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Easy Taco Salad Recipe with Catalina Dressing in 30 minutes

Doritos hide salad veggies in plain sight in this main dish taco salad recipe with Catalina dressing. It’s like a sweet, spicy, savory bowl of tacos. It is a quick and easy weeknight meal.

“What’s for dinner?” Ah, the dreaded question that makes even the most empowered woman shrink. Especially if the question comes from one of your picky eaters who tries to convince you he is allergic to vegetables.

Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered with an easy meal ready in under 30 minutes.

Taco salad with Catalina dressing is the perfect salad. Crisp lettuce, crunchy chips, savory taco meat, shredded cheese. Plus, a sprinkling of those healthy veggies chopped and disguised by those crushed Doritos.

Make it after a busy workday on Taco Tuesday or as a quick Sunday lunch. And don’t be surprised after you serve it for the first time if your son requests it for his birthday dinner. Yes, the son who never eats salad on purpose. Like ever.

My favorite taco salad with Catalina dressing and Doritos recipe can be doubled for a weekend potluck and brought to any family gathering. Especially a party on a hot summer day. The young and not-so-young will scarf it down. And sometimes even lick the platter clean. Really.

What is Catalina taco salad? It is a main dish salad that is either mixed or layered. It has lettuce, Doritos chips, taco meat and beans, tomatoes, cheese, and Catalina salad dressing. Sweet, savory, and spicy flavors blend and balance each other.

The sweet flavor comes from the Catalina salad dressing. Find the savory flavor in the meat and beans. Add some spice with your favorite taco seasoning or hot sauce.

In this article, you will learn what ingredients you need to make this delicious salad. In addition, find out how to store leftovers, and how to eat leftover Catalina taco salad. It can be a bit tricky. Plus, get suggestions on side dishes to serve with the salad.

Catalina Taco Salad Ingredients

  • Crisp lettuce. Use green leaf, romaine lettuce, or iceberg lettuce. Or combine a couple of lettuce varieties. My favorite combo is green leaf and romaine lettuce.
  • Crunchy corn chips, like Doritos or crunchy Fritos. Any type of corn chips can be used for this recipe.

Crush tortilla chips into bite-sized pieces. I’m not talking chip crumbs, but small pieces you can scoop with your fork. They add the perfect crunch to every bite.

Doritos chips are the most popular tortilla chip to use in this recipe. Some would argue that a Dorito taco salad recipe is the only true Catalina taco salad.

Any flavor bag of Doritos is fine for the recipe. Varieties that are especially good are nacho cheese Doritos, spicy Doritos, or cool ranch Doritos.

If you prefer, use Frito chips. Fritos are already bite-sized. No need to break them. Use regular, chili, or jalapeno Fritos. You will love Frito taco salad.

  • Meat. Use lean ground beef. (Or substitute ground turkey, or ground chicken.)

Cook one pound ground beef with ½ to 1 fresh jalapeno pepper (seeded and diced) for flavor.

  • Beans (pinto beans, red kidney beans, black beans, or ranch style beans). Cook the beans from scratch or use them from a can. If you use canned beans, drain them completely before adding them to the meat.
  • Taco seasoning. Use a taco seasoning packet or homemade taco seasoning. My favorite taco seasoning combines chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. The seasoning will infuse the meat and beans with spicy taco flavors.
  • Sweet Catalina dressing. Use the salad dressing to flavor the meat and beans. Then drizzle it on top of the salad, along with ranch dressing.

The combination of the different dressings sets this salad apart from a traditional taco salad. The tangy Catalina dressing and the cool ranch give it a unique flavor.

You can substitute French dressing or thousand island dressing if you don’t have Catalina dressing.

Or make homemade Catalina salad dressing with olive oil, vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and spices. It is not hard, but it is an extra step.

  • Cheddar cheese. Use your favorite cheese — cheddar, Colby, or Monterey Jack.
  • Fresh tomatoes. Grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes are a perfect size to plop into the salad. But feel free to dice a large tomato if you prefer.

Salad Toppings

The toppings can be customized to fit your taste and what is in your refrigerator.

  • Black olives. Slice the olives or leave them whole.

  • Red onion or green onion. Dice the red onion or slice the green onions.

  • Avocado. Peel and chop a ripe avocado. Or mash two creamy avocados for guacamole.

  • Red bell pepper (or green, orange, or yellow). Dice the pepper, whatever the color.

  • Radish. Slice into thin disks.

  • Fresh cilantro leaves. Wash, pat dry, and snip onto the top of the taco salad as a garnish.

  • Sour cream. There is plenty of flavor in the meat, but if you want to add the tangy creaminess of sour cream, plop a dollop on top of your salad.

How to Make the Perfect Taco Salad Recipe with Catalina Dressing

Prepare the Taco Meat

  1. Use one pound of hamburger. Brown meat in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain the excess fat. Add minced jalapeno for flavor (optional).

  2. Add ¾ cups water and ¼ cup of taco seasoning to the meat mixture. Stir.

  3. Pour in ⅓ to ½ cup of Catalina salad dressing, depending on how saucy you like your meat. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

  4. Pour in 1 can of beans well-drained (or 1⅓ cups home cooked beans). Stir and cook for another 3 minutes or until the beans are warm.

  5. Take the skillet off the heat, leave it covered, and set aside.

Prepare the Salad

  1. Wash the iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and radish.

  2. Chop the lettuce. Dice the bell peppers. Slice the radish.

  3. Slice the black olives and green or red onions. Chop the avocado. Mince the cilantro.

  4. Shred the cheese.

  5. Crush the Doritos.

Now that all the ingredients are ready, you have a choice. There are two methods of preparation. To layer or to mix. That is the question.

Layering the salad gives it a more appealing presentation. Everyone can see exactly what is in the salad.

Dishing up a layered salad is a tad difficult. It is hard to get all parts of the salad. You aren’t cutting it like a taco casserole, after all. If you layer the salad, do not be surprised when the ground meat and toppings are gone, leaving a pile of extra lettuce behind.

Tossing the salad is easier to prep and easier to serve. It may not be as pretty, but it tastes amazing. The biggest downside is storing leftovers.

With no way to separate the meat from the rest of the salad, you will have to store them together. When you are ready to eat the leftovers, you have a choice. Either cold ground beef or warm lettuce.

Layer or toss? The choice is yours. Here are the directions for both.

How to Toss the Dorito Taco Salad

Is tossing the salad right for you? It is the best choice for a family gathering or any potluck meal.

  1. Pull out a large serving bowl.

  2. Add the salad greens to the salad bowl.

  3. Toss in the fresh veggies (tomatoes, red peppers, black olives, onions, radish slices, and avocados).

  4. Pour in the warm meat and bean mixture and crushed Doritos. Stir with a wooden spoon.

  5. Sprinkle in the cheese and toss to combine.

  6. Drizzle with Catalina salad dressing or your favorite taco salad dressing.

  7. Garnish with cilantro.

How to Layer the Delicious Taco Salad

Ready to Layer? If you think the whole salad will be eaten in one sitting, layer the salad on a large serving dish.

However, if you think there may be leftovers, it is best to let everyone layer their own salad on their plate. That makes storing leftovers easier.

  1. Pull out a large serving dish, large bowl, or individual salad bowls.

  2. Start with a layer of lettuce.

  3. Sprinkle a thick layer of broken chips on top of the lettuce.

  4. Spoon the taco meat and beans over the chips.

  5. Add the fresh veggies (red peppers, tomatoes, radish slices, black olives, onions, and avocado).

  6. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top.

  7. Drizzle with Catalina salad dressing and ranch dressing.

  8. Garnish with cilantro.

  9. Serve.

How to Store Leftover Taco Salad Recipe with Catalina Dressing

If everyone layered their own taco salad on their plate, storing leftovers will be a breeze. Store the taco meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Eat within two days.

Store the rest of the cold toppings separately in airtight containers. To save storage dishes (and space in the refrigerator), combine the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, peppers, radishes, and onions to the lettuce and store in a lidded salad bowl.

Beware of the avocado. It will turn brown overnight. Sprinkle it with a little lime juice to prevent the oxidation. Store the avocado separately in case the browning is unavoidable.

Place the shredded cheese in a zip top bag and refrigerate.

Store the broken chips in a zip top bag in the cupboard.

How to Store Tossed Regular Taco Salad

How do you store leftover salad smeared with taco meat, cheese, and your favorite dressing?

All the ingredients are mixed already so store the whole salad together in an airtight container. Here is what will happen.

The next day, you will find soft and soggy chips. Any taco meat or fat residue from the meat will be cold and solid on the lettuce.

The only way to get around this unappealing leftover salad is to reheat the lettuce, meat, and chips altogether.

Eating cold taco meat and soggy chips is less appealing than eating warm lettuce. In fact, when everything is mixed, I don’t mind eating warm lettuce. The proportion of lettuce is small when compared to the other ingredients anyway.

When reheating the taco salad with all the ingredients mixed, heat just long enough for the taco meat to get warm. It does not need to be piping hot. The lettuce will taste better warm, not hot.

What to Serve with the Perfect Taco Recipe Salad with Catalina Dressing

A taco salad can be a meal by itself. It is a hearty salad with protein and veggies. But if you want a side dish, check out these great ideas.

  • Taco Bell Seasoned Rice. Craving some Mexican rice for dinner? Looking for a tasty Taco Bell seasoned rice recipe? Try my expert tips for the easiest flavorful copycat version of this fan-favorite dish. It is a simple recipe you can make in 30 minutes from the comfort of your own kitchen.
  • Guacamole. The perfect dip, topping, or spread. Make your own guacamole and control the spice level and flavor.
  • 7 Layer Dip. Try this versatile 7 layer dip recipe and find out why it will be the last one you’ll ever need. Learn all the layers in a 7-layer dip, plus discover why a recipe for this quick snack is optional. 
  • Quesadillas. Need more carbs with your Catalina taco salad? Then cook up some quick cheese quesadillas. Slice them in wedges and serve them next to your salad.
  • Mexican street corn. Serve it on the cob or sliced off, Mexican street corn is the perfect side dish to any Mexican (or Tex Mex) recipe.
  • Mexican fruit salad. You have your veggies. Now get your fruits in a fruit salad. It can be as simple as slicing watermelon wedges or as fancy as ambrosia salad.
  • Cornbread. Tex Mex and cornbread. Oh yeah. Smear it with butter and honey and enjoy it warm.
  • Mango salsa. Dip a few of those extra taco salad chips in some homemade mango salsa.
  • Pico de gallo. Sprinkle on top of the salad or eat with the chips.

Now you are ready for a quick, hearty, family-friendly meal. In just 30 minutes, dinner will be a big hit!

Craving More Salad Recipes?

Try these crowd pleaser salads with rave reviews.

  • Cobb Salad. Ultimate Cobb salad recipe with chicken makes a full meal with greens, protein, vegetables, and a fresh vinaigrette. Cook proteins ahead of time for fast assembly.
  • Ambrosia salad with Cool Whip or classic 1950s Ambrosia Salad. Effortlessly make the best ambrosia salad recipe with Cool Whip or whipped cream. This quick and easy dessert salad is perfect for potlucks, parties, and dinner tonight. Make it with canned fruit, marshmallows, coconut, and nuts (or not) in a creamy dressing.

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Yield: 12 servings

Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing & Doritos

plate of taco salad with catalina dressing

Doritos hide salad veggies in plain sight in this main dish taco salad recipe with Catalina dressing. It's like a sweet, spicy, savory bowl of tacos. It is a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Assembly Time 5 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ or 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup taco seasoning
  • ⅓ to ½ cup of Catalina salad dressing (depending on how saucy you like your meat), plus more for drizzling on salad
  • 1 can of pinto, kidney, or black beans (or 1⅓ cups cooked beans)
  • 11 oz. bag of Doritos chips (or substitute Fritos or tortilla chips)
  • 1 head of Romaine lettuce (or substitute green leaf or iceberg lettuce)
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (or substitute whole tomato, chopped)
  • ⅓ cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, minced (or substitute green onions)
  • 2 radishes, sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled seeded, and chopped
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Ranch salad dressing for drizzling
  • Optional: Sour cream

Instructions

Prep the Taco Meat

  1. BROWN ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain the excess fat. Add minced jalapeno for flavor (optional).
  2. POUR in ¾ cups water and ¼ cup of taco seasoning to the meat. Stir.
  3. ADD ⅓ to ½ cup of Catalina salad dressing, depending on how saucy you like your meat. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. DRAIN the beans and add them to the taco meat. Stir and cook for another 3 minutes or until the beans are warm.
  5. REMOVE the skillet from the heat. Leave it covered and set aside.

Prep the Salad

  1. WASH the lettuce, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and radishes.
  2. CHOP the lettuce. Dice the bell peppers. Slice the radishes and onions. Chop the tomato, if not using grape tomatoes.
  3. SLICE the black olives. Chop the avocado. Mince the cilantro.
  4. SHRED the cheese.
  5. CRUSH the Doritos.

Assemble the Salad (Toss or Layer)

To Toss:

  1. USE a large serving bowl.
  2. ADD the salad greens to the salad bowl.
  3. TOSS in the fresh veggies (tomatoes, red peppers, black olives, onions, radish slices, and avocados).
  4. POUR in the warm meat and bean mixture and crushed Doritos. Stir completely.
  5. SPRINKLE the cheese on and toss to combine.
  6. DRIZZLE with Catalina salad dressing or your favorite taco salad dressing.
  7. GARNISH with cilantro.
  8. SERVE.

To Layer:

  1. USE a large serving dish, large bowl, or individual salad bowls.
  2. LAYER lettuce on the serving dish.
  3. SPRINKLE a thick layer of broken chips on top of the lettuce.
  4. SPOON the taco meat and beans over the chips.
  5. ADD the fresh veggies (red peppers, tomatoes, radish slices, black olives, onions, and avocado).
  6. SPRINKLE the cheddar cheese on top.
  7. DRIZZLE with Catalina salad dressing and ranch dressing.
  8. GARNISH with cilantro.
  9. SERVE.

Notes

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Nutrition Information

Yield

10

Serving Size

½ cup

Amount Per Serving Calories 463Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 108mgSodium 680mgCarbohydrates 41gFiber 9gSugar 8gProtein 24g

Nutrition information is an estimate only and may vary based on individual ingredients added and cooking methods used.


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