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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35 thoughts on “Recipe: Take-Along Taco Salad”

  1. Any thing that helps a family eat healthy gets top marks from me.I carry fruits and mini veggies when I know I will be away for an extended period of time.It helps maintain healthy eating.

  2. The salad looks very yummy. Love how easy is to make one. I would love to try it out, I love food prepping during summer time when it is the busiest time of the year for me.

  3. What an awesome idea! I don’t know if my boys would eat this with how picky they’ve been lately, but it’s a great meal prep idea for myself for lunch during the week!

    1. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite lunches, year round. I make tacos for a quick/easy dinner about once a month, and I always cook up a double or triple batch of ingredients (only one lb of meat, but lots of chopped onions/assorted canned beans in lieu of the other 1-2 lbs meat). That way, there are plenty of leftovers for a day or two of this portable salad for the girls at school, plus a week’s worth of healthy lunches for me at home 🙂

    1. Well, then I guess you won’t have to worry about your daughter wanting to steal your lunch! Enjoy it – it is SO tasty! 🙂

  4. This looks like such a yummy recipe. It also looks quick and easy which is what I usually look for with how crazy our lives get. I will definitely need to try this!

    1. As long as you have the ingredients on hand, it truly is a fast and yummy recipe that only takes a few minutes to prep. Enjoy! 🙂

    1. Do! It is absolutely delish! Whenever I make it for a day when I’ll be out with other moms, they all envy my lunch and want the recipe 😉

    1. Thanks, Jiya! Do give it a try – my kids have no problem eating up all their veggies with this salad, so hope it works for your family, too! 🙂

    1. It totally is – I don’t know if your kids are already prone to liking veggies or no, but maybe this can help? – and if not, at least YOU’VE got a yummy new lunch! 🙂

  5. Yum! We are big taco salad people around here I often take along a taco salad bowl of leftovers to work for lunch. I’ve never thought to make several in advance though. This is giving me a meal prep idea for this school year!!

    1. You’re welcome! The part *I* love the best is that the girls can help take ownership of their lunch process, and even prep them the afternoon before! 🙂

    1. How shall we say – it helps with “buy in” to the idea of eating a salad, if your kiddos aren’t big on that? 😉

  6. Although my kids are not school age yet it is a perfect way to spice up my lunches for work during the week! I love meal prepping as it saves time during the week.

    1. DO try this for a grown-up lunch, with a larger portion of lettuce as the base – it is SO yummy, a great way to use up leftover bits of meat/beans, and a nice filling lunch that’s healthy too! 🙂

  7. This looks amazing! Tacos aren’t really a big thing here in the UK like they are there, I feel like I should start a one woman campaign to change that though

    1. Haha! Yeah, having a chance to pop south of the border on a semi-regular basis (not to mention how many migrant communities we have here in the States) does tend to make Mexico’s various cuisines/US variations on them pretty popular around here! Good luck with that campaign – much as I LOVE Canada, everytime I’ve lived there for a stint I’ve been frustrated at not being able to get a decent salsa, etc. unless I made my own, so I can only imagine it would be even more challenging in the UK!

    1. TBH, I make it for myself at least once a week – it really is soooooo good, and makes all the other mommies jealous when I take it out with us! (not that this is a goal of mine) – they all want the recipe, which is one of the reasons I first put it up on the blog! 🙂

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