THE BEST TACO SALAD RECIPE
For the taco meat
— 1 pound ground beef
— 1/4 cup McCormick’s Premium Taco Seasoning
— 3/4 cup water
For the salad
— 1 head Romaine lettuce
— 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
— 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
— 1 & 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
— 1 & 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, or chopped tomatoes of any kind
— 8 radishes, thinly sliced
— 1/2 red onion, chopped
— 2 avocados, chopped (and/or 1 cup guacamole)
— 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
— 1-2 jalapeños, sliced
— Juanitas tortilla chips, or Fritos, crushed
— sour cream, to taste (optional)
— restaurant style salsa, to taste (optional)
— sliced limes, to garnish
Creamy Tomatillo Cilantro Ranch (Dressing Option 1)
— 1/2 cup mayonnaise
— 1/2 cup sour cream
— 1 (.4-oz) package Buttermilk Ranch Seasoning
— 1 serrano pepper, roughly chopped
— 2 tomatillos, halved
— 1/2 bunch cilantro
— 1 lime zest
— 1 lime Juice
— milk, if the dressing is too thick
Creamy Salsa Dressing (Dressing Option 2)
— 1 cup sour cream
— 1/3 cup Restaurant Style Salsa
— 1 teaspoon taco seasoning, **
— 1 lime Zest
— 1 lime juice
Start with the taco meat.
Brown 1 pound ground beef in a skillet on the stove, over medium heat. Break up the meat into small pieces. Once it is no longer pink (3-5 minutes), remove from heat. Tilt the pan and scoop the grease into a foil-lined bowl (then refrigerate and toss when solidified). Return the pan back to the stove and set over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup Premium McCormick’s taco seasoning. (Or a regular taco packet will do. See notes for a homemade recipe.) Add 3/4 cup water to the pan. Let the mixture come to a simmer. Turn off the heat when there is still thickened liquid at the bottom of the pan. If you cook until all the liquid has evaporated, you will have dry taco meat; no, thanks. Set aside and keep warm, covered.
Prep the lettuce and herbs.
Chop the romaine into bite size pieces and dry in a salad spinner (or dry off with paper towels). Add 1/2 cup chopped green onions and 1 bunch of chopped cilantro. Spin to mix, or add to a large bowl and toss together.
Prep your toppings.
Grate 1 and 1/2 cups cheddar cheese. Chop 1 and 1/2 cups tomatoes. Thinly slice 8 radishes. Dice half a red onion. Chop 2 avocados (or make a quick guacamole with them by adding a bit of lime and salt). Thaw out 1 cup of frozen corn (I usually stick it in the microwave for 20 seconds and then let it finish thawing on the counter). Slice 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers. Crush some Juanitas or Fritos, but leave some whole for garnishing.
Decide which dressing you want to make:
Creamy Tomatillo Cilantro Ranch (Dressing Option 1). In a blender, add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 package ranch seasoning, 1 serrano pepper (roughly chopped), 2 halved tomatillos, half a bunch of cilantro, and the zest and juice from 1 lime. Blend until smooth. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time if it is too thick. (Leftover dressing will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks!)
Creamy Salsa Dressing (Dressing Option 2). In a small bowl, combine 1 cup sour cream (OR Crema Mexicana!) with 1/3 cup Restaurant style salsa, 1 teaspoon taco seasoning, ** and the zest and juice from 1 lime. (Leftover dressing will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks!)
Assemble the salad. Divide the lettuce mixture between 4 large plates or wide bowls. Add about a quarter of the taco meat to each bowl. Add about a quarter of each topping ingredient to each bowl. Cheese, tomatoes, radishes, red onion, avocados, corn, jalapeños, and crushed chips. Top with sour cream, salsa, extra whole tortilla chips, and dressing of your choice. And guacamole and extra avocados if you want. Squeeze a lime over the whole thing for an extra zing.
Alternatively, you can place all the toppings in bowls on the table, and guests can build their own salad. If trying to impress, it’s actually really helpful to post a list of ingredients nearby for people to check as they build. There’s nothing sadder than getting halfway through eating your salad only to realize you’re missing the guac!