Monday, May 20, 2024

Make-Ahead Taco Salad – Fit Foodie Finds


Taco salad is great and all, but doesn’t it drive you crazy when all the good stuff sinks to the bottom of your bowl? Not with this Make-Ahead Taco Salad!

In this easy taco salad recipe, we add the salad ingredients and creamy dressing first before adding the romaine. When you’re ready to serve, tip the bowl upside down so all the dressing coats the lettuce and everything’s nicely mixed together. Your boring bites of plain lettuce are officially over.

A vibrant taco salad with ground meat, mixed greens, tomatoes, cheese, corn, black beans, and crispy tortilla strips, served with a creamy dressing on the side.

Featured Comment

I put the Make-Ahead Taco Salad together this morning to serve tonight for dinner. It was absolutely DELICIOUS with minimal prep! I’ll definitely be making this recipe again. Another tasty recipe from the FFF team!– Kari

I LOVE this make-ahead taco salad not only because it’s designed to give you the perfect ratio of toppings to lettuce in every bite but also because it makes meal prep a breeze. With this tipping method, you can easily pack this tasty salad for lunch or bring it to a potluck without worrying about it getting soggy.

Just cook and season your taco meat mixture, let it cool, assemble your layered taco salad, and refrigerate for up to two days. Then, when you’re ready to eat, tip, top, and enjoy! 

What’s in Make-Ahead Taco Salad

  • Ground beef: We used lean ground beef. It adds protein and a great meaty flavor to the salad.
  • Taco seasoning: To make things simple, we used a packet of taco seasoning. But you’re welcome to make homemade taco seasoning if you’d like!
  • Creamy cilantro dressing: For the salad dressing, we used Trader Joe’s brand of creamy cilantro dressing. It’s our FAVE!
  • Canned black beans: Canned beans are super convenient and up the nutrition of this salad.
  • Frozen corn: We like to use frozen sweet corn because it’s easy to defrost and adds a nice sweetness to the salad.
  • Canned jalapeños: Kick up the heat with some canned jalapeños! Feel free to skip if you don’t like things hot.
  • Shredded cheddar cheese: We recommend thick-cut shredded cheese to give this salad some extra texture.
  • Romaine lettuce: Crisp lettuce is a must for this delicious salad. It doesn’t wilt as quickly as other varieties of lettuce, which is super crucial if you’re making this ahead of time.
  • Tortilla strips: Add some crunchy tortilla strips or make your own by crumbling tortilla chips or frying up tortilla strips.
A ceramic dish containing a creamy mixture topped with thinly sliced red onions.

Tasty Swaps & Mix-Ins

Everyone has their own favorite taco toppings, so feel free to mix and match ingredients in this taco salad recipe. Some great additions or swaps include:

Dressing: Feel free to make a homemade dressing. This avocado cilantro dressing is perfect for this easy salad!

Meat: We used ground beef, but feel free to use ground turkey, ground chicken, or a veggie ground. 

Cheese: This great recipe has been tested with both queso fresco and cheddar cheese. Use whichever cheese you prefer. 

Heat: If you want your salad to be spicy, use canned jalapeños. If you’d like a more mild flavor, use canned green chilis. 

A baking dish with black beans, cherry tomatoes, and sliced onions, ready for cooking.A baking dish with black beans, cherry tomatoes, and sliced onions, ready for cooking.

Our Top Tips for this Make-Ahead Taco Salad

  • Make sure you use a large bowl or casserole dish with a lid. This is important because you need enough space to layer the ingredients and then tip it upside down when serving.
  • Pack the lettuce tightly. You want to really pack the fresh lettuce into the bowl, so it holds its shape when you turn it upside down.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve. This taco salad can be made up to 2 days in advance, but make sure to refrigerate it until you’re ready to eat. This keeps everything fresh and crisp.
A baking dish with layers of ground beef, corn, and shredded cheese.A baking dish with layers of ground beef, corn, and shredded cheese.

How to Store

Because of its tipping nature, this beef taco salad doesn’t store well once it’s been served. But if you have leftovers before serving, here are our recommendations for storage: 

  • In the bowl: If you have leftovers in the large bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • In smaller containers: If you’ve already served some of the salad, transfer the leftovers into airtight containers. You can keep these in the fridge for 1-2 days.
A colorful mixed salad with various greens, nuts, cheese, and tomatoes served in a large green dish with wooden serving utensils.A colorful mixed salad with various greens, nuts, cheese, and tomatoes served in a large green dish with wooden serving utensils.

What to Serve with Make-Ahead Taco Salad

This delicious taco salad recipe has enough protein and veggies to be a main dish but can also be served in smaller portions as a side. 

It would taste fantastic with chips and Homemade Guacamole or some delicious Grilled Mexican Street Corn. And for my vegetarian friends, these Vegetarian Mexican Potato Skins would make a great addition to your taco Tuesday dinner.

A colorful taco salad with lettuce, tomatoes, ground beef, cheese, and black beans served in a rectangular dish with wooden serving utensils.

Make-Ahead Taco Salad Recipe

This make-ahead taco salad makes meal prep a breeze! Simply assemble the salad, refrigerate, and tip it upside down when you’re ready to eat for perfectly mixed bites every time.

Prep:25 minutes

Cook:7 minutes

Total:32 minutes

Fat 30

Carbs 24

Protein 19

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 cup creamy cilantro dressing we used Trader Joe’s brand*
  • ½ small red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • 15 oz. canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 10 oz. frozen corn thawed
  • 2 oz. canned jalapenos or green chiles drained
  • 1 cup thick-cut shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup tortilla strips

Instructions 

  • Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add the ground beef and break it up with a spatula. Cook the beef down for 3-4 minutes, then add the taco seasoning and 2 tablespoons of water. Continue to cook the beef until completely cooked, about 3-4 minutes.

  • Remove the beef from heat and transfer it to a plate to cool. You do not want to add the beef to the salad while warm, so be sure the beef cools completely.

  • Assemble the salad in a large salad bowl with a cover. Add the dressing to the bottom of the bowl. Next (in this order), add the red onion, cherry tomatoes, black beans, corn, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, ground beef, romaine, cilantro, and tortilla strips. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

  • When ready to serve, remove the cover from the bowl and quickly flip the salad on top of a large salad platter or bowl. Toss and serve immediately.

Tips & Notes

  • Feel free to make a homemade dressing. This avocado cilantro dressing is perfect for this salad.
  • We used ground beef, but feel free to use ground turkey, chicken, or a veggie ground.
  • This recipe has been tested with both queso fresco and cheddar cheese. Use whichever cheese you prefer.
  • If you want your salad to be spicy, use canned jalapeños. If you’d like a more mild flavor, use canned chilis.

Nutrition facts

Calories: 438kcal Carbohydrates: 24g Protein: 19g Fat: 30g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 3g

Photography: photos taken in this post are by Ashley McGlaughlin from The Edible Perspective.



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