Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

For salads, sandwiches, dips, and more.

Southern Living Thousand Island Salad Dressing on a salad

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
15 mins
1 cup

In the South, if someone says their burger or sandwich is made with a "secret sauce," you can almost guarantee it goes by another name: Thousand Island dressing.

This sweet, tangy, creamy dressing may be best known as a salad dressing, but that's not where it's utility stops. You'll also find it on burgers (it's the secret sauce of a Big Mac at McDonald's), on Reuben sandwiches, even as a dip for French fries.

Here, learn how to make homemade Thousand Island dressing and how long you can keep it stored in the fridge.

What's in Thousand Island Dressing?

This tangy, slightly sweet salad dressing is traditionally made with mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish, and vinegar or lemon juice. But as everyone's particular preferences for Thousand Island dressing develops, some use additions like minced onion, paprika, celery, even hard-boiled eggs.

For our version, you'll need ketchup, mayo, sweet pickle relish, sweet onion, garlic, white vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper.

Southern Living Thousand Island Dressing Ingredients

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

What does Thousand Island dressing taste like?

Thousand Island dressing is fairly sweet. The ketchup offers sweetness, as does the bit of added sugar. (You can leave that out if you like a more tangy dressing.)

This salad dressing is beloved on salads in which the greens might have a bit of bitterness, or wedge salads where the thick, creamy dressing looks beautiful on the hunk of iceberg.

Why Is It Called Thousand Island dressing?

The history of the Thousand Island dressing is a little fuzzy, but most accounts trace it back to the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River, between the United States and Canada. So while it's not Southern, we've certainly taken a liking to it and love to eat it on everything from fried bologna sandwiches to burgers.

Southern Living Thousand Island salad dressing in a jar to serve

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How Long Does Homemade Salad Dressing Last?

Unlike bottled salad dressings, homemade dressings won't last long in the fridge. Once mixed, you should plan to use all of the dressing within one week. For best results, enjoy within 3 to 4 days.

Editorial contributions by Kimberly Holland.


  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup ketchup

  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion (about 1 small)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 tsp. white vinegar

  • 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper


  1. Mix ingredients:

    Add mayonnaise, ketchup, sweet pickle relish, onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper to a bowl.

    Southern Living Thousand Island Dressing ingredients

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Whisk to combine. Adjust salt and pepper to taste if needed.

    Southern Living Thousand Island dressing whisking together in a bowl

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  2. Chill salad dressing:

    Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally so sugar dissolves and flavors blend. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 1 week, stirring well before serving. 

    Southern Living Thousand Island dressing in a jar

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Additional reporting by
Kimberly Holland
Kimberly Holland
Kimberly Holland is a writer and editor with 15 years of experience in food, lifestyle, health, and nutrition content. She has been published in Southern Living, Real Simple, Allrecipes, EatingWell, Cooking Light, and other publications.
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