This easy 1960’s Catalina dressing recipe is sweet, tart, spicy, and everything in between.
It really is the best addition to any salad, from chicken and kale to quinoa and even pasta.
As you might’ve guessed, it was big in the 60s, when wedge salads were trendy.
From its bright red hue and thick consistency to the fantastic flavors, it’s obvious why this dressing was (and still is) so beloved.
With a perfect blend of ketchup, sugar, vinegar, oil, onion, and seasonings, this Catalina dressing definitely deserves a comeback.
Easy Homemade Catalina Dressing Recipe
Say goodbye to bottled Catalina and hello to homemade!
This recipe is so insanely delicious and easy that you’ll never want to touch store-bought again.
Plus, it’s so tasty, you’ll want to use it on everything!
I like it on taco salads, but it’s also excellent as a marinade for meats or as a dip for your favorite fried foods.
With just seven ingredients, which are mostly basic condiments, this dressing can be made any time, any day.
Apart from grating the onion, there’s almost no effort required – the food processor does all the work.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get to it!
What is Catalina Dressing?
Catalina dressing is a zippy salad dressing typically used in wedge salads. A combination of sweet, tangy, and mild spices, it’s a great way to flavor otherwise bland ingredients. It has no clear origin story, but many believe it was inspired by the Catalonia region of Spain due to the bold flavors.
There are also those who believe that the Catalina dressing is an invention of Kraft Foods.
While the brand initially started as a cheese-producing company, it branched out into bottled dressings in 1925.
Catalina Dressing vs. French Dressing
While they have similar flavors and ingredients, they’re not exactly one and the same.
Authentic French dressing has an oil-and-vinegar base flavored with mustard and seasonings. Its bottled version, though, is creamy with a light orange hue.
Catalina dressing is a type of French dressing, but it has a much brighter, redder hue because of the ketchup. It’s also a little thinner in consistency.
What is Catalina Dressing Made Of?
- Ketchup – A classic Catalina dressing has sweet and tangy tomatoes as its base. As it makes up a huge part of the dressing’s taste, use ketchup that you actually like.
- Sugar – This dressing is on the sweet side. You can, of course, add more or less sugar to suit your taste.
- Red Wine Vinegar – It provides a tart contrast to the sweet and creamy dressing.
- Onion – Grate it – don’t chop it! Grating releases the juices of the onion which makes the dressing so much more flavorful.
- Paprika – To spice up the dressing.
- Worcestershire Sauce – It gives the dressing a unique, umami flavor.
- Oil – A classic ingredient of dressings, oil is blended gradually to the ingredients to make a thick sauce. Grapeseed, olive, canola, avocado, and vegetable oil all make great choices.
- Salt and Pepper – Just a pinch, or to taste.
How to Make Catalina Dressing
Step 1: Blend all the ingredients except for the oil.
Add the ketchup, sugar, red wine vinegar, grated onion, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and paprika to your food processor or blender. Pulse the ingredients until they’re smooth and well-combined.
Step 2: Add the oil.
While the food processor is still running, pour the oil gradually. This will thicken the dressing and make it nice and creamy, even without using milk or cream.
If you do it right, you’ll create a homogenous mixture, not one with the oil and the other liquids separated.
Step 3: Season to taste.
Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix. Keep adding until you get your desired flavor.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!
Tips for the Best Catalina Salad Dressing
- The recipe calls for grated onion – not minced or chopped. Grating releases more of that sweet and peppery onion flavor, which is essential in this recipe.
- You’ll need to use either a food processor or blender for Catalina dressing, unlike other sauces and dressings that you can make by whisking the ingredients. Blending allows the liquids and the oil to emulsify better, creating a creamy, homogenous mixture.
- Don’t add the oil right away. Instead, blend the rest of the ingredients first until they’re fully incorporated. Then while the processor is still running, gradually pour the oil.
- The key to a perfect salad is the ratio between mix-ins and dressing. It will be useless if you put too much or too little of it. The best way to do it is to pour the dressing gradually and stop until you get your desired taste.
- Store Catalina dressing in an airtight container, such as a lidded bottle or mason jar, and refrigerate for up to a month. If you don’t store it properly, it will go bad much faster.
- Flavor Variations:
- This dressing gets sweeter as it sets. If you’re not a fan of sweet dressings, start with less sugar. Taste the dressing and just add more if needed.
- Give your dressing some kick with added red pepper flakes or more paprika. You could even add a dash of hot sauce if you like it extra hot.
- Mix in bacon bits and blue cheese crumbles to your salad for more layers of flavor. Feta also works well.
- Add a clove of garlic for a more intense flavor. Give it a blitz in the food processor before adding the other ingredients. You can also use garlic powder.
This recipe is pretty perfect, but there are some swaps you can make in a pinch:
- Swap the sugar for Splenda. You can also try honey, but note that you’ll be able to taste it in the dressing. Also, feel free to adjust the measurement according to your taste.
- Swap the red wine vinegar for cider vinegar. Other options include white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar.
- Swap the onion for 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder. It may not seem like a lot, but a little goes a long way.
- Swap the paprika for sweet or smoked paprika. This will give the dressing a different flavor profile.
Where to Use Catalina Dressing
The most obvious choice is taco salad, but there are lots of other ways you can incorporate Catalina dressing in your meals.
I highly suggest you double the recipe and use leftovers for:
- Marinade for meats.
- Dip or Sauce.
- Aside from chips and wraps, Catalina dressing also pairs wonderfully with:
More Sauce and Dressing Recipes You’ll Love
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