California Taco Salad

updated Aug 1, 2019
Taco Salad

Tthis California spin on the classic taco salad is a lighter version with a cool cilantro dressing.


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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

As part of Kitchn’s celebration of all things California, we asked 19 cooks from various disciplines — chefs, photographers, writers — to see what dish they think best embodies California home cooking in 2019. See all the recipes here.

Food blogger and cookbook author Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking has built a following for her decidedly Californian sensibility, from writing a book about avocados to putting fresh CA ingredients front and center.

Her taco salad, a spin on the versions she grew up eating during high school lunches, is a catch-all for produce from the market, and can easily be adapted year-round to feature seasonal ingredients (corn in the summer, sweet potatoes in the fall, you get the idea). “It’s one of those meals that I make on repeat, whether it’s for lunch or dinner,” Dalkin says.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Taco Salad

Tthis California spin on the classic taco salad is a lighter version with a cool cilantro dressing.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the cilantro vinaigrette:

  • 1

    shallot, roughly chopped

  • 2 cups

    tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed (about 4 ounces)

  • 1 clove


  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 cup

    olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons

    red wine vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon


For the meat:

  • 2 teaspoons

    olive oil

  • 1

    small onion, diced

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, chopped

  • 8 ounces

    ground turkey or chicken

  • 1 tablespoon

    taco seasoning

  • 1/4 cup


For the salad:

  • 2 heads

    romaine lettuce, thinly shredded

  • 1 cup

    cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

  • 1/2 cup

    grated cheddar cheese

  • 2 ears

    corn, shucked and corn sliced off the cobs

  • 2

    avocados, diced

  • 3

    scallions, sliced

  • Cilantro leaves

  • A few tablespoons red onion, chopped or sliced

  • 1 cup

    canned black beans, rinsed and drained


  1. Make the cilantro vinaigrette: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend for 2 minutes until smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed and set aside.

  2. Cook the meat: Place a medium skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more. Add the ground chicken or turkey and continue to cook for 6 to 7 minutes until fully cooked. Add the taco seasoning and the water and reduce heat to low. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes while you assemble the salad.

  3. Assemble the salad: If you’re layering this in one large serving bowl, layer half of the lettuce on the bottom followed by half of all the other toppings. Add the next layer of lettuce on top and finish with the remaining toppings. Top with the meat and toss together with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Add more as needed and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of Gaby Dalkin/What’s Gaby Cooking.