Taco Salad

Taco Salad: Your Post-Cinco de Mayo Cleanup Recipe!

Taco Salad

I admit, I ate a couple bites before I remembered to take a photo. It’s that good!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today, people of Mexican descent celebrate the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla back in 1862. And the rest of us? Well, we use it as an excuse to consume tacos and margaritas. But what about after Cinco de Mayo, when your fridge is stocked with the spoils of your taco fest? That’s where my taco salad recipe comes in.

This year, to make meal planning easier, I’ve instituted a Taco Tuesday every week. We’ve happily eaten crispy chicken tacos, shrimp tacos, pulled pork tacos, etc. However, I realized that when I made the “traditional” Americanized ground beef and refried bean tacos, I had a lot of leftovers that would languish in the refrigerator. One pound of spiced ground beef + three to four cups of homemade refried beans – six small tacos between the three of us = a lot of waste.

Enter the taco salad! While of course we could just make tacos again, a properly made taco salad is a delight, and an excellent way to put a new spin on leftovers. The key is in getting all of the different temperatures and textures just right: cool crispy lettuce, warm meat and beans, tangy dressing, creamy avocado, crunchy tortilla strips, spicy salsa–yum, I’m drooling right now! Plus, it’s super easy.

Now your taco salad could look very different than mine–it just depends on what you have on hand. What really brings this together, in my opinion, is the dressing and the crispy tortilla strips. Here goes!

Post-Cinco de Mayo Taco Salad
Serves: However Many You Can Feed

For the salad:
Taco meat
Refried beans
Shredded cheese
Chopped red onions
Dressing (recipe below)
Tortilla strips (how-to below, or use tortilla chips)

On a plate or shallow bowl, layer your lettuce and sprinkle with part of the onion and cilantro. Drizzle with a little dressing. Warm your beans and meat (I tend to just do this in the microwave) and layer some over the lettuce. Add cheese, salsa, avocado, more onions and cilantro, and more dressing. Top with tortilla strips or chips and eat immediately!

For the dressing (multiply as needed):
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or regular yogurt)
1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste (or lime juice)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the mayo and yogurt together, then add red wine vinegar to taste. Whisk in the cumin and cayenne, and add salt and pepper to taste.

For the tortilla strips (multiply as needed):
Vegetable oil
Corn tortillas (1/2 to 1 per salad), cut into 1/2″ strips

In a small frying pan, add about 1/8″ of oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tortilla strips in one layer (do multiple batches if you have a lot, don’t crowd them). Fry for a minute or two per side, stirring with a metal slotted spoon. Remove to a plate to drain, then use while still warm.

Other excellent additions to your taco salad:

  • Seasoned rice
  • Corn or other sauteed vegetables
  • Olives
  • Green chiles
  • Swap out the meat and beans for grilled shrimp

As you can see, this is a super-easy, super-flexible recipe that you can make your own, and enjoy a fresh, new bonus meal while using up those leftovers–before they end up down your garbage disposal.

Are you a taco salad aficionado? Do you have other clever ways to gussy up your leftovers? Share them below!