RECIPE: Taco salad makes for an easy-to-customize, quick dinner

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

For a fun, customizable twist on taco night, replace soft tortillas with chips and turn the meal into a crunchy, crisp taco salad.

It’s easy to tweak the protein base of the salad to whatever your family prefers. You can keep things relatively lean by using ground turkey, or extra savory with ground pork. You can choose to make it vegetarian by using a plant-based substitute, such as Impossible burger meat. Me? I like to use ground beef for traditional Tex-Mex flavor.

Whatever protein you choose, make sure to give it the best opportunity to shine by giving it a good, hard sear. The easiest way to do that with ground meat is to spread it into an even, flat layer (think giant burger patty) in hot oil in a large skillet. Sprinkle on taco seasoning and then let it sear without touching it for a good five minutes to form a crust on the bottom. From there, you can break up the meat into pieces and stir it around to coat all in the seasoning mix. You’ll have browned and just-cooked-through meat in less than 10 minutes.

For the salad portion of the dish, I like to go with extra-crunchy, extra-tangy coleslaw to counteract the rich ground beef. A bag of pre-chopped coleslaw mix is the easy, prep-free base, which I toss with half a packet of taco seasoning, fresh lime juice, and a drizzle of neutral vegetable oil. I let the coleslaw rest for as long as possible — basically, however long it takes to cook the beef and grab any toppings from the fridge — in order to get the seasonings into the cabbage and let it wilt a bit.

Combine both the coleslaw and ground beef on top of a bed of tortilla chips, which are easier to manage than the giant fried tortilla bowls you’ll find at Tex-Mex chains. Serve with whatever toppings you can rustle up from the fridge.

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.