Taco Salad


This Tex-Mex favorite boasts plenty of flavor from cumin, chili powder and cilantro, and comes together in just minutes. Slideshow:  Favorite Southwestern and Tex-Mex Recipes 

Southwestern Tortilla Salad
Photo: © Helene Dujardin
Active Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
20 mins

This taco salad is a great way to use up leftover roast chicken, or pull together a quick lunch or dinner with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Building it as a layered salad gives the salad a more interesting texture and presentation, and sets it apart from what you find in most restaurants. You'll be surprised by how quick and easy it is to make your own refried beans — and how much better they taste than the ready-made variety. The vinegar, mustard, pepper, and chili powder give the dressing a punch of flavor that stands up to the cheese, olives, and cilantro in the salad.

If you like, you can swap in slices of leftover cooked steak or pork here instead of using chicken. You can even use cooked ground beef, turkey, or pork, or eliminate the meat for a vegetarian version. If you don't have crunchy hard taco shells on hand, use tortilla chips for the bottom layer of this salad.


  • 8 taco shells

  • 5 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil

  • 2 cups drained and rinsed kidney beans (from one 19-ounce can)

  • 1/3 cup tomato salsa

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons wine vinegar

  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded

  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 avocado, cut into thin slices

  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

  • 1 roasted chicken, bones and skin removed, meat shredded (about 1 pound meat)

  • 1/3 cup black olives, such as Kalamata, halved and pitted


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Put taco shells on a baking sheet and bake them until crisp, about 8 minutes. Break each one in half.

  2. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add beans, salsa, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, mashing with a potato masher, for about 5 minutes.

  3. In a small glass or stainless-steel bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, pepper, chili powder, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the remaining 4 1/2 tablespoons oil, whisking. Add cilantro.

  4. To serve, spread one side of the taco shell halves with refried beans and put four on each plate. Top with layers of the lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cheese, chicken, and olives. Pour the dressing over the salads.

Suggested Pairing

The forceful flavor of cheddar cheese and the saltiness of the olives will go very nicely with a crisp and lively Sauvignon Blanc from California.

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