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!
I have recreated the salad with some of my plain cooked beans, and organic chips (lousy GMOs don't let me enjoy Fritos anymore…) and it's really good, too.
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:
Easy Classic Caesar Salad Dressing recipe
4 Vinaigrette Salad Dressings from 1 Basic Recipe
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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Definitely making your Tex-Mex salad today since I took out a container of your ranch beans from the freezer and was puzzling what to make. Could you tell us how to make the Catalina version of the dressing? Like a few other commenters, preferred that over the French growing up. Thanks Jami!
I think you'll love it, Pam!
Catalina is really a different dressing, though - you may want to look up a recipe.
That said, I think you can replace the tomato paste with 1/4 c. ketchup, increase the honey to 1/4 c. (Catalina is much sweeter - probably why you liked it as a kid, lol), added 1/2 tsp. of Worcestershire and omitted the mustard.
Life savior! I need something healthy for my picky spouse!
Yay! So glad this is just the thing. 🙂
I was so happy to come across this! I did have to modify slightly, as I did not have fresh garlic and onions in the house. I used about a TBS of onion powder and 1 tsp garlic powder. I also did half honey and half dark maple syrup for the sweetener. I loved this recipe and plan to make it frequently! (Modified and original, too). Thanks for sharing!!
I'm glad you found it too, Jessica, since it sounds like what you were looking for!
Also happy to know it worked with the adaption, too.
Thanks so much for reviewing!
Katie @The Semisweet Sisters says
Looks good! I've always wanted to trying making my own salad dressing!
Thanks - I hope you enjoy it!
Carol L says
Try adding a tsp each of smoked paprika and chipotle powder for a bit of 'zing' to your dressing! I LOVE it!
Oooh, I will Carol - that does sound like a good addition!
FYI, while this salad was described to me by the Hispanic lady who gave me the recipe, as Tex-Mex, and a 'Frito salad', it is by no means a 'taco salad' to an honest-to-goodness home-grown Texan! Here in Central Texas, 'taco salad' refers to a salad made with, or in some cases, without refried beans, is served in a deep fried flour tortilla bowl, and routinely includes taco meat, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. I add the refried beans to the bottom of the bowl, top with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, black olives, loads of taco meat and dress it with a mix of ranch dressing and salsa. Both salads are yummy, but definitely two entirely different things. You should try them both. I thoroughly enjoy your blog, learn from it constantly, and sincerely hope you try the alternative to your taco salad. Oh yes, in more recent years, in the interest of lowered cholesterol, I bake my taco salad bowls in the oven instead of deep frying them. Still yummy, but less fat.
Agreed! The taco salad you describe is our kind, too - I only use salsa on my salad, though I don't usually take the time to put it in a tortilla bowl (more work and I never eat more than a few bites of the bowl, ha). This is also the taco salad I order in restaurants.
I do know many people like to make a taco salad by mixing meat, lettuce, olives, tomatoes, onions, cheese and crushed chips together and add a French or Catalina dressing, so I wanted them to know they could use this dressing instead of bottled.
I personally only use this on the Tex-Mex salad described or regular salads (it's good with hard-boiled eggs). 🙂
Thank you so much for getting back to me. And thanks for the great food tips and recipes. I love your site.
Oh, that's so sweet - thank you for that encouragement, Patricia!
How long can you keep the homemade dressings after making them?
I have not had a homemade dressing go bad on me, Patricia, so a long time? 🙂
Brittany B says
How long is this dressing good for once stored in the refrigerator?
We've kept it for weeks, Brittany. It may be okay longer, but we use it up by then. 🙂
This has been a family favorite for years, but we always use pinto beans in ours. Yummy.
How do you use the beans, Jean? As a thickener?
Jami @An Oregon Cottage says
Cindy- That's hysterical, I've never thought about the French connection, but you're right! This is great- I'm going to pass this theory along now, too. 🙂
I can't wait to try this dressing! The whole salad, actually. I have a theory about "French" stuff. Anything we don't want to take credit for, and can't figure out who is actually responsible for, we blame on the French. I don't really know why. They're always things we like or find useful. French kissing, "pardon my French", French fries (because they are frenched, you know. Dirty, rotten Frenchies, always cutting things up like that. LOL).
Jami @An Oregon Cottage says
Thanks, guys- how could I forget Ranch Style Beans? Oh well, I knew you all would come to my rescue!
As Deb said: if you Google "Husband Pleasin'" on Images, photos of cans of Ranch Style Beans come up.
Thanks for the recipe! ... and I'll please myself!
[email protected] says
Thanks for this recipe! I'm definitely going to try it. I was addicted to Catalina dressing when I was a child.... Oh, our childish follies! Now I make my own. Possibilities are endless with dressings, once you step away from the bottled dressing aisle! 🙂
Ranch Style beans used to say "Husband Pleasin'" on the can! Guess it's not appropriate anymore...
thank you for this recipe! sounds delish & since Hubs & i are cutting out sugar this comes @ the right time! be blessed! Esther from fleur cottage