If there ever was a summery, fun, please everyone kind of salad, Frito Taco Salad has got to be it. This is a salad that’s great for the family on any hot night when you want to temp appetites but don’t want anything too heavy. And it’s a great option if you’re asked to bring something to a party or potluck.
And one of the best things about Frito Taco Salad is that it is so perfectly customizable. Even the Fritos, but we’ll talk more on that, later!
About Frito Taco Salad:
When I made my Frito Taco Salad, I put in what I liked and what I had on hand. I chose curly lettuce, taco meat, black beans, cheese, black olives, red & green onion, and sour cream. And I topped mine with Fritos (they stand up so well in the salad, they’re thick and crunchy) my Homemade Cataline French Dressing and a little taco sauce. Of course, I finished eating and saw the avocado, still sitting there on the table!
You might want to see my page on Favorite Mexican/Southwestern Recipes for items like classic beef taco filling, chicken tinga, barbacoa, guacamole, etc., and this recipe for Greek Yogurt Ranch and my highly recommended Catalina Dressing recipe. Or if it’s more your style, consider what items you’ll make and what items you’ll buy.
Frito Taco Salad
Pick a Protein:
But the joy of this salad is you can use anything you like that could possibly go in a taco! Think of yourself going through a line at Chipotles or your fave taqueria. You could use chicken, grilled or shredded, beef, like barbacoa, steak, even barbecued pulled pork. You can check out my favorite Mexican and Southwestern Recipes for inspiration. For 4 to 6 people, you’ll want about a pound of your main protein. And of course, you can go vegetarian with pinto or black beans or dollops of refried beans (they can be a bit awkward) or just add them on in, meat or no.
Pick your Veggies & Add Ins:
Next, decide on the veggies. Iceberg or another sturdy lettuce like romaine or curly lettuce or even a little cabbage, red or green onion, a few radishes. You can add corn. That’s always good. And of course, avocado, but don’t put that on too far ahead. And don’t forget it like I did!! Black olives are great, too, and they’re sturdy. If you’re a rice or a grain person, feel free to add anything you like, though don’t add anything that will be “mushy.”
Pick your Toppings:
By toppings, of course, we’re talking the chips, of which I recommend Fritos, but tortilla chips work well, so do Doritos and even a tangle of homemade tortilla strips, shallow fried. There’s just no such thing as wrong.
But we’re also talking a big dollop of sour cream and/or guacamole and maybe some pico de gallo. And you need something to act as a dressing. Catalina, like my Home-made Catalina, is fantastic, maybe even mixed half and half with a taco sauce. Or full-on taco sauce. Or maybe some Ranch. Hey, it’s your Taco Salad. Don’t forget the cheese, any type from a traditional Mexican to Cheddar, Colby or Jack.
Making Frito Taco Salad:
Of course, at home, you can lay everything out for everyone to pick and choose or just mix it up on a big platter. That’s my fave way, coz a lot of individual dishes and toppings, well it can be a nightmare of a mess! I guess I’d say know your audience! I start with the lettuce, then the protein and beans, then the veggies, the cheese and top with a big dollop of sour cream. Next go the chips and then the dressing.
If you’re planning on taking this to a party or want to make it ahead, layering is the way to go. Working from the bottom, you want to start with the heaviest items. The meat goes first, then beans and/or corn, and work your way up, with the veggies at the top. You’ll probably want to use the sturdiest of lettuces. I’d put a layer of guac or sour cream in the center somewhere and then top the salad with your dressing and/or taco sauce. And the chips, so they stay crunchy, are always the last layer.
When you’re ready to eat, mix and serve! This recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. to feed whatever size crowd you’re serving. Just make sure your container has plenty of room to mix in so it won’t spill out.
Saving Money on Frito Taco Salad:
Obviously, it can be a bit of a challenge to bring a salad like this, with multiple ingredients in at a budget – unless you have a well-stocked pantry and freezer (full of sales priced items) and only have to do the actual shop for the freshest of the ingredients.
If you’re bringing this to a party around a summer holiday, it’s likely that you’ll find many of the fresh ingredients on sale. If your using avocado, though, buy ahead to be sure they’re ready when you need them.
If you’re in the habit of making things like taco meat or long braised, dishes like barbacoa or chicken tinga ahead (whether I’m actually braising, using the slow cooker or the Instant Pot) portioning and freezing, well, you can shop your freezer and save a little money and an extra step.
Frito Taco Salad
- 1 small head of sturdy lettuce, romaine or curly, or 1/2 head o fice berg, torn or chopped
- 1 pound taco meat, ground beef, steak, barbacoa chicken, shredded pork (see note)
- 1 can beans of choice, black beans or pintos, rinsed or refried beans
- 1 can corn, drained and rinsed or 1 cup frozen, cooked or fresh, cooked and removed from the cob, optional
- vegetables of choice, a cup or two total: red and/or green onion, diced, radishes, pico de gallo, black olives, guacamole, avocado or any of your favorite taco toppings
- 4 to 6 ounces shredded cheese, Cheddar, Colby, jack or queso fresco
- a big dollop of sour cream, 1/3 cup or so
- dressing of choice, Catalina, ranch or taco sauce, or a combo of dressing and taco sauce
Layer the lettuce, then beans and protein, top with veggies, cheese, sour cream (or guacamole if using) then add the chips and dressing of choice and/or hot sauce.
For a crowd:
Increase as desired. Start with the protein first, then the beans, the veggies, lighter ones on the top. Layer in the sour cream and or guacamole if using, then top with the cheese and dressing and/or hot sauce. The chips go on top. Mix before serving.