Turkey taco salad is an easy, gorgeously colorful, and healthy (we won’t tell, if you don’t!) dinner with a zingy cilantro-lime vinaigrette, and dressed with jicama, radishes, purple cabbage, and chiles.
If I had to choose a single go-to salad, a turkey taco salad would be it, probably because it’s so loaded with meat and ‘toppings’ that you can just barely call it a salad at all! When you think about all the things that our bodies do for us, daily and throughout our lives, it doesn’t seem like such a sacrifice to eat in a healthy way—you’re simply taking care of yourself at the highest level.–Heather Christo
Turkey Taco Salad
For the cilantro-lime vinaigrette
- 1 cup packed fresh cilantro stems and leaves or more to taste
- 1 garlic clove coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons light agave nectar
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
- 1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
For the turkey taco salad
- 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
- 1/2 small red onion finely diced
- 1 pound ground turkey*, white or dark, any percentage fat
- 1 tablespoon chile powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 4 cups finely shredded purple cabbage
- 4 cups chopped romaine hearts
- 1 cup julienned peeled jicama
- 6 radishes thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 red Fresno chile pepper (or other chile pepper of choice) thinly sliced
- Tortilla chips (optional)
For the cilantro-lime vinaigrette
- In a blender, combine the cilantro, garlic, agave, lime juice, and vegetable oil. Purée on high until smooth and season with salt.
Make the turkey taco salad
- In a large heavy pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chile powder, cumin, and salt. Then stir in the water and cook until the turkey is completely cooked through and the water has cooked off, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
- Arrange the cabbage and romaine hearts on a large platter or on individual plates. Top with the jicama, radishes, cilantro, and chile. Spoon the ground turkey on top and drizzle the salad with a generous amount of the vinaigrette. Serve with tortilla chips, if desired.
*Is it possible to substitute shredded turkey for ground turkey?Yes, you certainly can. You’ll use about 1 pound (454 grams) cooked turkey that you’ve shredded or chopped. Then proceed as the above instructions suggest, instead adding the turkey after you’ve added the water and brought it to a simmer. Stir in the turkey and cook until it’s warmed through and completely coated with the spice and onion mixture and some of the water has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This turkey taco salad is a great salad filled with lots of flavors and textures. It’s easily put together and thoroughly enjoyed. It’s colorful and healthy and all of the things I’m looking for in a midweek meal. Oven-baked fresh tortilla chips sprinkled over the top added the perfect crunch.
It provided 4 generous servings and could easily be scaled up to meet the appetites of a crowd. My advice is that you use this recipe as a guide. It works as is but use more or less of any of the listed ingredients according to your taste. Next time I’ll chop all the ingredients so they’re all approximately the same size. Also, I might reduce the amount of cilantro in the salad. Avocado and quartered cherry tomatoes would be a nice addition.
If my local salad restaurant offered salad with this many ingredients and textures, I might eat there more often! Don’t skimp on the dressing. My supermarket had no Fresno chile and being unsure which chile would be suitable I opted to leave it out as we didn’t want to overdo the spiciness of the salad.
This turkey taco salad is a cilantro lover’s dream! So fresh and verdant. It’s the vinaigrette that makes this dish sing. The crushed tortilla chips on top are a must and I think that some crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese on top would also be amazing.
My seven- and eight-year-olds both happily ate this salad as well, which is a win-win. It also introduced them to savory, apple-like jicama, which they are enjoying today sliced into sticks in their lunch boxes. (If you buy pre-sliced jicama at the grocery store salad bar, you’ll cut prep time down by 20 minutes.) Prep time would be reduced even further if you buy a sack of shredded purple cabbage and a sack of chopped romaine hearts.
Since the vinaigrette is so cilantro forward, one could easily skip the 1/2 cup of leaves added to the salad. My kids would likely enjoy the salad even more this way.
I really don’t like taco salads. They always seem like a 3,000-calorie excuse to eat tacos disguised as a “salad” with tons of beans, cheese, sour cream, and sometimes rice. This one caught my attention right away because it looked awesome and definitely was an actual salad with a bright vinaigrette and not just a giant nacho. It hit the spot.
It’s got a ton of flavor, a great dressing (if you love cilantro), great textures, and didn’t weigh me down after eating a large bowl. The recipe also lends itself to lots of variation. I made a double batch of the turkey and the next evening we had some more of the salad with additional garnishes like roasted corn, crumbled white cheese, and sliced avocados. Delicious.
This was a fresh and easy take on a taco salad, I love that there wasn’t cheese and sour cream and olives. It felt really authentic. It was a beautiful recipe for a warm spring day, but I can see it being such a welcome break from the heavy food of the holidays. I could certainly see myself doing a riff on it and turning into a southwest lettuce wrap situation. I used leftover cooked turkey.
This is a light, bright, spicy salad. We felt the cilantro vinaigrette was the star of the recipe, but also really liked the spiced warm turkey. Make as is, or change up the protein. We thought it would also be delicious with shrimp for the non-red meat eater. The crunch from the radish, jicama, and cabbage are well worth all the chopping. It’s a delicious 45-minute meal.
I used leftover cooked turkey cut into thin strips.