Doritos® Taco Salad
Ground beef, beans and nacho cheese chips bring together a satisfying summer supper.
Ours was a meat-and-potatoes household.Sometimes a few from my grandparents’ Austrian, German and Hungarian recipes were mixed in with traditional Midwestern fare. So, when Mom set a bowl of taco salad on our table for the first time, she was met with curious looks.
Frankly, it looked a bit of a mess; shredded iceberg lettuce, red beans, onions, tomatoes, and—gasp—Nacho Cheese Doritos—tossed together with Thousand Island dressing. I’m sure my wisely unexpressed thought was “you took my favorite snacking chip and broke them up into THIS SALAD that has BEANS?”
But like most new things, once tried, we often liked it. This was the case with Mom’s taco salad. (The recipe card is at the end of the story.)
And like the broken pieces of taco chips, I had to hunt through this salad to find any ties to the Latinx culture, but they are there. Just barely.
Let’s be clear: taco salad isn’t a Mexican dish; but a few staple ingredients found in this cuisine—corn and beans—are present. From what I could find about the history of taco salad in America, the salad we’re familiar with emerged out of Texas in the 1960s.
But an earlier version of a taco bowl dates to the mid-1950s. A menu item called “Tacup” was offered in 1955 at a Disneyland restaurant called Casa de Fritos. A bowl made of the popular corn chips was filled with ground beef, beans, sour cream and cheese.
There’s no denying the Mexican influences on our American palates; you can read more about this in a book by Gustavo Arellano, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.
To make Doritos® Taco Salad, you’ll need:
1 pound ground beef
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans or black beans
1 head of lettuce (iceberg or romaine)
4 Roma tomatoes
1 red onion
1 bag Doritos
Thousand Island dressing
I’ve also seen recipes that use Catalina dressing, proof this is a wonderfully versatile recipe. Don’t like beans? Swap out a can of whole kernel corn. Not into avocado? Leave it out and maybe add a few dollops of sour cream. Red onions too strong for you? Use green onions instead.
The one thing you can’t substitute is bag of Doritos because this salad is just not the same with other chips or crushed taco shells. Interesting food trivia: the Frito-Lay company released its triangle-shaped toasted corn chip, Doritos, in 1966. That same company, you remember, introduced Tacup, the forerunner to taco salads.
You also must have taco seasoning for the beef and beans. My favorite is Penzeys taco seasoning. It’s superior in flavor to the packets bought in the grocery stores. I also shake it on eggs in the morning. (This isn’t a sponsored mention; I just like the product.) You likely have a store in your area, but you also can order online.
Doritos Taco Salad was one of Mom’s best summer suppers; it’s perfect for warm days, and with the proteins, this salad definitely fills you up. It's one of the many recipes featured in my Three Women in the Kitchen cookbook. Remember that all proceeds will benefit the Circle of Concern food pantry, and the books make great gifts.
To make the Doritos Taco Salad meal feel special, serve the light fruit drink, agua fresca, alongside the salad. These drinks are popular throughout Mexico and easy to make. If you have any watermelon in the fridge, you’re on your way to this thirst-quenching drink.
I guess it’s true what they say: everything old is new again.