Skip to Content

Classic Catalina Salad Dressing

Sharing is caring!

catalina main 1


As I am slowly getting all of my favorite classic salad dressings posted to share with you, I’ve come to find out the hard way, how much salad dressings have severely changed over the years. Wow….what happened??

As I said in my last dressing post, (my Homemade Ranch), things sure have changed drastically since I’ve bought any salad dressing from the store. Other than Ranch, which I no longer have to purchase now after finally making one that I’m more than satisfied with, I haven’t bought manufactured salad dressing since…..gosh…..the 1980’s???

Yep. Not kidding. I started catering early in life, when I was broke and did a casual backyard wedding reception for a dear friend and co-worker, who was also broke, and word instantly spread. They were on a tight budget, which, of course, meant I had to be also, to make any money.  One of the things I made immediately, were homemade dressings. You can’t be buying things like expensive little bottles of salad dressings, several different kinds to boot, enough to dress 50-250 salads, and make a profit. I needed to make a few pennies for myself!

Every single thing had to be properly figured and budgeted, clear down to the salad dressing!

Back then, the classics of course, were basically all that was available. A few companies were starting to come out with more creative dressings, but when feeding a very large crowd, it was best to stick to the basics that we all knew and loved as kids. That way, you know that you can pretty much please everyone.

So that’s what I did.




As with most things, salad dressings are super simple to make right at home as they require few and basic ingredients, hence why there is big profit in them. I don’t blame them. I’d do it, too, to make a humble living.

But things seemed to have changed. Drastically.

It seems to be only about profit, and not the product anymore.

And that is never a good thing.

I don’t want to sound arrogant, smug or self righteous in any way. I’m NOT like that. If you met me in person, you’d instantly agree, trust me! 😀 😉

But when I wanted to make a retro salad that uses a classic Catalina dressing, I wanted to make sure, once again before I posted my recipe, that I was right on track. I hadn’t made it in YEARS, and just wasn’t confident of something that I had made 25+ years ago, you know?

I will never ever share something with you that I wouldn’t make again, nor mislead you any way. I think bloggers should have a responsibility of only sharing things that work. Period.

Anyways, just to be sure, I actually bought the smallest bottle they made of “Catalina” dressing so that I could do a side-by-side comparison. (*”Catalina” dressing greatly differs from “French” dressing. Catalina is much sweeter, more tomato-y, is not cream-style, has a few more spices, does not contain mustard, and is thinner in consistency.)

I made mine as I always have.

Then opened the bottle of the store-bought, manufactured salad dressing.

Uhm, how do I say this??? But it honestly tasted like overly sweet creamy ketchup.

I literally looked back at the bottle to make sure it read “Catalina”.

It sure wasn’t what I remember enjoying back in high school when we used to make “taco salad” from it.

It was the same shock that my homemade Ranch dressing gave me when comparing apples to, supposedly, apples.

I think a few companies have just gotten too big for their britches and don’t care what they sell to the public so long as they are making the big bucks.

Well, I’m not like that.

I work hard at recipes and share them so that we can all enjoy homemade dishes, condiments and desserts that taste the way they are supposed to.

Recipes that you can rely on and that can help out families on budgets.





This recipe is delicious, it’s economical, and has so many uses. Please don’t buy pre-made salad dressings. It really does only take minutes to make them homemade and require pantry items you already have. Why waste money buying something that doesn’t taste as good when you already have everything to make it better homemade, right? 😉

It only makes cents. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) 😉

After doing a side-by-side taste test to compare, I think this is spot on! My hubby agreed! The only difference?

One is homemade, healthier than manufactured, a just a tad better. 😉

Hope you all enjoy and that this recipe helps you out to make it from scratch, saves you a little bit of money, and tastes just as you remember! 😀 (Maybe even a little bit better. 😉 )

And don’t forget! This is the perfect dressing for your favorite retro Taco Salad, too! I’ll be sharing mine tomorrow! 😉 Stay tuned! 😀


catalina main 2




*Be sure to check out my other homemade dressings by typing “salad dressing” into the search bar! 😀 More to come! 


Classic Catalina Salad Dressing
Yield: 1 pint (2 cups)

Classic Catalina Salad Dressing


  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/8 cup tomato paste with roasted garlic such as Contadina (freeze rest for another use)
  • 1⁄4 cup + 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. water if desired for a thinner consistency, can add later if wanted
  • 2 Tbl. + 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coarse chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/16 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarse chopped (1 very rounded tsp.)
  • 1⁄8 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. regular table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup salad oil such as canola or regular vegetable oil
  • 8 - 10 drops red food coloring, optional but makes it look more like the authentic color


Add ketchup, garlic tomato paste, sugar, water, vinegar, onion, paprika, chili powder, garlic, worcestershire, salt and pepper into a blender.

Blend until smooth.

With the blender running, slowly add the oil.

Chill in fridge for at least an hour to let flavors blend and mellow.

Keep any leftover dressing refrigerated.

Leave out on counter for 15 - 30 minutes and stir well before serving. (Dressing will be a little thick icebox-cold). Stir in the extra 1 tsp. water if you haven't already added it.

Update! This ROCKED my Taco Salad!!!

taco salad main 1

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Thursday 3rd of May 2018

Do you happen to know the nutrional facts by chance. I'm keeping track of my calories, nutrients. I'm definitely gonna try this cause every sauce I've made homemade, it not only tastes better but we feel better. So its worth it. Thank you


Thursday 3rd of May 2018

I'm so sorry, Jo, but no I do not know the calorie nor fat intake. But, I can sure tell you this. My hubby and I go on salad binges any time we're starting to feel pudgy and sluggish, and we not only take off extra pounds instantly, but also feel better with all of my salad dressings. Even the creamy ones! So, I don't know! (We always make sure to add lean meats and cheeses, too, and it somehow all works!) I hope that is of some help at least!


Sunday 14th of January 2018

I laughed when I read this recipe with its precise measurements. I didn’t laugh when I used this dressing....unbelievable how good it is. Thanks for sharing.


Monday 4th of December 2017

What is shelf life of home made Catalina dressing?


Tuesday 5th of December 2017

That's a very good question, but I honestly don't know. We always use ours within a couple of days. Homemade salad dressings disappear FAST in our house!


Saturday 28th of January 2017

Making your recipe now - could not find catalina dressing at our local supermarkets here in Maryland, not even Wegman's, even if I wanted to buy readymade.


Sunday 29th of January 2017

Thank you, Patricia! I so hope you enjoy it! Happy that I could help! Let me know what you think, and thanks for stopping by! :)

J. Ellis

Monday 2nd of January 2017

Going to use it in my new 'flavor-injection device' to marinate either a turkey or a pork butt(?), Almost the same as their marinate (maybe they copied yours--plagiarism runs amok)!


Monday 2nd of January 2017

I would not doubt it for a SECOND that they probably did steal it!! (*I adjusted and adjusted my recipe in my own kitchen until I had it right. I had a small bottle in the fridge to go by, that my hubby refused to eat because he said it "tasted funny". ) It took me quite awhile to get it right, and was very proud of my final results. It sure wouldn't be the first time that my recipes have been stolen, not only by companies, but other bloggers as well. Always sad and infuriating. But I GUARANTEE you, that the above recipe is ALL me. ALL my own.

Skip to Recipe