Ease into healthier food with this delicious turkey taco salad

"Home with the Lost Italian" food columnist Sarah Nasello says this dish is still comforting, fun and flavorful, with only about 400 calories per serving.

Sarah's Eight-Layer Turkey Taco Salad combines savory turkey taco meat with marinated black beans, crumbled tortilla chips, bell peppers, romaine lettuce, shredded cheese, salsa, tomatoes and avocado for a comfortingly fresh and healthy dish to start the new year. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Normally, my first column of the year features a super-healthy salad or soup to signal the transition from a season of decadent foods toward lighter, healthier fare in the new year. As I looked at different recipes for this week, many with a focus on healthy grains and an abundance of fresh veggies, I heard a collective groan from my two men at home.

For many of us in these not-so-normal times, food has become the highlight of our days at home and dinner is the main event. With this in mind, I knew that I would have to ease my family back to lighter fare with a healthy dish that was still comforting, fun and flavorful. With only about 400 calories per serving, this Eight-Layer Turkey Taco Salad hits all the right notes.

For the base of this salad, I pulled a pound of turkey taco meat from my freezer, from a recipe that was featured here last April. It is an easy preparation that combines lean ground turkey with onions, garlic, jalapeno and a blend of spices to create a moist and savory taco meat mix; however, if you are in a pinch for time, feel free to simplify with a packet of your favorite taco seasoning.

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Lean ground turkey is a great protein for a healthy food regimen and can be easily substituted in recipes that call for ground beef. You can find ground turkey in the butcher section of our local grocery stores, and my favorite is the 93%-lean ground turkey from Costco in West Fargo.


Black beans provide another boost of protein in this salad, and it is important to drain and rinse them well before using as this step removes a significant amount of added sodium from the beans. Before adding them to the salad, I marinate the black beans with chopped green onions, fresh cilantro and lime juice, which gives this layer of the salad a bright boost of spicy acidity.

Black beans are marinated with fresh lime juice, green onions and cilantro to give the salad a lively pop of flavor and protein. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The black beans are followed by a layer of crumbled tortilla chips, and you can use any variety you prefer. Next, I add a layer of diced orange bell peppers and then one head of romaine lettuce that has been washed, dried and cut into thin strips.

A good, chunky salsa goes on top of the lettuce, followed by a layer of shredded Mexican-seasoned cheese. The eighth and final layer is a combination of diced tomato and avocado, which I toss in fresh lime juice with salt and pepper just before adding to the dish.

Diced tomato and avocado are tossed together with a squeeze of fresh lime juice before being added as the top layer of the salad. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

This salad is extremely versatile, and while I have showcased its layers in a large glass serving bowl, you can also just mix everything together in whatever dish you choose. You can add other layers, like fresh corn and cucumber, and adjust the amounts of each layer according to your personal preference and serving dish size.


One head of romaine lettuce is sliced into thin strips to add a generous layer of healthy greens to the salad. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

This Eight-Layer Turkey Taco Salad was a healthy weekend winner at our house, and I hope you enjoy it, too. My son, Gio, said that his only complaint of this recipe is that there is too much lettuce, and I had to remind him that it is a salad, after all.

Happy new year!

For a mouthwatering presentation, assemble the salad in a large glass bowl so that each layer can be showcased. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Eight-Layer Turkey Taco Salad

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Serves: 4 to 6



1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about half a lime), divided,

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 pound seasoned turkey taco meat ( see my past recipe , or cook 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey with 1 packet taco seasoning according to directions on package)

1 ½ to 2 cups crumbled tortilla chips


1 orange bell pepper, small-diced

1 head romaine lettuce, wash, dried and cut into thin strips

¾ to 1 cup prepared chunky salsa

½ cup finely shredded Mexican-seasoned cheese blend

1 avocado, pitted and small-diced

1 medium tomato, chopped

1 lime, cut into wedges



In a small bowl, combine the black beans, green onions, cilantro and lime juice. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired; set aside.

Distribute the turkey taco meat in an even layer in the bottom of a large serving bowl — a glass bowl is ideal for best presentation.

For the next layer, add the crumbled chips, followed by the black bean mixture, bell pepper, lettuce, salsa and cheese.

In the empty black bean bowl, combine the avocado and tomato with the remaining tablespoon of lime juice and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Place the mixture atop the salad and serve with fresh lime wedges for each serving.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at

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