Recipe: Taco Salad

You won't find this at your local mall

This beloved food court classic has been in need of a face-lift for quite some time. The traditional taco salad is typically made by filling a tortilla shell with shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheddar and ground beef (most likely seasoned with a spice packet). Our version has grilled skirt steak, black beans, shredded cabbage, spicy crema . . . well, it has a lot of stuff in it. But it all somehow comes together in a brighter, fresher way.

To learn more, read "Legends of the Mall."

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Taco Salad
4.7 from 61 ratings
Make this spin on taco salad with grilled skirt steak, spicy crema and a shredded cabbage and bean slaw.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • For the Taco Shell
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • For the Crema
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sambal sauce
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • For the Black Beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely diced yellow onion (½ medium yellow onion)
  • One 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano
  • For the Grilled Tomatoes
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored and halved crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • For the Steak
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound skirt steak, silver skin removed, patted dry
  • For the Taco Salad
  • Black beans
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • Grilled tomatoes
  • 2 radishes, sliced very thin
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • ⅓ cup torn mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Grilled skirt steak
  • 1 avocado—halved, pitted and cut into 8 slices
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano chile pepper, stemmed and cut into thin rounds
  • 5 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  1. Make the taco shell: Line a baking sheet with a paper towel. Pour enough oil into a large Dutch oven to reach a depth of 2 inches and heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 350˚. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, fry, flipping often until the tortilla is light golden, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Using tongs, push down on the center of the tortilla, so the outer edges flare and puff up. Continue to fry until golden brown and puffy, 1 minute more. Remove from the oil and place upside down over a glass cup set over the prepared baking sheet; season with salt. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
  2. Make the crema: In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and sambal. Season with salt and stir.
  3. Make the black beans: In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the onions and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring often, until soft but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beans and water, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the oregano and keep warm on low heat.
  4. Make the grilled tomatoes: Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. Alternatively, place a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the tomatoes with the oil and grill, flipping occasionally, until the tomatoes have blistered, 2 to 4 minutes. Season with salt, roughly chop and set aside.
  5. Make the skirt steak: In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, salt, onion and garlic powders, and black pepper. Rub the steak with the seasoning.
  6. Grill the steak, flipping once, until it's lightly charred and cooked to preferred doneness, 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  7. Assemble the taco salad: Drain the black beans and place them in a large bowl. Add the cabbage, grilled tomatoes, radishes, cilantro and mint. Add the olive oil, season with salt and toss.
  8. Divide the cabbage mixture among the 4 taco shells. Top each taco shell with the steak, avocado slices, jalapeño or serrano rounds, and Cotija. Garnish each shell with a lime wedge and serve with the crema.
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