In my pre-teen through teen years, taco salad night was a pretty regular occurrence at my house. I would help my mom season and cook the ground beef (seasoning taco meat was where I got my start in the kitchen), my sister would prep the veggies, and Tami, my sister’s best friend, would grate the cheese. Seriously, I don't have any memories of anyone else grating cheese in my teen years.
If my life was Full House, I was a mix between Michelle and Stephanie, Amanda was DJ, and Tami was Kimmy Gibbler (no offense, Tam) in that she was always at our house, and Amanda was waaayyy nicer to me when it was just the two of us and Tami wasn’t there. And, just like on Full House, sometimes Tami/Kimmy and me/Michelle/Stephanie would hang out and get into trouble without Amanda/DJ, and Amanda/DJ would get really annoyed by it (like the time Kimmy and Steph started that band or the time Kimmy pierced Steph’s ears… totally the kind of shenanigans Tami and I would get in).
By the way, I thought the first episode of Fuller House was brilliant. They all looked like they were having so much fun. And they were making fun of the show in such a nostalgic, hilarious way. I laughed. I cried. When they dedicated the episode to their moms!!! Are you kidding me! I actually did cry. I could care less about the rest of the series, it’s basically your run of the mill cheesy network-style comedy. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m way too busy plowing through Nurse Jackie. Because Edie Falco/Carm Soprano is life, and also… Merritt Wever!? Love her!! Does anyone else think she and Brie Larson look like sisters/ doppelgängers?
Back to taco salad. We would set up a build your own taco salad situation, with leafy green lettuce, super seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, olives, cheese, beans (sometimes black, sometimes pinto), sour cream, salsa, and (always) Juanita's tortilla chips, all fresh and layered nicely on top of each other. That was taco salad.
When I got to college, my roommate Kristy made us a batch of taco salads. If Kristy was in our Full House scenario, she would be Gia, Amber/ Stephanie’s hot, sassy, boy-crazy, party-animal bff who hosts make-out parties and tells her mom that the booze in the dorm room belongs to her roommate (me) when really it’s hers. So she made taco salads, and I. was. appalled. Unseasoned ground beef? Nacho Cheese Doritos? FRENCH DRESSING, FFS!? And all of it chopped and pre-mixed together forming sort of a crunchy-mushy-slimy bowl of neon-orange!? This was NOT taco salad. It sounded terrible. It looked terrible. I freaking loved it. I begged Kristy to make her taco salad all the time. She brought it to every picnic/BBQ/road trip. I introduced it to my family. I gave it the very creative moniker KristyTacoSalad.
Well, it turns out this salad is a thing. It’s all over the internet. One recipe called it “healthy,” lol. My mother-in-law just emailed me a photo of a recipe card she has that’s almost identical, which she said she used to make all the time in the late 70s and early 80s. Someone, somewhere, is probably eating it in a church basement at this very moment. I have a lot of questions. Why is it a thing? Where did it come from? What kind of evil genius came up with it? Have you guys heard of this madness? What is happening here!?! Has John Stamos had work done?!?!?
You could freshen and fancy this up—make a homemade dressing, use a leafier green, layer it, make some kind of homemade tortilla chips, or even serve it in a Doritos chip bag to be hip and twee AF. But you’d be doing yourself and this salad a disservice. It’s amazing and disgusting and wonderful and terrible and addicting just the way it is, and you should definitely take it to a BBQ this spring or summer.
This particular version of the infamous Dorito Taco Salad/KristyTacoSalad recipe is courtesy of Kristy and her mom Edie (no relation to Falco). I made a few tweaks to fit our lifestyle: Evan doesn’t eat kidney beans, so we used black beans, my grocery store is so fancy it doesn’t carry Kraft creamy French dressing, so we used Brianna’s Zesty French (which was great), and we’re strictly a Spicy Nacho Doritos household, so we used those in place of the classic Nacho Cheese Doritos. If you’re not eating it right away, mix the meat, beans, onions, and olives in one container and the lettuce and tomatoes in another. Just before serving, mix together with the avo, cheese, chips, and dressing.
Two notes about the photos: My mother-in-law crocheted the red-trimmed towel (!), and I forgot to add cheese in the photos.
Kristy Taco Salad / Dorito Taco Salad
The measurements here are a starting place. Add more or less of what you like. Kristy (and my mother-in-law) use a full onion. Kristy also doesn't season the beef at all, but I'm team S&P for life.
1 lb ground beef
Salt & pepper
1 can beans (kidney or black) drained and rinsed
½ large onion, diced
½ cup sliced black olives
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 small head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, diced
4 oz grated cheddar cheese
Creamy French Dressing
(Spicy) Nacho Cheese Doritos (the chips aren't a garnish, they're a full on ingredient. Don't be afraid to use a lot... contrary to the recipe I found online, I don't consider this a "healthy" recipe... indulge, go wild).
In a skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until browned. Drain, and then in a colander/ strainer, rinse (this sounds weird, but trust Kristy, if you don’t do it, the beef will have a greasy coating). Add beef to a large bowl, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in beans, onions, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and cheese. Crunch up a bunch of chips and mix in, along with enough dressing to coat. Serve with more chips and dressing, as desired.