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Taco Salad Recipe with Catalina Dressing

This taco salad recipe with Catalina dressing is super easy to make, and it’s packed with flavor. You’ll love how all of the ingredients come together in the most delightful way—even the first time you make it!

loaded Catalina taco salad

It’s also called Frito taco salad or Dorito taco salad. However, I made this with the tortilla chips that I had on hand instead of Fritos. It really doesn’t matter because it’s good with any type of corn chip.

Although I still like the way I used to make it (without Catalina), this has become my favorite taco salad recipe. Thats because I love a lot of tangy flavor that the dressing provides.

This easy taco salad recipe with Catalina dressing is a popular choice around our house. The best way to get people to the dinner table is to serve something everyone loves.

Catalina is a great dressing, but there are others you may enjoy, such as ranch. Mix it with Rotel or your favorite salsa for a creamy salsa dressing.

I’ve also made it with French dressing, and that’s good too. It’s a great recipe not only because it tastes wonderful, but because it’s flexible.

Regardless of how you make it, you can pretty much count on it being a big hit. This crowd pleaser salad is always a popular choice.

Catalina taco salad with cheese

Easy Catalina Taco Salad Recipe

If you like a traditional taco salad, you’ll probably like this version. Catalina dressing provides a fun twist that makes the salad taste slightly different but in a good way.

This delicious salad can be an easy meal all by itself or as the main dish with some sides. 

Or you can serve it with any of your favorite soups. If your family likes to go full-on taco, try it with some taco soup that you’ll see in the section titled “More Fun Family Dinner Ideas” below.

It’s also a great addition to potluck get-togethers or family gatherings. You’ll be surprised that even picky eaters only the taco flavors in this salad.

taco salad with jalapenos

Taco Salad Recipe with Catalina Dressing Ingredients

The ingredients for this salad are very straightforward, but somewhat flexible. It’s easy to make substitutions without sacrificing flavor.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • Tangy Catalina dressing (or French dressing)
  • Taco seasoning (or chili powder)
  • Canned chili beans, drained (may substitute red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, or ranch style beans)
  • Diced onion
  • Garlic powder
  • Diced bell pepper (red bell pepper or green bell pepper)
  • Lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces (iceberg lettuce or romaine lettuce)
  • Diced fresh tomatoes (beefsteak, Roma, or grape tomatoes)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips or your favorite crunchy corn chips

Optional ingredients you can add:

  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Crushed Doritos
  • Cut fresh veggies
  • Salsa
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Onion powder
  • Refried beans
  • Green onions or red onion
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Sweet corn
  • Sliced black olives
  • More green peppers
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Pepper jack cheese

Remember that the best ingredients are the ones you like. So if something sounds good, add it. If you’re unsure of how it will taste on the salad, try just a little bit and take a bite.

The reverse is also true. If you prefer to have a simple salad with just lettuce, tomato, and a seasoned beef mixture, that’s okay too.

Ingredient Tips

Make sure you have plenty of corn chips on the side. You might even want to consider offering taco shells as well. This is a fun way to celebrate taco night.

I prefer crispy taco shells, but some people might want either flour or corn tortillas. It’s always good to provide as many different options as you can think of to make everyone happy.

All of these are simple ingredients that deliver lots of flavor. You can make your own dressing if you have a great recipe or buy it at the grocery store.

I recommend keeping the ingredients list shorter if you’re serving just a few people. However, if you have four or more folks sitting at the dinner table, offer a bigger variety of options.

How to Make a Catalina Taco Salad

First, brown the taco meat in a large skillet over medium heat.

Sometimes I used ground beef, but this time I used the ground turkey that I had on hand. Drain the meat to reduce excess fat.

browning the ground turkey

Add the Catalina dressing.

Sprinkle the taco seasoning and garlic powder over the meat mixture and stir.

Turn the heat down to low and simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Mix the beans, onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes in a large bowl. You want a big bowl because because you’ll need room to toss all of the ingredients.

Add the lettuce and toss.

Sometimes I shred the lettuce, but this time I used bite-size pieces.

mixed ingredients for base of taco salad

At this point, you need to make a decision about when to add the meat mixture. You can either toss it into the salad or put the salad into bowls and add the meat to the top.

It doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s good both ways. 

adding taco meat to salad ingredients

But keep in mind that if you want the salad the next day, you can heat up the meat if it’s separate.

Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top.

Catalina taco salad over chips and topped with shredded cheddar cheese

The perfect way to serve this is to let each person add whatever they want to the top. With a variety of delicious food on the table, everyone will leave the dinner table satisfied.

Offer a variety of tasty sides, breads, and desserts to go with your salad for a winning combination.

Homemade Catalina Dressing

It’s easy to make tangy Catalina dressing. Here are the ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup sugar (granulated or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (preferably red wine vinegar but others are good too)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • Dash of cayenne pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well mixed. Store in an airtight bottle or jar until time to use it.

Last time I made this, it disappeared before I had a chance to make a taco salad. So I had to make more.

How to Store Taco Salad Leftovers

If you serve the salad separate from the meat mixture, put each in a separate airtight container. Store both in the refrigerator.

It’s great for lunch the next day. You can heat up the meat mixture or leave it cold. It’s totally up to you.

3 stages of a Catalina taco salad

More Salad Recipes

I love salads because they’re typically easy meals loaded with all kinds of nutritious veggies. If you enjoy any kind of salads, from summer salads to pasta salads, you’ll find something yummy here:

Salmon Macaroni Salad – This seafood salad has become a family favorite.

Festive Tex Mex Salad – Serve this in a tortilla bowl or in taco shells to make them even more special.

Southern Style Egg Salad – This delicious salad is packed with protein and all kinds of deliciousness that you can serve on lettuce or between slices of bread.

Easy Chicken Salad – I love the fact that you can use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken, or even canned chicken for this one.

More Fun Family Dinner Ideas

Instant Pot Taco Soup – I make this in my Instant Pot, but you don’t have to use a pressure cooker. Instead, you can use the stove top or slow cooker if you prefer.

Oven Baked Buffalo Wings – This is a great food for get-togethers with friends or sports parties. For a little extra flavor, you can offer some taco salad dressing made with Catalina and taco seasoning, in addition to the traditional ranch.

Air Fryer Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks – I like this alternative to the grill on cold or rainy days. It’s wonderful with a side of honey roasted sweet potatoes.

Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole – Here’s a dish from Miz Helen’s Country Cottage that both the kids and adults will love!

Appetizers for Dinner – Sometimes it’s just fun to offer a wide variety of appetizers for dinner. These can be leftovers from a party or things you throw together simply to enjoy something different.

catalina taco salad topped with cheese

Taco Salad Recipe with Catalina Dressing

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

When you want a meal that's packed with flavor, you'll love this delicious Catalina taco salad!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1/2 cup of Catalina dressing (or French dressing)
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 can of chili beans, drained (may substitute kidney beans, black beans, or pinto beans)
  • 1/2 cup of diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup of diced bell pepper (red bell pepper or green bell pepper)
  • 4 cups of lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces (iceberg or romaine lettuce)
  • 1 cup of diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar or Colby cheese
  • Tortilla chips

Instructions

  1. Over medium heat, brown the meat. Drain the grease.
  2. Add the Catalina dressing. Sprinkle the taco seasoning and garlic powder over the mixture. Stir until well mixed.
  3. Turn the heat down to low heat. Let the meat mixture simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  4. Mix the beans, onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the cut lettuce.
  5. Put the lettuce mixture into serving bowls. Top with the meat mixture. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top.
  6. Serve with your favorite chips.

Notes

You can cool the meat mixture and mix with the rest of the salad. However, if you want to save some for leftovers the next day, it’s much better to keep them separate.

Offer a variety of additional toppings, such as sour cream, avocado, more onions, more cut vegetables, corn, black olives, pico de gallo, fresh lime juice, and whatever else you like on your taco salad.

Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 676Total Fat 42gSaturated Fat 18gTrans Fat 3gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 146mgSodium 882mgCarbohydrates 28gFiber 5gSugar 14gProtein 45g

The nutrition information is a product of online calculators. I try to provide true and accurate information, but these numbers are estimates.

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See this recipe shared at Full Plate Thursday and Weekend Potluck.

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