Southwestern Chopped Salad

Gluten-free and Vegan, this Southwestern Chopped Salad is fresh, hearty, nutrient-dense and packed with flavor! It's served with a creamy Catalina Dressing that's sweet, tangy and a perfect pairing!

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes
Southwestern Chopped Salad

Fresh, Flavorful and Satisfying!

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Update Spring: I woke up craving this salad today for lunch so prepped it for the week ahead and it’s soooo good!

It’s one of my favorite salads and it’s so great for meal prep and for lunches, even in the chillier weather because it is packed goodness and so hearty!

And now you can watch a cooking video, right here on this page, of me prepping it.

As with all of my recipes, there is a printable recipe with exact measurements and directions at the bottom of the recipe page.

Hope you love it as much as we do!

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes

Original post...

I am so excited to share this Southwestern Chopped Salad with Catalina Dressing with you!

Gluten and vegan, it is packed with goodness, bursting with flavor and so satisfying!

It is a copycat of a salad I love from Living on the Veg in Beach Haven, NJ. I ordered their “Mexicali Salad” 3x in one week while vacationing on the Jersey Shore this Summer… it’s that good!

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes
The Mexicali Salad from Living on the Veg

And each time I enjoyed it, I kept thinking I had to recreate it!

It actually seems like a salad I would have already made because it’s all my favorite Taco Tuesday flavors, but I had never made a Catalina dressing and the dressing really brings it all together.

So here’s what’s in it:

romaine lettuce


black beans

cooked brown rice

walnut “meat” (you could substitute any taco meat or grilled chicken for the omnivores in your family)

bell pepper (I used yellow for a pop of color)

white onion


avocado and

the yummiest Catalina dressing

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes

As an aside, since I often eat this for lunch by myself, I provide quantities below as both serving for 4 and serving for 1.

The walnut meat and Catalina dressing make enough for 4 servings.

Let’s start with the walnut meat.

Similar to the lentil walnut meat in our Lentil Walnut Tacos, this is a nutrient dense, plant-based meat alternative.

All you need is walnuts (which I soak in water for 2 hours), chili powder, cumin and salt.

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes

After soaking the walnuts, it all gets pulsed in a food processor 5 or 6 times so that it is chopped, but not minced.

And it is a delicious add to the salad!

Omnivore friends, I highly recommend giving this try but feel free add in grilled chicken or taco meat instead of walnut meat.

On to the dressing!

With all the salad dressings on our website (click for our round up), we had never made a Catalina dressing, so I was super excited to add this new flavor profile to the mix!

Catalina dressing is a variety of French dressing, and it’s mix of sweet and tangy. It’s also creamy but there is no dairy, dairy substitute or nuts.

And it’s super simple to make, coming together in 5 minutes!

Here’s what you’ll need:


red wine vinegar

maple syrup

onion powder

garlic powder

cayenne pepper


grapeseed oil

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes

And it’s easy to make.

Using an immersion blender (my choice), food processor or whisk, blend together everything except the oil.

Then slowly add the oil while you’re blending. This will help the oil combine with the other ingredients and prevent separation. And it will make the dressing really creamy!

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes

Paired together this salad is a new favorite!

Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes

Hope you love it as much as we do!

For more salad ideas, click here.

PIN it!
Southwestern Chopped Salad gluten free #glutenfree #glutenfreerecipes


Scroll down for recipe and leave a comment if you try.


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4 from 1 vote

Southwestern Chopped Salad

Gluten-free and Vegan, this Southwestern Chopped Salad with Catalina Dressing is fresh, hearty and packed with flavor! The Catalina dressing a variety of French dressing and is creamy (no dairy or nuts), sweet and tangy, a perfect compliment to the salad.
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Lunch, Dinner, Taco Tuesday
Cuisine: Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-Free
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Healthy Gluten-free Family


Salad (per serving quantities in parentheses)

  • 1 cup 1/4 cup walnut "meat" (or substitute grilled chicken)
  • 8 cups 2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 4 cups 1 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 2 cups 1/2 cup black beans
  • 2 cups 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cups 1/4 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 avocados 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup 1/4 cup bell pepper (I used yellow)
  • Catalina dressing to taste

Walnut "meat" (makes 1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup walnuts soaked for 2 hours
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • large pinch - 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste

Catalina Dressing (makes 1 cup)

  • 1/3 cup Ketchup
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8- 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper 1/8 teaspoon will give a sweeter dressing/ 1/4 teaspoon a bit more "kick"
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup Grapeseed oil


Walnut Meat

  • If you haven't soaked the walnuts, soak them in water for 2 hours (more is better than less, as soaking in water helps with the texture)
  • Drain walnuts from the water they are soaking in and place drained walnuts and spices in a food processor.
  • Pulse 5-6 times until the walnuts are chopped and combined with the spices. You want it to be piece-y not minced too much.
  • Store in the refrigerator if not using immediately. They store well for several days.

Catalina Dressing

  • Using an immersion blender (my choice), food processor or whisk, blend all the ingredients except the oil.
  • While mixing, add the oil and continue blending until well combined and creamy.
  • Store in a sealed contained in the refrigerator for up to a week.


  • I provide quantities for either serving 4 or individual salads.
  • Place all ingredients in a bowl. Toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy!
Tried this recipe?Mention @healthyGFfamily or tag #healthyGFfamily!


One thought on “Southwestern Chopped Salad

  1. 4 stars
    You might want to think about the oils you are using for dishes. Grapeseed oil is very inflammatory and It is better to use Olive oil and avocado oil than Grapeseed. It’s an easy switch. Your food will taste better too and you will be healthier. Inflammatory oils like soy, grapessed, canola, and sunflower are not good for our health at all. Other than that this recipe is fantastic. I use a lot of your recipes and always change the oils you recommend. I also notice you add a lot of sugar to your foods so I substitute with Monkfruit too. Your recipes have great foundation but with a few swaps that could be super healthy too. Thanks for sharing great stuff!

4 from 1 vote

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