Topped with a homemade dressing, this Catalina Taco Salad Recipe features all of your favourite taco toppings for a quick, easy and tasty weeknight dinner. Fully customizable to your family’s preferences, to make this a dinner everyone will love!
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If there’s anything I love more than tacos, it’s this homemade taco salad. It has all of my favorite taco toppings piled on top of crisp lettuce and topped with a creamy homemade Catalina dressing. This taco salad recipe is crisp, fresh, creamy and packed with flavor. It’s always a win at dinner.
Taco salad is great for picky eaters because it’s so versatile. While I include some staple
ingredients, those can easily be adapted to accommodate personal preferences or dietary
guidelines, like dairy-free.
This salad comes together in just about the time it takes to cook the ground beef, as you can
prepare everything else while the meat browns. That means you can have dinner on the table in just 30 minutes!
You can serve this in one big bowl or in individual bowls, allowing everyone to add their
preferred toppings. If you have anyone with specific dietary needs or who might just be a picky eater, I do recommend letting everyone add their own.
If you’re looking for a change to your typical Taco Tuesday routine, this salad is the way to go!
Salad Ingredients & Substitutions
- Ground beef – I recommend using lean beef for less grease. You can also use ground turkey, chicken or even vegan ground “meat”.
- Seasonings – I use a combination of chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper, oregano and salt and pepper to make a homemade taco seasoning.
- Lettuce – I like to use crisp iceberg lettuce for this salad but romaine lettuce works just as well.
- Tomatoes – Any variety of tomatoes will work but remove the seeds.
- Red onion – If you’re not an onion fan, this can easily be omitted. I prefer red onions for their mild spicy flavour.
- Shredded cheese – You can use cheddar or marble or Tex Mex mix.
Ingredients & Substitutions For the Dressing
- Grapeseed oil – If you don’t have grapeseed or any mild flavoured oil like safflower, vegetable, avocado etc.
- Red wine vinegar – Adds a tang to the taco dressing without being too heavy.
- Worcestershire sauce – Adds in a hint of salty, sweet and tangy flavour.
- Ketchup – Ketchup sweetens the dressing and gives it to somebody.
- Soy sauce – For a hint of umami flavour. Tamari is a gluten-free option that can be used 1:1 as a substitution.
- Seasonings – This Catalina Taco Salad Dressing is seasoned with a combination of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Corn Tortilla chips – These add crunch to the salad. They should be crumbled or broken into smaller pieces. Corn Chips can also be used.
How to Make Catalina Taco Salad
Add ground beef to a large pan over medium-high heat. Use the end of a wooden spoon to break up the ground beef into smaller pieces. Continue to cook until the beef is browned and no longer pink. Drain the fat from the pan.
Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, oregano salt, pepper and water to the pan with the beef and mix well to flavour the beef evenly.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated and you are just left with the seasoned beef. Remove from
heat and set aside.
In a small bowl prepare the dressing by adding the oil, vinegar, Worcestershire, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to a small bowl.
Whisk until smooth and well blended.
Add the iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and beef to a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.
When ready to serve add in the broken corn tortilla chips and mix. Do not add the chips until you are ready to serve or they will become soggy.
Catalina Taco Salad Toppings
Just like tacos, homemade taco salad is easy to customize! The ingredients I included are just the beginning of what you can add to your salad. A few possible add-ins and toppings include:
- Canned (and drained) black beans
- Fire-roasted corn
- Bell peppers
- Sour cream
- Green chilis
- Queso fresco
Should ground beef taco salad be served warm or cold?
I usually enjoy this taco salad when the meat is freshly cooked and warm. However, this also
tastes great when served chilled – especially leftovers.
It really all depends on when you plan to eat it! But do not toss with the salad dressing or corn tortilla chips until just before you are ready to eat! This is one salad that needs to be assembled fresh and is not great as a leftover.
Can I make this in advance?
Yes, you can make your Catalina taco salad several hours or a day in advance. I recommend
preparing the dressing and storing it separately and adding it right before serving.
The tortilla chips should also be added just before serving.
How To Store Leftovers
This salad once assembled with the dressing and chips can’t really be stored for later. The chips and the lettuce get soggy even a few hours later.
But… if you want to make a bowl ahead of time and have it for the week ahead just make the salad and spoon out what you want for each meal and then toss each serving individually with the dressing and chips right before eating.
More great salads To Try
- Traditional Fattoush Salad
- Cilantro Lime Steak Burrito Bowl
- Cranberry Brussel Sprout Salad
- Winter Salad With Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
- Crunchy Chinese Chicken Salad
Ground Beef Taco Salad Recipe
- Large non-stick pan
- Large Bowl
- Chopping Knife
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- Small Bowl
- Salad tongs
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- ¾ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp garlic power
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ cup water
- 1 head iceberg lettuce trimmed and chopped
- 2 tomatoes diced, seeds removed
- ½ red onion diced
- 1 ½ cup shredded cheddar or Tex Mex cheese
- 1 cup crushed corn tortilla chips
Taco Salad Dressing
- ¼ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Add ground beef to a large pan over medium-high heat. Use the end of a wooden spoon to break up the ground beef into smaller pieces. Continue to cook until beef is browned and no longer pink. Drain the fat from the pan.
- Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, oregano salt, pepperand water to the pan with the beef and mix well to flavour the beef evenly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated and you are just left with the seasoned beef. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a small bowl prepare the dressing by adding the oil, vinegar, Worcestershire, ketchup, soy sauce, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and well blended.
- Add the iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and beef to a large bowl. When ready to serve pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Add in the broken corn tortilla chips and mix. Do not add the chips until you are ready to serve or they will become soggy.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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For the step-by-step version of this recipe, check out the How to Make Catalina Taco Salad Story.