Layered Taco Salad {For a Crowd or Family Taco Night!}

May 14, 2018
Family taco night just got a little easier!  Instead of stuffing those taco shells, whip up this Layered Taco Salad instead.  It's just perfect for lower-fuss taco night prep, or for whipping up a tasty salad for a crowd!

Layered Taco Salad Image {For a Crowd or Family Taco Night!}


I remember back as a kid I used to love when Mom made tacos for dinner.  I just loved the flavor combination of tasty taco ingredients, and the crunch of biting into that crispy taco shell.  I mean, we're pretty hard-pressed to find a kid who doesn't love tacos, right?

So when I became mom to a 5 year-old a while back, I followed in my Mom's footsteps and put tacos on our regular dinner meal rotation.  And just like me as a kid, our sweet Little Miss H. just adores tacos, too. 

But do you know what I quickly discovered?  

Making tacos is most definitely not a low-fuss, easy meal!  

Not for me, anyway.  

By the time I was done chopping up and preparing all the taco ingredients, I still had the task in front of me of stuffing all the taco shells!  Which for some reason, leads to a lot of fumbling and dropping of ingredients all over the place for me.  And then when an already-stuffed taco shell falls over? ... Don't even get me started.  Definitely not the low-fuss weeknight meal I was looking for.

But do you know what I quickly discovered?  Making tacos is most definitely not a low-fuss, easy meal!  I needed to find an easier way.

Now sure, I could have just prepped bowlfuls of ingredients and set them out for my family to assemble and stuff their own taco shells.  But somehow this would still turn into me stuffing my little one's tacos.  Or, my little one just getting frustrated trying to get her taco fillings in on her own.  

I needed to find an easier way.

And so I turned family taco night into family taco SALAD night.

You know what?  It works just beautifully!  Way less fuss than assembling traditional tacos ... especially when you whip up this Layered Taco Salad ... which is simply perfect for taco night.  Or, perfect for making a salad for a crowd.

Make-Ahead Layered Taco Salad Image

With this Layered Taco Salad, taco night is a whole lot easier, for sure.

Especially since the salad can be prepared several hours in advance, and then refrigerated until needed.  Serve with some tortilla chips for scooping to get that classic taco night taco shell crunch going on, and you're good to go.

I love that it's got all the flavors of traditional tacos in an easier-to-assemble, make-ahead-convenience form.  My lower-fuss taco dinner problem is solved!

The salad can be prepared several hours in advance, and then refrigerated until needed.  Serve with some tortilla chips for scooping to get that classic taco night taco shell crunch going on, and you're good to go.

I use both a layer of salsa and a layer of sour cream-based dressing in this salad.  For the dressing, I mix together a combination of sour cream, some salsa, and a little bit of prepared taco seasoning mix

I just scoop a 1/2 teaspoon of taco seasoning out of the packet before I use the rest to season the taco meat.  It gives the dressing a really good flavor. 

Dressing for Layered Taco Salad Image

Once the taco meat and simple dressing are prepared, prepping this salad is just a matter of layering up the ingredients.  Grab a glass serving bowl, trifle bowl {like in my photos}, or ... for a more casual, easily-transportable preparation, a 9x13" baking dish and start layering away!

The recipe below is what I like to include for my salad layers.  But one of the beauties of this recipe is it's flexibility.  Adjust ingredients and amounts to suit your personal tastes.  

For example, use more salsa if you'd like.  Or add in chopped cilantro with the dressing or sprinkled on top of the salad.  Or substitute kidney beans for the black beans.  Don't like corn?  Leave it out.  Whatever you'd like for your layered taco salad!


When making your layers, I do have a few tips to keep in mind:

1.  Making sure all ingredients are very well-drained and dry is key to being able to make this salad ahead of time.  If everything's not well-drained, a watery mess will collect in the bottom of the salad container ... and will take some of the salad's flavor along with it.

Dry the lettuce very well after washing it.  After you've rinsed the beans, pat them dry with a paper towel.  Remove the watery seeds from the tomatoes.  You get the idea ... 

If everything is extremely dry when it goes in the container, it can be refrigerated okay for more than 12 hours ... but make sure it's all SUPER dry!

Once the taco meat and simple dressing are prepared, prepping this salad is just a matter of layering up the ingredients.  Grab a glass serving bowl, trifle bowl, or a 9x13" baking dish and start layering away!

2.  When you pour the salsa over the seasoned meat, don't spread it all the way to the very edge of the meat layer.  If you do, liquid from the salsa will drip down the edge of the salad container and collect in the bottom.

This is especially important if you're assembling the salad in a pretty glass bowl for a pretty presentation ... because you'll see the little salsa "trickles" on the bowl itself.   Keeping the salsa back from the edge minimizes the "trickles."


3.  Cut your avocado at serving time.

Once cut, avocado will begin to turn brown pretty quickly.  So cube the avocado and add it to the top of the salad just before serving.  If the salad needs to sit out for any more than about 30 minutes, I recommend tossing the cubed avocado with a little fresh lime juice to coat.  The acid from the lime juice will help deter the color change for at least a little bit.


When it's time for serving this tasty Layered Taco Salad, just pass the tortilla chips for scooping to add that classic taco crunch.  And you're good to go with family taco SALAD night!  Or, easily serve up this salad for a crowd.

Either way, taco prep ... especially for a crowd ... just got a little easier.  

How to Make Layered Taco Salad Image




Layered Taco Salad {For a Crowd or Family Taco Night!}
Ingredients
Dressing:
Salad:
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet taco seasoning {use 1/2 tsp. of this packet for the dressing above}
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 6 c. chopped iceberg lettuce {about 1 small head ... or Romaine works too, if you'd prefer}
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed & well-drained
  • 12 oz. prepared salsa
  • 1 (12 oz.) package frozen corn, thawed & well-drained
  • 1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced black olives, well-drained
  • 1/2 c. to 1 c. finely chopped red onion
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded & chopped
  • 2 c. (8 oz.) shredded Colby cheese {I shred my own because I think it has better flavor}
  • 1 or 2 avocados, peeled & cubed
Directions
  1. PREPARE THE DRESSING: In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, salsa, and taco seasoning. Set aside.
  2. PREPARE THE MEAT:  In a saute pan, brown the ground beef; drain any fat.  Stir in taco seasoning and water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 4 minutes.  Stir frequently.
  3. Set seasoned meat mixture aside to cool.
  4. PREPARE THE SALAD:  In a glass serving bowltrifle bowl or 9x13" baking dish, layer the lettuce first, then black beans, and seasoned meat. {Do not toss.}
  5. Pour salsa evenly over the seasoned meat.  Do not spread the salsa all the way to the very edge of the meat layer ~ if you do, liquid from the salsa will drip down the edge of the salad container and collect in the bottom.  Keeping the salsa back from the edge minimizes this.
  6. On top of the salsa, layer the corn, black olives, and red onion.  Spread the dressing mixture evenly over the onion layer.
  7. Top the dressing mixture with a layer tomatoes and then a layer of cheese.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
  9. At serving time, top with cubed avocado.  Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and more salsa, if desired.

NOTES:
- Adjust ingredients and amounts to suit your personal tastes.  For example, use more salsa if you'd like.  Or add in chopped cilantro with the dressing or sprinkled on top of the salad.  Or substitute kidney beans for the black beans.  Whatever you'd like for your taco salad!
- Purchasing a 16 oz. jar of salsa will give you the 12 oz. for the salad layer itself + the 1/4 cup used in the dressing.
- Colby cheese is similar to cheddar, but is softer, moister, and milder in flavor.  Longhorn cheddar, or mild or medium cheddar can be substituted. 
- Drying the lettuce very well after washing it and making sure all ingredients are very well-drained is key to being able to make this salad ahead of time.  If everything's not well-drained, a watery mess will collect in the bottom of the salad container ... and will take some of the salad's flavor along with it.  If everything is extremely dry when it goes in the container, it can be refrigerated okay for more than 12 hours ... but make sure it's all SUPER dry!
- Once cut, avocado will begin to turn brown.  Cube the avocado and add it to the top of the salad just before serving.  If the salad needs to sit out for any more than about 30 minutes, I recommend tossing the cubed avocado with a little fresh lime juice to coat.  The acid from the lime juice will help deter the color change for at least a little bit.


Enjoy!


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This post is linked with Weekend Potluck.

6 comments

  1. This is much easier than the way I make tacos. I stuff the soft shells with meat and cheese and then fry them. It is a long drawn out process. Your shortcut will come in handy when the temps soar and I want to get out of the kitchen fast. Thank you for sharing with us this week at Celebrate Your Story and we hope you will join us again next week.

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  2. Perfect for a crowd! I love this! Thanks for sharing at Friday Frenzy!! Pinned!

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  3. This is a beautiful Layered Taco Salad! Hope you are having a great week and thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday.
    Miz Helen

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  4. This is so pretty with the layers- and the other one at the end of the post too- love the many variations you could do!

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  5. Wow, thank you so much for all the awesome recipes, my printer is not working but I have sent the recipes to my g mail account.
    Thank you very much and God bless :-)

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  6. You are very good at cooking your family, I like it

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