Recipe: Take-Along Taco Salad

Are your kids' school lunches ready for a reboot? This Take-Along Taco Salad recipe that the girls helped me create is both delicious AND nutritious.

Do your kids love tacos as much as mine do? Does your family need some new ideas for school lunches, now that we’re several months into the school year? If so, here’s the recipe for one of my kiddos’ new lunchbox faves: Take-Along Taco Salad.

As soon as Essie saw this recipe in the January 2016 Highlights Magazine (or maybe it was Highlights High Five – I forget), she begged me to try it. First time we tried it, the girls both LOVED it.

Then, of course, we promptly misplaced the relevant magazine issue. When they begged to have Take-Along Taco Salad again the next week, we were stuck without a recipe. So we had to make it up on the fly.

Since we were making up our own version anyway, I had them help me figure out what should go into our Take-Along Taco Salad. We all agreed that the one thing missing from the original recipe was a healthy dose of vegetables. So we added some in to ours. This made it both more salad-like, and more filling (not to mention more palatable to Mama’s taste buds, FWIW).

Take-Along Taco Salad

The basic idea:

Layer the following ingredients, in order, in a seals-tight container for a one-bowl school lunch packed with nutrition and flavor. (Quantities listed are for four-year-old Essie; I use slightly more for six-year-old Kimmie, so scale up or down as needed to suit your child’s size and needs.)

  • 1/4 c. canned beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 3 T. salsa
  • 3 T. sour cream
  • 3 T. guacamole
  • 1/4 c. diced tomato
  • 1/2 c. shredded lettuce
  • 1/4 c. shredded cheese
  • 1/4 c. crushed tortilla chips (great way to use up the leftover crumbs at the end of a bag!)

Mix it up:

  • This is obviously a vegetarian version of Take-Along Taco Salad, but sometimes we use chopped cooked leftover meat (e.g., seasoned taco meat or roasted chicken) instead of the beans for the base layer.
  • As noted above, scale the quantities up or down depending on your child’s size and appetite. For six-year-old Kimmie’s Take-Along Taco Salad, I use 1/3 cup beans or meat, 1/4 c. each salsa/sour cream/guacamole, 1/3 c. diced tomato, and 2/3 c. shredded lettuce, packed down a bit. (I usually keep the cheese and chips at 1/4 c. each, though, or else the container won’t close.)
  • If you don’t have an ingredient, feel free to skip or substitute – 1/2 of a small diced avocado instead of the guacamole, plain nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream, corn (or leftover Dorito or Frito crumbs) instead of the corn chips, raw spinach with a little cilantro for the lettuce, a little chopped onion on top of the sauce layers, etc.

Final tips:

  • You’ll need to budget some time to prep the ingredients, but once they’re ready, you can set up an assembly line and put each salad together pretty quickly. The girls love helping to make this recipe, so chances are good your kiddos will like the measuring/scooping/dumping, too.
  • A seals-tight container is important for taking this to school, but one that’s also clear is just plain fun, because you can see the layers. We like these Ziploc containers because they cover both bases. (Of course, for eating at home you can use any bowl that holds 2 cups.)


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