Turkey Taco Salad

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Delicious Turkey Taco Salad is packed with veggies and a delicious, creamy cilantro dressing! Ground turkey is cooked with veggies, taco seasonings, and salsa to create a moist, flavor-packed taco meat. That meat goes over a bed of lettuce, topped with your favorite taco salad toppings, and coated in a creamy flavorful dressing.

Overhead image of Turkey Taco Salad, dressed and ready to be eaten.

Nutritious Turkey Taco Salad

Mix ground turkey with tons of healthy ingredients — plenty of vegetables, seasonings, beans, and salsa and you’ve created an unforgettable salad. Add your other taco salad favorites (mine are Cheddar cheese, tortilla strips, lots of avocado, fresh lime, and plenty of cilantro), drizzle with an easy 5-minute blender dressing that is amazing, and you are on your way to one of the best ever taco salads! 

Process shots-- images of the veggies being sautéed; the meat being added.

Turkey Taco Salad toppers

  • Taco turkey meat: The meat is cooked with diced onion, pepper, and garlic to infuse lots of flavor. We also add in a packet of taco seasoning or a homemade taco seasoning blend (see below).
  • Beans: Black beans, dark red kidney beans, or chili beans all taste great in this salad.
  • Salsa: Stir in either salsa or picante sauce with the ground turkey and bean mixture. The salsa ensures plenty of flavor and seasoning, as well as moisture for the ground turkey.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Quarter or halve cherry tomatoes for a juicy, sweet topping. I like using heirloom cherry tomatoes for even more flavor and variety.
  • Red onion: If you like raw red onion in a taco salad, that instead of the yellow onion called for in the recipe. Use half of the red onion in the ground turkey mixture (instead of the yellow onion) and use the rest to top the salad.
  • Avocado: A ripe, thinly sliced or chopped avocado adds a nice creaminess to the salad. A big scoop of guacamole is a great alternative.
  • Cheddar cheese: We love a handful of freshly grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese to the salad. A light sprinkle of cotija cheese or queso cotija would also be delicious.
  • Tortilla strips: Either homemade or store-bought tortilla strips add a nice crunch and if they’re seasoned, a nice additional flavor to the salad.
  • Fresh lime: We love a few squeezes of fresh lime over everything; it adds freshness and brightness to the salad.
  • More cilantro: Add full leaves or chop up some leftover cilantro (from the dressing) to add to this salad. Alternatively, thinly sliced scallions or green onions would work well.
  • Corn: Frozen (and thawed) corn or corn cut off the cob makes another fun addition to Turkey Taco Salad. 

Homemade taco seasoning

To keep the prep on this chicken taco salad easier, I use a packet of taco seasoning for the ground turkey. If I’ve got extra time I’ll whip up a quick taco seasoning (which honestly, there is no comparison for homemade vs. packet!).

Here’s the recipe for that if you’d like to make your taco seasoning from scratch:

  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon beef bouillon powder (optional)

Stir the seasonings together and use in place of the taco seasoning packet when cooking the ground turkey.

Overhead image of the Turkey Taco Salad with all the ingredients on top.

Creamy cilantro dressing

We’re obsessed with this dressing and use it often! It’s the perfect complement to Turkey Taco Salad. A few notes on the dressing:

  • I recommend making it in advance so it has a chance to chill. The flavors intensify and meld together as this dressing chills.
  • Don’t forget to season: The ranch seasoning adds a good amount of salt, but make sure to test the dressing and see if it needs any more.
  • Taste and adjust: While we’re talking about seasoning this dressing, don’t forget to taste and adjust the dressing to personal preference. I’ll often add in more cilantro since we love it.
  • If you don’t have buttermilk, use sour cream instead. Low-fat or fat-free sour cream works great.

Overhead image of the dressing for this salad being made in the blender.

Turkey Taco Salad tips

  • Roll the romaine lettuce into thin cigars and thinly slice. Chop the thin slices to get thin, short ribbons of lettuce. This gives the lettuce more surface area for the dressing to coat and makes the salad easier to eat.
  • Wash lettuce and make sure to dry thoroughly. There’s nothing that ruins a salad quicker than wet lettuce! Use a salad spinner, if you have one, to ensure the lettuce is 100% dry before adding anything else.
  • Pick out a ripe avocado — it makes all the difference in adding a creamy element to this turkey taco salad. How to test if an avocado is ripe: If an avocado yields to a firm gentle pressure (shouldn’t give in too easily) you know it’s ripe and ready-to-eat.

Overhead image of Turkey Taco Salad, fully dressed and ready to be eaten.

Turkey Taco Salad leftovers

Unfortunately, once dressed, this salad doesn’t store well, because the dressing makes the lettuce and other ingredients soggy. I’d recommend only dressing what you will enjoy the same day. Store the dressing and salad separately. You’ll also want to store the avocado separately since it has a tendency to brown and change texture.

One of our favorite ways to re-purpose these leftovers is in a wrap. Warm a large tortilla and layer in the (re-heated) turkey taco filling. Top it with cheese, shredded lettuce, and plenty of the sauce. Roll it up and enjoy!

Make ahead

The components for this turkey taco salad can all be prepared ahead of time and then assembled just before serving. Store the dressing in a mason jar in the fridge and shake (or stir) before tossing with the salad. Slice the avocado right before serving.

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Turkey Taco Salad

5 from 1 vote
Delicious Turkey Taco Salad is packed with veggies and a delicious creamy cilantro dressing! Ground turkey is cooked with veggies, taco seasonings, and salsa to create a moist, flavor-packed taco meat. That meat is added to a bed of lettuce, topped with your favorite taco salad toppings, and coated in a creamy flavorful dressing.
Print Recipe

Turkey Taco Salad

5 from 1 vote
Delicious Turkey Taco Salad is packed with veggies and a delicious creamy cilantro dressing! Ground turkey is cooked with veggies, taco seasonings, and salsa to create a moist, flavor-packed taco meat. That meat is added to a bed of lettuce, topped with your favorite taco salad toppings, and coated in a creamy flavorful dressing.
Course Salad
Cuisine Healthy
Keyword Turkey Taco Salad
Prep Time 35 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 -6 large salads
Calories 359kcal
Cost $6.12

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (70g) yellow onion, diced (~1/2 large onion) (See Note 1)
  • 1 cup (126g) diced sweet bell peppers, (2 small or 1 large)
  • 2 teaspooons minced garlic
  • 1 package (16 ounces) lean ground turkey
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (See Note 2)
  • 1 cup (235g) salsa or picante sauce
  • 1 can (15 ounces; 432g) chili beans in mild sauce, black beans or kidney beans (leave chili beans undrained and kidney/black beans need to be rinsed and drained)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce, washed & dried completely
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
  • Optional toppings: 1 cup chopped or halved cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, fresh lime juice, fresh cilantro, 1 large ripe avocado (chopped or thinly sliced), 1/4th of 1 red onion thinly sliced, and tortilla strips

Dressing (See Note 3)

  • 1 large lime (1/2 teaspoon zest and 2 and 1/2 tablespoons juice)
  • 2 tablespoons traditional ranch seasoning mix (not prepared)
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 garlic clove)
  • 1 (~1/2 cup; 60g) tomatillo, husk removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 of 1 bunch (15g; tightly packed 1/2 cup) fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped jalapeño
  • 1/2 cup (95g) regular mayo
  • 1/2 cup (113g) lowfat buttermilk
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  • DRESSING: Zest and juice the lime. Add to the blender along with the DRY ranch seasoning mix, minced garlic, chopped tomatillo, cilantro (I take a large bunch, separate it in half and twist to rip out half -- add that (stems are fine!), jalapeno, mayo, and buttermilk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust to personal preference (more lime, more cilantro, more garlic, salt/pepper). Chill in the fridge to allow flavors to meld and intensify while making the salad.
  • TURKEY TACO MEAT: In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add in the diced onion, diced pepper, and garlic. Stir occasionally for 5-7 minutes or until tender; reduce the heat if anything is burning. Add in the ground turkey and taco seasoning and cook another 5-7 minutes or until turkey is no longer pink breaking up turkey into crumbles as you cook. Stir in the salsa or picante sauce and the kidney, black or chili beans and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a lid and remove from the heat.
  • SALAD: Divide the romaine lettuce evenly among four to six plates/bowl or add to 1 large salad plate/platter. Add the fresh cilantro. Top with the taco turkey mixture and add your favorite toppings! In my opinion; freshly grated cheddar cheese, avocado, lime, chopped tomatoes, and tortilla strips are a must! Drizzle the dressing (see step 1) over the salads and enjoy immediately. Do not assemble any salads that won't be enjoyed immediately; if you want leftovers store the lettuce, taco meat, and toppings all separately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you like raw red onion in a taco salad, use red onion instead of the yellow onion called for in the recipe. Use half of the red onion in the ground turkey mixture (instead of using the yellow onion) and use the rest to top the salad.
Note 2: To make your own taco seasoning combine the following spices:
  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon beef bouillon powder (optional)
Note 3: This dressing is likely more than you'll use on the salad (unless you're a huge dressing lover). While you can halve the recipe, I like to always have more just in case. Add dressing to salad plates slowly and to personal preference. Leftover dressing will stay in the fridge for up to a week and goes well with veggies or on other salads.
Nutrition for this salad varies widely, depending on what you top the salad with, the amount of toppings, how much dressing, etc. I recommend adding your customized salad to My Fitness Pal®. The nutrition label I've included, is only for the base salad ingredients and does not include any salad toppings.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 359kcal

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Nutrition facts in turkey taco salad

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4 Comments

  1. I love everything about this salad – the colors the ingredients but my most favorite must be the dressing! I haven’t tried using buttermilk in a dressing but it sounds interesting!

  2. 5 stars
    I find that wearing a mask to the store has put a damper on my excitement about going grocery shopping. So I was rummaging through the pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner with ingredients I had on hand, and I came across this recipe. I had to make a couple of substitutions (I used ground beef and chickpeas because that’s what I had), and I looked up your recipe for taco seasoning (which I will use again!) because I didn’t have a packet. (Maybe you should put a link here on this page.) Once again, our dinner was scrumptious — thanks to you! I have been cooking dinners for 36 years, and I can’t remember finding a better selection of dependable, delicious recipes. Your website has become my Corona Cookbook, and I am excited to see what recipes await!

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