Thousand-island dressing

I was caught one Sunday on which I had planned chef’s salads without thousand-island dressing. Research on the web brought me, combined from many different pieces of advice, to the following recipe which to my surprise was recieved with much accolade.

The biggest, single gaffe in making thousand-island is to put too much ketchup in it, which I realized immediately as soon as I followed a proportion I found on a web page. This poor judgment afflicts many store-bought brands. A light, creamy dressing is best.

This recipe scales pretty well—it’s all a matter of taste.


Basic ingredients are mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, onions, bell peppers, hard-boiled egg and olives. You may add anything you want and like, but if you’ve never made it before, don’t tempt fate: start with these ingredients here and then branch out later carefully. The following quantity is more or less for 2 cups of dressing:

1¼ cups mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup egg
¼ cup sweet pickles (fine-minced) or relish
1 tbsp red onion
1 tbsp bell pepper
1 tsp olive
¼ tsp fresh-ground black pepper


1. Prepare item ingredients by mincing into very tiny pieces. These are the "islands" in this dressing. You're looking for lots of color.

2. Mix ketchup into mayonnaise in a bowl. Gently fold in all other ingredients. Season to taste, but realize that other ingredients may contain enough salt already, especially if you use relish for pickles, etc.

3. Remember to refrigerate this dressing! With no preservatives unlike store-bought, it will only keep a few days.

My thousand-island dressing rant...

Thousand-island dressing used to be like baseball, mother, the flag and apple pie in the United States of America. It was our favorite dressing. In the 1970s, it lost out to ranch dressing.

The best commercial thousand-island dressing can be had at our local Macey's and grocery stores across the country. It's also one of the least expensive. It's Ken's Steak House brand. It's usually easy to tell a good thousand-island dressing: The lighter in color it is, the higher the quality and better the taste.

For example, compare WishBone, which is not a good-flavor brand. And, it is predictably darker.

What does this mean? I have made this dressing (recipe above) from scratch many times. I have experimented with it. I have also tasted thousand-island dressing from different brands. The answer is: The bad-tasting brands, like WishBone, put too much ketchup into their product. The ketchup overwhelms the mayonnaise in the dressing giving it a heavy, sweet tomatoey taste. It screams, "Pay attention to me not the salad." Thousand-island is supposed to be light and just sweet enough (pretty much what any salad dressing is supposed to be).

To fix this, the balance must be more toward the mayonnaise. Better balance is also how they make this dressing at Brick Oven Restaurant in Provo, but you cannot buy it. Brigham Young University Food Services used to sell a good-quality thousand-island dressing too, it was lighter and better tasting. I haven't shopped at the BYU Creamery in a long time, maybe it's still there. Again, however, the color predicts it.

Americans no longer eat thousand-island dressing since ranch dressing was introduced in the 1970s while I was away in France. Most Americans haven't even heard of thousand-island dressing.

The reason ranch dressing is preferred is a self-fulfilling sort of thing. Most thousand-island dressing made was horrible because most manufacturers in charge of formulation did not understand the balance between ketchup and mayonnaise. When ranch showed up, it was lighter and more pleasant than these heavy, yucky thousand-island dressings. It beat their pants off. If this had not been the case, then thousand-island dressing would enjoy an equal market share with ranch.

Some thousand-island manufacturers did understand the problem of ratio. They produced the dressings that won many of us over to thousand-island dressing before ranch appeared. But these manufacturers were in the minority.