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. One is the berry mandarin tossed salad I wrote about, and the other is 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.
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Family Camping Tradition
We would often eat taco salad when camping. It was easy to prepare, and the ingredients were simple. Fast forward to when I had kids, and it became a family favorite. 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 preferences.
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, crushed and divided (yes, the whole bag)
How to Make Taco Salad
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.
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 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.
The Best Easy Taco Salad
- 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
- 9¾ ounces bag of nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips crushed and divided
- 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.
How to Save Time When Making Taco Salad
I already noted my shortcut of adding in ground meat mix. 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.
What is the Best Dressing to Use With Taco Salad?
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. 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. The one I usually make our taco salad in is the Tupperware 26-cup capacity size, marked with a “V” on the bottom.
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.
Variations to Please Family Members
Originally, when I was growing up, we only crushed about half of a bag of 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 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.
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.
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