Crunchy, flavorful, colorful, and it’s got everything but the kitchen sink! My Potluck Taco Salad comes complete with homemade Catalina Dressing, seasoned taco meat, nacho cheese chips, pickled onions, and so much more! You won’t believe how quickly this is going to disappear at your summer parties!

potluck taco salad topped with pickled onions and a scoop or sour cream

This is the chic version of the retro Doritos taco salad!

We’ve all had it before, right? You’ve got the ground beef cooked with taco seasoning, the French dressing, lots of romaine, black beans, and of course, cheddar cheese. This is version 2.0.

Sure, it’s named Potluck Taco Salad aka Dorito taco salad recipe, but this is not the stuff from the 60’s! We’ve jazzed it up with homemade pickled red onions, pickled jalapeños, a dollop of sour cream, and lots of fire-roasted corn. The Catalina dressing is simple, and I’m willing to bet you already have most if not all the ingredients in your kitchen already.

And well, whether you’re a fan of the classic taco salad or not, this one is sure to tip you right into the like-it category!

dressed taco salad in speckled bowl

Ingredients for potluck taco salad:

  • Ground Beef: I use 1 pound ground beef. Once you brown ground beef in a pan, just drain the excess grease before adding the meat to the salad bowl, if yours had a higher fat content. You can also use ground turkey, chicken, or even meatless protein if you want to make this a little lighter!
  • Taco Seasoning: I have a killer homemade taco seasoning recipe that would work beautifully here, you’ll need about 2-3 tablespoons if you use the homemade version. You can also use a packet of store-bought seasonings, if you prefer.
  • Romaine Lettuce: I like using romaine lettuce instead of the classic iceberg lettuce but totally your call! To mark this even more nutritious sub some or all of the romaine for baby spinach!
  • Cherry Tomatoes: My parents grew the beautiful tomatoes you see in these pictures! So if you’ve got a garden, use what you’ve got! You can also use grape or chopped Romas for this recipe.
  • Orange Bell Pepper: A high source of vitamin C! Sweet peppers work here as well or a bell pepper of a different color!
  • Fire-roasted Corn: I like to buy fresh corn and just grill it on an outdoor or indoor grill until the corn kernels char then I just remove the corn from the cob. Many grocery stores now sell fire-roasted corn in the frozen aisle – that would work beautifully in this recipe. Just be sure to defrost and drain the corn before adding it to the potluck taco salad. P.S If you like this recipe, you’ll love this charred corn salad.
  • Cilantro: Feel free to skip this if you aren’t a fan, no biggie!
  • Green Onions: Add color and oniony flavor without being too harsh.
  • Pickled Jalapeños: Liven up the whole salad! Lots of color, crunch and a light pickled flavor to spice things up!
  • Beans: You can use whatever you like here! I used pinto beans this time but I’ve also used black beans in the past. If you like kidney beans, add those instead!
  • Shredded Cheese: I use a blend of shredded Mexican cheese for this recipe, however, you can use whatever kind of cheese you prefer.
  • Red Wine Vinegar: Is the acid in our Catalina dressing. Most Catalina dressing recipes also contain a shake of Worcestershire sauce, and some coarse ground mustard, I’ve opted to omit these ingredients from my recipe because the dressing to me tastes better without them. Feel free to add these if you prefer.
  • Ketchup: This is my absolute favorite ketchup. It’s the only one we use because it has the tiniest baby kick to it! If you want to add a little spice and don’t have spicy ketchup on hand, just add a pinch cayenne with the other seasonings.
  • Seasonings: I’ve got some sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder going into the dressing.
  • Avocado Oil: Is the oil I use for the dressing. Feel free to use olive oil or any other light colored oil you have on hand.
catalina dressing in glass pitcher

Making this not so classic taco salad recipe:

  1. Brown the ground beef. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it’s hot. Spray with a high heat oil if you’re using a lean ground beef like I did. Add the beef and cook and crumble the meat. Season with taco seasoning and add a splash of water. Bring the meat to a simmer, reduce the heat and let it cook until the sauce thickens and clings to the ground beef. Drain the excess fat if you used a higher fat content for the ground beef. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before using it in the salad. You can also make this in advance and just refrigerate it.
  2. Make the dressing. Add the red wine vinegar, sugar, ketchup, seasonings and olive oil to a jar with a tight fitting lid. Cap the jar and shake to combine. If the dressing separates at any point, just retake the jar to mix.
  3. Make that taco salad. Add the lettuce to a large bowl, top with taco meat, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, green onions, cilantro, jalapenos, beans, and shredded cheese. Toss the salad with half of the dressing until combined. taste and adjust with more dressing as needed. Serve with crushed up nacho cheese doritos or cool ranch doritos (whatever you like better) or on top. You can also use tortilla chips here if you don’t want the added cheese flavor. I like to serve my salad with a dollop of sour cream on top or on the side with lots fo pickled onions! You can also stir the pickled onions right into the salad with the other ingredients if you’d like.
pouring dressing over salad

FAQs about this salad:

If I’m serving this for a potluck, can I dress the salad before leaving?

It depends! If you’re taking this to your neighbors, then yes! If you aren’t serving this right away or driving somewhere, I suggest taking the dressing in a jar and toss right before serving. The nacho cheese chips soften as they sit and the lettuce wilts from the acid in the onions, jalapeños, and the dressing.

How do you suggest storing leftovers?

Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. Keep in mind that the pickled onions and other acidic ingredients cause the salad ingredients in these types of dishes to wilt rapidly. Best to make what you can finish right away!

Can I dress this with store-bought seasoning in a hurry? 

Yes, French dressing or Catalina dressing both work here. I’ve even seen people combine those with Ranch dressing. Though it’s not something I’d personally try, the sky is the limit with this one!

Can I add other ingredients to this? 

Sure! Use whatever you like! I know a lot of people like sliced black olives in their taco salad and instead of romaine they use heads iceberg lettuce that’s finely chopped.

If you like this recipe you might also like:

taco salad in speckled bowl
Yield: serves 8 as a side

Ultimate Potluck Taco Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Crunchy, flavorful, colorful, and it's got everything but the kitchen sink! My Potluck Taco Salad comes complete with homemade Catalina Dressing, seasoned taco meat, nacho cheese chips, pickled onions, and so much more! You won't believe how quickly this is going to disappear at your summer parties!

Ultimate Potluck Taco Salad


Taco Salad:

  • 1 pound 95% lean ground beef (chicken or turkey)
  • 2-3 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning (or store-bought)
  • 8 ounces chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup roasted corn (grilled, drain, or defrosted)
  • ⅓ cup green onion, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅓ cup pickled jalapeños, chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 ½ cups crushed nacho cheese chips
  • Pickled onions, sour cream/greek yogurt, for serving

Catalina dressing:

  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons EACH: sugar AND ketchup
  • ⅓ cup avocado oil (or olive)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon EACH: garlic powder AND onion powder


    1. TACO MEAT: Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray, then add ground beef when hot. Cook and crumble. After 4 minutes, season with taco seasoning and stir to combine. Add ½ cup water if you used my homemade seasoning (follow packet directions for store-bought.) Let the ground beef reach a simmer, lower the heat to low and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the sauce thickens and is no longer watery; remove from heat. Allow it to cool to room temp. You can also prep the meat and refrigerate 1 day in advance.
    2. DRESSING: In a mason jar, add red wine vinegar, sugar, ketchup, avocado oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and a tiny pinch of kosher salt. Place a lid on top and shake the jar until the sugar dissolves and the dressing is emulsified. Take again if the dressing separates at any point.
    3. SALAD: Add the chopped romaine, taco meat, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, green onions, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños, pinto beans, and shredded cheese to a bowl. Toss with half the dressing, taste and adjust with more as desired. Serve topped with crunchy nacho chips, pickled onions and sour cream.

Have you made this recipe?

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