Turkey Taco Salad

Elevate taco night at home with this delicious Turkey Taco Salad. Sauté ground turkey, onions and black beans, then place on a bed of spinach with toppings. Finish with a drizzle with a homemade Catalina dressing. Easy to personalize, this Turkey Taco Salad is well-loved and perfect for a weeknight meal.

Close up of a bowl of Turkey Taco Salad topped with crushed tortilla chips, cheese and more

2023 Update: This recipe was originally shared in May 2015. The post has been updated to include more details in the recipe, as well as new photos more tips and tricks. I hope you love this dish!

Turkey Taco Salad recipe 

There’s one thing we can all agree on: taco night is the best evening. But can I interest you in taco salad night?

When I was a kid, I remember loving taco salad night because we got to crush tortilla chips (or Doritos, if we were lucky!) on top of our salads after piling the lettuce, meat and onions high with cheese.

Basically, it was a kid’s dream. And I’m realizing right this very moment that taco salad night was a brilliant way to get us to eat salad. Nice job, Mom. 

I’ve continued this tradition in our home now. Ground Turkey Taco Salad is one of my family’s favorites. My kids, who are not salad lovers, LOVE THIS SALAD.

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    The topping is a deliciously seasoned turkey, which is beefed up with black beans AND onion. We usually top it with avocado, a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, homemade Catalina dressing and heaps of crunchy tortilla chips. 

    You can dress this salad up however you like. Your favorite taco toppings and delicious dressings are all welcome here. 

    Why I love this recipe:

    This healthy taco salad recipe is going to be your new favorite:

    • This isn’t a side salad. It’s the whole dang meal. A main course salad, if you will.
    • You can customize it with your favorite toppings. 
    • It works for lunch or dinner! 

    Make it for a Cinco de Mayo celebration, Taco Tuesday or just your regular taco night. 

    And you can serve it as a side salad, if you like. It would be great with tacos

    The best part of this salad, to me, is that you can customize it to your tastebuds. Add some sliced avocado or maybe even guacamole if you’re feelin’ fancy. Sprinkle on your favorite cheese. Add a bit more because taco salad is awesome with a decadent amount of cheese. Don’t forget the tortilla chips, and be sure to crush them up good.

    Dollop on that sour cream if that’s your thing. And maybe add some salsa because everyone knows salsa makes everything better…

    AND this salad comes with an awesome homemade Catalina dressing that balances out the spiciness of the meat/onion/black bean mixture.

    More salad recipes to try: Chicken Spinach Salad | Grilled Shrimp Salad | Grilled Peach Salad

    Ingredients to make taco salad with ground turkey in bowls on a turquoise countertop

    What you need to make this recipe:

    The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

    Let’s talk ingredients!

    In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

    To make this simple taco salad recipe, here’s what you will need: 

    • Extra virgin olive oil — any light tasting oil will do, such as avocado oil 
    • Lean ground turkey — you can make this work with ground chicken or ground beef, even vegan plant-based crumbles 
    • Taco seasoning — I prefer to make homemade taco seasoning, but store-bought works too
    • Small onion — you can use yellow or white onion here. I do not recommend using a purple or a green onion.
    • Black beans — if you don’t like beans, skip them. You can also use pinto or kidney beans. 
    • Whole kernel sweet corn — frozen corn will work, too. Just cook it to the package’s directions.
    • Chicken stock — feel free to substitute beef stock or vegetable stock here. 
    • Chopped romaine lettuce — or use the salad greens of your choice. Spinach, iceberg and butter lettuce or a spring mix are all delicious. 

    Homemade Catalina Dressing

    Making homemade Catalina dressing is so easy. You pretty much pile all the ingredients into a salad dressing shaker or mason jar and shake everything together. 

    Here’s what you’ll need to make homemade Catalina dressing: 

    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Ketchup
    • Honey
    • Red wine vinegar
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • Seasonings — we’re going to need a combination of kosher salt, black pepper, sweet paprika, onion powder and garlic powder

    I go into this in-depth in my Homemade Catalina Dressing post if you want to learn more!

    Taco salad toppings

    You can have so much fun with taco salad toppings! Aim for a good combination of flavors and textures. You can even serve this salad restaurant-style in homemade tortilla bowls. (You can make them with these tortilla bowl molds.)

    It’s a choose-your-own-adventure situation with the toppings, too. (My girls particularly enjoy that since they like different things.) You can also add in extra veggies, like carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc., if you’ve got them around.

    When we have dinner parties or luncheons, this is a great one to make because you can put out lots of toppings in bowls for guests to DIY their salads their way. 

    Here are a few ideas: 

    You can also have fun with different dressings. The Catalina dressing is my favorite but you could also try: 

    How to make Turkey Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

    There are three parts to this taco salad recipe: the turkey taco meat, the dressing and then putting it all together. 

    First, get out your greens and wash and dry them in your salad spinner. Let them continue to dry while you cook the meat. 

    Then, cook the meat. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When warm, add the turkey, onion and taco seasoning. Cook until browned and cooked through.


    Next, deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, which helps to sop up all the little leftover turkey bits stuck to the edges and bottoms of the pan. Add the black beans, stirring into the turkey and onion mixture.

    Continue to cook until the beans are warmed through, and the chicken stock has been absorbed. Remove from the heat.

    While it cooks, make the dressing. Pour the olive oil, ketchup, honey, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder into a mason jar. Shake thoroughly until well combined. Set aside.


    Once you have the meat topping and the dressing, prep the salads to eat. 

    Measure out the romaine into plates or bowls, then top with the turkey mixture and desired toppings. Pour the dressing on top of the salads, and enjoy immediately. 

    And don’t forget the margarita pitcher! (A Mexican mule is a great idea, too.)

    How to store

    The meat should be stored in a food-safe, airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

    The dressing should be stored in a mason jar in the fridge for up to 1 month. If it settles, simply warm it to room temperature to melt the oils and shake to emulsify. 

    Store the ingredients of the salad separately, then assemble before you eat it. 

    This recipe works well for meal prep, but you’ll want to reheat the turkey mixture before plating it on your cold greens. 

    Homemade Catalina dressing pours on top of loaded turkey taco salad

    Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

    • Set out bowls of different topping choices for guests to plate their own salad to their liking.
    • Offer a meatless topping for any vegetarians and vegans. You can cook the onions, beans and corn together, or you can substitute a plant-based meat crumble for the turkey. A black bean burger would work too!
    • Stretch the ingredients by preparing these salads as burrito bowls. Prepare plain rice, cilantro rice or cauliflower rice and then let guests spoon their favorite toppings on top.  
    Two dressed turkey taco salads on a green countertop surrounded by ingredients

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is a taco salad healthier than a taco?

    When served on a plate without a tortilla, a taco salad with lots of greens can be a healthier choice. However, it does depend on the toppings you choose. When served in a tortilla bowl or with carb-heavy toppings, it can be on the less-healthy side. 

    What do you serve with taco salad?

    Taco salad can be a meal on its own, but it also works as a side salad. Serve it with quesadillas, tacos or enchiladas. A margarita is always a good idea, too.

    Is taco salad a Mexican dish?

    Taco salads are a Tex-Mex dish inspired by Mexican tacos. The toppings for taco salad are usually similar to the ones served on tacos and other Mexican foods.  

    Two bowls of turkey taco salad on a green countertop next to bowls of toppings

    Quick tips and tricks to making the best taco salads

    • Wash and dry your salad greens before starting on the meat. No one likes a soggy salad!
    • Shake the dressing super well to emulsify the ingredients. 
    • Serve with lots of toppings with varying flavors and textures. 

    More Tex-Mex recipes

    Close up of a bowl of Turkey Taco Salad topped with crushed tortilla chips, cheese and more
    Yield: 4 servings

    Turkey Taco Salad

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

    Elevate taco night at home with this delicious Turkey Taco Salad. Sauté ground turkey, onions and black beans, then place on a bed of spinach with toppings. Finish with a drizzle with a homemade Catalina dressing. Easy to personalize, this Turkey Taco Salad is well-loved and perfect for a weeknight meal.

    Ingredients

    Taco Salad

    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 lb. ground turkey
    • 1 ½ tablespoons taco seasoning
    • 1 small onion (about 1 cup diced)
    • 15 oz. black beans, drained
    • ½ cup chicken stock
    • 8 cups chopped romaine (or the salad green of your choice)

    Optional Toppings

    • 1 avocado, sliced
    • 15.25 oz. whole kernel sweet corn, drained
    • ½ cup sour cream
    • ¾ cup shredded cheese (pepperjack and sharp Cheddar are my favorites)
    • ½ cup salsa
    • ½ (9 oz.) bag tortilla chips, crushed

    Homemade Catalina Dressing

    • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • ¼ cup ketchup
    • ¼ cup honey
    • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
    • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

    Instructions

    Cook the Meat

    1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
    2. When warm, add the turkey, onion and taco seasoning. Cook until browned and cooked through.
    3. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, and add the black beans, stirring into the turkey and onion mixture.
    4. Cook until the beans are warmed through, and the chicken stock has been absorbed into the mixture. Remove from the heat.

    Make the Dressing

    1. Pour the olive oil, ketchup, honey, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder into a mason jar. Shake thoroughly until well combined. Set aside.

    Prepare the Salads

    1. In a large bowl, prepare the salads. Measure out the romaine, then top with the turkey mixture and desired toppings. Pour the dressing on top of the salads, and enjoy immediately.

    Notes

    This recipe can easily be adapted to use beef or chicken.

    Store the meat mixture separately from the toppings and other salad ingredients. Keep it in an airtight food storage container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

    Keep the dressing in a mason jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    4

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1169Total Fat: 76gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 52gCholesterol: 159mgSodium: 1295mgCarbohydrates: 80gFiber: 18gSugar: 31gProtein: 50g

    Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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    About the Author:

    Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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