Floating Taco Bowls with Crazy Delicious Creamy Lime Dressing {Stovetop or Slow Cooker}

These floating taco bowls hold all the goodness of tacos layered in a bowl and smothered with creamy lime dressing and tons of toppings! The flavorful meat and rice filling is so delicious!

What is a floating taco bowl, you ask? Well, I’d love to tell you more about them, because they are incredible!

A floating taco bowl has all the deliciousness of a taco (with some unique flavors thrown in!), but instead of being constrained in a taco shell, all the taco glory is piled in a bowl. Each layer floating on top of the other!  

It is an easy weeknight meal that can be made on the stovetop or in the slow cooker. 

floating taco bowls in white bowl with lettuce, tomatoes and olives

Winner Winner Taco Dinner

I’m a huge fan of meals like this. 

  • easy and totally unfussy
  • customizable 
  • super family-friendly

These floating tacos also make a perfect take-in meal when you need to bring dinner to someone. 

AND that hearty taco filling freezes great for a future meal. 

white bowl filled with corn chips, taco meat and taco toppings

Stovetop or Slow Cooker

The taco filling for this recipe is really straightforward. 

Lean ground beef or ground turkey is browned in a skillet or saucepan with onion and garlic, and then, if you’re making it on the stovetop everything else is thrown in to the mix.

It simmers for about 30 minutes until the rice is tender and the mixture is thick and hearty. 

pinto beans, rice, tomato paste, broth, sauce, seasonings in skillet for floating taco bowls recipe

If you’re making it in the slow cooker, the ground beef mixture gets transferred to a slow cooker. And then….yep, this should sound familiar, everything else gets mixed in. 

It’ll need about 4-5 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high so the rice can cook all the way and the mixture can thicken and flavors develop and all that jazz. 

crockpot of rice and taco meat for floating taco bowls recipe

Layering the Floating Taco Bowls

Once the filling is done, the fun happens!

I’m not sure why, but we far prefer corn chips for this recipe, although you can definitely use tortilla chips if that’s your thing or what you have on hand. 

It goes:

  • chips
  • taco filling
  • cheese
  • lettuce
  • dressing (more on that amazing nectar of the gods in a minute)
  • toppings, toppings and more toppings (we usually do tomatoes, olives and avocados)

step by step topping guide for floating taco bowls recipe

Creamy Lime Dressing

In addition to the rice + bean + meat taco filling, what also makes this recipe special is the crazy delicious creamy lime dressing. 

I have other recipes with varying cilantro lime/creamy lime/avocado ranch-y type dressings. They’re all good. (And they could all be subbed in here.)

But this ultra-creamy, zesty dressing is worth a go. It has three layers of creaminess (buttermilk, mayo, cream cheese); the lime juice and cilantro lighten it up to be fresh and fabulous. 

blender with cilantro, pepper, garlic powder, cream cheese, buttermilk

Digging in to this incredible meal makes me happy. Every time. And there have been a lot of every times. 

All those flavors jumbling together in the bowl, the yummy chaos of it all, it just speaks my language. 

I can’t wait to see what you guys think of this one and what you do to make it your own! I probably just scratched the surface on what’s appropriate to add on top. Any favorite taco toppings I left off the list? 

white bowl filled with corn chips, taco meat and taco toppings

One Year Ago: Beach Street Lemon Chicken Pasta
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Three Years Ago: Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad 
Four Years Ago: Monterey Chicken with Pico de Gallo {Chili’s Copycat}
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Six Years Ago: Grilled Greek Chicken Kebabs with Simple Tzatziki Sauce 
Seven Years Ago: Grilled Honey & Ginger Marinated Flank Steak 
Eight Years Ago: Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip
Nine Years Ago: Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie
Ten Years Ago: Red Velvet Cake Roll 

Floating Taco Bowls with Creamy Lime Dressing

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Floating Taco Bowls with Creamy Lime Dressing

Ingredients

Tacos:

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I use low-sodium)
  • 1/2 cup long grain, basmati, or jasmine white rice (see note for brown rice)
  • 15-ounce can black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (see note)
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika, smoked or sweet
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Creamy Lime Dressing:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, light or regular, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, more or less to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of black pepper

Toppings:

  • Corn chips, lightly crushed
  • Shredded cheese
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Sliced olives
  • Sliced or chopped avocados

Instructions

  1. Stovetop Directions: In a deep 12-inch skillet, electric skillet, or saucepan set over medium heat, cook the ground beef or turkey, onion, and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper. Break the meat into small pieces as it cooks; continue cooking until the meat is no longer pink. Drain excess grease and return to the heat.
  2. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, chicken broth, rice, beans, chili powder, cumin, salt, paprika, oregano and pepper. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes until the rice is tender. Stir often and moderate heat to prevent sticking.
  3. Slow Cooker Directions: brown the ground beef or turkey, onion and garlic the same as in step #1 above. Transfer the mixture to a 5-quart or larger slow cooker. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, chicken broth, rice, beans, chili powder, cumin, salt, paprika, oregano and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours.
  5. For the dressing, combine all the ingredients together in a blender and process until smooth.
  6. Serve the taco meat over crushed corn chips. Top with shredded cheese, lettuce, dressing, and any additional toppings your heart desires (like, tomatoes, olives, avocados, etc).

Notes

Rice: if using brown rice, I'd suggest increasing the broth by 1 additional cup.

Chili Powder: because chili powder is a blend of spices, different brands have varying degrees of heat. Moderate as needed in the recipe if you want to lessen or increase the heat.

Dressing: the dressing can be made several days in advance - the flavors get better if made a day ahead of time, but it's delicious whipped up the night of, too.

Instant Pot: I have not tried this in the Instant Pot/pressure cooker yet.

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Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe my friend, Kara S., sent me (turns out it’s very similar to this old recipe except with that crazy good dressing and a few other changes)

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