Even when we do comfort food, I try to make my version as healthy as possible, so when we’re craving a taco night, I whip up this filling & healthy taco salad recipe to hit the spot while still keeping us in that 90% healthy eating zone!
This healthy taco salad recipe has amazing flavour contrasts and hits so many healthy targets – getting in some whole grains, a healthy protein, and tons of veggies! I forgot to add the cheese before we took our pictures, but a light sprinkle of grated cheese won’t do too much damage to the health claims of this salad.
While I indulged and used a bit of sour cream, you can leave that out or top with with a healthy homemade dressing of your choice.
There are so many little swaps that can be done with tacos to take them from a junk food indulgence to a healthy meal you can be proud of serving to your family.
The biggest factor is reducing or removing the salt content. High salt levels in food can reek havoc on your healthy eating efforts in so many ways – beyond raising your blood pressure. Even just the simple fact that many people confuse thirst with hunger and salt is dehydrating can cause you to eat more than you actually need.
Dehydration is a serious issue in kids so I try to make every effort to reduce or completely remove added salt from their diets. At a young age, children can get all of the sodium they need from fruits and vegetables.
How to Make a Healthy Taco Salad
Start off with baking a whole grain tortilla in one of these awesome taco bowl pans. Kids love the edible bowl and you can break off bits of the bowl as you’re eating and add them to the salad for a healthy crunch!
Next, get some garlic and onions going – a bit of chili, too if your family likes heat!
Sautee them in some oil over medium heat until translucent, and then add your ground beef. I sometimes use a mixture of ground beef and veal for a leaner blend with tons of flavor.
You can use ground turkey or ground chicken if you’d like, but a lean ground beef or a healthy (small) sized portion of ground beef is great.
Next, add your spices, cook for a bit, and then mix in your favourite tomato-based sauce.
I love a smoky mixture of cumin, paprika and chili flakes, but you could alternatively use chili powder, mustard powder, pepper, dried cilantro, curry powder – whatever flavours hit the right notes for you!
I use a homemade tomato sauce, but any low-sodium tomato sauce will do. You can even use a rich tomato curry like Tikka Masala!
I also like to add just a splash of apple cider vinegar as an alternative to flavouring the sauce with salt – and if I’m cooking this just for the kids, I sometimes add just a sprinkle of brown sugar.
Let the sauce warm up and absorb all of those good flavours while you chop the veggies.
Make sure to taste and adjust your sauce before serving!
Here’s the next tip for taking this salad’s health quotient up a notch: veggies, veggies, veggies.
Use as many colourful and delicious raw veggies as you can. Every single vegetable that your children will eat – add it to this salad. It will get eaten.
I swap out the vegetables based on whatever we have on hand – this time we had some cooked corn, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, celery and purple cabbage. I love picking crunchy vegetables for the taco salad for a great texture contrast to the chewy beef.
And of course, cheese and dressing. We keep it simple with just a light sprinkle of a good quality cheese (I think this time it was a Jalapeno Mozzarella – sometimes a Monterrey Jack), a dollop of sour cream, and (for me) some salsa. Diced avocado or a healthy guacamole would also be delicious, but my kids won’t eat it in this salad – I think the texture just doesn’t work forthem.
(Fermented salsa works amazing on this salad, but that’s a bit of an acquired taste!)
And there you have it. Just a few simple tweaks can transform your typical taco night into a flavourful and healthy meal that the whole family will love!
Do you want a printable version of our Healthy Taco Salad Recipe?
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound beef
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 chili pepper, chopped (optional)
- 1 1/2-2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes, optional
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, optional
- 3 cups purple cabbage, chopped or shredded
- 1 cup cooked corn
- 1 cucumber, chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 4-6 whole grain tortillas, for serving
- Sour cream, for serving
- Salsa, for serving
- 1/2 cup grated cheese, for serving
- 2 green onions, chopped, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- Bake the tortillas in a tortilla bowl or shell - if you don't have one, use a small cake pan. About 5 minutes until crispy.
- Heat the oil over medium heat for two minutes until very thin.
- Sautee the onions, garlic, and chili peppers until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the ground beef and cook until completely browned - stirring and breaking up clumps of meat occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- Once the pink is mostly cooked out of the beef, add your spices. Cook for one minute and then add tomato sauce (to preference) and optional apple cider vinegar and brown sugar.
- Fill the crispy tortilla bowls with an assortment of the vegetables.
- Top with the meat sauce and then customize with the cheese, salsa, sour cream, and green onions.