One day, as I was contemplating what to prepare for a church event, a whimsical idea crossed my mind taco salad.
Little did I know that this decision would lead to a delightful experience of making restaurant-quality taco salad with a unique twist.
The process is as fun as it is simple. A nonstick pan, a touch of oil, and some flour tortillas come together to form the perfect vessel for our salad.
As the tortillas sizzle and bubble, they transform into golden, crispy shells that set the stage for a feast.
Creating Crispy Tortilla Bowls:
Set a large nonstick pan over medium heat and add about two tablespoons of oil. I’m using an extra light olive oil, but any oil with the high smoke point will work.
Once the oil is hot, add the tortilla and fry for about 30 to 45 seconds per side. Flip the tortilla when you see its golden browning spots. You’ll see that tortilla start to puff and bubble up, and that’s what you wanna see.
For making larger salad bowls, I love using the 10-inch flour tortillas. You can use either store-bought or try our homemade flour tortilla recipe. As soon as that comes off the heat, immediately transfer it over the top of an oven-safe bowl.
Use the back of a ladle or a smaller bowl to push the tortilla in and shape it to the size of the bowl. I like using oven-safe bowls that have a flat base. This way, your tortilla shells won’t wobble or fall over when you fill them with salad.
Add more oil to the skillet and continue cooking the rest of the tortilla shells. Those puffed brown spots end up super crispy and irresistibly good once these are baked. And move quickly because the tortillas are easiest to shape while they’re still hot.
Once they’re all shaped, transfer those on a baking sheet to a 350-degree preheated oven and bake for about 12 to 14 minutes or until the tortilla shells are crispy and golden brown. Once they’re out of the oven, right away, I like to transfer them to a wire rack, so that they don’t get steamy inside of the bowls.
Preparing the Taco Meat:
While they cool to room temperature, we’re gonna work on the taco salad to fill these delicious taco shells. Grab your ground beef and your taco seasoning, and we do have a really good homemade taco seasoning that’s super easy and really makes the best taco meat. I will link to it in the recipe notes.
Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add your ground beef and break it up with the spatula. Cook until it’s brown and you no longer see any pink spots on the meat. You’ll wanna spoon out and discard any excess fat released from the beef, then add your taco seasoning.
If you prefer, you can also use your favorite store-bought taco seasoning. Also add half a cup of water, then cook, stirring occasionally for about three to five minutes. It’s done when most of the liquid has evaporated.
Making the Lime Crema Dressing:
Alright, our taco shells are prepped, our beef is cooked. All that’s left is the sauce and all the toppings. Now, you can use sour cream if you’re feeling lazy, but oh, my goodness, this lime crema, it made our fish tacos famous, it made our shrimp tacos famous, and it is so good as dressing for taco salad. Check this out.
To make this dressing, combine sour cream and real mayo, then squeeze in two tablespoons of fresh lime juice. And if you’re looking for a good citrus squeezer, this is our favorite and it has lasted the longest.
I will link to it in the recipe notes. And last but not least, add some garlic powder. And if you love a spicier sauce, you can also add some sriracha sauce. That’s what we do with our fish tacos and it’s so good. Since I know my kids are gonna be eating this, I’m gonna leave out the hot sauce. Whisk to combine and set that aside for the flavors to meld.
Preparing Taco Salad Toppings:
Now, we’re gonna work on all of the taco salad toppings. Because this is a salad, we wanna go a little heavier on the lettuce, and my favorite lettuce for taco salad is iceberg. I love how crisp and fresh it is. Also, dice up some red onion. And if you like a more milder onion flavor, you can also try chopped green onions or chives.
Now, dice up some fresh tomatoes and you can also use pico de gallo. We have a really good recipe for pico, which is a perfect topping for taco salad. I like keeping all of the different toppings separate in little bowls like this and serve the salad buffet-style. Then, everyone can build their own.
Next, the avocado. And here’s the safest way that I’ve found to peel and pit an avocado. Cut it into quarters, remove the pit, then peel off the skins and dice it up.
I feel like you can’t have a great taco salad without avocado. But then I also am obsessed with avocado and try to put it on everything that I can.