Nacho Cheese Quinoa Taco Salad

Four words for the rest of the summer: nacho cheese taco salad.

nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

It can make an appearance at your dinner table, a cookout or even in a jar taken to the beach. It’s kid friendly! You can make it ahead of time and it gets better as it sits.

Weird, right?! But delicious. 

segmented nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

So! 

I’m bringing you another retro-ish recipe today with a twist! And by retro, I mean 90s. And by 90s, I mean the early 2000s. 

Because believe it or not, we never had that taco dorito salad growing up! Nope. Never. Which is crazy since my mom definitely did a 90s taco night once a week.

taco beef, scallions, quinoa, tomatoes, cheese, beans, peppers, chips in a bowl

But no, it wasn’t until I was in college that I had the chopped taco salad for the first time. The salad that I’m referencing is basically a bunch of taco ingredients – tomatoes, lettuce, corn, seasoned ground beef and onions, then drenched with bottled catalina dressing and toss with tons of crushed doritos.

homemade catalina dressing

Yes, 2003 me is very shocked that I would even make a version of this because I grew up loathing doritos (I know! I know! But the orange powder and smell turned me off) and didn’t have any interest in catalina dressing.

But this dressing… OMG.

pouring catalina dressing onto taco salad

Yet here we are! I ended up liking that salad with modifications and then went an extra mile to really jazz it up myself and give it a twist.

Like homemade catalina dressing. It’s so good on this!

And quinoa. Adding some bulk to this salad gave it more texture but also made it more… meal like? Even though this is usually served as a side dish at summer cookouts, you can definitely throw a scoop on some lettuce and have it for lunch. 

nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

And of course, I threw in beans, avocado, pickled onions and topped it all off with a big scoop of plain greek yogurt.

Oh hi, I’m obsessed with nacho cheese taco salad. 

p.s. you can make it with lots of leftover ingredients too. Leftover taco night? Leftover quinoa from dinner? Go for it.

up close nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

It may seem like an odd salad if you never had that taco salad in the 90s. The gist is that you make a huge serving and it’s easy to make ahead of time and transport, so it’s perfect for serving at a party. This can be like that too! Just add the avocado at the end. 

Oh and let me tell you how my dorito hatred has laughed in my face: last year at summer camp Max had cool ranch doritos and fell in love with them. Ha! Now he requests them often. Wonderful. 

nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

When it comes to chips in this salad, I love to use these late july nacho chipotle chips which basically are a version of doritos. Like fancier trying-to-be-healthy doritos. So just ignore me saying I don’t like the doritos since I like these.

And of course, you can use regular doritos in the salad too! They make it fun and crunchy and a great dish to take to someone’s house. When we can go to someone’s house.

You know. 

nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

Obviously I love this because:

chopped salads are the best salads. YES.

Getting a bite of everything on one fork is the way to go. In fact, it’s one of the ways I learned to love salad.

nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

No need to learn how to love this salad. It’s lovable right from the start! We adore it.

nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

Nacho Cheese Taco Salad

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Yield: 4 to 6
Chopped Nacho Cheese Taco Quinoa Salad
Prep Time:
50 mins
Cook Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
1 hr
 
This nacho cheese taco salad is my favorite twist on the classic 90s dorito taco salad. Chopped ingredients and homemade catalina dressing!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 12 ounces butter lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 (14 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 to 2 cups crushed nacho cheese tortilla chips (honestly however much you’d like!)
  • pickled onions for topping
  • for topping: chopped avocado, plain greek yogurt or sour cream
catalina dressing
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Note: the beef and quinoa can be made a day or two ahead of time! This is a great recipe to make with leftover taco meat or quinoa.

    This serves 4 to 6 as a side dish, or more if it's served with a bunch of other things.

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the beef and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring often, until brown. As it’s browning, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and
  3. pepper, the cumin, garlic and chili powder. Break it apart into small crumbles and cook until brown. Remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel to drain excess grease.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together the chopped lettuce, beef, quinoa, beans, tomatoes, cheese, onions and cilantro. Sprinkle with the crushed chips and toss. Drizzle on some of the dressing and toss well. Serve with avocado, pickled onions and greek yogurt if you’d like!
  5. To make ahead of time, I like to layer this in a bowl. Layer the beef first, then the beans and cheese, then remaining ingredients, then lettuce. Cover and store in the fridge. Before serving, add the crushed chips and dressing, tossing well.

catalina dressing
  1. Whisk together the vinegar, honey, ketchup, garlic, paprika and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stream in the olive oil while whisking until the dressing is emulsified. This stays great in the fridge for a few days!

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I appreciate you so much!

nacho cheese taco quinoa salad

Serve this to me everyday!