… I should receive the Nobel Prize! Lol)

Ground beef for Taco Salad

I place all the ingredients in containers and allow everyone to build their own salad.

This way there is no complaining! Oh, I know…every Mom just LOVES to hear complaining after she’s worked hard to put a meal on the table.

We live for it! It brings us joy and happiness…(Yes! This is laced with sarcasm…it’s hot…my sarcasm Richter scale is off the charts!) 

I did have a few rules back when the nest was full, and they were younger. You had to have lettuce, you had to have meat, and you couldn’t take all the “crunchies” …as the kids liked to call them. Other than that…game on!

Taco Salad Fill the plate

Toppings for Taco Salad

I use romaine lettuce or green leafy lettuce. That way you’re getting more nutrients and let’s face it… Iceberg, sweetie, you’re a nice head of water!

Brown one pound of lean ground beef. Add one can of well drained and rinsed black beans. (Sneaking in that protein) Add taco seasoning.

TIP: You can switch the ground beef our for Ground Turkey, or use shredded chicken from my Copy Cat Cafe Rio Chicken!

Taco Bar Topping Ideas

For toppings… diced and seeded Roma tomatoes, diced avocado, grated cheddar cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, salsa, chopped cilantro and the favorite…fried corn tortilla strips.

Top it off with Ranch dressing or Fiesta Ranch Dressing! If you really want to kick it up a notch make my recipe for fresh salsa.

My favorite Fresh Salsa Recipe pairs perfectly with this Taco Salad.  And…. Bam! Dinner is done…finished…finitio!

If you really want to knock dinner time out of the park you could serve Fried Ice Cream Cake for dessert! . (It’s okay… you just had salad…lol!)

Taco Salad

This is a very flexible recipe!

Substitute Toppings

If you don’t like beef, mix it up a bit…do shredded chicken, pulled pork or shredded beef. I’ve actually done all of them and they are equally good.

Also, if you don’t like black beans you could use pinto or kidney beans. If you don’t want to fry up the “crunchies” you can just take your heat frustrations out on a bag of tortilla chips and smash away!

It is really about personal preference and what your Nester’s like!

We always bring this to our family reunions when it’s our night for dinner. It’s nice because you can make everything up ahead of time and then just set it out.

Favorite Salad Recipes

Great meal for camping too! However, on days like today when the sun could fry the back off a lizard…this is down right perfect!

Photo of Norine and her signature.
Yield: 5 -6 servings

Taco Salad

Fix your own taco salad

The perfect summertime alternative to Taco's...Taco Salad! A cool and refreshing salad for those hot summer days when all you want is something cool! Enjoy!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 1 head of either romaine lettuce or green leaf lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning
  • 2 cups grated medium cheddar cheese
  • 3 seeded and diced roma tomatoes
  • 1 jar black olives, drained and sliced
  • 2 avocado's diced
  • 3 Tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 10 white corn tortilla's sliced into thin strips, fried in hot oil and drained on paper towel*
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Ranch Dressing


  1. In a large skilled brown the ground beef. Drain off any excess fat. Add the black beans and Taco seasoning. Cook on low heat till well blended together. Remove from heat.
  2. Place all salad toppings and the lettuce into separate containers so that everyone can make their own salad.
  3. Start with lettuce, then meat/bean mixture, then the remaining toppings. Top with Sour Cream, Salsa, dressing and tortilla strips. Enjoy!
  4. *To make tortilla strips, cut tortillas into thin strips. In a medium sauce pan add about 1 inch vegetable oil. Heat till hot enough to fry. Drop a small handful into the oil and stir around with a wooden spoon. Stir constantly.. Once golden remove onto paper towel to drain, and season with salt. Repeat until all the tortilla strips are cooked.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

2 Cups

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 639Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 110mgSodium: 722mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 12gSugar: 3gProtein: 40g

Norine’s Nest in no way provides any warranty, express or implied, towards the content of recipes in this website. It is the reader’s responsibility to determine the value and quality of any recipe or instructions provided for food preparation and to determine the nutritional value, if any, and safety of the preparation instructions.

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Susan tuckett

Tuesday 5th of July 2016

Norine, I love taco salads! But your recipe is a major step up in the flavor department. I never thought to add the beans in the meat mixture. Yummy. I have tried to make the fried chips, time and time again, but failed in getting the right taste and texture. While reading your recipe, I noticed you used "corn" tortillas. What?! I never thought to try that!! Awesome!! Thanks for the recipes. Another one added to my recipe book.

Tuesday 5th of July 2016

Oh Thanks Susan! I do love the beans added to the meat! I'm flattered you added it to your book! ;)

Wendie keene

Tuesday 28th of June 2016

I have also used lean ground turkey and a little bit of jasmine rice for filler to make it go farther. Our family loves this also

Tuesday 28th of June 2016

Great suggestions! Thanks Wendie. I'll have to give that a try next time! :)


Wednesday 22nd of June 2016

Love, taco salads are our go to meal when in a hurry.

Wednesday 22nd of June 2016

They are the perfect "go to" meal when in a hurry and the best part is you know the family is getting a healthy dinner! :) Thanks for popping by Jennifer!

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