Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

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Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

Dinner, Lunch, Recipes

As a chef who loves to mix vibrant flavors and nutritious ingredients, Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing is one of my favorites. The key is the homemade Catalina dressing—sweet, tangy, and perfect for adding a zesty twist. I usually opt for lean proteins like turkey or shrimp and load on fresh veggies and crunchy homemade tortilla strips. It’s a delightful dish that’s as fun to make as it is to eat!

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FAQs About the Catalina dressing recipe

Can I make taco salad ahead of time?

Yes, but add the dressing just before serving to keep it fresh.

What’s the best way to store leftovers?

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Key Ingredients for Taco Salad Recipe

Key Ingredients for Taco Salad Recipe

The beauty of taco salad lies in the simplicity and freshness of its ingredients. For a classic taco salad with Catalina dressing, you’ll need:

Choose grilled shrimp for a seafood twist or lean ground turkey for a heartier version.

Corn or flour tortillas for the base

Fresh vegetables like shredded cabbage or lettuce, diced tomatoes, and sliced avocados for toppings

Cilantro and lime for a burst of freshness

Your choice of sauces, from classic pico de gallo to a creamy Selina lime sauce

Chef’s Tips for Perfect Catalina Taco Salad

Creating the perfect taco salad with Catalina dressing involves:

A blend of choosing the right ingredients.

Proper preparation.

Personal touches that elevate the dish from good to great.

Here are detailed chef’s tips to help you craft an unforgettable taco salad:

Select Quality Ingredients For the Best Catalina Taco Salad


Choose crisp iceberg for its crunch or mix it with romaine for added nutritional value. Ensure the lettuce is fresh and dry.


Rinse canned beans to reduce sodium content. Chilli beans or black beans offer a nice texture and flavor contrast.

Seasoning the Meat 

Seasoning the Meat

Crafting your taco seasoning with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and a pinch of cayenne allows you to adjust the heat level. It also ensures that the meat is flavorful and aromatic.


While Catalina dressing is the star, consider making it from scratch to control sweetness and tanginess. A homemade dressing can be adjusted according to your taste preferences, enhancing the overall flavour profile of the salad.

Layering for Success

Layer your ingredients thoughtfully. Start with a lettuce base, and add the seasoned meat, beans, cheese, and the rest of your toppings. This method ensures every bite is balanced.

Crunch Factor

To maintain their crunch, add crushed tortilla chips just before serving. For a healthier option, consider baking your tortilla strips.

Fresh Toppings

Refrain from skimming on fresh toppings. Diced tomatoes, sliced avocados, chopped green onions, and fresh cilantro add colour and layers of flavour that make the salad vibrant and refreshing.

Homemade Tortilla Strips

Homemade Tortilla Strips

Instead of store-bought chips, bake your tortilla strips for a healthier alternative. As detailed in our homemade nacho fries recipe, you can use either corn or flour tortillas.

For an added twist, introduce corned beef for a salty, savory element.

Customizing Your Taco Salad 

Customizing your taco salad with Catalina dressing allows creativity and personalization, ensuring everyone can enjoy this dish regardless of dietary preferences or flavor inclinations. Here are five detailed ways to customize your taco salad:

Protein Variations

 Switch up the proteins based on dietary preferences. Options include seasoned tofu, grilled chicken, or beef burrito bowl style.

Dressing Options

Beyond Catalina dressing, offer a variety of dressings, such as homemade avocado lime, spicy chipotle, or classic ranch, to suit different tastes.

Create a lower-calorie version of Catalina dressing using Greek yoghurt as a base. It will maintain the tangy sweetness but with fewer calories.

Salad Base Mix-Up

Introduce a mix of greens, such as baby spinach, arugula, or kale, with iceberg lettuce for added nutrition and various textures.

Add a layer of quinoa or rice at the bottom for a hearty, filling grain-based salad.

Toppings Galore

Offer a variety of toppings, such as roasted corn, pickled red onions, black olives, diced bell peppers, and jicama, for crunch and flavor.

Sprinkle a cheese selection, such as cotija, queso fresco, or vegan cheese options, on top for added richness and depth.

Spicy salad dressing

Spicy salad dressing

Provide sliced jalapeños, hot sauce, or chili flakes on the side for those who enjoy a spicier salad.

Healthy taco salad

Taco salad, a delightful mix of vegetables, lean proteins, and flavorful dressing, can be both nutritious and delicious. Here’s a closer look at the health benefits and nutritional components of the dish:

Nutritional Components:

Lean Proteins: Using lean ground beef, chicken, or plant-based alternatives in your taco salad provides essential proteins necessary for muscle repair and growth without adding excessive saturated fats.

Vegetables: Ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados are high in dietary fiber, vitamins (such as Vitamin C and K), and minerals (like potassium). These contribute to overall health, aid digestion, and help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. They also offer iron, potassium, and magnesium. Beans can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and contribute to feeling fuller for longer.

Cheese: While cheese adds calcium,  which is important for bone health, opting for reduced-fat versions can help keep the calorie count in check without sacrificing flavor.

Health Benefits

Heart Health: Ingredients rich in fiber and healthy fats, like avocados and beans, can contribute to heart health by lowering bad cholesterol levels.

Weight Management: High-protein and high-fiber components of the salad can aid in weight management by promoting satiety and reducing overall calorie intake.

Digestive Health: The fiber from the vegetables and beans supports digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

Considerations for Catalina taco salad

Catalina dressing, known for its tangy and sweet flavor, can add significant sugar and calories to the salad. Opting for a homemade version where you can control the amount of sugar or looking for a low-sugar store-bought option can make it a healthier choice.

For more detailed nutritional analysis and health benefits, websites like MyFitnessPal and Eat This Much offer comprehensive tools to track the nutritional content of your meals, including taco salad with Catalina dressing.

Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing is a testament to the joy of eating food as nourishing as it is delightful. It’s a dish that brings people together and can be adapted to suit any taste or occasion. Enjoy creating your version of this classic dish, and remember to explore other recipes like our 4-ingredient chicken salad for more inspiration!



Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

Dive into making the perfect Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing! This guide covers everything from preparation to customization for a versatile, flavorful meal. Perfect for any occasion!

  • Author: Gabriela cardenas
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Main Course/Salad
  • Method: Mixing/Baking
  • Cuisine: Mexican-American


  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 corn or flour tortillas (optional, for homemade tortilla strips)
  • 4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce (can mix with romaine for added nutrition)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • 1/4 cup shredded low-fat cheese (optional, for a healthier choice)
  • 1/4 cup Catalina dressing, homemade preferred for healthier option
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (for cooking shrimp)


  1. If making homemade tortilla strips, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C), cut tortillas into strips, toss with a little olive oil and salt, and bake until crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and cook shrimp until they are pink and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, and half of the cheese.
  4. Add the cooked shrimp to the salad mix.
  5. Top the salad with avocado slices, crispy tortilla strips (if using), the remaining cheese, and chopped cilantro.
  6. Serve with lime wedges and Catalina dressing on the side.


  • Customize Protein: Easily substitute shrimp with grilled chicken, lean ground beef, or a plant-based protein like grilled tofu.
  • Dressing Options: Experiment with making your Catalina dressing lighter by substituting some ingredients with low-calorie options, or offer a variety of dressings to cater to different tastes.
  • Freshness: If making ahead, combine the salad components except for the dressing and crispy elements like tortilla strips. Add these just before serving to maintain freshness and crunch.
  • Dietary Adaptations: For a vegetarian version, omit the shrimp and add more beans or a plant-based protein. Use vegan cheese and dressing for a vegan adaptation.

Keywords: Catalina taco salad, taco salad recipe, healthy taco salad

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