Homemade Catalina Dressing Recipe. This sweetheart dressing of the 1960’s comes to life in your own kitchen. It’s easy to make, ready in under 10 minutes, and bursting with layers of flavor that are totally irresistible. This dressing is famous for being drizzled over that Old Fashioned Fritos-Doritos Taco Salad.
What is Catalina Dressing?
Catalina Dressing is a sweet and tangy homemade salad dressing made with olive oil, ketchup, vinegar, dry mustard, chili powder and paprika. It’s a very popular dressing for Taco Salad, and can also be used as a marinade or even a dipping sauce.
Let’s take a look:
Table of contents
Homemade Salad Dressing – Always Better
Homemade salad dressing and vinaigrettes are routinely very easy and quick to make and always better than store bought. And more times than not, you’ll have the ingredients you need on hand right there in your pantry. Some of our favorite dressing recipes are, Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, Sweet Red Wine Vinegar Dressing , and this recipe for Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette.
If you’ve never had Catalina salad dressing, adjectives that come to mind to describe the flavor are pizzaz, tangy, sweet, thick, luscious, creamy (yet dairy free) and just plain exciting.
So much better than the bottled version, and we’ve been drizzling it all week over a big bowl of salad greens for a quick side dish.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- The vibrant rich rusty color alone is alluring to the senses and a hint to it’s irresistible flavor.
- It takes about 15 minutes to make. Once the ingredients are gathered, just whisk and serve.
- It’s an easy make ahead dressing that you can pull out of the fridge when dinner is ready. And it will be ready to drizzle over any salad you toss together all week.
- You’ve probably already got everything in your pantry to make this recipe.
What Is Catalina Dressing Made Of?
The line up of ingredients to make this Catalina dressing recipe brings to light the reason the end flavor result is so exuberant.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Ketchup (Catsup) A condiment with a perfect flavor blend of tomatoes and sugar. This is the base ingredient to build the dressing. Use your favorite brand.
- Olive Oil: Since we’re not making a delicate vinaigrette where the flavor of the olive is is important to the balance, just use a mild flavored extra virgin olive oil. I like to purchase the big bottle from Costco and this brand will work fine for this recipe. Save those expensive brands where a delicate fruity flavor will benefit lighter ingredients, like this simple classic Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette.
- Granulated Sugar
- Kosher Salt Kosher salt is preferred by chefs due to the fact that the salt is believed to penetrate a more pure salt flavor into food. Rather than sea salt, that tends to sit on top of the food. Save the sea salt for adjusting salt levels at the dinner table.
- Grated Sweet Onion: Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the onion. Small holes will create too much moisture in the grated onion and basically become mush.
- Chili Powder: A lively blend of spices that is usually used to season Chili Soup Recipes.
- Dried Yellow Mustard: Dried mustard is such a different flavor experience over prepared yellow mustard from a bottle. It brings a sharp bite and an overall additional dimension of excitement to the recipe.
These ingredients give this Catalina Dressing Recipe its appealing vibrant color and rich flavor.
Ingredient Subs and Swaps
- Vinegar: Cider vinegar is a all-around great vinegar for flavoring about anything where you need a “tang”. Red Wine Vinegar would be a good substitute here. And white vinegar, or Champagne Vinegar will also work well for this recipe.
- Paprika: Regular paprika is called for in this recipe. But try Smoked paprika to give it a little bit different flavor profile.
- Sugar: Substitute 1/3 cup of honey for the granulated sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you’ll need less. You can also use Agave Syrup.
- Onion: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon onion powder for grated onion.
- Oil: You can also use a neutral oil such as canola or vegetable oil.
How To Make Homemade Catalina Dressing, It’s Easy
Making this Catalina dressing recipe simply can’t get any easier than this.
- Step 1: Choose a mixing bowl that’s large enough to easily whisk ingredients without them spilling out. Add all of the ingredients and using good old fashioned elbow grease, whisk vigorously until well blended.
This recipe calls for grated onion. Grated onion blends well and delivers more onion flavor than chopped onion. It also brings a smoother texture. It somewhat “juices” the onion which again, distributes more pure onion flavor. The easiest way to grate an onion is to grab your box grater. Use the large holes. The smaller holes will produce too much of a mushy watery texture. Cut the onion in half, remove the paper skins and start grating the flesh.
Common Questions about Catalina Dressing
Store Catalina dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and it will last for up to a month. I like a quart wide-mouthed Ball canning jar. Its tall shape doesn’t take up much real estate in the refrigerator and it’s easy to pour from. Plus it looks cool.
French and Catalina dressings are similar in flavor but usually there is a difference in color. French dressing tends to use less tomato products resulting in a lighter tone.
French Dressing or Russian Dressing are similar to Catalina Dressing.
They are similar in profile salad dressings, however, Russian Dressing has chile sauce and mayo added. To make Russian dressing even spicier, you may find some horseradish added.
I’ve read that Catalina dressing was invented in Catalonia Spain. I’ve also read that Kraft Corporation first came up with the recipe. Catalina was their version of French Dressing.
How To Serve
- 1. Bacon Burgers. Top burgers with bacon slices and some Catalina Dressing.
2. Brush over chicken wings and grill, basting with more dressing as you cook.
3. Mix 1/4 cup Catalina dressing, 4 1/2 teaspoons of onion soup mix with 1 Tablespoon grape Jelly. Slather this mixture over boneless skinless chicken breasts and bake at 350 degrees for 30-ish minutes or until internal temp of chicken reaches 165 – 170 degrees.
- Make Catalina Meatballs: Place meatballs on a sheet pan and drizzle with Catalina dressing. Bake according to directions.
- A friend told me she uses it as a dip for French Fries.
- This dressing will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. I like to store it in a Ball canning jar.
- Double the recipe and freeze some for later. Catalina Dressing will keep in the freezer for up to three months. I like to store it in a freezer safe zip lock style bag. Just stand the bag up, pour in the dressing and then carefully squeeze the air out. Why this method? You can lay it flat and save on freezer space. Just thaw in the refrigerator over night before using.
Recipe For Catalina Salad Dressing
So don’t hesitate, give this Catalina Dressing Recipe a try. Drizzle it over your favorite bowl of salad greens, or make this classic Taco Salad recipe. A salad that the whole family will love.
Catalina Dressing is also a great partner for fresh fruit and greens for this Winter Citrus Salad.
More Homemade Salad Dressings
And if you’re looking for more salad dressing recipes and salads, don’t miss my Salad Category. You’ll find lots of great recipes, including the most popular salad dressing recipe on my site for Creamy Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing.
If you’ve tried this or any other recipe on my website, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below. And write a review in the comment section. I always appreciate your feedback.
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Homemade Catalina Dressing Recipe
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 Tablespoon grated onion or more to taste
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup ketchup
- 1 cup olive oil
- Place all ingredients into large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator.
- Vinegar: Apple Cider vinegar is a all-around great vinegar for flavoring about anything where you need a “tang”. Red Wine Vinegar would be a good substitute here. And white vinegar, or Champagne Vinegar will also work well for this recipe.
- Sugar: Substitute 1/3 cup of honey for the granulated sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you’ll need less.
- Onion: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon onion powder for grated onion.
Catalina Dressing Recipe…It’s What’s for your favorite tossed salad.
This Catalina Dressing recipe was first published March of 2013, and updated December of 2021 with step by step instructions and better photos.
Why Trust These Recipes? Lea Ann Brown has lived, worked and played in Colorado for 45 years. She has immersed herself in the Colorado Culinary space, is a Culinary School Graduate and publishes her Colorado food Blog, Cooking On The Ranch.