Summer weather arrived with a bang in southern California this week! Climbing temperatures mean salad for dinner at my house…and this taco salad will be on the rotation ALL summer long! It is THAT good! There is so much flavor and texture going in one bowl. It is salad perfection.
There are a lot of components to a salad like this, but not much cooking involved which is great when it is 90 degrees outside. Most of the prep work can be done ahead if you need dinner to come together quickly. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you, it is super simple and oh so worth it.
It all starts with this dressing! A flavor bomb of goodness that takes this salad to the next level. Use a BIG bunch of cilantro or a couple small ones if that is all you can find. Tomatillo salsa adds a zesty punch that works really well in this. I always have a jar of green salsa in the fridge or pantry. A great staple is Herdez Salsa Verde. It is sold in a jar or in a small can and comes in mild or medium. Any green salsa would work well, so just use your favorite.
I used ground chicken for the taco meat which is easy to find at my local market. Turkey or beef would be great too. I just season it with the good ‘ole McCormick Taco Seasoning packet. It’s got all clean ingredients and has that nostalgic taco flavor that I love.
I used fresh corn since it is plentiful and good right now. I just give the cobs a light coating of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and roast it in my toaster oven for about 15 minutes, then cut it off the cob once it has cooled down. It is quick and easy and doesn’t heat up the house. It would be great on the grill as well or you can use your oven. Or keep it even simpler and use thawed frozen corn.
Crunchy romaine hearts are the base of this salad. Romaine is the perfect green to stand up to all of these ingredients. And don’t forget the chips! They add a yummy, zippy crunch! There are a few good brands of “Nacho” style chips that are clean and even organic. Even Doritos makes an all natural organic chip.
I like to prep all of the components for this and set it up on the counter salad bar style. That way if there are any picky eaters you can personalize the salad to their liking. Serving this way is also great for busy weeknights when not everyone can eat at the same time. To keep your avocado looking good, dice it up and put it in a bowl with some fresh lime juice and a little salt and pepper. The lime will give it great flavor and keep from browning.
Taco Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
A healthy and satisfying entree salad that is bursting with flavor!
- For the cilantro vinaigrette:
2 cups of clilantro leaves – from one large bunch or 2 small bunches
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice from one lime (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup tomatillo salsa (like Herdez)
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- For the taco meat:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 pound ground chicken, turkey, or beef
1 package taco seasoning (like McCormick)
- For the taco salad
2 heads Romaine lettuce – and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
cooked corn from 2 ears or about 1 1/2 cups of frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 avocados, diced
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
1 small can of sliced black olives
crumbled nacho style tortilla chips
5 ounces crumbled Cotija Cheese (about 1/2 of a package)
3 green onions, chopped small
- For the dressing:
- Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to a blender or small food processor and blend until the cilantro is chopped and incorporated with the tomatillo salsa. With the blender or processor running, slowly add the olive oil until it is fully incorporated and the dressing is smooth.
- For the taco meat:
- Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the ground meat and cook until it is cooked through. Add the taco seasoning and 1/2 cup of water (or Mexian beer if you have it!) and cook for 5 more minutes. Let cool to room temp.
- For the salad:
- Add some of the romaine lettuce to a salad bowl and drizzle about a tablespoon of dressing over it. Add some tomatoes, corn, black beans, taco meat, avocado, and red onion to the bowl and drizzle another tablespoon of dressing over the top. Top with black olives, crumbled tortilla chips, cotija cheese, and green onion. Serve with extra dressing on the side if desired.
- Store any leftover dressing in a small jar for up to 5 days.