A Healthier Walking Taco

healthier walking taco

With Halloween just around the corner, I had been percolating what I’m going to cook on the night in question. We usually invite a few families over for an early supper before heading out for the annual wonder of following children around to collect candy from neighbors and strangers. Usually I make a big pot of soup, chili, or the like. But I was looking for something different and found my inspiration at all places, the Texas State Fair.

We went to the fair on a mini-holiday a few weeks ago at the behest of our friend Kate, who grew up in Texas and has regaled us with stories of the fair for years. I’m frankly, a little surprised I walked out of there with a recipe idea adaptable for home use considering that Texas Fair food is notoriously unhealthy and outlandish. I’d venture to guess as much deep-fat frying goes on there as a chicken nugget factory, not that I’ve ever been to a chicken nugget factory. This year’s highlights included fried bubblegum, barbecue bologna on Wonder Bread, and the 2011 award winner: chicken on a stick, dipped in pancake batter and jalapeño breadcrumbs, fried, and served with pancake syrup.

Amidst the carnival rides and fairground games stood a food purveyor hawking “Walking Tacos” whereby single-serving bags of Doritos are slit down the side and filled with all the ordinary fixings for a taco. They come accompanied by little packets of sour cream and salsa, as well as disposable forks so you can eat straight from the bag. Kinda junkie. Super tasty. It was a universal hit amongst the eight or so of us who plowed through a shared bag. With a little tweaking, I figured my Healthier Walking Tacos could be the playful, Halloween “supper for a crowd” I was looking for.

The only real issue, as I saw it, was finding a substitute for the Doritos. I combed the aisles of the supermarket and found limited options for single-serving bags of tortillas chips that would make the cut. Ultimately, I settled on Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips which, while not exactly a health food, don’t have the artificial colors, flavors and fat grams of Doritos. Plus, they actually pack a couple grams of fiber in there. Taste-wise they work great. I swapped out the ground beef for a combination of ground turkey and pinto beans, and used taco seasoning mix for flavor, cutting the amount in half since those little bags have a hefty dose of sodium. I subbed out the iceberg for equally crunchy but altogether healthier Romaine.

The end result looked and tasted like the Texas State Fair. It got a unanimous thumbs up from my most important critics, my kids, who didn’t even miss the fried bubblegum chaser.

healthier walking taco

Walking Taco

If you can't find single serving bags of chips, you can make these using ordinary salted tortilla chips in wax paper bags. Figure an adult-size handful of chips per bag.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Tex Mex
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6
Author Katie Morford


  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning mix (see note)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 6 one-ounce bags Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce (crunchiest leaves)
  • 1 medium chopped tomato
  • Salsa and light sour cream for garnish


  1. In a medium saute pan, brown the turkey meat over medium heat until cooked through. Add the pinto beans to the pan and sprinkle the 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix over the top. Add the water and stir. Turn heat to low and simmer until the liquid absorbs into the mix and the flavors develop, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. While the meat is cooking, use scissors to open the Sun Chips along one side (as opposed to opening at the top). Crush the bags of chips to break them into bite size pieces.
  3. To assemble, put a few generous spoonfuls of the turkey mixture on top of the chips in each bag. Divide the cheese between the 6 bags, followed by the lettuce and tomatoes. To eat, add salsa and/or sour cream, and use a dinner fork to give the contents of the bag a good stir. Eat right from the bag.

Recipe Notes

Read the ingredients on the label or buy at a natural foods market since some brands are made with MSG and other additives you may not want to eat.


10.25.2011 at8:29 AM #

Hayley T.

Deep fried bubble gum? You have to be kidding me! So do you chew and swallow the outer fried layer and then chew/make bubbles from the gum? Sounds like it’s about one chemical away from floor polish!

10.25.2011 at8:29 AM #

Katie Morford

I think only 2 in our group braved the fried bubblegum. You’ll note in the picture that it was accompanied by a beer. What a combo.

10.25.2011 at10:47 AM #

Pamela Prime

What a great idea…can’t wait for Halloween!

10.25.2011 at8:49 PM #


Still entirely fancy for Halloween dinner -I’m impressed. Growing up, our standard was Spaghetti’o’s, and I can’t remember anything green to accompany them.

Your recipe sounds as healthy as you could possibly make for a taco in a bag of chips, and absolutely worth the novelty!

10.26.2011 at6:34 AM #


Cute idea. I like it!

10.30.2011 at8:33 AM #


I love this idea! I live in SF, any idea where to find 6oz bags?

10.30.2011 at8:33 AM #

Katie Morford

I’ve found the 1 ounce bags sold in bulk at Safeway. The Garden Salsa, Plain, and Harvest Cheddar flavors will all work for this.

10.25.2012 at4:06 AM #


I love walking tacos. I think I may have posted this previously, but iceberg lettuce isn’t a nutritional lightweight. While it’s not as nutrient dense as Romaine, it’s not far behind it. I still use Romaine more often, but I’m not concerned about being shortchanged nutritionally when I choose to use iceberg.


10.25.2012 at4:06 AM #

Katie Morford

Thanks for the link, Sally.

10.29.2015 at1:51 PM #

Anne Mullen

I’m so pleased you came away from the Texas State Fair with something usable, not an easy task. In years past, the deep fried stars have been Coke or butter. Crazy stuff. These walking tacos sound great; thanks.

10.29.2015 at1:51 PM #

Katie Morford

I know! It’s crazy what they come up with. Fried bubblegum? Ick.

10.30.2015 at6:26 AM #

Elizabeth Shaw

Brilliant Idea!! This seriously is perfect for those who want to indulge but in a healthier way! Plus, I love the concept of knocking that Uploaded Lunchable out of the running- this is a win win! Nice work!

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