I have a confession to make. I love Wendy’s Taco Salad. So, so much. There was a time when I ate it at least twice a week. Sadly, I hung up my Wendy’s habit right around that time a lady found a finger in the chili they use on the salad. (Also, sorry if that’s the least appetizing thing you’ve ever read on a food blog.) In any case, I’ve gotten REALLY good at making sure taco salads continue to be a part of my life in close to drive-thru time. Below are my guidelines for how you can make the world’s greatest meat salad come together in your house. Just...watch your fingers, ok?
Cooking oil (I use olive for nearly everything)
Small yellow onion, diced
Garlic, however many cloves you want, minced (I used 4)
1 lb ground meat or poultry
A few dried peppers, soaked in boiling water until soft OR cheat and buy a can of chipotle chiles/adobo, sliced (As a general rule for peppers, the bigger they are, the less spicy they are. I used 3 dried New Mexico chiles, which are large)
Taco seasoning (Recipe for a blend below, or just make/buy one you like)
Bell Peppers (Grilled, smoked, raw, or the roasted ones out of a jar—all are welcome)
Cheese of your choice
Chips (Tortilla or plaintain are best)
Your go-to salsa
Whatever the hell else you want
Get out a large skillet and warm your oil over medium heat. Once it moves around the pan fluidly, add your diced onion. Sauté the onion until it softens and is translucent—about 5 minutes. Add in your minced garlic and whatever chiles you’re using. Let the flavors meld for 1 minutes or so. Scoop up 2 rounded spoonfuls of taco seasoning with a regular ol’ spoon out of the silverware drawer. Add one big spoonful of tomato paste, too. Stir it all together until the onions are well coated with the spice paste. Add in the meat, using a large spoon to break it up as it cooks. Cook until browned and no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes depending on your protein. Taste for seasoning and throw a little salt in there if needed.
Make the base for your salad—shred up the Romaine, cut up your tomatoes, bell pepper and avocado however you like, and garnish with cilantro, pumpkin seeds and some chips if you’re feeling fancy. Place the meat on top, squeeze half a lime over everything, and spoon on some of your favorite salsa. Done and done.
Tub o’ Taco Seasoning
2 ½ Tbsp chili powder
1 ½ Tbsp sea salt
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp ground oregano
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Measure all the spices into a small container or jar and then shake like hell to mix it up. This makes quite a bit, which is perfect to keep on hand the next time you need something taco-y STAT.