Vegetarian Taco Salad with Black Beans
Tex-Mex flavors get a healthy upgrade in the form of a Vegetarian Taco Salad with black beans, a rainbow of veggies, crushed tortilla chips, and a mouth-watering fresh cilantro lime salad dressing. A quick and easy no-cook meal!
No one will miss the meat when you serve black bean taco salads! Full of contrasting flavors and textures, these just might be our new favorite meatless meal.
These bowls benefit from an array of colorful, crisp veggies, protein-rich black beans, creamy cheese and avocado, and the satisfying crunch of crumbled up tortilla chips. That’s a lot to love!
But what really ties it all together is the fresh, tangy cilantro lime dressing. It’s a necessity.
The Best Vegetarian Taco Salad
You’ll love that this salad is:
- No cook! Always a win.
- Highly customizable. My favorite way to serve these is build-your-own style, so everyone gets exactly what they want.
- Fresh and healthy. So many veggies packed into one meal.
- Satisfying. This salad still has plenty of oomph to fill you up and keep you that way.
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
You can make these any which way, but a terrific starting point is to include:
- Beans: For hearty, plant-based protein that goes with Tex-Mex flavors, black beans or pinto beans are your friends.
- Lettuce: Really any type of lettuce will do. My favorites are romaine or a bag of pre-washed mixed baby greens. Both contribute a good base and have a neutral flavor that lets everything else shine.
- Crisp veggies: I love a mix of corn (can be fresh, frozen, or canned), bell pepper (any color), and green onions.
- Avocado: obviously.
- Cheese: Shredded cheddar is simple and delicious on a taco salad, or get fancy and use some crumbled Cotija.
- Tortilla chips: A truly great salad needs some crunch, and the added salt from most chips perks everything up.
- Dressing: The fresh cilantro-lime dressing is a must-have! The vibrant flavor dresses up and pulls together every other ingredient. To make it, you’ll need fresh cilantro, lime juice, a smidge of jalapeño, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and salt.
The most complicated part of getting all this together in making the dressing, and even that is a five-minute, toss-it-all-in-the-blender situation. Very do-able, and highly worthwhile.
The same dressing works well as a marinade for chicken, fish, or shrimp, so save your extra in the fridge for either another salad or to repurpose!
Time Saving Tips
- Buy pre-washed, pre-chopped greens.
- Drain and rinse beans and chop veggies ahead of time and store, covered, in the refrigerator, so you just have to assemble at meal time.
- Use frozen fire-roasted corn. I usually buy this at Trader Joe’s, but I know other stores sell something similar. You get the flavor and char marks with zero effort! Truly, call me lazy, but I usually just let the corn defrost on the counter before adding it into these salads.
- Make the dressing ahead of time, too. It keeps well in the fridge for up 1 week, and if you add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and give it a good shake right before serving, it will still taste fresh.
How To Serve Taco Salad
You can easily mix this up in a large serving bowl and pass at the table, family-style. In that case, I would add a minimal amount of dressing to the bowl, and place extra dressing, as well as the chips, on the table so everyone can add as much or as little as they like.
However, my preference when serving taco salads for a meal is to simply arrange all the ingredients in bowls assembly-line style in the kitchen or in another serving area. Place bowls at one end and invite diners to simply walk along and build their bowls. This is fun and guarantees everyone gets what they like.
Family-Friendly Tip: Build-your-own-bowls can also be a great strategy for serving picky eaters! When faced with all the options, they can usually pick out at least one or two things they are willing to try, and it’s less intimidating than seeing the whole salad tossed together and being expected to take a bite.
- Add more toppings. Try adding red onions, radishes, carrots, cabbage, pico de gallo, guacamole, fresh cilantro, Mexican oregano, or any other topping you like.
- Add another protein. If keeping this meatless isn’t crucial to you, add some chicken or shrimp. Just marinate either protein in the same cilantro-lime salad dressing you used for the salad, then grill or pan fry until done.
More Vegetarian Mexican Recipes
- Simple Black Bean Tacos
- Chipotle Black Bean Tortilla Soup
- Sheet Pan Pinto Bean Nachos
- Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos
- Skinny Chipotle Street Corn Dip
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Vegetarian Taco Salad
For the Salad:
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans drained and rinsed
- 3-4 cups lettuce any kind
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1 bell pepper any color, chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 2-3 green onions white and light green parts, chopped
- 1 cup corn fresh, frozen, or canned, see note
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup broken tortilla chips
For the Dressing:
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup olive or avocado oil
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 1 or 2 small ribs of jalapeño pepper seeded and diced
- 1 clove garlic minced or grated
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Drain and rinse black beans; set aside to dry slightly. Chop lettuce, avocado, pepper, tomatoes, and green onions. Cook or defrost corn. Grate cheese, if needed, and set out tortilla chips.
- To make the dressing, add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend on high speed until the oil and lime juice are emulsified into a smooth mixture. The cilantro, garlic, and jalapeño should be very finely diced. Transfer to a jar or small dish.
- Assemble salads as desired. (You can pile everything together into a big bowl, drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of dressing, toss well, and serve. If feeding a crowd, though, I prefer to set out all the fixings assembly-line style and let people build their own bowl for customized salads. The dressing and chips are really key, so encourage everyone to toss salads very well to distribute those ingredents well throughout, and set extra dressing and chips on the table!)
- Corn: If using fresh corn, just grill or boil it then slice off the cob. If using canned corn, simply drain and use as-is. If using frozen corn, you can steam or just let it defrost on the counter for an hour or so. This is actually my favorite lazy way to do it. And if you purchase fire-roasted frozen corn kernels, you still get great flavor and those beautiful black char marks with zero effort.
- Dressing: Extra dressing will keep well tightly covered in the fridge for up to 1 week. Give it a good shake and add a quick squeeze of fresh lime juice right before using again. It also works well as a marinade for chicken or shrimp—just add a little water to thin it out a bit if you need more for this purpose.
- Leftovers: If you have extra ingredients, store beans and veggies together in an airtight container in the fridge. Store chips and dressing separately. Assemble as desired; it should stay good for 1-2 days.