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Taco Salad with Homemade Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I saw a picture of tacos yesterday. I’m highly suggestible when it comes to food stimuli. Immediately, I needed tacos. Though, after a weekend of gluttonous eating, I was in the mood for something a little lighter, greener, and fresher. I set my sights on taco salad.

Now, it probably wouldn’t make for very interesting reading if I sat here and told you about how I picked up a bottle of dressing and a packet of taco seasoning and whipped up a taco salad. Admittedly, that would be the fastest approach to building a taco salad and I’m sure the result would be pretty delicious. But, if you’ve got the time to do it, building the pieces from scratch will give you a fresher, healthier, and tastier result. And you can rest easy in knowing that you’ve eliminated all of those hard to pronounce food additives from your meal. Who wants to eat shelf-life extenders, stabilizers and anticaking agents anyway?? I know I’d much rather eat food.

The hero of this dish is the Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. I started with a basic buttermilk ranch, but with a little twist. Many ranch dressing recipes call for mayonnaise, which, as you may know, is on the short list of ingredients I avoid. Without naming names, I recently ran across a recipe, authored by a certain mayonnaise-loving Food Network celebrity chef, which called for mayonnaise as an ingredient in a layered cranberry sauce dish. I cringed. I’m still cringing. She seems to seek out opportunities to incorporate mayonnaise into dishes. I suppose that’s a positive for people who enjoy mayonnaise. But, I am on the polar opposite end of that spectrum. With that in mind, I created a mayo-free buttermilk ranch dressing. Once I was satisfied with the basic ranch dressing recipe, I added a few more ingredients to spice it up for our taco salad. You’ll notice that in the recipe, I italicized the final four ingredients. Without those ingredients, you can use the recipe as a basic buttermilk ranch dressing. Add the final four ingredients for a kicked-up Mexican-style ranch, perfect for a taco salad!

Taco Salad


  • 4 10″ Tortillas
  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Black Olives, sliced
  • 1 cup Mexican Blend cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 1 pound Seasoned Taco Meat (recipe below)
  • Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (recipe below)


To Make the Tortilla Shells: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a 10 ” flour tortilla inside of a medium-sized oven-safe bowl. Push the tortilla down to the bottom of the bowl. Place the bowl into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Repeat with all tortillas.

To Assemble the Salad: Fill the baked tortilla shells with chopped iceberg lettuce. Top each salad with about 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Top with 1/4 of the seasoned meat. Sprinkle with tomatoes, olives, and avocado. Drizzle with the spicy buttermilk ranch dressing.

Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing


  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Dry Mustard Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Paprika
  • 1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 5-6 Chives, chopped (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbsp Diced Chiles, fresh or canned
  • 1/4 tsp Chile Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne


Whisk together the buttermilk and sour cream, until smooth. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, dry mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Stir in the chopped chives. (At this point, you’ll have a tasty, homemade buttermilk ranch dressing.) Add the final four ingredients and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using. The dressing can be made a day or two ahead of time.

Seasoned Taco Meat


  • 1 pound Lean Ground Beef or Turkey
  • 1 tsp Chile Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • 1/8 tsp Cumin


Cook ground beef or turkey in a skillet over medium heat, until fully cooked. Add the chile powder, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and cumin. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and water. Stir until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.


9 responses »

  1. Your salad looks so pretty and I love your buttermilk ranch dressing!
    🙂 Mandy

  2. Those homemade tortilla bowls are genius! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Taco salad is one of my most favorite things ever and I just love the buttermilk ranch. I think that may be one of my favorite dressings

  4. Amy –
    Made this today for the SU game and it was so fun and delish! Did it with turkey and actually threw some tofu into the pan… quite healthy!! We’ll be making this again for sure. Happy New Year!

  5. when you write chile powder, do you mean chile like any hot pepper powder, or chilli powder like the premade mix? Thanks!

  6. I made substitutions to make it healthier (plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream and 1 cup skim milk and a tablespoon of vinegar that I let sit for 5 minutes to replace the buttermilk and didn’t have any tomato paste or lemon juice but already had the acidity from the vinegar anyway and used whole wheat tortillas) So yummy!. Making this again!


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The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

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