Mmm, Thousand Island Dressing. That tasty “special sauce” that elevates salads and burgers and Reubens and is super easy to make at home.

In fact, it is so easy to make thousand island dressing that I’m sort of kicking myself for ever buying it ready-made. Five minutes and a little chilling time in the fridge, and you’ve got a tangy, zesty, “secret” sauce that’s equally at home on a piled-high burger as it is atop a nice, simple bed of greens.

It’s far less expensive than store-bought and it tastes, well, 1000 times better.

What’s in Thousand Island Dressing?

My recipe calls for ketchup, mayo, and relish; along with some finely minced onion and garlic. Then a bit of vinegar, salt, a dash of hot sauce if you like, and bam. Homemade Thousand Island.

How to Make Thousand Island Dressing?

Just mix the ingredients together in a small bowl and, like magic, Thousand Island Dressing! The flavor develops when you refrigerate it, so try to make it in advance if you can.

More frequently asked questions

Why is it called Thousand Island Dressing?

When I first shared this recipe, I didn’t know why! But some research turned up that “the name presumably comes from the Thousand Islands between the United States and Canada in the St. Lawrence River. In the Thousand Islands area, one common version of the dressing’s origins says that a fishing guide’s wife, Sophia LaLonde, made the condiment as part of her husband George’s shore dinner.” (source)

Reader CJ shared, “They call it Thousand Islands Dressing – originally known as Sophia’s Sauce because the recipe originated in the Thousand Islands. This unique and once the play ground of the very rich during the gilded age was and is a fisherman’s paradise. Today, although and nonetheless beautiful, and still a vacation destination, like most of upstate New York, the evidence of poverty can not be denied … I have a copy of the original, hand written recipe …”

Reader Kathy also shared, “Just wanted to let you know that Thousand Island dressing comes from the Thousand Island area of up state NY. Where are over a thousand island in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Fishing guides would take them out to fish and then cook them a ‘shore dinner’ One of there wives came up with the recipe. They lived in Clayton NY and who can still go there and get the original dressing..I grew up there and when I moved I realized most of the country had no idea that’s how it originated.”

Scroll down to read the comments for even more interesting information about the origin of Thousand Island Dressing.

How can I pep up this Thousand Island Dressing recipe?

  • Many people like to add a finely diced hard boiled egg to the recipe, in fact, the original recipe (mentioned above) apparently included that. The egg adds a nice rich texture.
  • Worcestershire sauce adds some nice flavor. One reader adds that and a pinch of ground cloves! Sounds delicious.
  • Others like to use tomato sauce or tomato paste instead of the ketchup – the tomato paste would add a nice concentrated tomato element along with a bit of that coveted umami flavor.
  • Many readers like to add some horseradish for a nice bit of zip. Others add a bit of cocktail sauce or even substitute the ketchup completely with cocktail sauce.
  • To spice it up, add a dash of Tabasco as the recipe suggests. One reader adds chili-garlic sauce; another loves Sriracha. Yum!

So many ideas to make it your own!

If I don’t have sweet relish, can I use a different type of relish?

Yes! Dill relish is also delicious, or you could even finely chop some sweet or dill pickles and add them to the mix. We had a reader report using a spicy zucchini relish with success too! Make it your own. 

Can I use onion powder instead of fresh onion?

Absolutely! I have not yet tried it this way personally, but a reader reported 1/4 teaspoon onion powder worked well.

Does Thousand Island Dressing have dairy?

No, this recipe is dairy-free.

Does Thousand Island Dressing have eggs?

Mayonnaise has eggs, so, yep! But you can use a vegan mayonnaise to omit the eggs.

Is Thousand Island Dressing vegan?

No, it is not, because the mayonnaise has eggs. But it’s a really easy swap – just use Vegenaise or another fave vegan mayonnaise instead of the classic mayo. Done!

If you try this recipe, please leave a rating! And, if you find it share-worthy – which I hope you do – please share. Tag #kitchentreaty on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, and don’t forget to check out my other recipes!

Prep: 5 mins
Total: 5 mins

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

4.78 stars from 35 ratings
Five minutes and a little chilling time in the fridge, and you've got a tangy, zesty, "secret" sauce that's equally at home on a burger as it is over a salad. Far less expensive than store-bought and it tastes, well, a thousand times better!
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 2 teaspoons finely diced onion ((I use red onion but yellow or white would work just fine))
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely minced garlic ((about half of a small clove))
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce ((optional))

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix well. Taste and add additional salt if desired. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld. Serve.
  • Keeps refrigerated for up to a week.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 2tablespoons, Calories: 57kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 273mg, Potassium: 16mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 100IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Iron: 1mg

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing recipe - Five minutes and a little chilling time in the fridge, and you've got a tangy, zesty, "secret" sauce that's equally at home on a piled-high burger as it is atop a nice, simple bed of greens. It's far less expensive than store-bought and it tastes, well, a thousand times better. Vegan option.

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