Taco Salad


This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy.

Jump to RecipeJump to Video

A taco salad is the perfect summer salad with a fresh Mexican twist. It’s healthy, easy to make, and layered with all the good stuff — chopped lettuce, seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, red onion, black beans, and avocado — with plenty of room for customization. 

A big bowl of taco salad.
Photo: Gayle McLeod

Why You’ll Love This Taco Salad

Taco salads have gained in popularity thanks to fast food restaurants like Wendy’s and Taco Bell, but this homemade version is simply better! I also love that you can transform a classic ground beef taco into completely different meals, like my taco soup and this taco salad, depending on the season. Here’s a few more reasons why I love this recipe:

  • It’s light yet filling. I love my salad greens as much as I love tacos, so this salad is the perfect way to mesh the two together for a healthy lunch or dinner that’s light yet filling.
  • It’s endlessly customizable. Mexican cuisine serves up many fresh toppings to choose from. So have fun with it! I’ve got plenty of ideas below, including vegetarian options.
  • You can meal prep it for the week. Just prep and store the ingredients separately and toss them together when you’re ready to eat. That way each meal is fresh every time. 
Ingredients for taco salad.

Taco Salad Recipe Ingredients

  • A leafy green base: A sturdy and crunchy base is ideal for the amount of toppings you’ll be adding. Romaine or iceberg lettuce are my go-to’s. But other hearty greens such as radicchio or green leaf lettuce will also work.
  • Seasoned ground beef: I’m using lean ground beef today, but you can also use ground chicken or turkey. The most important thing is to season the meat with my homemade taco seasoning for that unmistakable taco flavor!
  • Fresh toppings: It’s not a taco salad without tomatoes, black beans, avocado, onion, homemade salsa, and shredded cheese. But you can also add corn, radishes, jalapeños, bell peppers, guacamole, or crumbled tortilla chips. And to add a bit of creaminess, dollop sour cream or drizzle lime crema or chipotle sauce
Cooked ground beef in a pan.

How To Make Taco Salad

  • First, cook the meat. In a pan over medium-high heat, add the ground beef. Break it up into small bits and sauté for about 8 to 10 minutes until it’s mostly browned. Then drain any fat.
  • Season the meat. Add the taco seasoning and mix everything together for another minute or two.
  • Assemble the salad. Add the chopped lettuce to the bottom of a bowl. Then, layer the ground beef, beans, tomatoes, cheese, red onion, and avocado. And for the final touches, dollop the homemade salsa, sour cream, a squirt of lime juice, and a few leaves of fresh cilantro.
Making a taco salad in a bowl.

Ingredient Substitutions

Feel free to customize this taco salad to your liking! Here are a few ideas:

  • Different protein options: You can top it with carnitas, carne asada, barbacoa, or salsa verde chicken
  • Vegan mushroom walnut option: Sauté diced mushrooms and walnuts in a pan for 4 to 6 minutes. Then, stir in some tamari and taco seasoning, which gives it a savory and smoky flavor.
  • Vegan lentil option: Cook two cups of lentils. Sauté diced onion in a pan and add the lentils with a bit of water. Toss everything in taco seasoning until it’s well coated. Add in a bit more water if the lentils start to dry out.
  • Whole30 option: Make this salad Whole30-friendly by leaving off the chips and cheese. Then, swap sour cream for cashew sour cream.

Storage Tips

You can prep many of the ingredients in advance (such as the ground beef, salsa, taco seasoning, diced red onion, and beans) and then create a buffet-style salad bar. These items can be stored in individual containers in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Then, the rest can come straight from the fridge and be prepped in under 10 minutes.

A close up of a taco salad.

More Mexican-Inspired Recipes

I can’t wait for you to try this taco salad recipe! If you make it, I’d love your feedback in the comment box below. Your review will help other readers in the community!

A white bowl of taco salad next to limes.

Taco Salad Recipe

5 from 25 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


This taco salad is the perfect summer salad with a fresh Mexican twist. Plus, it's much healthier than one you'd get at a fast food restaurant like Wendy's or Taco Bell – homemade is best! Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen.




For The Beef

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For The Salad

  • 1 head romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • ½ cup salsa
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • Optional: tortilla chips


  • Cook the ground beef. In a pan over medium-high heat, add the ground beef and break it into small pieces with your spatula. Cook for about 8 minutes or until it starts to brown. Then drain the fat from the beef.
    Cooked ground beef in a skillet.
  • Add taco seasoning. Add in the taco seasoning, stir everything, and cook for another minute or two.
    Cooked ground beef in a skillet.
  • Assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, layer the chopped lettuce with browned beef, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, and cheese.
    Layering a taco salad in a bowl.
  • Add toppings. Dollop some salsa, sour cream, a squeeze of lime juice, and cilantro leaves on top. If you'd like, serve with tortilla chips.
    A white bowl of taco salad with tortilla chips.

Lisa’s Tips

  • The nutrition info above is for four large and hearty portions. But you could easily get six smaller salads out of this recipe. 
  • To store for the week: You can prep many of the ingredients in advance (such as the ground beef, salsa, taco seasoning, diced red onion, and beans) and then create a buffet-style salad bar. These items can be stored in individual containers in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Then, the rest can come straight from the fridge and be prepped in under 10 minutes.


Calories: 522kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 92mg | Sodium: 497mg | Potassium: 1309mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 14461IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 182mg | Iron: 5mg
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Taco Salad, Taco Salad Recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally posted June 2020, but updated to include new information and photos for your benefit!

You May Also Like

About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before appearing on the site. Thank you for sharing your feedback!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. I love this salad from Downshiftology! I’ve made it with ground beef & also with chicken! I add cilantro from my patio garden this time of year & my homemade guacamole. Delicious! Thank you Lisa for another great recipe!5 stars

  2. I made it tonight. I loved it! It’s so simple yet delicious!!
    I have tried some of your recipes and for some reason I kept forgetting to post a comment.
    Thanks Lisa for sharing so many delicious and healthy recipes!

  3. This is really TASTY! I thought my taco recipe was good this blew it out of the water, Thank you so much for sharing this incredible recipe,5 stars

  4. Just made the taco salad and lime crema today… wow! I have really been enjoying all the videos. Who knew cooking healthier could be so tasty. Thank you.

  5. I’ve made this twice so far and it’s sooooo good!!!  I’m new this site but have been loving all the recipes and videos.  Thank you for the wonderful recipe. 5 stars

  6. Made this and it was actually the first recipe I ever made from downshiftology . This how I got hooked !! So easy to make and delicious. Just didn’t add the chips cause I try to stick to low carb . Love love this salad 🥗 5 stars

    1. Glad you enjoyed your very first recipe on the site! This one’s definitely a keeper for your salad rotation :)

  7. Thanks Lisa! My family loves it. It’s very healthy and tasty. All your recipes have been very helpful and amazing.5 stars

  8. Made this for some hungry teenagers and got rave reviews. I love the pick and mix concept of taco’s. And I love it even more that it is fresh and healthy. This recipe will be on repeat!5 stars

  9. I can’t believe how good this was. I used the mushroom/nut mix for a vegetarian option. If I didn’t know better, I would swear it was ground beef! Delicious, thank you!5 stars

  10. No surprise that I loved everything about this! I made the mushroom and walnut “meat” option and I’ll be using this on actual tacos or anything else that calls for ground meat whenever I feel the need to take a meat break.
    I’m looking forward to the leftovers.5 stars

  11. Perfect for a quick and easy dinner! My whole family loved it, even the kids. PS- your pictures are gorgeous.5 stars

  12. That is one beautifully presented taco salad and how perfect for Taco Tuesdays! Love the many layers of flavors here, too!5 stars

  13. I’ve recently found your site through a friend of mine, I am so glad! My kiddos and I made this together! We have been spending a lot more time in the kitchen lately and its so fun. They really enjoyed making this recipe but they enjoyed eating it even more! Thanks for this delish creation, we are adding it to our “make again” list!!5 stars

    1. Hi Cindy- So glad you discovered Downshiftology and that you enjoyed this recipe with your kids :)