Truthfully, I’ve never met a taco I didn’t like. Yet when it comes to taco salad– I am traumatized. As a kid, I was forced to eat more taco salad than I ever wanted (and it was covered in thousand island dressing… don’t ask me why). I just remember gagging it down and vowing to never eat it again. This healthy taco salad recipe is not a childhood recipe. It’s my new and improved dish, bursting with flavor, nutrients and possibilities.

delicious taco salad

As I grew up, I learned that taco salad takes many forms— and some are quite tasty (while others are gag-worthy)! There’s just something so satisfying about a crisp corn shell (or chips) piled high with shredded lettuce and all of the other veggie-lovin’ fixings.

What’s unique about my Healthy Taco Salad is that there’s no meat. Instead of ground meat or poultry, I’ve substituted a heart healthy vegan taco meat. It’s so good you’d almost never know it wasn’t meat.

easy plant based meal

Reasons to Make to This Recipe

While there are a dozen reasons I love tacos and taco salads, here are my top three:

  1. easy to make
  2. versatile for everyone
  3. the flavor can change every time

For real though; I’ve got a family of 4 and we all have different taste preferences. This healthy taco salad recipe is an easy dinner win because everyone can customize it their own way. Here’s what I set out for my version of a healthy salad:

  • Vegan taco meat– no joke, everyone is shocked at how amazingly tasty this walnut ‘meat’ is. You’ve gotta try it!
  • Tortilla chips– I like to get strips for this; try Siete’s cassava chips for a grain-free version
  • Romaine lettuce– It’s all about those crispy greens in this healthy taco salad. Feel free to swap in spinach, kale, or the leafy green of your choice.
  • Black beans- I splurge on the organic version, or make my own recipe from Simple Green Meals
  • Avocado or guacamole- Healthy fat is needed for our bodies to break down nutrients, and what better way than with a colorful avocado?!
  • Colorful veggies: cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, corn, black olives, green onions

Get creative with the veggie toppings. Red onion provides a pop of color, radishes are super crunchy, jalapeños really pop in flavor + spice… What are you fav veggies to add to a healthy taco salad?

Choosing the right toppings

Serve food that delights your tastebuds and nourishes your body at the same time. Choose a veggie or two from each of these 5 color groups and enjoy a variety of flavors as well as health benefits in your healthy taco salad.

Blue/purple foods provide vitamins A, C, and K. Green foods are rich in cancer fighting phyto-chemicals. Orange/yellow foods bring the beta-carotene and potassium. Red foods are good sources of iron. White/light green foods provide potassium, magnesium and vitamin E.

While this is just a glimpse into the incredible land of whole food, keep these tips in mind when choosing what colors join your plate for dinner.

healthy taco salad

What makes Taco Salad vegan?

Most taco salad recipes use ground beef, not this one. Yet you won’t miss it! My walnut taco meat recipe is amazing. Now, I don’t often try to ‘mimic’ meat with plants, yet this recipe is pure genius on a plate. All you do is place walnuts in a bowl with water and a little lemon juice. Let sit for 8 hours or overnight to soften.

When ready, drain and rinse the soaked walnuts. Then add to a food processor with tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and a few spices and grind it all up. You can turn up the spice on this ‘meat’ as much or as little as you want. If you have a fav taco seasoning, use that instead of my spice combo! This recipe made its debut in my our Seasonal Cleanse cleanse, and has been a fan fav ever since. Your healthy taco salad just won’t be the same without it.

Healthy tip if using ground beef

Plant based eating doesn’t mean you have to be vegan. I’m not. If your family eats meat, then you can easily add it to this recipe! Yet I have 1 ask: make the walnut taco meat and try a half ground beef, half walnut meat taco salad. Your brain and body will thank you for providing it the rich benefits of walnuts, while you can also keep your meat-loving family members happy too.

easy weeknight dinner

Taco salad FAQs

Are taco salads unhealthy?

No! They can be super healthy yet still delicious by using fresh ingredients, protein powered vegan meat or real meat and dressing that is made with whole ingredients.

How do I make a taco salad vegan?

Easy! Use walnut taco meat, chickpeas, black beans, jackfruit, or tofu for a delicious non-meat taco salad. Swap out cheese + sour cream for guacamole and cashew cream. You won’t even miss the dairy or meat.

Why are taco salads high in calories?

Taco salads are kind of a whole-meal-in-one dish. You’ve got your protein, starch, veggies, and fats altogether in one filling dish. Know that not all calories are the same, and if your healthy taco salad is full of fresh, whole foods, then you’ve got nothing to worry about except that next bite of flavor-filled goodness.

4.69 from 352 votes

Healthy Taco Salad Recipe

This healthy taco salad is packed with plant-based whole foods! A crisp corn shell is topped mile-high with crunchy romaine, veggies, and our very own recipe for a vegetarian nut-based taco meat. Mark your calendar and make this for Taco Tuesday!
Prep: 25 mins
Total: 25 mins
Author: Jen Hansard
Course: Entree, Salad
Cuisine: Mexican-Inspired, Plant-Based
Serves: 4

Ingredients  

  • 2 cups Vegan Taco Meat
  • 4 cups tortilla chips
  • 4 cups romaine lettuce shredded
  • 1 15-oz can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • ½ cup corn thawed if frozen
  • ½ cup black olives sliced
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced
  • salsa for serving
  • Cashew Cream for serving

Instructions 

  • Prepare Vegan Taco Meat according to recipe (best if walnuts are soaked overnight. Yet in a pinch, you can "flash soak").
  • Arrange the tostadas or chips on four shallow serving bowls or plates.
  • Top with lettuce, followed by the taco meat, black beans, avocado, tomatoes, corn, olives, and green onions.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve with salad and cashew cream on the side. 

Notes

  • Nutrition information does not include toppings.
  • For a grain-free version, substitute corn tostadas with large cabbage or lettuce leaves, or simply omit.
  • To heat taco meat, place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and lightly coat the bottom with olive oil, about 1-2 teaspoons. Add taco meat mixture and lightly saute until warmed through and nuts are lightly toasted. Be careful not to let it burn. Use immediately.
  • Flash soaking walnuts: boil 2 cups water and pour over walnuts along with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Allow to soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour and continue making the recipe. Please note that flash soaking does destroy some of the nutrients in the walnuts.

Nutrition

Calories: 532kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 49g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 29g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Sodium: 277mg, Potassium: 828mg, Fiber: 10g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 5469IU, Vitamin C: 56mg, Calcium: 99mg, Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe? Show me!Mention @SimpleGreenSmoothies or tag #SimpleGreenSmoothies!

More healthy taco recipes

Tacos are probably my fav food… no joke. I look for taco places in new towns like some might look for a new coffee shop to try (though I look for those too!). So I’ve def got a good list of delicious taco recipes to share:

About the Author

Jen Hansard

I went from exhausted mama to running across the Grand Canyon, riding & hiking to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America with my kids. How? I fell in love with the smoothies and plant-based meals you can find on my blog.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Holy wow this salad is a fave! The flavors are so good and has a lot of it. Surprisingly filling too. The walnut taco meat was such a hit! I will definitely be making this again and putting it in rotation. Yum yum yum!

  2. 4 stars
    Really good salad except I’m allergic to walnuts. I had to adlib just a bit but I wanted to stay on the challenge.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow! I’ve never tried anything like the walnut taco meat before. I will definitely be making this again. This salad was great as a meal. Not a huge fan of corn, but there is just a small amount. I think I will like it better in summer when fresh corn is available. It’s a win!

    1. Def feel free to omit the corn or any ingredients you aren’t a fan of. We want these recipes to work for you! Great job trying it though!

  4. 5 stars
    This salad is a winner. I wasn’t sure about the walnut ‘meat’ but everyone in my family loved it. Will definitely make this salad again.

  5. 5 stars
    Mexican food is definitely my favorite, and this was no exception. I have never used Walnuts as a meat replacement. It was different, but not bad.

  6. 4 stars
    I made this with Bison Chorizo. I tried the walnut”meat” and it really wasn’t my cup of tea. We are pretty big meat eaters and the texture of the nuts didn’t appeal to me personally. The rest of the salad was good and we eat something similar often.

  7. 5 stars
    Loved this one but I thought it needed a dressing like all the other salads seem to have so I added either some lemon lime squeeze or a bit of fresh salsa

  8. 5 stars
    I’m the only one that eats salad here so I have enjoyed this one for lunches and supper. A definite make again salad.

  9. 5 stars
    I love Mexican food! I added chicken to this one just for added protein since I was skimpy with my beans. 🙂 Very yummy! Thank you!

  10. 5 stars
    This was an interesting salad. My husband went back for seconds since he uses a smaller dish. We both thought the walnut taco meat was very good. All of the added ‘fixings’ made a flavor-able combination!

    1. 4 stars
      I liked the taco salad but it definitely is different without grass-fed ground beef and my husband was not a fan.

  11. 5 stars
    Everyone thought this was a good salad at my house. Since I hadn’t made the walnut meat or cashew cream ahead it did take quite a while to get it all together but we liked it a lot. My husband thought it was even better than yesterday’s salad.
    s

  12. 5 stars
    Love, love, loved the Taco Salad! The flavors were perfect for me! I was a little apprehensive about the “taco meat” but I mixed it in the salad and it was so good! Thank you for a “new” taco salad I will be making again and again!