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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 tons of yummy south-of-the-border flavor! It’s one of our favorite foods when we want lots of deliciousness that’s not too heavy!

You’ll love how all of the ingredients come together in the most delightful way—even the first time you make it! Don’t be surprised if the family requests it often.

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.

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. Please feel free to adjust any of the ingredients to suit your taste. If you want it spicier, turn up the heat. Or if it’s too spicy, simply decrease any of the seasonings to tone it down.

taco salad with jalapenos


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:

  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1/2 cup tangy Catalina dressing (or French dressing)
  • 1 pack taco seasoning (or chili powder)
  • 1 can of chili beans, drained (may substitute red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, or ranch style beans)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper (red bell pepper or green bell pepper)
  • 4 cups lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces (iceberg lettuce or romaine lettuce)
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (beefsteak, Roma, or grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips or your favorite crunchy corn chips (as many as you want)

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
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Red pepper flakes

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.

Also, don’t be afraid to add unexpected ingredients to the list. For example, these delicious air fryer pineapple rings add flavor and a delightful tropical punch! 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

You can use whatever type of large skillet you have. Since I have a bunch of cookware, I like to test recipes on all of them. This recipe works just as well in a nonstick pan and cast iron skillet as it does in this stainless steel pan.

After the ground beef is done, 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. So that’s what I usually do. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top. I used cheddar, but you can use any kind of cheese you like. I’ve even used bleu cheese just to see how it tastes. And it’s delicious if you like bleu cheese.

Catalina taco salad over chips and topped with shredded cheddar cheese

Actually, 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 Should You 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 even better if you can store all of the ingredients separately. That way, the wet ingredients won’t make contact with the dry food, so it won’t get soggy. That said, I’ve had plenty of soggy taco salad, and I still love it. 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.

Chickpea Tuna Salad – Here’s a salad that can be a side dish or the main dish. It’s especially good for lunch when you want something that’s both nutritious and filling.

plate of chickpea tuna salad

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.

bowl of egg salad

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.

Chicken wings with ranch dressing

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!

Cheesy Chicken and Waffle Casserole – If you like the combination of chicken and waffles, then try this delicious casserole with cheese on top. It’s a whole new flavor sensation that the whole family will enjoy.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken – This is a versatile dish that you can enjoy as either an appetizer or main dish.

plate of bacon wrapped chicken tenders

Hobo Casserole with Beef – There are so many different names for this casserole, like hamburger casserole or hobo hubby casserole, so it might already be on your dinner rotation. Check it out and try it if you haven’t already.

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.

Delicious Taco Salad for Lunch or Dinner

This taco salad with Catalina dressing is a meal in itself! It’s a great dish to make for lunch or dinner, and it can be easily customized with your favorite toppings. 

Yield: 4 servings

Taco Salad Recipe with Catalina Dressing

catalina taco salad topped with cheese

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

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 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


  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.


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



Serving Size


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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