This Taco Salad recipe is so easy, so hearty, and so flavorful! Featuring ground turkey and black beans, this is a bit of a healthier take on taco salad, which usually features ground beef. This taco salad is packed with lean protein and nutrient-packed black beans, without skimping on flavor. Especially with the creamy avocado cilantro dressing drizzled on top! If you’re looking for a dinner salad the whole family will love, look no further.
I love a good dinner salad, especially in the summer. This recipe does require some more cooking than your typical salad, but it’s worth it. I personally cook some tortilla strips from scratch (which is super easy to do), though you can certainly use any tortilla chip you like. And the ground turkey, browned with taco seasoning and the black beans, only takes a few minutes to cook.
This taco salad features layers of cool, crunchy iceberg lettuce (which I personally love and think it often gets a bad rap), tomato, cheese, cilantro and onion, and the crunchy tortilla strips and warm, savory turkey and beans, all drizzled with the creamy tangy dressing. You’ll love all the different things going on in this easy recipe!
Ingredients in Taco Salad and Substitutions
- Ground Turkey – you can use ground chicken or ground beef here if you prefer, or omit and use extra black beans for a vegetarian option.
- Black beans – or another kind of bean like pinto.
- Iceberg Lettuce – or another crunchy, light tasting lettuce like romaine.
- Corn Tortillas – to make homemade crunchy tortilla strips (or, just use store-bought tortilla chips! More on that below.).
- Taco Seasoning – I use a homemade taco seasoning blend, but you can use store-bought, or another spice blend of choice.
- Cheddar Cheese – or other shredded cheese of choice, or use a vegan substitute or omit for a dairy-free option.
- Tomato – I used cherry, but any kind will do.
- Red Onion – or sweet onion.
- Cilantro – you can omit this if cilantro isn’t your thing.
- Sour Cream – or Greek yogurt, for the dressing (you can omit it for a dairy-free/vegan option, more on this below).
- Lime Juice
- Hot Sauce – this is optional for the dressing. I used Frank’s. Cayenne pepper will also work for a spicy kick, or a fresh jalapeño!
How to Make a Taco Salad with Ground Turkey and Black Beans
First, you’ll make the tortilla strips. Sure, you can use store-bought tortilla chips if you want, but the homemade are easy and taste amazing! Just cut corn tortillas into strips, pan-fry in some oil until golden brown, then remove to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Try to leave as much oil as possible in the skillet when you remove them, because you’ll use it to cook the turkey and beans next!
Now, cook the turkey and beans. In the same skillet with the oil, add ground turkey, a drained and rinsed can of black beans, and taco seasoning. Break it apart with a wooden spoon (or this handy meat masher that works like a charm!) until the turkey is fully cooked. Then, add a little water and stir it in- this will make a bit of a sauce that will thicken slightly as it reduces and cools.
Make the dressing. Just add avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and salt to a blender or food processor. Once it’s smooth, add some water until it’s a “drizzle-able” consistency for your salad.
Finally, layer all the parts of your taco salad! You can do this individually in salad bowls or plates, or all together on a large platter to serve family-style.
What to do with leftovers
If you have leftovers, you can use it to make tacos or quesadillas! I just put some of the turkey mixture on a tortilla, topped with cheese, and popped the whole thing in the microwave. Then I added some of the leftover sauce and some of the iceberg lettuce, and added some cilantro and onion on top. It was a fun way to enjoy the leftovers that felt a little different.
Do I REALLY have to make my own tortilla strips from scratch?
No. Do what you want here. Bust out that bag of tortilla chips you bought at the store and crumble them on top and make your life easy! Or… dare I suggest… using crumbled Doritos in this taco salad?
Other recipes you’ll love
- One-Pot Taco Pasta (a good way to use that taco seasoning!)
- Taco Stuffed Mini Peppers (also with ground turkey and black beans)
- Mango Avocado Salad with Blackened Tofu (which uses a very similar dressing as this taco salad)
- Deconstructed Wedge Salad (perfect if you have extra iceberg lettuce)
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Easy Taco Salad with Ground Turkey
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil of choice
- 4 corn tortillas cut into strips
- 1 lb. ground turkey or ground chicken or beef, or extra black beans for vegetarian (see notes)
- 15 oz. canned black beans drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning see notes
- 2 tablespoons water plus more if needed
- 4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce about 1 small head, or romaine
- 4 oz. cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese or something similar, shredded
- 1 large tomato diced
- ½ cup diced red onion from about ½ of a medium onion
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional, see notes)
For the Dressing
- ¼ cup sour cream or Greek Yogurt, or Mexican Crema
- 2 tablespoons lime juice from about 1 lime
- ½ large avocado or one whole small avocado
- a few dashes hot sauce depending on spice level preferences
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves (optional, see notes)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- water, as needed to thin out dressing so it can be poured
- In a large heavy skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium heat. Add the 4 corn tortillas, cut into strips, and fry until golden brown crispy, flipping with a spatula every so often. Keep an eye on them as once they start to get golden brown they will cook quickly. Remove to a paper towel lined plate, keeping as much oil in the skillet as possible.
- In the same skillet, add the 1 lb. ground turkey and the drained and rinsed 15 oz. canned black beans, along with the 2 tablespoons taco seasoning. Cook until turkey is fully browned, breaking apart with a wooden spoon as much as possible so it is in small crumbles. Add 2 tablespoons water and stir to thicken it slightly and make a bit of a sauce, adding more if needed. Allow to cool slightly to thicken more and so it's not steamy hot when you add it to the salad, as this will wilt the lettuce almost immediately.
- To make the dressing: Add the ¼ cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons lime juice, a few dashes hot sauce, ¼ cup cilantro leaves, ½ large avocado, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth and creamy. If you like, you can add water, as needed to thin the dressing out so you can drizzle it on top of the salad. Taste and add salt if needed.
- On a large platter, or evenly distributed among 4-6 salad plates, layer the 4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce, the cooked turkey and bean mixture, the shredded 4 oz. cheddar cheese, the crispy tortilla strips, the diced 1 large tomato, the ½ cup diced red onion, the ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro.
- Drizzle the salad with the dressing and serve.
- Substitutions: Use ground beef or chicken instead of turkey, other beans such as pinto instead of black beans, omit the cilantro if you don’t like the taste of it, and feel free to add or take away any of the other taco salad ingredients – throw in some corn, diced avocado, or other toppings if you want!
- Make it vegetarian: use 2 cans black beans instead of ground turkey, or a vegetarian ground meat substitute or crumbled tofu.
- Make it vegan/dairy-free: make it vegetarian plus omit the cheese (or use a vegan alternative) and just omit the sour cream in the dressing – the avocado will be creamy enough.
- Leftovers are great as traditional tacos! Just microwave a tortilla topped with the turkey mixture and some shredded cheese, then top with whatever leftover fixings and sauce you have.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools:
This post originally appeared on Bowl of Delicious on July 14, 2013. It has been republished with new photos, improved recipe instructions, and more pertinent information.