With crunchy romaine lettuce, spiced beef (or turkey), radishes, tomatoes, grated cheddar, crushed tortilla chips and a creamy chipotle dressing, this taco salad is a modern, fresh version of a childhood classic.
When I was a kid, taco salad was one of my very favorite summertime meals. Back then, it meant spiced ground beef, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheddar cheese, scallions and Fritos (yep, Fritos). The dressing was made with bottled Thousand Island, taco sauce, and sugar. Oh lordy. It was sweet, crunchy and “fried” with barely enough vegetables to qualify as a salad. To be perfectly honest, if it was in front of me right now I’m sure I would devour it, but I’m also sure that it would make me feel far less than great. I’ve therefore taken the same concept but reconfigured it to my present-day tastes. Guess what: it’s just as crave-worthy!
First, the dressing: I swapped out the saccharine Thousand Island base for a creamy chipotle dressing made with Greek yogurt, a touch of mayonnaise, adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles), honey and lime juice. It’s creamy and balanced, with just a hint of spice. It’s delicious in nearly any salad, as well as over tacos of any variety (shrimp, beef, chicken, vegetable… you name it).
For the salad base, romaine provides crunch, with additional flavor and texture from radishes, grape tomatoes, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and cheddar. Crushed tortilla chips are the pièce de résistance. I originally included homemade tortilla chips in the recipe, but it just wasn’t the same (they can’t match the thin crispiness of store-bought). However, I’ve included my method for making homemade chips below, just in case you want to give them a go!
Homemade Tortilla Chips
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Brush 6 corn tortillas on both sides with olive oil. Stack the tortillas and cut them into 6 wedges. Spread the chips on the baking sheets in a single layer and season with salt. Bake 12-14 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the chips are golden brown around the edges and crisp. Let cool.
Creamy Chipotle Dressing
- 1 garlic clove , peeled
- 1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles)
- 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a mini food processor, add the garlic and process until coarsely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Do Ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground chili powder (blend)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 hearts of Romaine , cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup grape tomatoes , halved
- 4 medium radishes , thinly sliced
- 2 scallions , thinly sliced
- 1 ½ - 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Creamy Chipotle Dressing*
- 2 cups corn tortilla chips
- Hot sauce , for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until almost completely browned. Stir in the chili powder, cumin and coriander. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain off the fat and let cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine the romaine, grape tomatoes, radishes, scallions, cheddar and pepitas. Add the ground beef. Pour the dressing over and toss to coat. Lightly crush the tortilla chips over top, then fold them into the salad. Serve the salad with hot sauce for drizzling.