Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

Prep: 15 mins

Cook: 10 mins

Total: 25 mins

Servings: 6 servings (serving size: about 2 1/4 cups)

Yield: 13 1/2 cups

Taco salad, much like 7-layer dip, is one of those dishes that feels like it has just always existed and yet feels strangely removed from its origins. It doesn’t resemble any self-respecting taco, and most versions of the dish don’t look like salad either.

Where Did Taco Salad Come From?

Perhaps the reason why this dish is so peculiar and yet so delicious is because it was invented in the cultural vortex of Disneyland. According to Gustavo Arellano, author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” the dish first appeared at Casa de Fritos, a Disneyland restaurant owned by the founder of the Fritos brand, Elmer Doolin.

The original dish was labeled “Ta-cups” and consisted of a cup made of Fritos that was filled with ground beef, cheese, beans, and sour cream. Over time, the dish morphed into what we think of as taco salad, a giant pile of seasoned ground beef and Mexican-coded ingredients like corn and avocado, given the “salad” moniker for the addition of romaine lettuce.

What Ingredients Are in Taco Salad?

Taco salads vary, and you can take a lot of creative license with the ingredients you choose to add or omit. But our taco salad includes ground beef flavored with taco seasoning, charred corn, romaine lettuce, black beans, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, tortilla chips, onion, and avocado.

To liven up this mix, we whip up a simple lime and honey dressing, but you can substitute another dressing, prepared or homemade. Catalina dressing, Thousand Island, or ranch dressing are all good options.

How Do You Make Taco Salad?

With only 15 minutes of prep, taco salad is a fantastic weeknight option or an easy dish to meal prep. First, we blacken corn kernels in a skillet. Then, in the same skillet, we brown the ground beef and add taco seasoning for flavor. 

The dressing is shaken up in a jar (this saves an extra bowl from getting dirty) and then it’s all just tossing and serving.

 Tips for Making Taco Salad

  • Make your dressing in a jar—Measuring the dressing ingredients straight into a small jar with a tight-fitting lid is the easiest way to make a salad dressing without creating a bunch of dishes. If you don’t have a spare jar on hand, just use a bowl and whisk. 
  • Use cast-iron for char—A cast-iron skillet is a great way to get a quick char on your vegetables, like the corn in this recipe.
  • Homemade taco seasoning—You can use your favorite store-bought taco seasoning in this recipe, or make your own.
  • Make ahead—The dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated in the jar for up to 1 week. You can make the salad (without dressing) and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days

“People went bananas for this in the test kitchen! It’s fresh, incredibly flavorful, filling, and has a lovely charred flavor from the corn and beef. I love the addition of the tortilla chips for the crunch and salinity. The sweet and tangy dressing is a great counterpart to the intensely flavored meat.”—The Spruce Eats Test Kitchen

Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Salad

  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn), or drained canned corn kernels

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil

  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 85/15)

  • 1 (1-ounce) envelope taco seasoning mix

  • 2 romaine lettuce hearts, coarsely chopped (about 7 cups)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 3 sweet mini peppers, thinly sliced into rounds (about 1 cup)

  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) pre-shredded Mexican 3-cheese blend

  • 3/4 cup coarsely crushed tortilla chips

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced, optional

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and chopped

For the Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive or avocado oil

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Salad

  1. Gather the ingredients

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

  2. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high for 4 minutes. Add 1 cup corn kernels and cook, undisturbed, until the kernels start to blister and char, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir and continue to cook until lightly charred all over, about 2 more minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

  3. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 teaspoon canola oil. Add 1 pound ground beef and cook, stirring to crumble, until the meat is mostly browned with a few pink bits, about 4 minutes.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

  4. Add the contents of 1 envelope of taco seasoning and cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is fully coated in seasonings and no longer pink, 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a medium bowl.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

  5. Combine 2 romaine hearts, coarsely chopped, 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed, 3 sweet mini peppers, thinly sliced into rounds, 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes, 3/4 cup shredded Mexican 3-cheese blend, 3/4 cup crushed tortilla chips, 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion, and 1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced, if using, in a large bowl.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

  6. Add the blistered corn, 1 avocado, pitted and chopped, and the cooked beef; toss to combine.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

Prepare the Dressing and Assemble the Salad

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

  2. Combine 1/2 cup olive or avocado oil, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt in a small jar with a lid. Shake until opaque, about 20 seconds.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

  3. Drizzle the dressing over the salad in a large bowl to fully coat. Serve immediately.

    Easy Taco Salad With Ground Beef

Feeling Adventurous? Try This:

  • Bean swap—Use pinto beans instead of black beans.
  • Frozen corn—Use frozen corn instead of fresh. No need to thaw the corn before charring it, though it may take longer to cook.
  • Change up the cheese—Use cotija or queso fresco crumbles instead of shredded Mexican blend cheese.
  • Pick pico—Use pico de gallo instead of cherry tomatoes and red onion.
  • Protein options—Ground turkey, chicken, or a plant-based ground beef substitute instead of beef.
  • Bring in pickles—Use pickled red onions instead of fresh.
  • Guac makes everything better—Add a dollop of guac instead of chopped avocado.
  • Add sour cream—There’s nothing wrong with adding a big dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt on top of each serving.
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 728
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 52g 66%
Saturated Fat 14g 70%
Cholesterol 90mg 30%
Sodium 816mg 35%
Total Carbohydrate 37g 14%
Dietary Fiber 12g 42%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 33g
Vitamin C 49mg 247%
Calcium 262mg 20%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 1088mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


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