Taco Salad is one of the most supreme dinner salads out there. A mouth-watering layered taco salad is loaded with our favorite ingredients such as crunchy lettuce, lean ground beef cooked in Tex-Mex spices, buttery avocado, juicy tomatoes, creamy olives, sweet corn and topped with zingy Catalina dressing. A salad you cannot miss!
Make your own salad at home, forget the restaurant. This is way better and you can control all the ingredients, seasonings and portions.
Make it as healthy as you’d like and enjoy all your favorite taco flavors in one bowl.
This Taco salad with Catalina dressing is best to enjoy as a main course, a dinner salad that you can serve with assorted appetizers or side dishes for a wholesome meal.
Speaking of, have you tried my Skinny Margarita yet?
Taco salad wouldn't be complete without a tangy Catalina dressing. So What is Catalina dressing made of?
Essentially Catalina dressing is ketchup and oil-based dressing with added acidic ingredients such as vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and a little sugar or honey.
It is a blend of sweet and savory flavors in one. There are further variations of the recipe with additions of mustard, soy sauce, sweeteners, and other vinegar types.
Making your own homemade salad dressing is easy and healthy. You can make a batch in advance and use it in pre-planned meals throughout the week.
When making yourself, you are controlling the number of ingredients you add, no additives or preservatives are needed here.
Store Catalina salad dressing in an airtight container, or mason jar, and refrigerate for a week or even longer if stored properly.
My few comments on the ingredients + don't forget to read the Tips section!
The full recipe and ingredients can be found in the recipe card below this post.
This taco salad is basically a skinny taco, which would mean it’s lighter and is low carb. Yes!
And this means you can enjoy it more often! Although, everything in moderation of course 🙂
The ingredients and toppings are the same as you’d make a loaded Tex-Mex style taco with.
- Tangy Catalina dressing - Also, feel free to adjust the measurement according to your taste.
- Corn tortilla chips - I prefer using unflavored and usually go for low-carb tortillas. I love how much-needed crunch they add here, but once mixed in salad has to be consumed right away. They tend to become soggy rather quickly. Alternatively, serve these on the side without stirring into the salad. You can also try adding more flavor with nacho cheese Doritos!
- If you have only corn tortillas there’s a genius way to make homemade chips in minutes.
- Seasoning - I have used a quick fix route and opted for a pre-mix taco seasoning (I did use an organic and low sodium one though!) just because my own homemade mix was finished. You can make your own by combining a few spices together to give the beef some needed Southwest flavors. Salt, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, chipotle powder, garlic powder onion powder, smoked or normal paprika powder, and oregano are all great to mix together.
- Ground beef - the leaner the better, less fat to drain later. For a low-calorie option use turkey or chicken.
- Meat Substitutions - Alternatively this salad will taste delicious if you want to make it meat-free yet with plenty of protein. Try my Vegan Taco Meat in this case, black beans or kidney beans, or buy plant-based meat crumbles in the grocery stores (usually made with seitan or soybeans). Also very delicious!
- Avocado - thanks to it being a nutrient-rich superfood I am really loving adding it lately EVERYWHERE. Don’t hold back and add more than 1 avocado here, it will add a creamy element and make this salad more satisfying. If you have some leftover Guacamole, this can go instead of freshly chopped avocado too!
- Corn - use freshly cooked corn either grilled, boiled, steamed or made in an air fryer. I’ve used just a little for a hint of sweet flavor but for true corn, aficionados double it up!
- Lettuce - I like to use both romaine or iceberg lettuce and butter lettuce combinations.
- My favorite optional toppings - are cilantro, green onions, chives, scallions, parsley, and lots of lime, jalapeno, and sour cream.
- You can definitely add or replace some veggies in this taco salad. Red or yellow bell pepper, grated or matchstick carrots, cucumber.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat add oil and once hot and sizzling, brown the beef (for about 6 minutes).
Drain the excess fat if any and season with taco seasoning, ½ teaspoon paprika, salt, and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute more.
Remove the meat mixture from heat to cool.
Meanwhile mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or mason jar.
If you have time, chill the dressing for 30 minutes in the fridge to allow the flavors to blend better.
Assemble the salad.
In a large bowl or serving platter, add the first layer of lettuce, followed by crushed corn tortilla chips, and cooked ground beef.
Here I like to add a little drizzle of the dressing on the beef too.
Complete the taco salad with all the toppings, cheddar cheese and rest of the salad ingredients.
Drizzle the Catalina dressing on top. Serve immediately.
This salad serves 3 dinner salad portions. Or about 6 as a side.
Freezing And Storing Instructions
- To store. Once you add the dressing the salad will retain its best flavor within 1 hour of making. Make as much as you'll consume (you can change the number of servings in the recipe card below).
- Deconstructed ingredients of salad can be kept separate in a tightly closed food container in the fridge for 1 day. What I recommend: If you know you’ll have leftovers, don’t add the dressing to the salad bowl. Only for individual servings.
- This way the salad can be kept for 2 days in the fridge. You may want to add fresh lettuce to the salad when serving again.
- Any leftover Catalina dressing will be delicious as a dip for veggies, chips, meat sauces, and french fries.
- Make ahead. All the veggies can be cut 2 days in advance and stored in individual containers in the fridge. This is ideal if you want to enjoy for work lunches during a busy week. The dressing will keep in the fridge for even longer, 3-5 days thanks to its acidic ingredients.
- To reheat. Reheat just the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes until warm. Add fresh lettuce and the rest of the ingredients.
- A dollop of sour cream can add dimension and creaminess which goes well with deliciously spiced ground beef.
- Make it hot - Add fresh or pickled (canned) jalapenos or green chilies as an extra topping.
- For a fun twist replace some of the fresh veggies toppings with my fresh tomato salsa (Learn how to make Pico De Gallo in this recipe. It's quick to make, refreshing and can be stored separately.
What to serve with taco salad? Anything you love on your tacos really.
Topping ideas: chopped red onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, pickled onions, mushrooms, olives, coleslaw.
As this taco salad is loaded with many things already you may want to keep it light on the sides. Or not! I won't judge.
Try one or more of our fave side dish recipes:
What The Yummy Bowl fans are saying across different platforms:
Wonderful dinner salad. Served this with Spanish rice and it was so satisfying, like a fancy Cheesecake Factory salad. Beverly, Pinterest
Taco salad is gluten-free if you use the right tortillas (you can cut and bake these or air fry them to make chips) or chips. I prefer using corn tortillas (but check for an appropriate label on the packaging!) over gluten-free labeled tortillas, as these have fewer preservatives and ingredients and honestly taste fresh.
For serving drizzle Catalina dressing over the taco salad, stir to combine (or add the dressing only to individual serving plates) and enjoy warm or cold!
More Mexican-Style Dinners
We love everything Southwest and Mexican Style food recipes and once in a while, we treat ourselves to a fun taco night.
Make the tacos, prep favorite taco toppings, and sauces (we looove to use homemade dressings as we did with this Catalina dressing), and nacho cheese sauce (this vegan cheese recipe is a real gem, especially if you have any lactose intolerant folks as we have in our family) and you're good to go!
Taco dinner boards are fairly easy, cheap, delicious, and most importantly healthier than the restaurant. If you want more Taco Bar ideas I have a great one-stop-shop kinda deal for you, check out my Easy Taco Dinner Party Board recipe over here.
Don't forget the drinks! Learn how to make a margarita in this Skinny Watermelon Margarita recipe or this delicious spicy frozen margarita recipe (by the way, you can use your favorite fruit or berries here!).
I would appreciate it so much if you left a comment about this recipe below! Subscribe to join the TYB newsletter and receive free recipes straight to your inbox! Let's connect via Facebook, IG & Pinterest!
Taco Salad With Catalina Dressing
- 10 oz (300 g) ground lean beef
- 2 teaspoon oil
- 2 tablespoon taco seasoning
- 5-6 cups romaine lettuce or iceberg
- 1 cup Roma tomatoes (diced)
- 1 cup corn kernel or sweet corn
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup sharp cheddar (grated)
- 1 3.8oz can of black olives
- ¼ cup red onion (diced)
- ½ pack corn chips (Doritos plain flavor or flavored)
- 1 large Avocado (diced)
- 5 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 teaspoon honey or brown sugar (or white sugar)
- 4 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon paprika (I like to use smoked)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon chili ground
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat add oil and once hot and sizzling, brown the beef for 9 about 6 minutes). Drain the excess fat if any and season with taco seasoning, ½ teaspoon paprika, salt, and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute more.
- Remove from heat to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or mason jar.
- If you have time, chill the dressing for 30 minutes in the fridge to allow the flavors to blend better.
- Assemble the salad.
- On a large serving platter, add the first layer of lettuce, followed by crushed Dorito chips, cooked ground beef (here I like to add a little drizzle of the dressing on the beef), and top with all the toppings and the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle the Catalina dressing on top. Serve immediately.
- This salad serves 3 dinner salad portions. Or about 6 as a side.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)