Taco Salad Dippers

A one pot wonder. That’s what this meal is.

Deliciously simmered, lean beef or turkey combines with flavorful seasonings, tender rice, a tomato base and hearty beans. The rice plumps up perfectly and the mixture thickens to a wonderfully dippable taco meal.

What To ServeThis could be served in a myriad of ways – we used classic taco garnishes and scoopable tortilla chips. I prefer to crush up my tortilla chips, top them with the yummy taco mixture and load it all up with sour cream, lettuce, cheese and tomatoes – a taco salad of sorts. My kids and husband filled up a bowl and used their tortilla scoops to dip away. They were in heaven.

Filling, simple, healthy and tasty – this meal is sure to please! (Thanks, Alicia!)

Taco Salad Dippers

One Year Ago: Beach Street Lemon Chicken Linguine

Taco Salad Dippers

Yield: Serves 6-8

Taco Salad Dippers


  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup rice (white or brown)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained


  1. In a large pot, brown the ground beef or turkey with the onion and garlic and cook until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are translucent. Drain any accumulated grease. Add the water, rice, seasonings, tomato sauce, tomato paste and beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, watching to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (if you are using brown rice, it may need to simmer for up to 60-70 minutes). The mixture will seem very watery at first, but after simmering, it will thicken to perfection as the rice absorbs water and all the ingredients meld together.
  2. Serve warm with tortilla chips for dipping and other taco garnishes. I have successfully frozen the leftover meat/rice mixture to defrost and reheat later.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Alicia, a reader

64 Responses to Taco Salad Dippers

  1. Jessica K says:

    Wondering if anyone has ever tried this in a slow cooker? It has amazing slow cooker potential, but as I’m making it for a family who just had a baby today, I’m not about to experiment with it this time around 🙂

  2. Adrianna says:

    I tried this tonight with quinoa instead of rice (daughter doesn’t like rice). I also used black beans. Super yummy and my daughter ate it! Hubby added jalapenos and declared it ‘perfect’.

  3. Jenny says:

    Has anyone tried this without the meat? Would it work just as well with a veggie ground round type substitute for vegetarians or best to just leave out the meat/chicken/turkey altogether?

    • Mel says:

      Jenny – I haven’t tried it meatless or with a meat substitute, Jenny, but it is a pretty adaptable recipe and I think would be fine either way.

  4. mamalala says:

    I have made this about four times and it is delicious. Our family likes a bit more spice, so I added some cayenne and coriander to the dish. I also make half of it now for our family of four (baby isn’t eating real food yet) and we still have lots of leftovers. I have also frozen the leftovers and thawed it out another night..still tasty and it held up nicely. A win again Mel!

  5. Sheila says:

    This Taco Salad Dippers recipe is a one pot wonder! The new weekly menu feature at the bottom of your blog is so cool. This is where I found this recipe but couldn’t wait until Friday to make it. I used half mild Italian sausage and half hot sausage instead of the beef. It was so delicious! Because of the comments on how much it made, I only made a halve batch. Seriously regret that decision now since there isn’t enough left for leftovers tomorrow. Thank you, Mel for yet another wonderful recipe!

  6. Pete says:

    Stupid question: did you use regular rice or minute rice?

  7. Amanda Z says:

    This was easy and delicious! I served with chopped avocados, jalapeño, cilantro, cheese, and sour cream – YUM! I ate mine with tostitos and hubs had his in a crispy taco shell, we both ate until we felt like we were gone burst!! so good… thanks for another great one!

  8. Kim says:

    This meal was a hit with the kids and husband, which is hard to come by these days. I played with the recipe a tad bc I wanted to throw it in the crock pot white at soccer practice. I added the chopped onion and garlic with a little oil to the crockpot and then added 16oz tomato purée, 6oz tomato paste, spices, and about 2.5 cups of water. Stirred it up threw in my vegetarian meat substitute, and let it cook on high for about 2-2.5 hours. Just before serving I added 1.5 cups of cooked brown rice and about the same amount of cooked pintos. It turned out perfect!

  9. Chalene says:

    Mel once again I was not disappointed! This recipe is so good and very forgiving. I added canned diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and a bit of water. My jaw did drop a bit when my kids said they liked it! (My son will not even eat spaghetti sauce…little does he know this could almost be its’ cousin!) Thanks for all you do to test these recipes and make sure they are winners. You are my go to cooking friend!

  10. Mandy says:

    Wow. Thank you! My delighted 18 month old is chowing this down while my hubby and I groan from eating too much. Oh and my 22 week old fetus is doing the Mexican hat dance in my belly. Probably going to need some Tums but so worth it. This recipe is so adaptable, which I love! I added chopped green pepper in place of the onion, made tomato sauce by pureeing spicy red pepper diced tomatoes, and did half regular chili powder, half chipotle chili powder. Btw, welcome to Minnesota. I’m down here just outside of Minneapolis and its cold enough. Can’t imagine you way up there on the tundra! Better stock up on CuddleDuds and cocoa 🙂

  11. This Week’s Menu - Plate4Eight says:

    […] Friday – Taco Salad Dippers […]

  12. Menu Plan - Plate4Eight says:

    […] Wednesday – Taco Salad Dippers […]

  13. This Week’s Menu Plan - Plate4Eight says:

    […] Wednesday – Taco Salad Dippers […]

  14. […] Taco Salad Dippers from http://www.melskitchencafe.com. Tostitos scoops are gluten free – we love our locally made […]

  15. Nicole says:

    Thanks Mel. This was nice and easy. Makes lots, freezable – big winner for us! Mine lacked a bit in flavor. I’m pretty sure that was because I left out some of the chili powder (I always do since we like things less spicy), but I guess the turkey could have lacked a bit in flavor. It was just a tad lacking though. Thanks again! Trying your healthy oat bars tonight, mmmm.

  16. Mel says:

    Hi Nicole – I like to combine different ground meats and I think beef and turkey would work just fine in this recipe.

  17. nicole says:

    Um, I couldn’t decide weather to get beef or turkey, so I just got a pound of each. Then decided maybe that would taste weird together…. anyone know? I put pork and beef together in cabbage rolls and that works fine. Just thought I’d ask. Thanks !

  18. Jess says:

    Sort of like a chili, but also reminiscent of Taco-in-a-bag. I love the addition of tomato products, beans, and rice…plus the obligatory lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. Healthy and good!

  19. Rachel Russell says:

    We are trying this week- but we can’t eat white rice- so LOVE that you provided the directions for brown rice! You are making our Sunday night meal planning VERY easy!

  20. […] Slightly adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe […]

  21. Laura B says:

    I came across this recipe last winter, and trust me it is a tried and true recipe in my book. My kids love it, my husband loves it…heck I even made it for my sister’s five kids while I babysat this summer and it was devoured! Thanks for the amazing recipes Mel. I’ve got a major obsession with your website!

  22. […] crock pot meal: Taco Dippers. Ben and I would demolish this. […]

  23. Joni says:

    The family and I loved this!

  24. Hilary says:

    Made this for my family if 10 on a chilly Minnesota night and the children LOVED it!!! Thanks for another great one! 🙂

  25. Deb says:

    Found this gem because it’s pictured in your Favorites sidebar right now – we all loved this. You’re my kids’ new hero because this recipe allowed them to have tortilla chips FOR DINNER. The flavor was great and I’m looking forward to the leftovers because this seems like one of those recipes that will get better after a day or two. Thanks!

  26. Laura says:

    Made this tonight for dinner and it was great! Made a TON so I’m freezing the rest for another night. And it was so adaptable for my super picky son – just kept some plain beans out for him instead of the taco mixture. I now have something to add to my ‘meal everyone will eat’ arsenal! Thanks!!

    Do you ever eat taco fillings on a bed of rice? We call it Rice Stack – so good!

  27. Carlin says:

    I am so sad, because this is the first recipe I have made from your site that didn’t turn out to be absolutely fabulous. I fully blame myself, and maybe my picky pregnancy tastebuds. The texture was a little hard to eat; it kind of just turned out mushy. And the flavor was kind of bland; I could only taste the tomato paste and sauce, really. This recipe has rave reviews, so I’m sure I just did something wrong. I’ll try again another time and hopefully redeem myself!

  28. Kyra says:

    This recipe has become such a staple at our house! It’s beyond delicious!

  29. Kensi says:

    I made this last week and we really enjoyed it! It was so easy AND it made a ton of leftovers so we had it the next night too. I love when that happens!

  30. Megan H. says:

    LOVED it. It was delicious. One of the husbands favs now I think, and one of mine because like you said it’s a “one pot” wonder.

  31. Megan H. says:

    This is on the stove right now!! It smells so good. I hope all the water soaks up.. Im a little nervous and only used 1 lb of hamburger. It was to late to half all the other ingredients by the time i noticed my mistake, blah! I hate when I do that.. Youre amazing. I adore your recipes. All of them are 100% delicious everytime.

    • Mel says:

      Megan – I know it seems like the water never soaks up, but it will, I promise, especially if you cook it at low heat and allow for the time in the recipe. Hope you like it!

  32. Shauntel says:

    So we love this recipe, but the other night when I went to make it, I failed to remember that we’re “roughing it” without a microwave these days, and I’d forgotten to get the meat out to thaw. Well, I’d already started, so I threw a can of Tyson’s white chicken (my “trick” in lots of recipes, equals about 2-3 cooked and shredded chicken breasts), and it was delicious. Even our fourteen month old went nuts over this stuff! (As did we.)


    P.S. I also halved the recipe, so anyone who tries this trick with the full recipe, you’ll want two cans of chicken (or 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded).

  33. Allison says:

    I have made this several times for my family, we love it! We like things a bit spicer though, so I exchanged one can of regular tomato sauce for a can of mexican tomato sauce. We eat the leftovers the next day (if there is any) as a topping for nachos – just chips and melted cheese. Thanks for ANOTHER great recipe.

  34. Carolyn says:

    Whoa, cool! My mom used to make something like this! I had never really had Mexican food, growing up in the Pacific Northwest in a Scandinavian/Scottish heritage household where *parsley is considered a spice*. Your recipe looks very similar to what mom made. We used to pile up the corn chips – you know, Fritos – (seriously I had never had a tortilla chip in my life), spoon on the meat mixture, then cheese, then the other goodies. The funny thing is, we called it Mexican Tacos. As if there is some other kind. Imagine the world that opened up to me when I moved to Southern California years ago! I’m going to try your version – looks like YUM!

  35. Alicia says:

    Hooray! I’m glad so many people have enjoyed this recipe. I haven’t been on here for a while (2month vacation with family) so I was pleased to come back and find that you had blogged about it, and it had so many positive reviews. It continues to be one of my family’s favorite meals.

  36. Megan says:

    I made this tonight and used chicken instead of beef because I was out of beef. I also added 8 oz of cream cheese and just ate it as a dip with tortilla chips, it was so good. And all three of my picky boys ate it all up. Will make often! Thanks Mel, I love your site. I am on here daily.

    • Mel says:

      Megan – what a fabulous idea to add cream cheese. Sounds so delicious! I’m glad that all of your boys loved it…now that is a success!

  37. Leisel says:

    I loved this recipe. The ingredients were simple and I had them all on hand!! It was a perfect meal for a busy day. My kids went nuts for it!

    Also loved, loved, loved the Quinoa Salad you made. So Good, and So healthy! Please keep more like that coming!!!!!

    • Mel says:

      Leisel, Melanie and Sue E – I’m flattered you all tried this recipe so quickly and am glad it was such a hit! (Leisel – glad you liked the quinoa salad, too…I have a few more healthy recipes up my sleeve!)

  38. Memoria says:

    YUM! It looks like a big bowl of chili!

  39. melanie says:

    I make this exact recipe. We put ours on broken up frito chips with salad on top. with your favorite dressing.

  40. Sue E says:

    Thanks for dinner tonight! Saw your post today and had all the ingredients and made this for dinner tonight – we loved it!

  41. grace says:

    i like your method of consumption, mel, but i’m sure i wouldn’t mind getting caught eating it dip-style either. very clever!

  42. ChrissieK says:

    OH MY, OH MY! Made it for dinner tonight – thanks for posting a recipe that I had all the ingredients for 😉 My pregnant self read the recipe and “had to have it!” Mel, it is delicious! I can’t stop sampling!!

  43. Biz says:

    My daughter and I could literally eat Mexican food every day and never get sick of it. This would be right up my alley!

  44. Jennifer says:

    Growing up we always had a similar meal called Texas Beef Skillet, but my husband just calls it chili. I think the only real difference is kidney beans and canned tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. This looks delicious though!

  45. Ashley says:

    Sounds yummy! Do you cook the rice first, or add it dry?

  46. StephenC says:

    I’ve been thinking about ground turkey recently. Your recipe may be perfect for me.

  47. Jenn says:

    I love recipes that are healthy and tasty. This one fits the bill perfectly!

  48. Cathryn says:

    That looks just perfect for dinner for the boys and I tonight. Thanks!

  49. Kim in MD says:

    This looks great! Ever since I tried your one skillet sausage and pasta recipe, I have been trying to adapt my favorite pasta and rice recipes to one skillet meals (I love to cook, but hate to clean up!). My family loves tacos, so they will love this! Thanks, Melanie!

  50. We are huge taco eaters in this house. That sounds awesome. I would love using it with tortilla shells too!

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