A super easy, lower sugar American-style French dressing for salads that is sweetened with honey and includes fresh onions for a brighter flavor. This will make taco salads - or any salad - shine.
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When I was in college, I lived with a family for awhile who rented rooms in their home to a few students each year. We ate with the family when we were able and some of my favorite dishes (like French Beef Stew, yum) and kitchen tips (don't throw out broccoli stalks, just peel them and slice!) I learned while living with them.
Our house-mom would often make a special salad that she loved for lunch, usually just for herself (which kinda cracked me up) and me, if I happened to be around. It consisted of lettuce, crushed Frito chips (she didn't make the salad if there weren't Fritos), shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and olives (though they were optional).
The main ingredient, though, was a can of beans with sauce - Ranch Style Beans with a tag line on the label that also cracked me up:
This seemed quite old-fashioned to me (even in the 80s) so I never forgot it. Plus, I don't think she ever used the beans for anything other than her special lunch salad, so the poor husband was without his pleasin.' 🙂
I've seen these beans in the years since - they still sell them, now with an Appetite Pleasin' tag line, though they held onto the previous one clear into the 1990's, I believe. UPDATE: A reader (thanks, Holly!) alerted me to this article that describes the beans. Apparently, they are a Texas thing.
The Homemade Salad Dressing
Over all these salad ingredients she would pour a tomato-based "French" dressing that she made in a blender. Side note: I include the quotes around the word French because I'm aware that this dressing is not truly French- the French use vinaigrettes...anyone know why we Americans call this "French Dressing?"
I have to tell you how "out there" that was for me, as a college student in the 1980's who grew up with only bottled dressings. Didn't salad dressings only come from the store? Seriously, I think this was the first time I'd ever seen anyone make their own dressing (and pouring oil and vinegar over lettuce doesn't count- that's what odd people did at restaurants when there wasn't a dressing they liked, ha!).
And I loved it. The dressing, the salad, everything. I wrote it down and though I don't make the salad often, I still make this dressing whenever I'm in the mood for a tomato-based American French dressing (or it's darker cousin, Catalina).
American French Dressing Healthified
One thing that's always bugged me, though, about American French dressings is the amount of sugar included. The original recipe was less than some other homemade recipes I've seen (some were equal amounts of sugar and oil, if you can believe it!), but still contained a lot. Plus, it called for ketchup which has more sugar in it as well.
So I adapted it by using only tomato paste, a small amount of honey, and adding fresh garlic and Dijon mustard. But the reason I've always felt like this recipe was great was because it called for diced onions - they make this recipe! They also act as a natural thickener with the olive oil.
As with most dressings, this is ridiculously easy - you put all the ingredients in a blender in whatever order you'd like and blend until smooth.
Yep, that's it. It would take you longer to find it in the grocery store, I think.
It's ready to enjoy in about five minutes. You don't always need to make "the salad." With tomatoes and onions in the dressing, and freshly picked garden lettuce, you've got a perfectly simple and flavorful salad just like pictured. I also like to add olives and sweet onions and sometimes a sliced hard-boiled egg, too.
And for those who like to use Catalina or French dressing on taco salads, this is a great homemade option. Which come to think of it, is very close to that salad I had in college!
And when I do make it, it's often my special lunch salad (shhhh, don't tell Brian).
Healthier American French Dressing for Salads
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste*
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon water plus more if needed to reach desired consistency
- Add all the ingredients to the jar of a blender.
- Blend until smooth. Adding more water, a teaspoon at a time, if needed until desired consistency is reached.
- Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate. Keep in the refrigerator up to 2 months.
Other easy salad dressings you may like:
Note: this French dressing recipe was originally published in 2011 and has been updated with larger photos, pinnable image, new formatting and printable recipe. Enjoy!
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