How many calories are in a taco salad including the shell?

A taco salad is a delicious Tex-Mex dish that typically consists of a fried tortilla shell filled with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, seasoned ground beef or chicken, beans, and other toppings. With so many high-calorie ingredients like beef, cheese, beans, and the fried shell, many people wonder just how many calories are in a typical taco salad.

In this article, we’ll break down the average calorie count of each ingredient in a taco salad and provide a final total calorie estimate for the entire dish including the shell. We’ll also offer some tips for lightening up your taco salad to make it a bit healthier. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the calorie count of this tasty Tex-Mex favorite!

Calories In Taco Salad Ingredients

A taco salad is made up of a number of high-calorie ingredients. Here’s a breakdown of the average calories found in each standard taco salad component:

Tortilla Shell

The foundation of a taco salad is the fried tortilla shell that the other ingredients sit in. A 6-inch fried flour tortilla shell contains approximately:

– 150 calories


The base of a taco salad is usually iceberg or romaine lettuce. One cup of shredded lettuce contains:

– 8 calories


Taco salads typically contain diced tomatoes. One small tomato (about 3 inches diameter) has around:

– 22 calories


Cheese is one of the higher calorie items in a taco salad. One ounce of shredded cheddar cheese contains:

– 110 calories

Ground Beef

Many taco salads are made with seasoned ground beef. A 1/2 cup serving of browned, lean (90% lean) ground beef contains roughly:

– 200 calories


A black or pinto bean mix is a common taco salad ingredient. 1/2 cup canned refried beans has about:

– 110 calories


Salsa adds flavor without too many extra calories. Two tablespoons of mild tomato salsa contains approximately:

– 10 calories

Sour Cream

Sour cream is a typical taco salad topping. Two tablespoons of regular sour cream has around:

– 60 calories


Some taco salads are topped with guacamole. Two tablespoons of homemade guacamole made with avocado, onion, tomato, and lime juice contains about:

– 50 calories

Total Calories In a Taco Salad With Shell

Now that we know the average calorie counts for each ingredient, we can add them up to get an estimate of the total calories in a typical taco salad with a fried tortilla shell:

Tortilla Shell: 150 calories

Lettuce: 8 calories

Tomatoes: 22 calories

Cheese: 110 calories

Ground Beef: 200 calories

Beans: 110 calories

Salsa: 10 calories

Sour Cream: 60 calories

Guacamole: 50 calories

Total Calories: 720 calories

So in total, a typical taco salad made with a 6-inch fried flour tortilla shell and standard taco salad toppings contains approximately 720 calories.

This number will vary depending on the exact serving sizes and specific ingredients used. More cheese or sour cream can drive up the calories, while more lettuce and salsa with less beef and beans will lighten it up a bit. But in general, a taco salad with all the fixings and a fried shell contains 700-750 calories.

Ways To Lighten Up a Taco Salad

720 calories is quite high for a single meal, so you may want to tweak some elements to create a healthier, lower calorie taco salad:

– Use a baked tortilla shell instead of fried – about 60 calories vs. 150 for a fried shell

– Load up on lettuce and tomatoes vs. cheese, beef, beans, etc.

– Use lean ground turkey instead of higher fat ground beef

– Limit high-calorie toppings like cheese, sour cream, and guacamole

– Choose low-fat ingredients when possible – low-fat cheese, light sour cream, etc.

– Use just salsa for added flavor instead of sour cream

– Skip the shell completely and serve as a taco salad bowl

With some simple substitutions like these, you can enjoy a delicious taco salad in the 350-500 calorie range instead.

Healthiest Low-Calorie Taco Salad Options

Here are some of the healthiest, lowest calorie ways to enjoy a taco salad:

Taco Salad Bowl with Shrimp:

3 oz grilled shrimp: 90 calories
1 cup lettuce: 8 calories
1/2 cup black beans: 110 calories
1/4 cup corn: 42 calories
1/4 cup salsa: 10 calories
1 tbsp light sour cream: 20 calories
Total Calories: About 280

Chicken Taco Salad:

3 oz grilled chicken breast: 140 calories
1 cup lettuce: 8 calories
1/2 cup mixed veggies (peppers, corn, etc): 25 calories
2 tbsp shredded low-fat cheddar: 45 calories
2 tbsp light sour cream: 20 calories
Salsa to taste
Total Calories: About 240

Beef Taco Salad Bowl:

3 oz 96% lean ground beef: 115 calories
1 cup lettuce: 8 calories
1/2 cup black beans: 110 calories
1/4 cup corn: 42 calories
1/4 cup salsa: 10 calories
Total Calories: About 285

So you can definitely enjoy a hearty, filling taco salad for under 300 calories by choosing the leanest ingredients and limiting high-calorie toppings. The fried shell is usually the biggest calorie culprit, so a salad bowl style is your healthiest option.


A typical taco salad with fried shell contains around 720 calories. This number can vary based on exact serving sizes and ingredients used. To lighten up a taco salad, opt for lower calorie ingredients like lettuce, shrimp, chicken or lean beef, load up on fresh veggies, and limit high-fat toppings. A salad bowl style taco salad without the shell is one of the healthiest options, providing under 300 calories. With some simple modifications, you can still enjoy the classic flavors of a taco salad without all the excessive calories.

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