IMG_0295Who doesn’t love taco salad?!?  I am certainly in the group that does and don’t know of a single person who doesn’t. But, when I think of restaurant style taco salads, my heart starts to pound because of the fat-laden fried tortilla bowl most are served in. Bottom line: they just aren’t healthy.

So, I’ve come up with a version that’s loaded with heart-healthy fats and vegetables and satisfies my inner hankering for taco salad at the same time.

Now, you might be thinking “this is going to take all day!” based on the size of the ingredient list.  But I assure you, you won’t be spending hours in the kitchen making this. I got the job done in under 30 minutes all while my children were running circles around me pulling each other’s hair out.  Just kidding, my kids LOVE each other (most of the time, anyway), but they were still running circles around me! 

You might wonder why I use no-salt-added tomato sauce, and then add salt to the mixture. The short answer is that you’ll save sodium overall this way and still get the full flavor you’re after. Adding a little salt helps bring out all the other flavors, which is why adding some is a good idea.

I used ground pork for this because it makes sense for the flavor, however, the fat is higher than I’d ideally like. If you swap 1 pound ground turkey breast for the ground pork, the calories drop to 349 and the fat drops to 16 grams per serving.  Those are big differences so I will try that next time!

Now, about the optional ingredients. They are not included in the nutrition numbers.  Just so you know.  They are not going to break the calorie and fat bank if you do add them to your salads.  In the case of the lime peel, it really brightens up the flavor, however, you can leave it out if you want to shorten your prep time.

Cilantro, as you may know, is a very polarizing ingredient – you either love it, or hate it.  I know of one person who is more in the middle, but most people have a strong feeling one way or another.  I personally love it and can’t get enough.  My dad, on the other hand, thinks it tastes like dish soap and won’t touch it with a 10-foot fork.  Okay, maybe it’s a 5-foot fork, but who wants to eat something they think tastes like dish soap?  I get it, so leave it out if you don’t like it.

Pepitas will add a great crunch and may help you get over the fact that there are no tortilla chips on this salad.  Toasted slivered almonds would work well too.  The raw red pepper strips also add a nice crunch, which I love.


Taco Salad How-To Photos:

Brown the pork, pepper and onion.




Add the spices and tomato sauce.


Build the salads. I like the crunch of romaine lettuce for this salad. Although it is not packed with quite as many nutrients as spinach, it’s not far behind!



Taco Salad

Yield:  4 servings (main dish)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 476 cals, 27 g pro, 22 g carb, 32 g fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 10 g sat fat, 8 g fiber, 512 mg sodium

Meat Mixture:
1 pound ground pork
1 small red sweet pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce

1/3 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons taco sauce
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime or lemon peel (optional)
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

8 cups torn romaine lettuce
Meat Mixture (from above)
1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into thin bite-size strips
1 medium avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and sliced
Dressing (from above)
1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seed kernels (pepitas) (optional)

1.  Meat Mixture:  In a large skillet cook ground pork, pepper, onion, and garlic over medium-high heat until meat is browned and vegetables are tender, using a potato masher to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat and discard. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in tomato sauce. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes to blend flavors.

2.  Dressing:  In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, taco sauce, lime peel (if using), lime juice, garlic, and cilantro (if using).

3.  Salads:  Divide lettuce among four serving plates. Top evenly with Meat Mixture, sweet pepper, and avocado. Spoon Dressing over salads. Sprinkle with cheese and, if desired, pepitas.