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Taco Salad Nouveau

From the Culinate Kitchen collection by


When I was in high school, my mom and I often made taco salad together. Recently, I had a craving for it and decided to deviate from the classic rendition, substituting ingredients more in line with my current way of cooking and eating.

I swapped in buffalo for ground beef (because it’s leaner), black beans for kidney (never liked them), and tarted up the French dressing with fresh lime juice. I also changed out the iceberg for Romaine lettuce and added green onions and black olives to the mix.

The result? It absolutely satisfied my craving for taco salad, a strange and fulfilling alchemy of crunchy, sweet, and spicy tastes and textures. (True confession, though: I missed the crunch of iceberg.)


1 lb. ground buffalo
1 to 2 Tbsp. chili powder (see Note)
2 garlic cloves, minced
~ Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bottle (8 ounces) French dressing (I like Annie's)
1 lime
1 bunch green onions, sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, diced (or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, drained, and chopped
4 oz. sharp Cheddar, grated (about a heaping cup)
1 can (2.25 ounces) sliced ripe black olives, drained
2 cups tortilla chips, lightly crushed


  1. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the ground buffalo over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the meat. Add the chili powder and cook for several minutes, then add the minced garlic. Cook until the meat is done — no longer pink and a bit browned on the edges. Drain off any accumulated fat (buffalo meat is lean, so there probably won’t be much). Pour in about a third of the dressing and cook for several minutes. Stir in the drained beans, season to taste with salt, and remove the from heat. Let cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (You can also, if you want a cold salad, cool the meat-and-bean mixture in the fridge and resume making the salad later.)
  2. In a medium bowl or large mixing cup, pour in the rest of the dressing. Add the lime juice and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a large salad bowl, place the green onions, tomatoes, lettuce, grated cheese, and drained olives. Add the cooled meat-and-bean mixture. Toss the salad with the dressing and half of the crushed chips. Top with remaining chips and serve.


To make your own chili powder: Combine 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika, 3 teaspoons ground dried chile (I like chipotle), 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, 3 teaspoons ground cumin, and 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled. Stir together until blended. Store any extra spice blend in a clean glass jar with a lid.

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