Hearts of Lettuce with Thousand Island Dressing is a delicious salad with tons of vintage charm. The homemade Thousand Island Dressing recipe is one you’ll use over and over.
If you were alive and eating solid foods in the 50s, 60s or even the 70s you probably remember hearts of lettuce salads with Thousand Island dressing. We needed a knife to carve our way into those crisp wedges of iceberg lettuce drenched in wonderful chunky pink dressing. This salad is either hopelessly old fashioned or mid-century chic, depending on your point of view.
What is Thousand Island Dressing?
Thousand Island dressing, named after the Thousand Island region of upstate New York, in the St Lawrence River along the border with Canada, has been around a long time. It was originally used as a sauce for fish, and because the area was popular with wealthy vacationers from big cities to the south, the story goes that it was discovered and put on the menu of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. This dressing would overwhelm the baby lettuces that we all love today, so you need to pair it with something sturdy like iceberg, romaine, or in this case a head of bibb lettuce cut in quarters.
To make Thousand Island dressing you need to start with mayonnaise. You can use store bought mayo if you want, but I made mine from scratch. You can read all about the easy process in my How to Make Mayonnaise in 30 Seconds post. There’s even a video if you’re a visual learner!
Authentic mayonnaise is a sauce made with raw eggs, and there is some minimal risk involved in eating them, so I opt for pasteurized eggs. That just means that the eggs have been specially heated to a temperature that kills any dangerous bacteria, without cooking the eggs, so you use them just the same way you use regular eggs, pretty cool, huh?
Store your finished dressing in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a week. It makes a great dip for raw veggies, too!
This thick rich dressing is so full of flavor, and along with some crumbled bacon completely transforms a wedge of lettuce into a decadent treat.
Ingredient list for homemade Thousand Island dressing
As written, my dressing is on the spicy side, feel free to moderate the heat to your liking.
- chili sauce
- white onion
- bell pepper
- Worcestershire sauce
- celery seed
- salt and pepper
Hearts of Lettuce with Thousand Island Dressing
- 1 head of bibb or iceberg lettuce
- 4 pieces of bacon, cook crisp and crumbled
Thousand Island Dressing
- 1 cup mayonnaise (homemade is best!) Homemade recipe here.
- 1 Tbsp chili sauce
- 1 Tbsp ketchup
- 1 heaping tablespoon finely minced white onion
- 1 heaping tablespoon finely minced red bell pepper
- 1 heaping tablespoon relish (sweet or dill)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp prepared horseradish, or horseradish cream
- Several squirts of Tabasco, to taste (use your favorite hot sauce)
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 pinch celery seed
- 2 pinches paprika
- salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients together. Taste as you go to get the exact proportions the way you like them. Refrigerate the dressing until you are ready to use it. Make it ahead to give the flavors a chance to develop and mingle.
- For the salad, take a nice tight head of iceberg or bibb lettuce and cut it in quarters. Cut out the core and put each wedge on a salad plate and spoon the Thousand Island dressing liberally on top. Garnish with lots of crumbled bacon.