As a self-proclaimed Mexican food connoisseur, our founder, Nina, confesses to having chased down her fair share of Mexican food trucks on a quest for authentic street tacos. In fact, it is her love for these tacos that actually inspired Nina to create the Chicken and Kale Street Taco Salad recipe we’re now bringing to you.
If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine, then you’ve likely heard of street tacos. Unlike the widely popular Tex-Mex tacos filled with shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream, authentic street tacos have a whole set of different layers. If you’ve never had street tacos, you’re in for a real treat as we’ve packed all their deliciousness into one big nourishing bowl.
Whether you’re an authentic street taco fan or just want to try something new and different, That Salad Lady’s hearty Street Taco Salad is an explosion of amazing flavor that’s sure to satisfy your taste buds.
THE BALANCING ACT
One of the biggest misconceptions is that Mexican food is unhealthy, especially street tacos like the ones typically sold on Mexican food trucks. These tacos are traditionally made with beef, chicken or pork, cilantro and onion, and sometimes avocado and Cotija cheese. None of these layers themselves are unhealthy. Much of the misconception about street tacos (and Mexican food in general) is owed to the ways that many fast-food spots prepare them.
As with most foods, we believe tacos are what you make of them – and street tacos are no exception. Combining all the traditional layers with whole ingredients like fresh kale and black beans, our Street Taco Salad is a super healthy way to cure your need for a Mexican food fix. Packed with quality protein, good fats and fiber it’ll keep you feeling full, well-nourished and completely satisfied throughout the day.
Let’s talk more about all the ingredients in our Street Taco Salad and why we chose to include them.
Freshly Rubbed Kale for the Base
A base of leafy greens is technically what makes our Street Taco Salad a “salad.” Generally speaking, the darker the leafy greens, the better they are for you, which is why we’re rolling with kale. We specifically suggest using “rubbed kale” which is basically kale that’s been massaged. When massaged, kale takes on a very soft, somewhat feathery texture and the earthy flavors of this powerful leafy green veggie really come through.
We include specific instructions for massaging kale below. All you’ll need is a good quality oil, some fresh lime juice, a little kosher salt and your bare hands.
Plenty of Power-Packed Protein
As you’ve probably already guessed by the title, our Chicken and Kale Street Taco Salad includes “chicken.” It’s a classic street taco layer. While the chicken thigh is generally the cut of choice, our recipe calls for using boneless skinless chicken breasts. This is because the breast is the leanest, most nutritious cut of chicken. Besides being chock-full of quality protein, chicken in general is an excellent source of B vitamins and antioxidants (see recipe notes for alternative fillers).
Below we include specific instructions for prepping and cooking the chicken breasts. Also included are ingredients for That Salad Lady’s street taco seasoning blend. We add the seasoning blend to both the chicken and black beans – the next layer in our recipe.
Every Fiber of Our Bean
For an added dose of health-promoting fiber and plant-based protein too, our recipe includes a good portion of black beans. Black beans themselves are not a traditional street taco layer, but they’re actually a flavorful staple in traditional Mexican cuisine. Though sometimes shunned due to high levels of starch, the starch housed in beans is slow-burning starch. This means it’s “slowly” digested in a way that helps reduce spikes in blood sugar levels.
As with many whole foods, the key to eating starches lies in portion control. Below we suggest a sensible portion of black beans – just enough to complement the savory flavors of all the other layers in the bowl. If you’re following a particular diet and choose to leave out the beans, we promise you’ll still have an enjoyable eating experience. However, if your diet is more all-inclusive, by all means, leave them in.
For convenience’s sake, we suggest using canned black beans. No worries, the overall nutritional quality of black beans is well preserved during the canning process. Just choose a brand that’s low in sodium or free of added sodium – organic too if you can spring for it.
A Sweet and Pungent Combo
When it comes to adding good depth and good nutrition to Mexican food, nothing beats the sweetness of tomato and the pungent flavor of onion. This is why our Street Taco Salad calls for both. Tomato itself is packed full of vitamin C and countless other health-promoting nutrients including lycopene. Lycopene is what gives tomatoes their brilliant red color. We use vine tomatoes for this bowl recipe, but any red tomatoes work – and they’re equally nutritious.
Then there’s the onion, which, like other allium vegetables, comes with its own unique taste profile and nutritional benefits. As white onion is more commonly used in Mexican cuisine, our recipe calls for this type, but yellow onion works as well.
The Mexican Feta Cheese
For even more authentic Mexican flavor, our Street Taco Salad includes sprinkles of Cotija cheese. Cotija is named after the town of the same name in the Mexican state of Michoacán. Often referred to as Mexican feta due to its similar flavor and texture, Cotija is made from cow’s milk. Like many other cheeses, Cotija is often labeled as “bad” for being high in fat and salt, but with its rich content of protein and probiotics it can actually do more good than harm.
When eating cheese in general, the key is to not overdo it. That’s why we suggest adding Cotija in sprinkles. It’s meant to be more of a finisher than a main layer. Now, if you follow a dairy-free diet, you can certainly leave the Cotija out. In this case, you probably won’t miss it anyway. But if your diet is more all-inclusive, by all means, leave it in.
An Authentic, Craveable Finish
For an authentic, downright craveable finish, our Street Taco Salad is dressed with That Salad Lady’s avocado cilantro dressing. Avocado and cilantro are not only classic Mexican layers, but they also pack a nutritional punch. While avocado by itself is loaded with fiber and good quality fats, cilantro is rich in vitamin K and boasts powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits too.
The combination of avocado and cilantro with other layers like EVOO, fresh garlic and Greek-style yogurt, creates a nutritional powerhouse of a dressing that really brings the whole bowl to life (see recipe card for the full list of ingredients). If you choose not to make our dressing, try an avocado or cilantro-based dressing like Primal Kitchen Cilantro Lime Dressing.
Our recipe calls for chopping up a few of the fresh layers including: (1) kale, (2) tomato and (3) onion. It’s best to chop up the onion first as you’ll need diced onion during cooking. As with the onion, the tomato only requires dicing. The kale, however, requires its own set of steps.
As mentioned before, our recipe calls for massaging the kale. Check out our full recipe and watch the video below for detailed instructions. We suggest first de-stemming the leaves and then chopping them into small, bite-sized pieces. While you can use pre-packaged kale to cut down on prep time, you may still need to chop up the leaves a bit more. Once chopped, give the kale a good rinse and then drain it well using a colander or salad spinner.
Once the kale is completely drained, transfer it to a medium bowl and coat the leaves with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), freshly squeezed lime juice and a little sprinkle of kosher salt, and then toss and massage them by hand for 3-5 minutes. Massaging kale this way softens the leaves and reduces their volume in much the same way that cooking them would. You can wear disposable food prep gloves if you wish, but using your hands is much more efficient.
Some cooking is required for the: (1) chicken and (2) black beans. The process, however, is very straightforward (see recipe card and watch the video below for detailed instructions). We’ve included That Salad Lady’s street taco seasoning blend as part of the recipe (see recipe card). It’s best to make the seasoning first. To do this, simply add all the ingredients to a small bowl or prepping dish and whisk them together.
Start With the Chicken
Our Street Taco Salad recipe calls for combining the cooked chicken with the black beans. In preparation for cooking, you’ll first need to carefully cut the chicken breasts into 1/2-inch cubes using a sharp knife (ideally a chef’s knife or an Asian knife). With the chicken chopped, you’re ready to cook it.
In a large skillet or pan, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. From there, add the chicken cubes in an even layer and cook them undisturbed for about four minutes. At this point, stir in two cloves of freshly minced garlic and cook the cubes for an additional 3-4 minutes until the chicken is deeply golden brown or reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. After it’s done, just drain the chicken and set it aside.
Season the Beans and Chicken
In the same skillet or pan, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat, toss in half the diced onion along with two more cloves of freshly minced garlic and then stir and sauté the mixture until the onion is translucent or golden brown. Next, add the black beans (including the liquid) and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in the cooked chicken and add 3-4 tablespoons of the seasoning blend (or more to taste) along with 3/4-1 cup of water.
Bring everything to a boil for a minute or so and then reduce the heat to a simmer again. Continue to simmer the mixture for 3-5 minutes with occasional stirring. For even more authentic flavor, add some freshly squeezed lime juice to taste. With occasional stirring, keep simmering the mixture until there’s little to no moisture. Once done, set the mixture aside until you’re ready to build your bowl.
Once the fresh and cooked ingredients are all prepped, all that’s left is the avocado cilantro dressing. To make the dressing, all you’ll need to do is gather and mix the ingredients in a blender or food processor (see recipe card for the full list of ingredients). It’s that simple.
With variable speed units, start with a low speed. From there, you can gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth.
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
When you’re ready to build your bowl, start by spreading out the kale in a large bowl or on a large plate and then add layers of the seasoned chicken and bean mixture, onion and tomato along with sprinkles of Cotija cheese, if using. You can add the avocado cilantro dressing in between layers and on top of the finished blend. If you choose to use another type of dressing, feel free to added freshly chopped avocado and cilantro to the bowl for an authentic finish.
Our Chicken and Kale Street Taco Salad recipe is large enough for eight deliciously filling servings. With a salad that’s packed full of quality protein, good fats and fiber, you’ll get plenty of nutrition bang for your bowl. Depending on your eating style, you can double your portions and eat less meals or store leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days.
For leftovers, simply arrange the chicken and bean mixture, cheese and fresh ingredients in their own sections on a serving plate or in a to-go container, include a separate container of dressing, and you’ve got yourself a quick and convenient meal
Leftover ingredients make for great traditional tacos or lettuce wraps too. Simply fill 2-3 corn tortillas or layered lettuce leaves with the chicken and bean mixture and top them off with equal portions of cheese and fresh ingredient layers. Once your tortillas or leaves are stuffed, top them with avocado cilantro dressing or whatever other dressing you choose to use. You can use the same filling method with your favorite grain wraps too.
It’s all about building your bowl, your way!
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram (@that.salad.lady) and TikTok (@thatsaladlady). Add the hashtags #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl too. If you really love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.