Old Fashioned French Dressing is a vintage recipe that still shines! Sweet, tangy and simple – it will soon be your favorite new (old!) salad dressing.
Old Fashioned French Dressing is my all time favorite salad dressing. It’s sweet and tangy flavors make it very popular where I grew up in Minnesota, where people often order French and blue cheese dressing together, and then combine them on their salad. Try it some time! When I moved to Arizona it came as a shock to me that not many restaurants carried French dressing. Made me reconsider my move for just a minute.
I came across my Grandma’s handwritten recipe for classic French dressing the other day and knew it was time for a recreation. She was an amazing cook and I’m so happy to have this little cookbook to remember her by and to inspire me!
This is an easy dressing to make since there aren’t a lot of ingredients, and most of them are pantry staples. This is not your classic French dressing as in an oil and vinegar vinaigrette, but the thicker, red French dressing that was created in 1950’s America. The basic idea of an oil and vinegar vinaigrette was married with the ubiquitous ingredient of America – ketchup! Or “catsup” as my Grandma called it (I love seeing that handwritten “catsup” in her recipe). The ketchup provides not only sweetness and tomato flavor, but the red color of the dressing.
A variety of spices were also added to create “American” French dressing. In my Grandma’s case, it was celery seed. You may not have celery seed in your spice rack yet, but you should. They are tiny little seeds that pack a nice punch of celery flavor. Besides using them in this Old Fashioned French Dressing recipe, you can use celery seeds in coleslaw, in pickling, barbecue sauce and bloody mary recipes.
When remaking the dressing, I chose to cut back on the amount of sugar in the recipe and to use apple cider vinegar. My Grandma’s recipe had “vinegar” in the directions, but not specifically what kind of vinegar she used. Vague directions are often a problem with handwritten family recipes, but they also give you leeway for creativity! You could also use white or white wine vinegar.
The most unusual ingredient in the recipe has to be “onion juice”. I had never thought of the fact that onions could be juiced! The recipe calls for a tablespoon of onion juice, which adds great onion flavor while keeping the dressing smooth. You’ll start by taking a peeled whole onion and grating about half of it into a fine mesh strainer set over a small mixing bowl. I left the onion whole for grating because it’s much easier to hold onto.
When you’re done grating, press the onion into the mesh strainer to extract the juice. You’ve done it! You made onion juice! Since you’ll only need about 1/2 the onion, you can cut off the grated side of the onion and save the rest for another recipe.
Once the onion juice is made, and the other ingredients are gathered, I like to use a blender to bring the dressing together. My Grandma’s recipe calls for blending the oil and sugar together first. This is a good idea to ensure the sugar granules are dissolved into the oil before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Now you’ll add the rest of the ingredients and blend for 3-4 minutes until the dressing has turned a beautiful orangey red color and emulsified into a thick, but pourable dressing. The best part is that blending the dressing this way means it won’t separate!
A full jar of Old Fashioned French Dressing is now ready to enjoy with your favorite salad. It is especially good with tomatoes! A big bowl of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions served with this French dressing is a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal. You’ll be surprised at the lovely sweet and tangy flavors created by the humble ingredients in this recipe. Thanks Grandma! Now I need to decide which of her recipes to recreate next…….
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 cup ketchup (or "catsup" as my Grandma called it!)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 tablespoon onion juice (from a grated white or yellow onion)
- Make the onion juice first. Take your peeled whole onion and grate about half of it into a fine mesh strainer set over a small mixing bowl. When you are done grating, press the grated onion into the mesh strainer to extract the juice. You'll need a tablespoon for this recipe. Cut off the grated side of the onion and save the rest for another recipe.
- Add the vegetable oil and sugar to your blender and blend on high for 2 minutes or so until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
- Add all the other ingredients and blend for 3-5 minutes until combined and emulsified.
- Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator for two weeks.