Taco Salad with Jalapeño Ranch

What do I crave in summer? This taco salad recipe that's filled with smoky quinoa, crispy tortillas, fresh veggies, and a cool, creamy vegan ranch sauce.

Taco Salad Recipe with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

I’ve had this taco salad recipe planned for a while now. Every few months, I’d glance at my upcoming list of potential recipes and start salivating over the idea of summer taco salad bowls. I love summer, I love tacos, and I really really love salads, so here we go!

Instead of taco meat, I mix red quinoa and black beans with lime juice, chili powder, smoked paprika, and a touch of maple syrup – all of this helps create a bit of a smoky flavor. Quick tip: keep this quinoa mix on hand in the fridge to build lunchtime taco salad bowls throughout the week.

Taco Salad Recipe components in a skillet

Now onto this cool jalapeño “ranch” sauce – I used blanched, slivered almonds (unpeeled almonds work best and it’s not fun to peel almonds yourself), Almondmilk, cucumber, lime juice, jalapeño, and spices. It makes the perfect cool, creamy ranch-like sauce.

Jack and I had a long argument about whether this tastes similar to “authentically” bottled ranch dressing. He said “it tastes more like tzatziki because of the cucumber” and I said, “that’s the COOL part about cool ranch.” The argument came to an abrupt, unsatisfying end when Jack found a bottle of ranch dressing in the back of my parent’s fridge that expired last December that we both refused to try as a taste test. I continued on, and once we each had a taco salad with this creamy vegan ranch-ish sauce, we were both very happy.

The sauce recipe makes extra – store it in the fridge and put it on more bowls, in tacos, or use it as a dip for raw vegetables.

Taco Salad Recipe ingredients

Taco salad recipe components

  • Spiced quinoa & black beans: The “meat” of this recipe, seasoned with chili, smoky flavors.
  • Salad Greens: shredded romain lettuce or arugula.
  • Raw Corn Kernels: I like these for crunch, you could also grill your corn if you prefer.
  • Diced tomato: for freshness.
  • Crispy tortilla strips: You can’t have a taco salad without them!
  • Creamy Jalapeño Ranch: To douse over the whole bowl
  • Optional additions: sliced jalapeno, diced avocado, chopped cilantro.

Note: you could make the quinoa mixture, the tortilla strips, and the ranch sauce all in advance.

Jalapeño Ranch with corn and tomatoes

Or assemble your taco salad however you like!

These taco salad variations would be delicious:

Taco Salad Recipe with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

If you love summer and all things taco as much as I do, make this taco salad recipe, and then try these tacos with these spicy margaritas. Cheers!


4.9 from 9 reviews

Taco Salad with Jalapeño Ranch

 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This taco salad recipe is the perfect summer meal! Healthy & fresh, they're loaded with smoky quinoa taco "meat," veggies, crispy tortilla strips, and a cool, creamy vegan jalapeño ranch.
Author:
Recipe type: Main dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 3 corn tortillas, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • Kernels from 3 medium ears of corn
  • 2 tomatoes, diced, lightly salted
  • 1 jalapeño, stem and ribs removed, sliced (optional)
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • Lime slices, for serving
Creamy Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch (makes extra)
  • 1 cup peeled and blanched slivered almonds
  • ¾ cup Original Almond Breeze Almondmilk Unsweetened
  • ⅓ cup chopped peeled cucumber
  • 1½ tablespoon lime juice + ½ teaspoon zest
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ to 1 jalapeño pepper, stem and ribs removed
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Spiced quinoa
  • 2 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice + ½ teaspoon zest
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 scallions, chopped
Instructions
  1. Make the Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch dressing: In a high-speed blender, blend the almonds, almond milk, cucumber, lime juice, lime zest, vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, jalapeño, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Chill until ready to use.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the tortilla strips with a drizzle of olive oil and a few pinches of salt. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crispy.
  3. Make the Spiced quinoa: In a medium pot, combine the quinoa, black beans, olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, chili powder, smoked paprika, maple syrup, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. If desired, heat until warmed through, then stir in the scallions. This can also be served cold.
  4. Assemble the taco bowls with the romaine, Spiced quinoa, corn, tomatoes, jalapeño and avocado, if using, and the tortilla strips. Top with the cilantro and drizzle with the Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch dressing. Serve with the lime slices and extra sauce.
Notes
A high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix, works best here to blend the creamy sauce.

almondbreeze This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilk. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep us cooking!

35 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. stanp from enamelcookwareplus.com
    07.10.2017

    Like this recipe, particularly the ranch dressing and spiced quinoa recipes.

    Want to try the spiced quinoa as a side dish.

    Thanks for the new ideas.

  2. Leslie
    07.10.2017

    The BEST taco bowls! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  3. Lynn
    07.10.2017

    Just recently went dairy free so can’t wait to try the cool ranch dressing! Looks delish!

  4. I’m loving this ranch dressing. And loved the backstory just as much! I’m always up for a good taco bowl and make them often with a base of beans and corn. Will definitely try your quinoa base with this ranch dressing!

  5. I LOVE a good taco bowl! And your jalapeno cucumber ranch sounds like the perfect touch!!

  6. the creamy cucumber ranch looks wonderful! I’ve made a version of this as taco salad with ground beef, but not with ranch, and really want to try this with quinoa as a nice alternative, so thank you for this recipe!

  7. I am SO making this Jeanine! That sauce combo is so stinking brilliant! Hoping you two are doing so well on your traveling adventure <3.

  8. spiced quinoa, jalapeno ranch, and that corn.. um –> WOWZA! perfection in a bowl! love that almond breeze too!

  9. Summer in a bowl! Crushing on these major. And that sauce sounds delicious. I haven’t had traditional ranch in forever, but I bet this is way better! 🙂

  10. Maria
    07.12.2017

    I could eat these bowls every night!

  11. Aidan
    07.12.2017

    Hey Jeanine!

    This looks awesome (kind of amused that I stumbled across it while eating the grilled pepper taco salad from your book!)

    Just a question about the almonds – do you specify blanched & slivered for consistency’s sake? I just happen to have about 3 lbs of skin-on, whole almonds so it would be great if they were a possible sub, but would definitely go and grab some blanched ones if it makes a difference.

    Thanks!!

    Aidan

    • Marianne
      07.13.2017

      I used whole almonds and soaked them in water and the ranch dressing was yum!

      • Aidan
        07.14.2017

        Thanks for the tip!! I figured that soaking might make the difference. 🙂

  12. Gerry Speirs
    07.13.2017

    Gorgeous shots!! 🙂

  13. Lexi @Lexi'scleankitchen
    07.13.2017

    This looks amazing!! You had me at Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch! Cannot wait to try this dressing!

  14. Stef
    07.13.2017

    Hi Janine,

    Any recommendations on what to sub in for the almonds/almond milk for those with nut allergies?

    Thank you!
    Stef

  15. michel from kashishfood.co.nz
    07.14.2017

    It looks absolutely delicious!!! The presentation of recipe shot is amazing. Thank you for sharing one of the easiest & tasty cucumber recipe. I liked it so much!!!!

  16. Jenny
    07.16.2017

    Just made this taco bowl for the fam and everybody loved it 😀 Thanks for making my cooking life easier 😀

  17. Claudia
    07.16.2017

    Made this for lunch today, and the entire fam gobbled it right up! Thank you for this absolutely positively fantastic recipe!

  18. Susan
    07.16.2017

    YUM!! This sounds absolutely delicious! I will definitely have to try it. This is my first visit to your blog and I’m really pleased to see a recipe I want to make.

  19. Meg
    07.16.2017

    Great recipe, although I think the spice ratio is off. I used 1+ tablespoon of both smoked paprika and chile powder. I also added cumin and garlic powder to make it more “taco-like” and it was delicious!

  20. stanp
    07.18.2017

    Tried the spiced quinoa as a side dish with another recipe and really enjoyed it.
    Cook quinoa frequently so will definitely use again !
    Thanks !

  21. Love this idea to freshen up taco night!! Looks so delicious and healthy!

  22. ali raza from sooperchef.blogspot.com
    07.19.2017

    Yummy and Delicious Dish. This is my favorite dish. I just made it at home with my mom. So tasteful, I loved your cooking recipes and way of cooking it’s amazing Before I will also find the same soup recipe from one website sharing a link with you::: http://sooperchef.blogspot.com.

  23. J Willis
    01.11.2018

    Just made this tonight for dinner and it came out pretty well. My only complaint is that our jalapeño’s were too spicy! Even without the seeds, my husband and I couldn’t eat them! Not sure why they were packing so much heat! Great dish!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.11.2018

      depending on where & when they were grown, I’ve noticed that their spiciness can vary a LOT. When we lived in Austin, they were always really spicy, here in Chicago, I find them pretty wimpy (at least the ones that I find in regular grocery stores). I try to always leave a range when it’s being blended into a sauce – was 1/2 jalapeño in the sauce too much?

      • J Willis
        01.11.2018

        You know..we just moved to Atlanta from Columbus, OH and our jalapeño’s in Ohio never packed this much heat. The sauce was fine but I used chobani greek yogurt for the sauce instead of the almond milk and chopped almonds since I have a tree nut allergy; I wonder if that’s what cooled the sauce down. It was the chopped jalapeño’s that we put on top of the bowl that were too hot.

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          01.11.2018

          I bet they’re spicier down there! 🙂 Glad to hear the sauce was great with the yogurt.

  24. Megan
    05.29.2018

    I made this recipe yesterday for a memorial day party and it was a big hit! Multiple people asked for the recipe. The cooling jalapeno ranch combined with the spiced quinoa and crunchy tortilla strips is delicious. I kicked it up a notch with fresno chili peppers, chipotle powder, pepitas and avocado. Thanks!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.29.2018

      yay, SO happy to hear that!!

  25. Kate S.
    07.27.2018

    i finally made this and it is amazing. i can’t decide if i like the taco “meat” or the ranch better, both are incredible and will be a part of my normal meal rotation. Thank you!!

  26. PJ
    06.26.2019

    I liked this very much!
    Though I made some modifications to the original recipe. I only found mixed quinoa, not only red. I did not have almond milk on hand and we are not vegans, so I used up the sour cream sitting in my frigde 😉
    I also did not do the strips, but used tortilla chips instead 😉
    Very interesting salad, I will definitely do it again!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.