Chopped Taco Salad + Homemade Catalina Dressing

Meet my favorite chopped taco salad with homemade catalina dressing. Homemade taco seasoned meat tossed with all the chopped veggies, lettuce and cheese. 

Can I ask you a favor?

Chopped Taco Salad l

Can we tap into the 80’s for a little taco salad love? I’m only saying the 1980’s because that’s what Catalina dressing reminds me of… my childhood. Actually it reminds me of my sister Julie… it’s her favorite dressing. Which turns out she shares that love with my oldest daughter, both blond, blue-eyed and Catalina dressing lovahs! In fact my daughter loves it so much she always pours a good cup of it over her salad… so it’s more of a soup… than a salad. Bless her calories-don’t-matter-I-have-a-high-metabolism-because-I’m-eleven heart.

Kidding aside… this is the perfect summertime salad.  It’s a quick, easy if you want a light weeknight dinner or you could make a big batch and take it to the beach or a barbecue. What we like to do is make our own individual ones. I like mine loaded with olives, peppers, onions and sometimes jalapenos. While my girls would just go for cheese and maybe peppers. But the sky is the limit here… go crazy and get creative… but first you must make this dressing!

Homemade Catalina Dressing

I’m not sure if your mom ever put Catalina dressing on your taco salad… but it’s a total must. It’s slightly sweet and tangy and for some reason… it just works.


My mom’s been making taco salad since I can remember, like before they started putting high-fructose corn syrup in salad dressings. And to my knowledge she never made her own Catalina… but I could be wrong. It’s just so  simple why wouldn’t you just make it yourself? I mean sure you could easily just whip up a taco salad and pour a bottle of store-bought dressing over top. But I just can’t bring myself to do it… so naturally I didn’t.

*NOTE: My mom just texted me to tell me she DID make her own Catalina dressing and has been making it for years and supposedly it’s in “Our Families Treasured Recipes” binder  she gave us for Christmas one year… oh-snap!


Start by throwing in half of a medium-sized yellow onion that’s been roughly chopped into the bowl of your food processor.

throw everything in

Then throw in everything else except the olive oil. The ketchup, honey, light brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt and black pepper. Am I forgetting anything?


Give it a couple, 5 or 6 pulses to get everything blended.

slowly add olive oil

Then slowly drizzle in the extra-light olive oil in a thin, S-L-O-W stream while the food processor is running.

Homemade Catalina Dressing 00

And lookie-lookie… you’ve just made yourself a big fat jar of homemade Catalina dressing. And that color is amazing is it not?

ground beef

Brown up a couple pounds of ground beef in a little olive oil until fully cooked. Drain off all but two tablespoons of the grease.

taco seasoning

Add in the taco seasoning, I of course am using this recipe… because it’s the bees knees. Did I just say that?

mixed in

Stir in the seasoning until it’s evenly distributed through out the meat. Smells HEAVENLY!

flour power

Then sprinkle in a heaping tablespoon of flour over top of the meat, stir until all of the flour is absorbed.

add the water

Then pour in a half cup of water.

slightly saucy

Stir it all around until it’s nice and saucy.


Now I’m going to share a little trick with you. Earlier I popped a large bowl into the freezer to get all chilled and frosty. SO when I dump in the ground beef it instantly starts bringing the temperature down of the meat. Stir it around every once in a while so any trapped heat can escape and cool down completely.

mix ins

So I still have a few picky eaters in the household. I have NO idea where they get it from… I mean when I was little I ate everything *wink* and never turned my nose up at anything. You could say I was a perfect child… right Mom?

a little bit of everything

So this is my chopped taco salad bowl. I like it all… so in. it. goes!

mix it up!



Pour in a little or in my case… A LOT of homemade dressing.

Chopped Taco Salad l

And DO NOT forget the crushed tortilla chips.

Chopped Taco Salad l

Toss this glorious mess together one last time before you start shoveling it in.

Chopped Taco Salad l

This chopped taco salad makes enough to feed a family of 6.. maybe even 8 depending on how much everyone can consume. I had enough for lunch the next day… I just kept the chips and salad dressing off to the side and just added it in before eating.

I love this chopped taco salad… so simple, so flavorful and so 1980’s… just minus the big hair, leg warmers and all that.

Enjoy! And if you give this Chopped Taco Salad recipe a try, let me know! Snap a photo and tag me on twitter or instagram!

Chopped Taco Salad l

My cookbook Simply Scratch : 120 Wholesome Homemade Recipes Made Easy is now available! CLICK HERE for details and THANK YOU in advance! 


Chopped Taco Salad with Homemade Catalina Dressing

A classic chopped salad tossed in a homemade catalina dressing.

Yield: 6+ servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes + cool down time

Total Time: 1 hour



1/2 a Yellow Onion, roughly chopped

1/2 cup Ketchup

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 cup Honey

1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar

1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon Paprika

3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

1 cup Extra Light Olive Oil


2 lbs Ground Beef

1 recipe for Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 {heaping} tablespoon Flour

1/2 cup Water

1 head Iceberg Lettuce, chopped

1 to 2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese, give or take

1/2 orange Bell Pepper, chopped

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1/2 Red Onion, chopped

3 Green Onions, chopped

1 small can {about 2.5 ounces} Sliced Black Olives, Chopped

1 Tomato, seeded and Chopped

2 cups Tortilla Chips, crushed {give or take}

Homemade Catalina Dressing


FOR THE CATALINA DRESSING: Throw the roughly chopped onion into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Next add in everything stopping at the olive oil.

Turn the food processor on to blend and then slowly drizzle in the extra light olive oil.

Once blended, pour the dressing into a jar with a tight fitting lid and store in the fridge until ready to use.

FOR THE TACO SALAD: In a large skillet cook the ground beef until browned. Remove all but two tablespoons of grease. Add in the taco seasoning and stir. Next, sprinkle on a heaping tablespoon of flour and stir until absorbed. Pour in a half cup of water and stir.

Remove and place the cooked taco meat into a bowl that has been in the freezer chilling. Stir every so often until the meat is completely cooled.

Once the taco meat has cooled, toss some into a bowl with your favorite toppings along with the chopped lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, crushed tortilla chips and drizzle with the homemade dressing.

You could make a huge batch, but our family like to personalize it with the toppings we like and it's kind of fun!

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55 Responses to “Chopped Taco Salad + Homemade Catalina Dressing”

  1. #
    kita — May 13, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Lol, as a kid I was all about the french or catalina dressing too. I was like 80s? Then I kept reading and totally got it. ;D Love me some taco salad – and I still love me some catalina dressing.

  2. #
    Tieghan Gerard — May 13, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Ah! Taco salad! Yes!! This is like the perfect summer salad and I love that dressing!

  3. #
    Bev @ Bev Cooks — May 13, 2013 at 9:55 am

    OMG yezzzhhhh.

  4. #
    Daisy Ray — May 13, 2013 at 10:29 am

    That looks AMAZING!!!! So good! Love it! Thanks for sharing!

    Daisy Ray

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 14th, 2013 @ 8:17 am

      Thanks Daisy Ray! 🙂

  5. #
    Julia {The Roasted Root} — May 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Hellloooooo heaven! I adore taco salads! I’ve have never had catalina dressing but it looks awesome and I bet that salad has a ton of flavor! Hope you had a great weekend!

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 13th, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

      Thanks Julia… I worked most of it, but I did squeeze in a little bbq time 🙂 Now, get on the Catalina train girl!

  6. #
    Kathy — May 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Yum! Love taco salads! This is going on the menu!

  7. #
    Heather (Heather's Dish) — May 13, 2013 at 11:28 am

    We always had taco salad with catalina dressing – I can’t wait to make my own! Even though I like the store-bought stuff there’s no way it can beat homemade. YUM!

  8. #
    Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain — May 13, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I would gladly go back to the 80’s with you! I freaking love taco salad!!

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 13th, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

      Let’s do it… in leg-warmers and sweatbands baby!!

  9. #
    AmyL — May 13, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks 4 the recipe – love taco salad 🙂 BTW, if I don’t use all the dressing, how long will it last in the fridge? Thanks!

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 13th, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

      Hi Amy! I would say a week… maybe two 🙂

  10. #
    Jackie @ Domestic Fits — May 13, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Catalina Dressing reminds of waitressing and being afraid of “that red dressing” and then being semi forced to try it, and realizing it was pretty great. I love that you Catalina’d your taco salad!

  11. #
    Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry — May 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    That bright red dressing is calling my name! And so is this taco salad. 1980’s or not, it looks delicious.

  12. #
    Sally @ Sallys Baking Addiction — May 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I ate catalina dressing on my salads when I was younger and you know what? It’s been YEARS since I have! Bring it back! I have got to make it homemade Laurie!!

  13. #
    Sarah @ The Cyclist's Wife — May 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I’ve never heard of taco salad with Catalina dressing, but it sounds good. In CA we use Salsa Fresca as our taco salad dressing. 🙂

  14. #
    MC@ThousandStoryKitchen — May 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I did not think I was a Catalina dressing lover, but after reading this post, I WANT SOME! I want this whole meal, in fact. Pinned it. Can’t wait to make it!

  15. #
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking — May 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Oh wow, how incredibly scrumptious does this look! Love your homemade Catalina dressing, too.

  16. #
    Cari — May 13, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    My mom made taco salad with Catalina too! Such an odd combo but sooo good! Brings back great memories. Can’t wait to try the homemade version of the dressing.

  17. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — May 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Oooooh I could definitely get on board with this salad!

  18. #
    Cassie | Bake Your Day — May 13, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I love your homemade dressings! This whole salad totally works for me!

  19. #
    Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) — May 13, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of catalina dressing, but I’m sure I would be if it were homemade! This salad looks totally delicious.

  20. #
    Julie @ Table for Two — May 13, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    i LOVE catalina dressing. i used to smother it over everything. i didn’t realize how easy it was to make. that taco salad needs to be in front of me right now!

  21. #
    Kelly Yamauchi — May 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    I love Taco salad but never tried Catalina dressing. This looks so tempting! I would love to give it a try. Thanks for sharing! 😀

  22. #
    Julie @ Texan New Yorker — May 14, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Hi Laurie, I love your blog, I’m a regular reader and mostly lurker. I love this post so much! Taco salad in the 80’s – ahh, bringing back memories of my own childhood. Only we always put thousand island dressing on ours. I love this recipe for homemade catalina dressing. I’ve read the label on the store-bought bottles – gross!! I’m happy to have a go-to recipe for it now. Thanks!

  23. #
    steph@stephsbitebybite — May 14, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Oh my gosh! I am all over this salad!

  24. #
    Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen — May 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

    If I’m going to have salad for dinner it better look like THIS! YUM!

  25. #
    Tina @ Tina's Chic Corner — May 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Brilliant that you can make a salad look yummy! Can’t wait to try this. 🙂

  26. #
    Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts — May 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I haven’t had Catalina dressing in years! Love it with this salad – looks like I have lunch planned next week!

  27. #
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl — May 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    That homemade Catalina dressing sounds amazing! I will have to try making that, but with vegan Worcestershire sauce.

  28. #
    Anna — May 14, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    My sister’s mother-in-law introduced us to Catalina dressing on taco salad, so gooood! I’ll definitely be trying this homemade version, and haha about it being in your family recipe binder 🙂

  29. #
    Robby — May 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    We had this for dinner tonite and it was very good. I wasn’t sure the dressing would be all that different, but it really made the salad taste fresher. The dressing was a tad sweet for our tastes, so it got an extra Tbl or two of vinegar and a big pinch of chipotle powder. That was really a nice boost. Now to figure out what else to do with it since there are only two of us and it’s a generous amount of dressing. Thanks for the prod to try it homemade.

  30. #
    Bama Girl — May 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Hi Laurie! Thanks for sharing this recipe! I’ve been wanting to make my own Catalina dressing since we too, love the 80’s salad! Summer is practically here now, so this salad will be great to serve after working in the hot summer sun!
    Blessings from Bama!

  31. #
    Christine — May 27, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Best summer salad!! Love the dressing. We had extra dressing so this salad is on our menu again this week.

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 27th, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

      That’s awesome!! So glad 🙂

  32. #
    Jane Abston — May 28, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I always use Catalina dressing for my salad. It’s really delicious. My mom taught me how to make her own version of homemade Catalina dressing. Anyway, I will try your recipe. Thanks a lot! 😀

  33. #
    J Sargent — July 26, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Just made the dressing tonight and it was great! Thanks.

  34. #
    Suzanne B — July 7, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I just found your blog after searching for a homemade Catalina recipe. Thank you!! This looks great. We always had taco salad on regular rotation when I was as a kid in the 80’s. And it always included Catalina and Doritos 😉

  35. #
    Andrea from Texas in Oz — October 27, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    Mad this last night and loved loved loved it. thank you. takes me back to the 80s too when we would have it at picnics….usually the salad was all mushy by the time i got to it, so i loved your idea of individual servings.
    dressing is so yummy

  36. #
    Brandon goodner — August 3, 2016 at 3:12 am

    I am the cook im my family so im always looking for new ideas and i absolutely love this. Two of my fav eats are Catalina and taco salad just never thought of putting them together so thanks for the great idea 🙂

    • Laurie McNamara replied: — August 17th, 2016 @ 11:14 am

      I hope you enjoy these two together Brandon!


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