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.
hearts of lettuce with Thousand Island dressing deserves a comeback!
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, and it can seem a bit strange in an era of delicate spring mixes and microgreens. But trust me, hearts of lettuce with its epic crunch is definitely back.
what is Thousand Island dressing?
Thousand Island dressing is named after the Thousand Island region of upstate New York, in the St Lawrence River along the border with Canada, and it’s 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.
Besides the head of crisp lettuce that you’ll cut into wedges, you will need a list of ingredients to make the dressing. all of them are (or should be ) ingredients you have in your fridge or pantry. In its most basic form, Thousand Island could be compared to McDonald’s secret sauce. But the real thing is so much more complex than that…
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.
- mayo ~ 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.
- chili sauce ~ this can be Heinz, or an Asian style chili sauce. I’m borrowing this element from Thousand Island’s cousin, Russian dressing!
- white onion
- bell pepper
- relish ~ relish adds a sweet briny note, and also that characteristic lumpy texture we know and love.
- Worcestershire sauce
- horseradish ~ prepared horseradish in a jar adds an unmistakable punch.
- celery seed
- salt and pepper
if you choose to make your mayonnaise from scratch
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?
wedge salad with Thousand Island dressing FAQs
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.
Store your homemade dressing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Yes, use vegan mayonnaise in place of regular mayo.
I get it, you can buy all sorts of Thousand Island dressings at the supermarket, but no bottled dressing can come close to the fresh flavors of homemade. A great dressing will tempt you to eat more salads and fresh veggies, which is priceless.
how to use your homemade Thousand Island dressing
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. But that’s not where it ends!
- Substitute this dressing for the dressing in just about any salad recipe!
- Use it as a dip for raw veggies.
- Drizzle it on fish tacos.
- Dip your French fries into it.
- Use it as the dip for shrimp cocktail.
- Slather it on a Reuben sandwich.
- It’s basically a glorified ‘secret sauce‘ for burgers and Perfect Patty Melts. We love to dress our Burger Salad Bowl with Thousand Island.
- Try using it as a dressing for potato salad or pasta salad.
- Drizzle on pizza (no judgment here.)
- Are you serving an old fashioned relish tray? You need some Thousand Island!
Hearts of Lettuce with Thousand Island Dressing
- 1 head of bibb or iceberg lettuce
- 4 strips 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 Tbsp (heaping) finely minced white onion
- 1 Tbsp (heaping) finely minced red bell pepper
- 1 Tbsp (heaping) 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
Thousand Island dressing
- 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.