The Best Easy Taco Salad Recipe

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Learn how to make the best easy taco salad recipe with fun ingredients like Thousand Island dressing and Nacho Cheese Doritos. This Thousand Island taco salad is perfect for potlucks, especially when you need to feed a crowd. Looking for a great easy main dish salad recipe to serve at your next gathering? You’re in the right place!

My Taco Salad Backstory

When I was growing up, my dear mom always tried to get me to eat tossed salads. I’m still not a big fan, but there are a few tossed salads I will always eat. Here are a few: Berry mandarin tossed salad , walnut pear salad, and taco salad. Over the years, the recipe has been refined, and today I’m offering the latest version to you. Read on to learn the secrets to making the best easy taco salad recipe.

The Best Taco salad Recipe you will ever make Pinterest image


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One of the Best Camping Salads: A Family Camping Tradition

When I was growing up, we would often eat this taco salad recipe with Doritos and Thousand Island dressing when camping. This was one of the best taco salad recipes because it was easy to prepare, and the ingredients were simple. Fast forward to when I had kids, and it became a family favorite of theirs as well. I still like to make it when camping, but now I’ve added a few simple shortcuts. I’ve also adjusted the recipe to fit individual preferences. This easy taco salad can be customized to fit a variety of tastes and dietary needs.

Best Easy Taco Salad Equipment

The main thing you will need to make this easy taco salad with Doritos and Thousand Island dressing is a nice, large bowl, ideally with a lid for easy transport. One of my favorite big bowls is this covered, latching plastic bowl with a handle on the lid. When I am carrying dinner to the table outside when we are camping, the handle enables me to carry more than just the salad. My bowl is similar to these.

You will also need a large spoon for stirring and serving the taco salad, as well as a knife and a cutting board for chopping the lettuce and tomatoes. If you do not have pre-shredded cheese, you will need a cheese grater.

Best Easy Taco Salad Ingredients

1/2 to 1 pound ground beef, browned, or leftover taco meat

1 head of lettuce, chopped

2 or 3 medium-sized tomatoes

1 15-ounce can kidney beans

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

8 ounces (about half a bottle) of Thousand Island with Bacon salad dressing (more or less to taste)

1 9 and 3/4 ounce bag of nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips (Doritos is our favorite brand), crushed and divided (yes, the whole bag)

1/2 cup chopped olives (optional)

1/2 cup chopped green onions (optional)

How to Make Taco Salad with Ground Beef

Brown ground beef in a skillet, drain off fat and set aside. Alternatively, you could just add a container of pre-cooked ground meat mix, thawed. I wrote about cooking meat ahead of time and you’ll find the ground meat mix in my favorite kitchen shortcuts post.

Cooking the ground beef for the best easy taco salad
I had some meat mix ready to use, so I just warmed the meat up in the skillet.

If you do need to brown ground beef, put the other salad ingredients together while it’s cooking to save time.

Chop one head of lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Put the lettuce into a large salad bowl.

Chop the tomatoes and add them to the salad bowl.

Open the can of kidney beans, rinse and drain in a colander. Add to the salad bowl.

Add the cooked ground beef or ground meat mix.

Grate the cheddar cheese and add to the salad bowl.

Open the bag of Doritos tortilla chips and crush them in the bag. Keep squeezing the bag until chips are the size you want.

easy taco salad tortilla chips divided
The best easy taco salad recipe includes dividing the tortilla chips. Some go in the salad, some are on the side.

Add one half of the bag to the salad bowl. Reserve the other half of the bag in a separate bowl for topping the salad later.

easy taco salad ready to be tossed
The best easy taco salad ready to be tossed

Toss all of the ingredients together until mixed. Add the salad dressing and stir until all of the salad has been coated.

best easy taco salad recipe complete
Completed taco salad: When making it for the photo shoot I omitted the beans. It just works out better that way in our family.
The Best Easy Taco Salad Recipe You Will Ever Make featured image

The Best Easy Taco Salad

The best easy taco salad recipe you will ever make has simple ingredients and some shortcuts to cut down on prep time. It can be ready in 20 minutes!
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 280 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ½-1 pound ground beef browned, or leftover taco meat
  • 1 head lettuce chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces Thousand Island with Bacon dressing more or less to taste
  • ounces bag of nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips crushed and divided
  • ½ cup chopped olives optional
  • ½ cup chopped green onions optional

Instructions
 

  • Brown ground beef in a skillet, drain off fat and set aside. Put the other salad ingredients together while it’s cooking to save time.
  • Chop one head of lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Put the lettuce into a large salad bowl.
  • Chop the tomatoes and add them to the salad bowl.
  • Open the can of kidney beans, rinse and drain in a colander. Add to the salad bowl.
  • Add the cooked ground beef.
  • Grate the cheddar cheese and add to the salad bowl.
  • Open the bag of tortilla chips and crush them in the bag. Keep squeezing the bag until chips are the size you want.
  • Add one half of the bag to the salad bowl. Reserve the other half of the bag in a separate bowl for topping the salad later.
  • Toss all of the ingredients together until mixed. Add the salad dressing and stir until all of the salad has been coated.
Keyword easy recipes, salads

How to Save Time When Making Taco Salad

I already noted my shortcut of adding in ground meat mix to this Thousand Island taco salad. Another favorite shortcut is to use pre-shredded cheese. If you are very short on time, you could use a large container of pre-washed salad mix instead of the head of lettuce.

best easy taco salad

How to Make Taco Salad and Keep it Crispy

Although we are fond of making taco salad with Thousand Island dressing, lately we have been serving the salad dressing on the side. We have discovered that one of the best ways to avoid soggy taco salad leftovers is to add the dressing after putting the taco salad on your plate. Another thing we have been doing to keep the leftover cold taco salad fresh and crisp is to keep the tomatoes separate. Just as you could add the Thousand Island to taco salad after serving it on your plate, you can add the chopped tomatoes after serving yourself as well. Now that my husband and I are empty-nesters, we often have leftover taco salad for two or three days. By adding the Thousand Island dressing and tomatoes later, we have been able to enjoy a much better leftover taco salad experience.

What is the Best Taco Salad Dressing to Use With Taco Salad?

If you are wondering what dressing goes on taco salad with Doritos, let me clue you in to a little secret. I made this discovery by accident. In a hurry, as usual, I went to the store to buy Thousand Island dressing, and grabbed the Thousand Island dressing with bacon by mistake. I realized it after I arrived home and didn’t feel like driving back into town, as we live a few miles out. Oh my goodness! That was one of the best mistakes I ever made. If you haven’t ever tried it, I encourage you to give it a whirl. Some people use Catalina dressing in taco salad, but my very favorite is now Thousand Island with Bacon. Of course, if you can’t find Thousand Island with Bacon, regular Thousand Island dressing is fine as well.

What Goes Well with Taco Salad?

The best easy taco salad recipe goes well with garlic bread or cornbread. If you like to make homemade rolls, it’s great with those as well. If you prefer regular French or Italian bread without the garlic, those are excellent choices.

Should Taco Salad be Warm or Cold?

Usually, when I make taco salad and serve it for dinner, it gets eaten immediately. It’s usually warm because we can’t wait to eat it. However, if there is some left, it’s delicious cold as well when eaten as leftovers.

Making Taco Salad For a Crowd

The recipe can be doubled, but I would recommend mixing it in two large salad bowls. How nice that these large salad bowls, very similar to the one I use, come in a set of two.

If you decide to double the recipe, it would be easier to mix each salad separately. In fact, if your crowd is very large, you can do as many bowls as you wish. After you mix the salad, you could always combine the separate bowls into a huge serving bowl if needed.

Can Taco Salad be Made Ahead of Time?

You can definitely make this best easy taco salad recipe ahead of time. If you make it a few hours in advance, the lettuce should still be fairly crisp. That’s why it’s so nice to take to summer picnics and potlucks. It holds up well in transport, and everyone seems to like it. As long as you reserve some tortilla chips in a separate container for topping when served, the salad will retain its crunch. You could also, as noted above, keep the Thousand Island dressing and chopped tomatoes separate for picnic guests to add later when the salad is served. Just keep the tomatoes and Thousand Island dressing on the side.

Variations to Please Family Members

Originally, when I was growing up, we only crushed about half of a bag of Doritos tortilla chips. We added them all to the salad. They were still crunchy when we ate the salad right away. When we ate the leftovers the next day, the chips were soggy. This bothered some of my family members. They did not like soggy chips. That’s when I started using the whole bag of chips and reserving half for each person to add as a topping if desired. You can never have too many Doritos tortilla chips, right? Everyone was happy!

The next variation is to leave the beans out. Sometimes we serve them on the side for people to add as they wish. Sometimes we forget about them entirely. The nice thing about this recipe is that it does lend itself well to customization.

You can also customize the cheese blend or tortilla chip flavor. Monterey Jack cheese is tasty, and if you ever see taco-flavored chips, you might want to try those.

Gluten Free Taco Salad

If you are serving guests who prefer to eat a gluten free menu, just mix the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and ground beef together (beans as well, if you are using them). Keep the crushed Doritos on the side, as well as the Thousand Island dressing, just in case there is something in the dressing that the guest is sensitive to.

Dairy Free Taco Salad

We once had a guest who was sensitive to gluten and dairy. The solution was simple. I just mixed the lettuce, tomatoes, and ground beef together and kept everything else on the side. That way, everyone could customize their own taco salad as they wished. I offered all of the options, including Doritos, Thousand Island dressing, and cheese, but did not mix them in ahead of time. Everyone was happy.

Are You Now Craving the Best Easy Taco Salad Recipe?

Are you thinking of making it sometime soon? I am going to make it tonight. If you have any favorite salad recipes, I’d enjoy knowing about them. Maybe I will become a salad eater after all. If you try this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you let me know how it went. I’m always interested in your variations, ideas, and suggestions. Other favorite salad recipes for reluctant salad eaters you might enjoy include easy seafood salad, berry mandarin tossed salad, chicken, avocado, corn, and bacon salad, easy potato salad, and easy chicken, cabbage ramen salad.

More Meal Inspiration

It’s always nice to have a plan when it comes to meals. If you’re looking for a way to get more organized with your menu ideas, I’ve got something for you. Free, editable meal planners! The templates can be used over and over, as often as you need them. You can make as many duplicates as you like, and you’ll be able to save old meal plans for future reference. I hope it simplifies things for you.

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If you would like even more recipe ideas, consider following my Easy Recipes board on Pinterest. Have a fabulous day, and have a good time making salads.

First Name Signature Conclusion

Lisa Mitchell is a wife, mom, and school librarian who likes to create and share recipes, often using fresh ingredients from her family’s small Pacific Northwest farm. To get more easy recipes, click on over to the Food page.

Want more great garden, food, or travel ideas? Follow FluxingWell on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and X for the latest posts, tips, and inspiration.

25 thoughts on “The Best Easy Taco Salad Recipe”

  1. 5 stars
    Tacos are a favorite in our home. I’ve tried taco salad before with broken shells, but now I have this recipe to rely on!!! I know it will be a hit. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • You are most welcome! I would love to know what your family thinks of this family favorite.

      Reply
  2. 5 stars
    Great recipe! So easy to make and the whole family will love it! Thank you

    Reply
    • You are most welcome! I love to make this taco salad recipe for many occasions.

      Reply
  3. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing this easy taco salad recipe, Lisa! I love tacos but have never thought about a salad. I love your tips and meal recipes!

    Reply
    • Oh, thank you so much. This taco salad recipe is the one salad my kids would look forward to eating.=)

      Reply
  4. I love taco salad, one of my go-to meals when I was hungry for salad. Can you substitute dressing for this recipe, My son is a picky eater.

    Reply
    • Yes, if there is a certain dressing your son prefers, definitely substitute his favorite dressing. You could also serve the salad without dressing and have everyone add their own.

      Reply
  5. Yum! Tacos seem to show up on our dinner table several times every month. We like Taco Tuesdays. They are easy, and delicious! No one at my house can say no to a good taco or taco salad.

    Reply
    • I share in your enthusiasm for all things taco-related!

      Reply
  6. I love tacos! We recently made some at home. We branched off and got more adventurous. Instead of buying an easy and ready to go kit, we bought all the ingredients separate and purchased taco seasoning. We used black beans in place of meat and had a vegan cheese. The idea of a taco salad sounds really fun and easy! We will have to try this next!

    Reply
    • Great! If you ever want to share your vegan adaptations of this recipe or any recipe, just let me know and I’ll link back to your blog.

      Reply
  7. I love Mexican food! Can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! Thanks for the enthusiastic response.

      Reply
  8. This sounds good and so easy to throw together! This is the one type of salad my kids can get into. Thank you for sharing your recipe. I’m always looking for something the whole family will enjoy.

    Reply
    • I hope they will enjoy it. Thanks for the kind words.

      Reply
  9. 5 stars
    Taco + salad = perfection! Thanks for sharing this recipe! This is the best of both worlds.

    Reply
    • You are very welcome! I’m glad you like the post.

      Reply
  10. Love Taco Salads! It is one of my favorite Keto meals. I skip the chips and the salad dressing to lower my carb count. Great macro nutrients! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the keto tips! I’ll have to try your keto version sometime.

      Reply
  11. 5 stars
    We love taco salad! We’ve never tossed it in pre-crushed chips before or used thousand island dressing! Love those ideas! Pre-crushed chips are also the best way to eat chili pie too! This is so easy and sounds delicious- we will definitely try it!

    Reply
    • Great! If you do try it, I’d love to know what you think.

      Reply
  12. This looks fantastic. I would have never thought to put Thousand Island dressing in a taco salad, very interesting! I will have to give this one a try.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the positive words! You share awesome recipes, so your praise means a lot to me.

      Reply
  13. 5 stars
    Such an easy recipe! I know I will make it often.

    Reply

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