35-Minute Taco Salad

I originally made this recipe almost a year ago. I was completely surprised and happily gave the recipe 5-stars. The only down-side was that it made a huge mess. I’ve added some details to the recipe below to help choreograph the preparation and reduced the mess to medium. I also better used my time and reduced the preparation time from 60 minutes down to 35.  Without the avocado I could only give it 4-1/2 stars.

World's Best Taco Salad


  1. I accidentally used a regular, rather than non-stick, skillet. It made cleanup more difficult, but I don’t believe it changed any flavors.
  2. The recipe calls for 90% lean ground beef, but 80% was on sale for $1.79/lb. To prevent the salad from being too greasy, I cooked the onion/chili powder longer on it’s own; then removed it from the skillet while browning the beef. I then used power towels to mop up some of the excess grease, before adding the onion/chili powder back to the skillet.
  3. Unfortunately, Hass avocados are out-of-season, so I decided to skip the green, Florida avocado.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00pm. Dinner time at 6:35pm.

Chris Kimball’s original is here. and the dressing recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the salad today are given below:

Beef Mixture:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 garlic cloves
1-lb 90% lean ground beef
8-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 head romaine lettuce
2 tomatoes
1 avocado
4-oz cheddar cheese, or Mexican cheese blend
Tortila chips for serving

  1. Mince onion and peel 4 garlic cloves.
  2. Preheat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 12” non-stick skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and chili powder for 4 minutes until the onion has softened. Press 4 cloves of garlic directly into skillet and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in ground beef, breaking into smallish pieces. Cook for 9 minutes until slightly browned. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. While beef cooks tear romaine lettuce into bit-sized pieces and put on a very large serving platter. Grate cheese; set aside. Also core and cut your two tomatoes into medium-sized dice, and cut your avocado into 1/2” cubes. Set tomatoes and avocado aside separately.
  5. Season beef mixture with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then set aside to cool slightly while making dressing.

Lime Vinaigrette Dressing:

1 shallot
1 jalapeño chile
1 small garlic clove
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2-1/2 to 3 limes)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. Peel garlic and shallot, and cut into rough quarters. Add to blender.
  2. Stem jalapeno and remove seeds. Add to blender.
  3. Freshly squeezed lime juice is key for flavor here, so squeeze the limes into measuring cup for more accurate measuring.
  4. Add 5 tablespoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to blender.
  5. Process for 15 seconds.
  6. Roughly chop cilantro and measure 1/2-cup. Add to blender.
  7. With blender running, add oil, and continue to process for 15 more seconds, or until the dressing is smooth and emulsified.

Final Assemly:

  1. Toss 1/2-cup of vinaigrette with torn lettuce until evenly coated.
  2. Place a ring of tortilla chips around the outer edge of serving plate, tucking under the lettuce if necessary. Top with beef. Sprinkle grated cheese, diced tomatoes, and avocado cubes. Drizzle anther 1/4-cup of vinaigrette over top of salad. Pass the remaining dressing separately.
  3. When serving to individual plates I like to first lay down a bed of tortilla chips. It can also be served with salsa or sour cream.

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