Love and Olive Oil

Beef Taco Salad with Homemade Tortilla Bowls

Beef Taco Salad with Homemade Tortilla Bowls

I honestly can’t tell you the last time I had taco salad.

Oh wait, yes I can… two weeks ago. When we made these.

But before that I mean. Taco salad was always this oddly unappealing concept, something my mom would order when we’d go out to eat, that I’d side-eye skeptically as I plowed down my greasy cheese enchiladas.

Because when you’re craving Mexican food, salad is usually the last thing to come to mind.

Maybe I’m maturing in my tastes because these days, I can definitely see the appeal. I thought it might just be a grown-up thing, this Americanized dish we call taco salad, but then I realized, you can eat the entire bowl. I mean, c’mon. What kid wouldn’t enjoy that? (And actually, now, maybe I do remember slyly cracking bits off my mom’s bowl, taking care to avoid the lettuce at all costs).

Beef Taco Salad with Homemade Tortilla Bowls

This recipe comes from The Best Mexican Recipes, the newest release from the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen. Their Complete Cooking for Two is still one of our favorite cookbooks to date, and so we were confident this book of Mexican recipes would not disappoint.

There are a number of very authentic-sounding recipes in the book, which I appreciate, but it does mean that they are often time consuming and complex, which was surprising to us for an ATK cookbook (like the Swiss chard burritos we tried. I’m all for a complicated meal if it is worth it in the end, but alas, these were not.)

This beef taco salad is a different story, and it’s a stellar example of the kind of delicious, impeccably flavored food I expect from ATK. It’s simple AND flavorful. Even after making your own tortilla bowls, you’ll be sitting down to eat in about 30 minutes.

It may very well change your impression of taco salad forever.

Beef Taco Salad with Homemade Tortilla Bowls

Taylor still talks about this taco meat like it was yesterday (and this from the guy who can’t even remember what we actually ate yesterday). When a recipe resonates with Taylor, for whatever reason (and I can never predict exactly what recipes will stick) I know I’ll be hearing the echoes for years. This is one of those recipes.

Actually, I think Taylor liked this recipe way more than our own go-to taco meat, which is not as saucy and has a different flavor profile altogether.

“It’s like Hamburger Helper, only not.” (While I can’t see how that’d be a good thing, he is insistent that it is.)

While I’m not a huge fan of drippy tacos, for a taco salad, though, the sauciness of the meat serves as both topping AND dressing and makes complete sense.

How to make homemade tortilla bowls in the oven How to make homemade tortilla bowls in the oven

It’s surprisingly easy to make your own baked tortilla bowls. You can either drape the tortillas over an up-turned soup bowl (be sure the bowl is oven-safe!) or you can use a small 6-inch cake pan and nest the tortilla inside of that. If your tortillas fall in on themselves, put a lightly crumpled foil ball in the center to help hold the shape.

Beef Taco Salad with Homemade Tortilla Bowls

Looking at these photos now I’m kicking myself, because I know I had two perfectly ripe avocados sitting on the counter, just waiting to be adorn for these homey-looking taco salads. Alas, all you get is a dollop of sour cream and a pile of shredded cheese. Avocado is totally optional, of course, but I think it’d be a fabulous addition.

Beef Taco Salad with Homemade Tortilla Bowls


Tortilla Bowls:

  • 4 10-inch flour tortillas
  • vegetable oil spray

Taco Meat:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
  • salt and pepper


  • 2 romaine lettuce hearts, shredded
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • salt and pepper
  • avocado, for topping (optional)
  • sour cream or Mexican crema, for topping (optional)


  1. To make homemade taco shells, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions; preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange 4 oven-safe soup bowls, flattened foil balls, or 6-inch cake pans on two rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Warm tortillas slightly until pliable. Spray both sides with cooking spray, then drape over soup bowls or nest inside cake pans. Bake until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes, rotating sheets half way through baking. Let cool completely before moving.
  3. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, and sugar and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes; mixture will be saucy. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine lettuce, beans, tomatoes, scallions, and 2 tablespoons cilantro in a large bowl; toss with lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Divide salad among bowls. Top with taco meat and sprinkle with cheese and remaining cilantro. Garnish with sour cream and avocado, if desired.

Recipe from The Best Mexican Recipes, from the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen.

All images and text © / Love & Olive Oil

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  1. Rating: 5

    When planning to make the taco bowls I always look go forward to making them.

  2. Rating: 5

    I have made this recipe several times and I am always more than satisfied with it every time..

  3. I love taco salads. The place I get mine put the refried beans in first, then the rest of the ingredients, but the beans stuck to the shell make a meal all their own. mmm good.

  4. First time on this website and just loved the Taco Beef mixture. I did make the bowls, they didn’t look as good as your picture.  Next time, I might season the oil (for brushing over tortilla) I made the beef and all the other prep work, the night before as our guests were coming for lunch. Would definitely make this again.

  5. I fell in love with ATK taco recipe years ago! But it had a little cumin and coriander in it. BEST.TACOS.EVER!

  6. 1*

    After 8 minutes at 425. Tortillas burnt to a crisp. Try 375 for 8 min. Perfect.

  7. Oh my! These looked so good so I wasn’t concentrating on taking a picture but on eating! There are only the two of us so I made up half the salad portion using a half can of beans and half the other ingredients. Cooked the full recipe for the meat mixture and will just have a repeat tomorrow evening. I used low-carb flour tortillas for the salad bowls and they were PERFECT. We are already looking forward to tomorrow’s dinner and hubby isn’t through cleaning up in the kitchen yet.

  8. This was a delicious Taco Salad! The meat was delicious. The cilantro and lime juice mixed in the lettuce was an added touch that was delicious. The shells turned out delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thank you for sharing, it looks like delicious

  10. Thank you for the tip on baking them. I will have to try this. Baking is healthier but I must admit, I prefer fried. As a tip, buy the thinnest tortillas you can find. That make a huge difference in the final product and whether it tastes doughy or not. In a pinch, I go to my local Taco Time and buy an empty shell from them for $.69. The last time the worker showed me the package and there is a huge difference between regular torts and what they use for making the bowl. It’s almost translucent in appearance and quite a bit thinner.

  11. I made this and the taco meat tasted like sloppy Joe’s. Next time I think I’ll leave it with out the tomato sauce and sugar

  12. Thanks for the recipes. Making my own shells from this day on!

  13. Thanks for sharing the recipe, especially how to make the taco bowl shells.   Just made this recipe with a few tweaks for dinner and everything was superb.  I think I will be making my own shells from now on.

  14. I made these last night for dinner. The recipe states ‘2 tablespoons chilli powder’. I only used 1 tablespoon and it was WAY TOO SPICY! I love spicy food but this was too hot even for me. Should it have said 2 teaspoons (not tablespoons)? My husband and son couldn’t eat very much of it because of the heat. Could you please confirm the amount of chilli powder please? Otherwise it was a lovely dish. I will make again just with less chilli powder. My taco bowls turned out great! Loved these. Thank you.

  15. I was so excited to make this recipe for dinner tonight – it came out delicious!  Love the brightness that the squeeze of lime juice adds.  Thanks for sharing this one – my husband and I also love the ATK Cooking for Two cookbook. :-)

  16. Ground beer. :). Looks great!

  17. Thanks for this recipe – have been looking for a good taco salad recipe for a long time and this one looks great!

  18. This sounds awesome! I love saucy tacos. Should that be “lean ground beef,” though?

  19. I wish I could express the sound of the mariachi band playing in my head as I gazed at this recipe and the lovely photos. :-) 


  21. Oh heck yea this has got to happen. Love that you used cake pans to make these! I think my boyfriend actually has a taco bowl baking mold if I can find it in the abyss… if not cake pan it is!

  22. I can’t remember the last time I had taco salad either. Time to fix that!

  23. I had this on my menu to make this week… Except I bought one of those “as seen on tv” perfect tortilla bowl thingys… Smh…. Great tip on how to make the shells! 

  24. Waw that looks sooo delicious! Never made something like that, but I sure will try it now! x Sarah

  25. I love the idea of homemade taco salad bowls! These look so good!!

  26. Oh, those tortilla bowls! My life is forever changed. <3

  27. these look amazing! totally agree that the meat serves as dressing!! so good!

  28. Um…how have I not been making my own tortilla bowls at home. Crazy easy. I’m going to have to change that STAT. Everything looks great, Lindsay!

  29. Love this! Looks and sounds like a fabulous recipe

  30. Taco salads in the shell are so deliciously dangerous!!! Especially because if you’re at Mexican place, you know you’re also downing chips and dip lol. 

  31. I have similar feels about taco salad! You’ve redeemed it for me.

  32. Whenever I would come home on weekends from college, me and my mom would go grab taco salads from our favorite little Mexican restaurant! I love how versatile they are, you can put whatever you want in them!  Great recipe, love the tip on how to make the bowls.

  33. Tacos salads are one of my all-time favorite meals and these ones are seriously gorgeous!

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