A lot of taco salads I see in restaurants just seem to be glorified burrito bowls — heavy on starches and shy on vegetables. How about a taco salad that really celebrates an assortment of raw, crunchy vegetables? Let's make a no-lettuce taco salad instead.
The most important thing in a chopped salad is a good variety of flavors and textures so it doesn't get boring or mushy. I like pinto beans for a nice change from black beans, spicy radishes with their tops (so nothing goes to waste), crisp jicama, juicy cherry tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, and creamy avocado. Not only is this salad colorful, but every bite is also deliciously different.
As for the dressing, I skip a creamy dressing in lieu of a bright cumin and lime blend that's flavored with garlic, cayenne, and some ketchup to balance everything out. Since this salad has no lettuce in it, you can even dress it before bringing it to work — just bring the tortilla chips separately (in my opinion, tortilla chips are mandatory!) so they stay nice and crunchy.
Vegetarian Taco Salad
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons) cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons) ketchup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
Pinch cayenne pepper
For the salad:
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch radishes with tops attached
8 ounces jicama
8 ounces cherry tomatoes
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium avocado
1/4 medium red onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup crumbled Cotjia or queso fresco cheese
1 cup crumbled tortilla chips
For the dressing: Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
For the salad: Place the beans in the bowl with the dressing. Separate the radishes from their tops and wash and dry both. Quarter each radish. Coarsely chop the radish tops and add the radishes and their tops to the bowl of beans.
Peel the jicama and cut it into 1/2-inch dice, and add to the bowl. Halve the cherry tomatoes (quarter if large), and add to the bowl. Core and seed the bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice, and add to the bowl. Halve and pit the avocado, cut into 1/2-inch dice, and add to the bowl. Finely chop the red onion and add to the bowl.
Sprinkle with the cilantro and toss to gently coat. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Divide the salad among bowls and top with the cheese and tortilla chips.
Make ahead: The dressing can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance. The salad can also be dressed and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
(Image credits: Maria Siriano)