Love tacos, but want something a bit healthier and shell free? Try it in salad form via my Gluten and Dairy Free Frito Taco Salad! Totally customizable and full of crisp veggies, this filling entrée salad is a summer pleaser. This salad is free of: gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts (and possibly soy depending on what dressing you use).
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Why I Love This Frito Taco Salad
I grew up eating taco salads, not just as a family, but often times at church gatherings. I have fond memories of it being at potlucks and it’s such a crowd pleaser because you can lay out the toppings and let everyone build their own salad. Since my son has gluten and dairy allergies, I needed to re-create it so that my family could once again enjoy this memorable salad.
How is This Frito Taco Salad Gluten Free?
Some store-bought blends of taco seasoning have wheat in them, so I prefer to make my own spice blend to ensure I know everything that is in it.
Otherwise, the meat and veggies should be naturally gluten free. Though, you should read every label, every time if you have a food allergy just to ensure. I’ve seen stuff in places I never would have thought they’d be.
The ranch that I suggest (below) does not have gluten.
Thankfully, the “croutons” are Fritos, so there’s no gluten there either.
How is This Frito Taco Salad Dairy Free?
Typical taco salad has some sort of shredded cheddar cheese. I find that I don’t really miss it. The salad has so much going on, flavor and texture that it’s one thing that doesn’t have to have cheese. Yay for saving calories (that I’ll end up making up for with my ranch, ha!)
As long as you use a dairy-free dressing, like I recommend, you should have officially avoided dairy in this dish.
Which Ranch Dressing do I Use?
To me, this salad screams for ranch. It’s what I grew up dumping on top of this salad. I worked with Hidden Valley Ranch for their new Plant Powered and dairy free version and we really liked it. This isn’t sponsored, but it is what I’ll use from here on out.
We found ours at Walmart. You can always find yours at Amazon too. Here are the ingredients for Hidden Valley’s dairy free ranch, in case you need to see them:
- Water, Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canola), Sugar, Salt, Soybean Protein Isolate, Vinegar, Less than 1% of: Spices, Phosphoric Acid, Garlic, Onion, Xanthan Gum, Modified Food Starch, Natural Flavors, Parsley, with Nisin Preparation, Sorbic Acid. Calcium, Disodium, EDTA and Rosemary Extract added to Preserve Freshness. *Dried Contains: Soybean.
I know some who enjoy Daiya’s ranch dressing. I have sometimes found it at Walmart, and it’s usually in health food stores. Here are their ingredients:
- Non-GMO Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Water, White Vinegar, Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, Potato Starch, Vegan Natural Flavors, Potato Protein Isolate, Vegan Cultured Dextrose, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Spices, Xanthan Gum, Yeast Extract
OTHER DAIRY FREE RANCH OPTIONS:
A few other options may include: Primal Kitchen, Follow Your Heart, or Tessa Mae’s. Or, if you’d rather make ranch yourself, you can make my dairy-free ranch recipe (just thin it a little with some safe milk substitute, since it’s a thick dip). If there are no options that work for your individual needs, just adding more salsa is a simple way to dress the salad.
Make sure no matter what dressing you use, you check the labels to be sure that the ingredients haven’t changed since the time of publishing.
Do you have to use Fritos?
You do not have to use the brand Fritos Corn Chips. Any brand corn chip, generic or not, should work. Just double check the ingredients. We like Fritos because they reminisce of corn tortillas in this taco salad. Plus, they have very simple ingredients: corn, corn oil, salt.
Can you use make this Taco Salad vegan?
Definitely! Instead of using ground meat, use a can of your favorite beans. Black or pinto would be especially good. You can then flavor them with the salsa and spices just like you did to the meat.
What kind of ground meat should you use in Taco Salad?
The great thing about this salad is that it’s seasoned very well. Therefore, you can really use any ground meat you prefer. My son is actually allergic to both milk and beef (his body must hate cows), so we can’t use the traditional ground beef. We’ve had both ground chicken and ground turkey. We prefer the turkey, it’s a bit more tender and tends to not clump up as much when cooking. But honestly, we’d do either. Both have mild tastes, and by adding all of the taco seasoning and salsa you really can’t tell the difference.
Check Out My Other Gluten and Dairy Free Salads:
If you like a nice, big bowl of salad, then try my other gluten and dairy free salad recipes. One thing that helps me not get burned out of salads, is by making sure I have a variety. Add these to your dinner rotation too:
- Greek Salad with Dairy-Free-Tzatziki Sauce
- Apple Bacon Spinach Salad with Sweet Red Onion Vinaigrette
- Allergy Friendly Thai Chopped Salad
- Dairy Free Cilantro Lime Ranch Dressing
- Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken Salads
- 1 pound lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
- 1 Tablespoon homemade taco seasoning, or more to taste (recipe follows)
- 1 cup salsa, temperature to liking (we use mild)
- Greens of choice, washed and chopped (we use romaine hearts)
- 1 cup chopped grape tomatoes
- 1 can of pinto beans (or other beans) drained and rinsed
- 1 bell pepper of choice, chopped
- 1 bottle of safe ranch dressing* see post
- Crushed corn chips for croutons
- Optional toppings: diced avocado, diced red onion, pico de gallo, vegan cheese
HOMEMADE TACO SEASONING:
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- In a small bowl, combine all of the taco seasoning ingredients. Stir to combine. Measure out 1 Tablespoon, and place the rest in an air tight container to save for next time.
- In a saute pan over medium heat, place a safe cooking oil and your ground meat of choice. Crumble and stir frequently until cooked. Sprinkle on the taco seasoning and taste to ensure it has enough spice for your level.
- Add in the salsa and stir to combine. Take off the heat and set aside.
- Prep the rest of the salad by chopping all of the veggies and draining and rinsing your beans.
- To serve, you can lay out each ingredient and allow everyone to assemble their own salads buffet style.
- Or, you can arrange the salad in a large serving bowl, by placing the greens first and laying on the additional toppings you prefer.
Published first on AllergicLiving.com
For allergy-friendly ranch options you can check out : Hidden Valley Plant Powered Ranch, Daiya, Primal Kitchen, Follow Your Heart, or Tessa Mae's. Or, if you'd rather make ranch yourself, you can see my ranch recipe here. If there are no options that work for your individual needs, just adding more salsa is a simple way to dress the salad.
If you're looking for some gluten and dairy free dinners, check out my cookbook: An Allergy Mom's Lifesaving Instant Pot Cookbook.
*Our allergies, while severe and that get re-tested yearly, are such that we can go strictly by what's on the label. I do not call companies to see what things are derived from, or call manufacturers to see about potential cross contact. If your allergies require you to do so, please do your own homework. I cannot assure you of any ingredient's safety, only you can do that. I simply share what works for our family.
**If you are going to feed this to someone with food allergies, and you yourself do not have food allergies, I HIGHLY recommend having them check every single brand and ingredient you are using, to ensure they're OK with each part of the recipe. And, to make sure you've talked to them about how to avoid cross contamination in your kitchen.
DON’T FORGET TO PIN IT, SO YOU WON’T LOSE IT. BE SURE WHILE YOU’RE THERE THAT YOU CHECK OUT MY OTHER ALLERGY SPECIFIC BOARDS.