Classic French Dressing Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 10 min.
This French dressing recipe has a sweet and tangy flavor that tastes so much fresher than store-bought. We'll show you how to make French dressing in only 10 minutes using pantry staples.

Updated: Jul. 08, 2024

While bottled dressings are convenient, they just don’t compare to the flavor of homemade salad dressing. Once you learn how to make French dressing, homemade salad dressings will be that much more appealing. This sweet-and-tangy dressing comes together quickly and easily using just eight common pantry ingredients.

What is French dressing?

French dressing is a thick reddish orange dressing favored for its use in green salads and pasta salads, and with grilled meats. Believe it or not, “French dressing” once referred to any vinaigrette that was seasoned simply with salt, pepper and herbs. Around the 1950s, the dressing began to change and take on a lively red hue.

Today’s French dressings are still made with oil and vinegar (just like a vinaigrette) and include tomato sauce or ketchup. Most recipes also incorporate sugar for extra sweetness, paprika for color, and other flavorful seasonings like onion and garlic.

What’s the difference between French and Catalina dressings?

French and Catalina dressings are both red-orange salad dressings that contain similar ingredients. However, Catalina dressing tends to have a thinner consistency. It’s also a bit more tangy and savory, thanks to ingredients like Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.

Ingredients for French Dressing

overhead shot of ingredientsTMB Studio

  • Ketchup: Regular ol’ ketchup forms the base of this tomato dressing. Choose a flavorful ketchup brand to ensure the French dressing recipe tastes fantastic.
  • Sugar: Some of the dressing’s signature sweetness comes from ketchup, and the rest comes from granulated sugar.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar is a key ingredient in any vinaigrette recipe. White vinegar helps balance the sweet ingredients and creates a sweet-and-tangy character.
  • Onion: You can use any kind of onion, such as an all-purpose yellow onion or a sweet variety like Walla Walla or Vidalia. Mince the onion very finely so that it blends into the dressing.
  • Garlic: A little garlic gives the French dressing recipe a savory punch. Don’t bother with jarred garlic; it’s easy enough to mince fresh garlic and the flavor will be much more pronounced.
  • Seasonings: What is French dressing without its signature color? A generous spoonful of paprika contributes to this dressing’s bright red hue.
  • Oil: Oil is another key ingredient of a good salad dressing. We use neutral-flavored vegetable oil, but you can substitute extra virgin olive oil.


Step 1: Blend the first seven ingredients

combine all the ingredients a blender or food processorTMB Studio

In a blender or food processor, combine the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, onion, garlic, paprika and salt. Cover and process the ingredients until they are blended.

Step 2: Add the oil

add oil in the processorTMB Studio

With the food processor still running, gradually add the oil in a steady stream. Continue processing the dressing until it’s thickened. Store in the refrigerator.

Editor’s Tip: If using a food processor, add the oil through the feeder tube. If using a blender, add the oil through the hole in the cover.

wide shot of classic french dressing served with green saladTMB Studio

Recipe Variations

  • Try a different variety of paprika: Smoked Spanish paprika will add smokiness to the French dressing recipe, whereas Hungarian hot paprika will infuse the dressing with a little heat.
  • Add horseradish: Another way to add heat is by stirring 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish into the dressing.
  • Make it sugar-free: Use sugar-free ketchup and omit the white sugar. You can add sweetness with a flavorful vinegar like apple cider or balsamic vinegar. Adding a little lemon juice can also help amplify the other flavors, lessening the need for sugar.

How to Store French Dressing

Transfer the dressing to a tightly covered jar or a glass storage container and store it in the fridge. For the best flavor and texture, use the dressing within three to four days and stir it before serving.

French Dressing Tips

close shot of green salad garnished with classic french dressingTMB Studio

How do you use French dressing?

Fresh green salads are just calling out for a homemade French dressing recipe! Try the dressing on a garden chickpea salad, green salad with berries or DIY salad in a jar. French dressing can add zip and sweetness to other kinds of salads too. Mix it into bacon macaroni salad or taco pasta salad. It also works as a basting sauce for grilled chicken or baked pork chops.

Are French dressing and Thousand Island dressing the same?

French dressing and Thousand Island dressing both contain ketchup, vinegar and flavoring like onion. Thousand Island, however, also has mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish, giving it a pale pink color and textured appearance. Learn how to make French dressing, and then add sweet relish and mayonnaise to make your own version of Thousand Island dressing!

Classic French Dressing

Prep Time 10 min
Yield 1-2/3 cups


  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil


  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the first seven ingredients; cover and process until blended. While processing, gradually add the oil in a steady stream. Process until thickened. Store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts

2 tablespoons: 100 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 186mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein.

Making salad dressings at home is very easy! This recipe has many pantry staples so it is easy to whip up any time. It tastes wonderful on any greens.—Maron Craig Bielovitz, Elmhurst, Pennsylvania
Recipe Creator