Enjoy an easy taco salad recipe, safe for a gluten-free diet and ready in 20 minutes for a quick weeknight dinner the whole family loves! This gluten-free taco salad boasts extraordinary flavor from a combination of kitchen-staple spices and bonus lime cilantro sour cream topping. Sprinkle fresh lettuce, beans, cheese, and tomatoes with crunchy tortilla chips or substitute another of the suggested gluten-free toppings, keeping the taste and texture of a taco bowl without the fuss!
Gluten-Free Taco Salad
When I’m looking for gluten-free Mexican food ideas, I gravitate toward recipes that don’t require speciality expensive ingredients. For instance, this gluten-free taco salad recipe uses taco meat without taco seasoning and ingredients I already have on hand or are widely available.
After browning the ground beef, season with staple spices, like chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and paprika – things typically pantry-stocked. Then stir in the salsa, making the taco meat saucier and adding an extra boost of flavor.
The next crucial step when making a taco salad gluten-free is how to replace the signature taco shell. Why do we love the taco bowl? Because it is crunchy and salty and mimics crunchy taco shells.
Of course, you could whip up a batch of these great-tasting gluten-free flour tortillas and deep fry them, but that would require extra time and effort. Instead, I turned to a trick used in Mexican Chicken Casserole, crushed corn tortillas. They are available everywhere and provide the perfect salty crunch!
Besides learning how to make a gluten-free taco salad in minutes, discover my essential Mexican flavor booster – lime cilantro sour cream, and more easy tricks, like more creative gluten-free ideas for taco shell bowls, the best taco salad toppings, or ingredient swaps to make this recipe work for you and your diet!
Although there are some basics, like lettuce and taco meat, taco salad ingredients can be modified to your liking. Dairy-free? Leave off the cheese. Want more protein? Add your favorite beans. Looking for a healthy taco salad recipe? Replace the ground beef with ground turkey or chicken.
- Lettuce – Typically tacos use iceberg lettuce, which would work for this salad. However, I find romaine to hold up better with the salad components and stays crisp, rather than soggy, when tossed together.
- Meat – Use ground beef, chuck, or sirloin. If using a fattier beef, be sure to drain off the grease before adding the homemade taco seasoning. Alternatively, ground turkey, chicken, or vegan seitan may be used.
- Veggies – This is where your preferences come in! Chop bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, tomatoes, or spicy jalapenos.
- Cheese – Use any preferred cheese, such as cheddar, colby jack, pepper jack, or cotija. For a dairy-free taco salad, omit the cheese or replace with a non-dairy substitute.
- Corn tortillas – When choosing tortillas chips be sure to read the label for any possible contamination or gluten-containing ingredients. Some brands mix in other grains and safe GF chips should only contain corn, oil and salt. I use El Milgro, Misson, On The Border or Santitas because they are widely available and clearly labeled.
- Seasoning – Make taco salad without taco seasoning by adding in these simple spices – chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. A little oregano may also be added, but is not necessary. To add moisture, stir in any preferred salsa, mild to hot.
how to make a Gluten-Free Taco Salad
(Below shows step-by-step photos and modified instructions. For the complete recipe, along with ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card.)
- Begin by browning the ground beef over medium high heat until no longer pink. Drain excess grease and return to the pan.
- Next add in the salsa, water, and spices. Simmer for 1-2 minutes then remove from heat to cool slightly.
- While the beef is cooling, prepare the taco salads. Wash and chop lettuce and place in a large bowl or divide between plates. Top with cheese, beans, and any other preferred toppings. Top with the prepared ground beef and sprinkle with tortilla chips.
- Stir together the cilantro lime sour cream ingredients and dollop on top. Serve with extra salsa or a gluten-free salad dressing.
Alternatives for Taco Salad BowlS
Traditionally taco salads are served in a fried flour tortilla bowl, but this is unsafe for a gluten-free diet. The easiest option is to crush corn tortilla chips and sprinkle on top. However, here are some other gluten-free alternatives for taco bowls!
- Frito corn chips – The original corn chips brand are safe for a GF diet.
- Doritos – Use with precaution! While Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch do not contain gluten ingredients, but they may have be contaminated in processing. They are not tested / labeled gluten-free.
- Homemade corn chips – Cut gluten-free corn tortillas into triangles. Deep fry in oil, grease a baking sheet and bake in a 375º oven for 10-20 minutes or air fry.
Easy Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning
When making a gluten-free taco salad I prefer to use a homemade taco seasoning so I know all my ingredients are safe. While some recipes use a large array of spices to replace the packet, I found an easier trick!
First add in the essential flavors – chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and paprika. For a little sauciness stir in water and salsa then simmer for 1-2 minutes. Alternatively, use a trick from this gluten-free tamale pie recipe, stirring in GF enchilada sauce. Either will work!
Gluten-Free dressing options
Honestly, once you dollop on the lime cilantro sour cream and a little additional salsa, I find that to be enough! However, if you would like to drizzle on dressing, French, Catalina, or ranch would go well.
Be sure to read ingredient labels. Some brands clearly label their dressings gluten-free, while some do not contain gluten ingredients, but are not labeled as such. Hidden Valley ranch labels theirs GF, while Kraft Catalina has safe ingredients but isn’t labeled.
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20-Minute Gluten-Free Taco Salad with Ground Beef
- In a large saute pan brown the ground beef over medium high heat until no longer pink. Drain excess grease and return to the pan.1 pound ground beef
- To the beef add the salsa, water, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, paprika, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Set aside.¾ cup salsa,½ cup water,1 tablespoon chili powder,1 teaspoon cumin,½ teaspoon garlic powder,½ teaspoon salt,¼ teaspoon paprika,⅛ teaspoon pepper,pinch cayenne pepper
- In 4 large bowls or dinner plates, divide the lettuce, tortilla chips, cheese, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, and any optional ingredients. Top with prepared ground beef.1 head romaine lettuce,2 cups gluten-free corn tortilla chips,1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese,1 cup can black beans,,1 pint grape tomatoes,1 avocado,¼ cup diced red onion,optional fresh cilantro, jalapeños, green onions, salsa
- Stir together the cilantro lime sour cream ingredients in a small bowl. Serve alongside taco salad with additional salsa or dressing.½ cup sour cream,1 lime,3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro,⅛ teaspoon salt
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