Remember that time we talked taco salads with Bob Harper? And we both went on and on about how delicious and amazing taco salads are?
Well, my love for the taco salad is true, long-lasting, and well-documented.
Taco salad isn’t just the best of salads — it’s one of the best foods, period, in my opinion.
Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve never even had a really good taco salad (so sad).
That’s exactly why I wanted to write this post. Because there are okay taco salads, good taco salads, and then GREAT taco salads. To build a taco salad of the GREAT variety, we suggest the below things.
After all, life is too short for a lame taco salad.
7 Ways to Make Your Taco Salad Even Better
1. Play with your greens. Mama always said not to play with your food, but when it comes to taco salads, you’re going to want to play around with the standard iceberg lettuce you see at most restaurants. Try micro greens, arugula, baby kale, romaine, baby spinach, or even different types of shredded cabbage for a more nutritious and flavor-filled base.
2. Ditch the large tortilla shell for some good chips. Sure, a big ol’ tortilla shell is fun, but, I find that a handful of chips actually makes for a more fun and delicious taco salad for a few reasons. 1) It’s easier to get more on your chip when they’re stand-alone; 2) they don’t get as soggy; and 3) you can easily mix up the flavor profile simply by changing your chip. Here are some of our fave chips to try.
3. Invest in good salsa — and have fun with what you consider “salsa” to be. All salsas are not created equal. If you have the time, make your own salsa at home. Or, get out of your comfort zone by trying not just tomato-based salsas, but also versions that are heavier on the peppers, or made from radish, or fruit, like mango. Sky is the limit for salsa, y’all.
4. Play around with cheese. Yes, Mexican cheese is delicious (especially good cotija). But, how about trying some creamy goat cheese? You might be surprised how well it goes with the salsa and your other taco salad fixin’s.
5. Rethink dressing. Instead of pouring something out of a bottle or doing the olive oil + vinegar thing (which, don’t get me wrong, I do love), try blending salsa with some guacamole, or avocado with Greek yogurt and spices, or some pineapple with sour cream and cilantro. All are simple; all are tasty! Try your own combos — you just might discover something magical.
6. Kick up your protein of choice. Whether it’s beans, tofu, fish, beef, or chicken, spice that protein up! I’ve found spices like paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin (along with salt and pepper, of course) to add lots of flavor. If you’ve got more time, take a can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, puree them in a food processor or blender, and then marinate your protein in it overnight (or, cook together in a slow cooker or Instant Pot). So. Much. Flavor. Can’t find chipotle chilis in adobo sauce? Try a jar of salsa — works well, too!
7. Consider adding hot sauce. If you like things spicy, don’t limit your toppings to just salsa — throw some hot sauce in there, too. Our old standby is Cholula, but there are endless varieties to choose from. One of our recent favorite finds are the BAO Cultured Hot Sauces (hello, Chipotle and Jalapeno), which contain lots of kicky flavor, plus probiotics. And, if you’re feeling extra spicy, you can even make your own like we did at Friend Feast last year (deets here).
Obviously, other fun basics are fresh or sauteed bell peppers in all the colors, beans of every variety (refried or whole!), rice, herbs, fresh chopped tomato and cilantro, tropical fruit, Greek yogurt, avocado, red onion … ALL THE GOOD STUFF!
Do you love taco salads as much as I do? Tell me what makes yours best. –Jenn