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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Rating




Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Shockingly good! I and my husband, enjoyed this different kind of salad/meal. I’ve never tried anything like this before and it was very delicious and I will certainly try it again. Additionally, I would recommend it to others.

  2. 5 stars
    The taco salad was delicious! Instead of the cashew dressing, I just added some salsa on top- it enhanced all of the flavors. The “walnut meat” tasted great to me!

  3. 4 stars
    So, I brought this taco salad to work and forgot the cream! Even without the cashew cream the salad was still pretty good. I think I would prefer it with a thinner dressing anyhow though, so I will try making an avocado and lime based dressing. I might also use pico instead of cherry tomatoes also. Overall, still very good as is.

  4. 5 stars
    So delicious!! Really enjoyed the walnut taco meat. I will make this recipe again. My husband and I loved it! We had it without the cashew cream.

  5. 5 stars
    This was delicious. I added cilantro/lime rice and did not add the peppers or olives. The walnut meat had great flavor. Overall very satisfying!

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve never done anything like this with nuts, but it was tasty! My hubby liked it a lot and didn’t recognize it wasn’t meat! I told him when we were finished and he said…..well, I did think it was something other than ground beef…..
    The nuts were somewhat astringent in my mouth, but I’m not sure why. Maybe I should soak longer?

    1. I love that you didn’t tell your hubby what it was until afterwards.

      Yes, I would try soaking them a bit longer. I also rinse them off really good as well before adding them to a recipe.

  7. 4 stars
    Surprisingly delicious! I was a bit nervous about the walnuts, but they were so good.

  8. 5 stars
    I loved this salad but did not want to mess around with the cashew cream, so I mixed Greek yogurt, salsa and nutritional yeast together for a very tasty dressing! Five stars!

    1. 5 stars
      Love taco salad! I used ground beef instead of the walnuts but made everything else the same! Great meal we enjoy year round.

  9. 4 stars
    Surprise this is great. Made this and had our daughter drop in for dinner. Was enough to feed all three of us. Well balanced flavours. Had sour cream and salsa sides since I didn’t have enough avocado for the dressing.

  10. 4 stars
    This taco salad is soo so good! I suggest seasoning the beans & corn with some lime juice, pepper, paprika, and Tajin seasoning for a bit more flavor 🙂

  11. 4 stars
    The walnut “meat” is great! The seasonings made it taste just right. This was a filling and tasty dinner salad. I might make it with fewer toppings just to save a little time and effort. I made it as written but added a little bit of salsa to serve.

  12. 5 stars
    This “taco meat” is incredible and will become a new regular ingredient for me! This salad has so many great flavors and crunch. I made the cashew cream with chipotle peppers and it gave a great kick!

  13. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! Very filling! I didn’t soak my cashews in enough time to make the cashew cream, but it should be ready for my leftovers tomorrow. I love all the different flavors in this salad.

    1. In the past, if I’ve forgotten to soak the cashews over night I have just put some hot water on them and let them soak while I’m making everything else. Then they are good to go!