This nacho salad recipe with creamy salsa dressing is a fun upgrade to the usual taco salad. With gooey cheese, satisfying black beans and the most delicious toppings, this fresh and tasty salad will become your new favorite lunch.
Say hello to taco salad’s cooler, hotter older sister: nacho salad.
I know they sound identical, I do. But what makes this nacho salad so good is that you’re topping your veggies with actual cooked nachos. Like, melty cheese and all.
This nacho salad is as nutritious as it is delicious too. It has 40 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, and it’s loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals too. And the best part is, it’s a super quick and easy lunch option that will help you full and satisfied all afternoon.
Are you new here? I’m Miranda–a balanced registered dietitian helping you get healthy for good with realistic nutrition and wellness tips, and truly easy recipes.
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Why you’ll love this recipe
It has nachos. If you’re a human you probably love nachos. And this fun nacho salad combines all the deliciousness of your favorite pub food with a nutrition boost this dietitian loves.
It’s great for meal prep. Chop and store your veggies in advance, prepare a big batch of dressing, and cook the ground beef ahead of time. And boom! A quick lunch ready to serve all week long.
It will actually keep you full. Ever finish a salad only to be absolutely dying for a cookie an hour later? That doesn’t happen when you build meals and snacks like these–ones that balance nutrition with satisfaction.
It’s healthy. You might be surprised to hear the words ‘healthy’ and ‘nachos’ on the same page. But it’s true! This easy nacho salad recipe is loaded with protein, fiber and micronutrients to support your health without feeling deprived.
What’s the difference between nacho salad and taco salad?
They’re similar! But nacho salad is better, in my humble opinion.
Nacho salad adds nachos with melted cheese on top of your lettuce and other salad ingredients. Taco salad usually uses plain, crushed tortilla chips or Doritos.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Ground beef– this recipe calls for lean ground beef (90-95% will work), but you’re welcome to swap for ground chicken, ground turkey, lentils, or rotisserie chicken.
- Taco seasoning–an optional seasoning for the ground beef. I’ve made this salad with and without, and it’s delicious both ways!
- Romaine lettuce–adds fiber, water, and a delicious crunch. Iceberg lettuce or coleslaw mix work well too.
- Black beans–for fiber and extra protein. Feel free to sub with pinto beans, white kidney beans, or any bean you have at home.
- Sliced jalapenos–adds some spice, so be careful! You can use fresh or pickled.
- Red onion–a must for delicious nachos or nacho salads, if you ask me. Feel free to swap for green onion or chives for a more mild taste.
- Mini tortilla chip rounds–the smaller shape just works better on a fork. But you’re welcome to use other shapes and sizes of tortilla chips if you’d like. And I’m just going to say it: Doritos would be really delicious here too.
- Shredded cheddar cheese–any melty cheese you enjoy will work. Mozzarella, monterey jack, or a mexican cheese blend are great options.
- Creamy salsa dressing–this easy recipe uses sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, lime and salt. Feel free to simply use salsa and sour cream if you’d prefer.
How to make nacho salad
Step 1: Brown the beef.
In a large pan on medium heat, brown the ground beef for 6-8 minutes or until no longer pink. Break up the beef with a wooden spoon or spatula until small, uniform crumbles form. Add desired seasonings and mix well.
Step 2: Prepare salad ingredients.
Prepare ingredients for salad. In 4 separate bowls, divide lettuce, ground beef, black beans, jalapeños and red onion evenly.
Step 3: Heat nachos.
Spread tortilla chips on microwave-safe plate and top with shredded cheese. Microwave for 15-25 seconds or until cheese is melted and beginning to bubble. If you would prefer, melt cheese under a broiler in the oven, or bake in a toaster oven or air fryer.
Step 4: Assemble final salad ingredients and serve!
Add 1/4 of the nachos directly onto each salad bowl. Top with creamy salsa dressing and additional toppings of your choice. Enjoy immediately!
This nacho salad welcomes any and all toppings you love, such as:
- Pickled red onion
- Diced bell pepper
- Green onions
- Pinto beans
- Extra salsa
- Ranch dressing
- Refried beans
- Sliced olives
Tips for success
- Chop your lettuce small so it can be picked up easier on your fork.
- Prepare the nachos right before assembling and eating your salad for maximum freshness.
- Once the melted cheese on the nachos has cooled, try breaking the nachos up slightly with a fork or your fingers so they better incorporate in the salad.
- The more toppings, the better. Feel free to add extra salsa, dressing, or any toppings you like.
Frequently asked questions
How can I make this salad for meal prep?
This recipe can be adjusted for a grab-and-go lunch option by preparing ingredients in advance and portioning before serving each day. For 1 serving, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup cooked ground beef
- 2 cups romaine lettuce
- 1/3 cup black beans
- 1 tbsp sliced jalapeños
- 1-2 tbsp red onion
- 1/2 cup tortilla chips
- 1/3 cup shredded cheese
- 2 tbsp salad dressing
- Extra salsa or other toppings as desired
For best results, assemble and heat nachos and cheese right before serving. Ground beef and black beans can also be heated in the microwave if you prefer.
What if the nachos aren’t mixing well with the salad?
Break them up with a fork or your fingers! At times, this nacho salad can be a little awkward to eat. But it’s SO delicious.
Do I have to heat the nachos and cheese?
Nope! Feel free to add nachos or cheese onto the salad cold / room temperature.
How can I make this recipe vegetarian?
This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the ground beef and doubling the black beans. For a plant-based version, take the extra steps of leaving out cheese, and making the vegan version of the creamy salsa dressing with vegan mayonnaise.
I don’t like spice–what do I do?!
Do not add jalapeños and choose a mild salsa when making the creamy salsa dressing. Feel free to remove, swap and add ingredients as desired!
Easy Nacho Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing
- 1 lbs lean ground beef
- 2 tbsp taco seasoning optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 cups romaine or iceberg lettuce finely chopped
- 1 can black beans rinsed
- 1/4 cup sliced jalapeños
- 1/3 red onion finely chopped
- 2 cups mini tortilla chips rounds
- 1 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese or shredded cheese of choice
Brown the beef
- In a large pan on medium heat, brown the ground beef for 6-8 minutes or until no longer pink. Break up beef with wooden spoon or spatula until beef is in small, uniform crumbles. Add desired seasonings and mix well.
Prepare salad ingredients
- Prepare ingredients for salad. In 4 separate bowls, divide lettuce, ground beef, black beans, jalapeños and red onion.
- Spread tortilla chips on microwave-safe plate and top with shredded cheese. Microwave for 15-25 seconds or until cheese is melted and beginning to bubble. If you would prefer, melt cheese under a broiler in the oven, or bake in a toaster oven or air fryer.
Assemble final salad ingredients and serve
- Add 1/4 of the nachos directly onto each salad bowl. Top each salad with 2 tbsp creamy salsa dressing and additional toppings of your choice. Enjoy immediately!
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