An easy taco salad recipe featuring flavorful ground turkey, crisp lettuce, tortilla strips, a homemade Catalina dressing and more!
Taco salad is quick and easy to make, requiring only a few moments on the stove top, a small amount of prep, and delegates the brunt of the work to the ready-made ingredients. The whole taco shell thing is simplified via the addition of store-bought tortilla strips, and bing-bang-boom — we’re done. Now that’s my kind of weeknight dinner.
How to Make Taco Salad at Home:
You can make a quality taco salad at home that will far exceed any restaurant-style expectations. The first step is browned ground meat. This recipe calls for turkey, as it is a “healthier” take on the traditional ground beef salad. However, just because we are subbing in poultry for beef, doesn’t mean we will be making any trades or sacrifices in the flavor department. Ground turkey is seasoned with a Tex-Mex spice blend (or store-bought taco seasoning, if desired), and set aside once cooked. The remaining tasks are simple and leads us to the next question.
What goes in Taco Salad:
Taco salad consists of…well, taco meat, but that’s a given. The other obvious ingredient being lettuce. Red kidney beans, black olives, diced onions, shredded cheese, and tomatoes are also to be expected in just about any taco salad recipe. The kidney beans add a lovely, creamy texture to the salad, and works wonderfully against the crisp, cool lettuce. Olives give it a brine-y kick, and red onion works well to add an additional bit of spice. The cheese is…well, cheese…so that pretty much requires no explanation at all. And, then come the tortilla strips. Yes, I know, taco salad typically comes in a big, giant tortilla bowl, but is this really necessary? No, not really. The whole purpose of the tortilla bowl (other than aesthetics) is the crunch, and we can implement that just as well via the addition of store-bought tortilla strips. When I am making salads, I am typically going for “quick and easy”, and subbing in strips for the bowl makes a big dent when it comes to the amount of time required in the kitchen. Now for the dressing…
Homemade Catalina Dressing:
Catalina dressing (a less creamy version of French dressing) is by far the most popular choice of dressing for a traditional taco salad. It is a ketchup-based dressing that’s flavor profile is mostly sweet, with a touch of tang. It’s easy to make, and you’ll find a simple recipe for a homemade version below.
Make-Ahead Taco Salad:
Every time I whip up a batch of taco salad, I am reminded just how much I love it. It is one of my favorite go-to lunches, and I’ve found that if I simply store the prepared ingredients in small separate containers, nothing gets soggy, and it can be stretched for days. This simple practice enables me to easily put together a filling, healthy and desirable lunch option that just doesn’t get old. Enjoy!
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- pinch of onion powder
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 pound 85/15 ground turkey
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon TAK's Easy Taco Seasoning alternatively, use store-bought taco seasoning, and season to taste
- 4 cups chopped lettuce Romaine, Iceberg or preferably a mix of the two
- 3/4 cup diced red onion
- 1 16 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese
- 1 4 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
- 1-2 vine-ripened tomato seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup store-bought tortilla strips
For the Catalina dressing, in a small mixing bowl, add ketchup, vinegar, sugar, salt, paprika, celery salt, cayenne pepper and onion powder. Whisk to combine. Very slowly, stream in the canola oil, whisking all the while until completely emulsified. Set aside until ready to serve.
Makes just under 3/4 cup of dressing.
For the turkey taco meat, add 2 tablespoons canola oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and sprinkle over the seasoning. Break apart the meat and saute for 6-8 minutes, or until fully cooked. Transfer turkey to a separate bowl using a slotted spoon, and set aside until ready to use.
To assemble the salad, add the romaine lettuce to a bowl, top with cooked turkey, onion, beans, cheddar, black olives, tomatoes and tortilla strips. Drizzle with the desired amount of Catalina dressing, serve and enjoy.