Easily made from scratch, homemade Thousand Island dressing is so much tastier and more economical than store bought. Use it for salads, sandwiches, or as a delicious fry sauce.

Overhead image of homemade thousand island dressing in a small jar with a little white spoon in it. Jar is placed on a wooden surface with a blue and white towel.

Ever wonder what that “secret sauce” on a Big Mac is? Or maybe you wonder what makes a Reuben sandwich taste so good (besides the corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese)? Well, here’s the secret: Thousand Island dressing!

We love Thousand Island dressing because it has so many uses. It’s just amazing on a sandwich, whether it’s a hamburger or turkey burger, or a classic Reuben or Rachel sandwich. It’s the perfect dressing for these oven baked turkey sliders (aka Rachel sandwiches).

Please don’t settle for plain ol’ mayonnaise on your sandwich! Make it much more interesting and delicious with creamy, tangy and slightly sweet Thousand Island dressing.

Thousand Island dressing is so good on salads, too. I usually lean toward oil and vinegar dressings, like honey mustard vinaigrette or lemon basil vinaigrette, but some salads just call for a good creamy dressing, especially salads with romaine or iceberg lettuce.

Have you ever tried Thousand Island dressing on taco salad? Yum! Or try mixing Thousand Island dressing with coleslaw mix to make a knock-out coleslaw. Don’t these Reuben Eggs Benedict made with Thousand Island dressing sound delicious? Can’t wait to try those!

A little history: If you ever wondered where the name Thousand Island comes from, you’ll be interested to know that this dressing originated in the Thousand Islands region, an archipelago of 1,864 islands located along the upper St. Lawrence River between the United States and Canada. Who created this dressing first is sort of a mystery, as there are a lot people claiming to have been the first person to make it. 

While you won’t be the first person to come up with the idea for Thousand Island dressing, you may certainly make your own homemade version using ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry or fridge. Nothing compares to homemade dressing! It’s so much fresher tasting and you can customize it to your own preferences.

Image of homemade thousand island dressing in a jar with a small white spoon.

About this Thousand Island dressing recipe:

This recipe for Thousand Island dressing is pretty simple. It calls for nine ingredients, and two of those ingredients are salt and pepper. While there are often only 3 ingredient recipes for this dressing (mayo, ketchup, pickle relish), the extra ingredients add more layers of flavor. 

Get a small bowl out of your cupboard and stir together mayo, ketchup, sweet pickle relish. Now we’ve covered the three ingredients. Next, stir in a tablespoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar, amping up the sweet/sour flavor. For the final touch, stir in a little finely chopped onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. 

For best results, prepare the dressing at least an hour or up to 24 hours ahead of time so the flavors have a chance to meld, and the onion and garlic soften up a bit. 

Overhead image of a jar of thousand island dressing, made from scratch.

What’s the Difference Between Thousand Island and Russian dressing?

It appears that Russian dressing was created first, sometime in the mid 1800s. Thousand Island dressing is most likely a variant of Russian dressing, appearing in the early 1900s. Both dressings are mayonnaise based and contain ketchup or chili sauce. Russian dressing tends to have hot sauce or horseradish, while Thousand Island dressing more often includes chopped pickles, onions, peppers, and/or hard boiled egg. 

Image of thousand island dressing, homemade.

How to make this Thousand Island your own:

There are lots of different ways to customize Thousand Island dressing. Here’s a few ideas but feel free to experiment. Make your own “secret” sauce!

  • Add an egg. Many Thousand Island dressing recipes call for a finely chopped hard boiled egg. Keep in mind, this will reduce the length of time you can store the dressing in the fridge. I’d toss it after a week.
  • Don’t care for garlic or onion? Leave it out. You could substitute finely chopped peppers or olives. 
  • If you don’t have white vinegar, substitute a different kind of vinegar. Cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar would all be fine although each would lend a slightly different flavor. 
  • Don’t have relish in your pantry? Try dill pickle relish instead of sweet pickle relish. I confess that I don’t always have sweet pickle relish in my pantry so I often use dill relish for this dressing and it tastes great! Alternatively, make it without relish. Or just chop up some pickles and add those. 
  • If you want to spice it up, add a little hot sauce, chili sauce, or horseradish, to taste.  
  • To make this dressing keto friendly, use avocado oil mayonnaise and a no-sugar-added ketchup. Skip the sugar, and use dill pickles instead of sweet. 

Storage Tips

Refrigerate leftover Thousand Island in a glass jar or airtight plastic container. It should keep for at least a week.

Other salad dressing recipes:

Homemade salad dressings are the best! Economical and easy to make, you’ll never go back to bottled dressing! Try these popular dressings:

Overhead image of homemade thousand island dressing in a small jar with a little white spoon in it. Jar is placed on a wooden surface with a blue and white towel.

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

Yield: 1 3/4 cup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Easily made from scratch, homemade Thousand Island dressing is so much tastier and more economical than store bought. Use it for salads, sandwiches, or as a delicious fry sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 clove)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or jar. Refrigerate for at least one hour to let flavors meld.

Notes

  • Don't have sweet pickle relish? Use dill pickle relish or chopped up pickles.
  • Variations: add hot sauce, chili sauce, or horseradish. Or add 1 chopped hard boiled egg.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 14 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 122Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 212mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 3gProtein: 0g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: Love all the flavor of this homemade dressing! 
Husband’s take: Ben isn’t generally a fan of creamy dressings, so he usually passes on this one.
Changes I would make: None are necessary.
Difficulty: Easy.