Hey, I betcha can’t guess what my favorite salad dressing was when I was a kid way back in the 60s & 70s? Ok, well you probably got it – and because of that, you get a prize! A free recipe for Homemade Catalina French Dressing!
Sometimes ya just have to go retro – leafing through my recipe file I came across Catalina Dressing – Catalina reminds me of my childhood when my favorite was “Western,” a thick, sweet, tangy dressing. This, though, isn’t quite as sweet, is a little more sophisticated, and is an absolutely perfect blend of flavors.
About Homemade Catalina French Dressing:
You can tell why a kid would like it, but to tell the truth, it’s still the dressing I’ll go for if I’m running through one of those salad bar lines. Those, btw, seem to be far and few between these days. Regardless, this dressing goes so well with the sturdy, crunchy lettuce like iceberg or romaine you’ll find there, and it tastes fantastic as it mingles with the croutons and a little cheese. A secret food like of mine is to have this dressing with cottage cheese and if they have that at the salad bar? Well, you can guarantee there will be a scoop of that on my plate, too!
Do you know what else this dressing is good on? Good old Taco Salad, like this Frito Taco Salad. That salad is another favorite of mine (and maybe of yours, too?) and the dressing is fantastic on its own drizzled over that salad. It’s also fabulous mixed with a touch of some thinner commercial taco sauce, yanno like Ortega or Taco Bell’s to spark it up.
And if you’re curious about the origins of this dressing, it really is rooted in a classic French dressing. It’s amazingly similar in taste to the French vinaigrettes my Mom made when I was a child; those, however, were a little more sophisticated, weren’t sweet, and of course, Daaahling (j/k) had no ketchup.
I think this recipe came from Cook’s Illustrated, and you know anything they do they do just right.
Making Homemade Catalina French Dressing:
This dressing really is just as simple as mixing the ingredients together and I love that there is no blender or special equipment needed to make it! That being said, it does take a bit of time for the sugar to dissolve, so shake vigorously and then let it sit for a while. It really is at its best after it sits for about an hour; the flavors smooth out and meld together, but no worries if you want to use it right away – it’s still decent just not quite as smooth.
The recipe calls to grate a little onion; honestly, sometimes that’s too much when I want to get dinner on the table and I just add in a good pinch of onion powder, instead. I can’t taste the difference in the final product and especially can’t taste any difference once it’s on a salad. Why not make it easier?
If it gets thick in the fridge and needs to be shaken together (there are no artificial additives to keep the dressing from separating as it sits), bring it to room temperature and then shake or stir. If you’re in a hurry, pop it in the microwave for several seconds, then shake or stir. Be careful to just slightly warm it – you don’t want it “cooked” at all. Too hot and everything will separate into oil and a mass of goo! Trust me on this!
Storing Your Dressing:
This dressing stores well for several weeks; tightly covered in the fridge. The high acidity and sugar are natural preservatives. Having that type of outcome, of course, is dependent on good practices in the kitchen. Work clean!
It’s best to store this in a bottle or jar that has enough room to at least get a butter knife down in case you need to stir it. This will be a little thicker when cold. Warm it up a bit by letting it sit out on the counter for awhile or very carefully heat in the microwave.
Saving Money on Homemade Catalina French Dressing:
I love making my own dressings, and it’s generally cheaper to make your own than to buy anything in a bottle. This was put together for less than a dollar and it’s tastier ad fresher than anything you’ll find in a bottle!
There are going to be far fewer additives (the ketchup will have a few) than any commercial product, and an added bonus is your own dressings are easy to customize to your tastes, diet, and specifications.
Once you have an idea of what’s in a dressing, it’s up to you if you want to add a bit more of or take away a touch of any of the ingredients. Just taste and adjust as you like.
One little interesting fact? According to Wikipedia “In the United States, French dressing was regulated by federal standards. Between 1950 and 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated French dressing to a standard with strict requirements of vegetable oil, vinegar, lemon or lime juice, salt, sugar, tomato paste or puree, and selected spices. On January 12, 2022, the FDA revoked the standard of identity and in the U.S. the ingredients can be at the choice of the manufacturer.
By the way, do shop for condiments like ketchup and vinegar during the summer holiday sales. You’ll find rock-bottom pricing, then. Stock up for the year! Sugar and oil are on sale prior to almost any holiday. Stock up with enough to last until the next holiday.
Hey Frugal Friends,
I confessed my childhood into an adult obsession with this dressing. I know my kids of course will say Ranch if they were asked what their childhood dressing was! They’ll eat it on or dip almost anything and everything into it! What’s yours?
I’m not sure if there are any other epic salad dressings that have had such widespread generational appeal! Let me know! Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear!
Take care, all!
Homemade Catalina French Dressing
- Prep Time: minutes
- Total Time: minutes + rest
- Yield: 1 1/2 cups 1x
- Category: Salad Dressing
- 2/3 cup mild oil
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon grated onion or a good pinch of onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco
Shake all ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Let sit for one hour for flavors to blend. Shake vigorously to recombine before using. If it’s difficult to shake, bring to room temperature.
Keeps well for several weeks.
Keywords: Catalina Dressing, Cook's Illustrated, French, French Dressing, hot sauce, ketchup, Salad, Salad Dressings, Vinegar, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire