Taco night is a staple in our household. However, even something as delicious and crunchy as hand-held tacos can get a little monotonous. This week we decided to change things up by making a Crunchy Taco Salad! This is simply the basic veggie-meat-cheese elements mixed with pasta, served over lettuce, and topped with crushed tortilla chips & ranch dressing. I have to say that adding noodles was a huge hit with the kids. We chose rotini, but you can really use any pasta you like.
This recipe is super quick and you can easily customize it for your family. My kiddos love tomatoes and peppers, so we were sure to incorporate these veggies into the dish.
There were a ton of ways for the kids to help make this dish. Other than cooking the meat and noodles, most of the work involves chopping. So, we were thrilled to put our Curious Chef kid-friendly knives to use (see our post on Testing Kids Kitchen Knives for details on these and other kid tools).
Next we combined the ingredients and stirred them together. My daughter was excited to throw all the veggies into the bowl and mix them together with the meat, cheese and noodles. Of course, I had to remind her not to eat all the olives during the process. Haha.
My son completed the final step: crushing the tortilla chips. We used our favorite Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips!), but feel free to use any kind of tortilla chip you'd like. You can even use nacho cheese chips for some added flavor!
We topped the taco salad with our Homemade Ranch Dressing (see this post for the recipe). Of course, making ranch from scratch adds a little extra time to the meal-prep. So, feel free to use your favorite brand of ranch dressing.
🌈 KIDIFY THE MEAL 🌈
🍅Noodles on the side! If your kids don't like their veggies "touching" their noodles, set aside some plain noodles.
🍅Swap the veggies. If your kids don't like black olives, consider swapping them for cucumber or celery. Let them decide!
🍅 Serve dressing on the side. Some kids like to dip their veggies so consider serving the ranch dressing as a dipping sauce.
🍴 MODIFY THE MEAL🍴
🍅Make it Gluten Free! It's really easy to make this dish gluten free. Either use your fave gluten free noodles, or skip the noodles altogether and increase the tortilla chips. Also, make sure the ranch dressing (if it's store bought) and the taco seasoning don't contain gluten.
🍅Make it Vegetarian! Replace the turkey with pea protein crumbles. I'm a huge fan of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles. I've used them for years to make vegetarian chili and they are soooo delicious. I'm definitely a meat eater and I can't tell the difference. Worth noting is that these crumbles are high in protein and also gluten-free.
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Crunchy Taco Salad with Pasta & Ranch Dressing
- 1 T salt
- 12 oz rotini pasta (we use whole wheat rotini)
- 1 T cooking oil
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 2 T taco seasoning
- 1 large tomato (chopped)
- 1 green bell pepper (chopped)
- 1 yellow bell pepper (chopped)
- 2.25 oz can black olives (sliced)
- 8 oz shredded Mexican cheese
- 3 cups shredded lettuce
- 15 oz Ranch dressing (use our Homemade Ranch Dressing recipe or your favorite brand)
- 3 cups tortilla chips (hand-crushed)
- 2 T Cilantro (chopped)
- Heat water in a sizable pot for pasta. Once boiling, add salt and pasta, and cook according to package. When done, strain the pasta and run it under cold water. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat a pan on medium. Once heated, add cooking oil and ground turkey. Cook turkey until brown, stirring often. Once done, drain turkey and put in large bowl. Then add taco seasoning and mix together.
- Drain the olives. Add chopped tomato, peppers and olives to the turkey. Stir in noodles, and shredded cheese. Mix all ingredients together well.
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. While we are not certified nutritionists, we work with a Wordpress-integrated nutrition API to calculate our recipes' ingredient values.