Move over boring taco salad, and say hello to this vibrant, colorful, crunchy, and oh-so-delicious Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing! This is a quick and easy recipe, and salads like this with protein, carbs, and veggies are a complete meal in a bowl!

fork bite of Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

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I love meal salads. Don’t get me wrong, a fabulous side salad is a terrific addition to any meal, but these hearty whole-meal salads are, well, an entire meal unto themselves! This salad, in particular, is hearty enough to be a satisfying meal while still being lighter than some traditional dishes. 

Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

Loaded with lettuce and plenty of veggies, you really get your five a day with this recipe. Among the tasty veggies are lettuce, tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, radishes, and fresh herbs. There are avocados and olives, too, to add even more flavor and texture to the salad.

drizzled Catalina dressing on salad

I especially love that the protein in this taco salad recipe comes mostly from ground beef, so it’s also an inexpensive salad. And, sometimes I make the dressing from scratch, while other times I just grab the bottle from the fridge and add it before serving.

What is Catalina dressing?

Catalina dressing has a distinctive red color to it, and it is creamy, tangy, and zippy. It is a well-balanced dressing with the oil and sugar creating just the right amount of zip for salads, and the red color comes from ketchup. The difference between Catalina Dressing and French dressing is the spices that are added. They are similar, but French dressing has the addition of Dijon mustard, shallots, garlic, and more.

ingredients Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing in a salad bowl

Why I love this recipe

  • It’s as pretty as it is delicious! It’s full of colorful veggies and lots of different textures. From the crunch of Doritos and radishes to silky smooth avocados, it’s all in this salad!
  • The Catalina dressing adds the perfect flavor, and don’t forget the drizzle of ranch at the end for even more creaminess!
  • You can do much of the prep ahead of time; see all my tips below.

ingredients for Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

Gather these ingredients

  • Ground beef – I prefer lean ground beef for this Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing recipe.
  • Taco seasoning – Use your favorite blend.
  • Catalina salad dressing – Some goes into the beef, and you’ll need more to drizzle on top before serving.
  • Kidney beans – Canned beans; drained.
  • Doritos – An 11-ounce bag.
  • Iceberg lettuce – Shredded.
  • Cherry tomatoes – Sliced in half.
  • Red bell pepper – Seeded and chopped.
  • Red onion – Thinly sliced.
  • Radishes – Thinly sliced.
  • Avocados – Peeled, pit removed, and chopped.
  • Sliced black olives
  • Cheddar cheese – Shredded.
  • Cilantro – Fresh cilantro; chopped.
  • Ranch salad – For a creamy drizzle on top.

    how to make Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

    How to make this Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing recipe

    It’s so easy to make this Catalina taco salad, and with quick-cooking ground beef, your meal will be ready in no time!

  • Brown the ground beef in a large skillet, breaking up the chunks as it cooks. Drain the excess fat when it is cooked.
  • Add ¾ cup water, ¼ cup taco seasoning, and ⅓ cups Catalina dressing to the beef and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the drained kidney beans to the meat mixture, stir and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until the beans are heated through. Cover and set aside.
  • Crush the Doritos and set them aside.
  • Add the lettuce to a salad bowl or large platter and top with the tomatoes, red bell pepper, onions, radishes, olives, and avocados. 
  • Transfer the warm meat and bean mixture to the salad and add the crushed Doritos. Stir completely.
  • Sprinkle the cheese on top and toss to combine.
  • Drizzle the Catalina salad dressing over the salad and add a drizzle of ranch dressing, too. Top with the chopped cilantro, and serve!

Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing with chips

Tips & substitutions

  • You can use any kind of lettuce in this easy Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing recipe, but I like the crunch of iceberg. 
  • Try this recipe with leftover carnitas instead of seasoned ground beef.
  • Don’t like kidney beans? Try this recipe with canned black beans or pinto beans.
  • You can use grape tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes or chop up a whole tomato and add it.
  • If the tang of raw red onion is too much, use 2-3 thinly sliced green onions instead.
  • You can use any cheese in this taco salad with Doritos and Catalina dressing. I love sharp cheddar in it, but you can use colby, pepper Jack, or your favorite.
  • You can make the meat mixture ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to use. Just heat it up before tossing it with the greens, which can also be prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge to stay crisp.

Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

Serving suggestions

This meal-worthy salad is great on its own, but I also love pairing it with other tasty eats like a mini chicken taco board, a bowlful of Southwestern-inspired soup, or opt for a lower-carb option like Taco Stuffed Peppers.

bite taco salad with dressing


Once cooked and assembled, this Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing won’t keep long. However, if you don’t think you’ll eat all of it right away, it will keep if you pack it separately in the fridge. Keep the meat mixture in one airtight container, the greens in a plastic-covered salad bowl or zipper-top bag, and don’t cut the avocado until just before serving.

deconstructed Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

Check out these awesome salad recipes while you’re here

taking a bite of taco salad
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Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

Loaded with big, bold flavor and plenty of crunch, this easy Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing is a meal-worthy salad everyone will love!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 8
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  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup taco seasoning
  • cup of Catalina salad dressing, plus more for drizzling on salad
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained
  • 11 oz. bag of Doritos chips
  • 1 head of Iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, or substitute whole tomato, chopped
  • cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, minced (or substitute green onions)
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 avocados, peeled seeded, and chopped
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Ranch salad dressing for drizzling


  • In a large skillet, brown the beef. Drain the excess fat.
  • Pour in ¾ cups water and ¼ cup of taco seasoning to the meat. Stir well.
  • Add ⅓ cup of Catalina salad dressing. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the beans to the taco meat. Stir and cook for another 3 minutes or until heated through.
  • Cover the meat and set aside.
  • Crush the Doritos and set aside.
  • Using an extra large plate or salad bowl, add the greens.
  • Add in all the veggies (tomatoes, red peppers, black olives, onions, radish slices, and avocados).
  • Pour in the the warm meat and bean mixture and add crushed Doritos. Stir completely.
  • On top, sprinkle the cheese on and toss to combine.
  • Next, drizzle Catalina salad dressing over the salad. Also drizzle some Ranch dressing.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve!
Cuisine: American
Course: Main Course
Calories: 452kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 42mg, Sodium: 1084mg, Potassium: 782mg, Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1931IU, Vitamin C: 27mg, Calcium: 128mg, Iron: 3mg
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bite of taco salad