Everything You Need to Know About French Dressing

Parul Dube

October 13, 2022

French dressing has been a classic salad accompaniment since its introduction to the Americans in the 1880s. However, the name is a misnomer with a somewhat murky past and a controversial list of ingredients. Though most people use French dressing and French vinaigrette synonymously, they are quite different in taste, appearance, and origin. 

‘Vinaigrette’ refers to any vinegar-based dressing. The original French dressing was a member of the vinaigrette family until the dressing was regulated in the US to become a promoted version of ketchup. The French Vinaigrette consists of olive oil, balsamic, champagne or red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, minced shallots (or garlic), salt, and pepper. At the same time, the French dressing comprises oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, sugar, tomato paste or puree, and seasonings like paprika (according to the FDA regulation of 1950). However, the concerned authorities altered the FDA regulation regarding French dressing in 2022 to give French dressing manufacturers a chance to choose the ingredients of their liking. As a result, the modern-day French dressing is a sweet and tangy sauce that ranges in shades of pale orange to bright red, unlike the classic yellow colour of a vinaigrette. 

French dressings were easily made at home and packed with taste and nutrients back in the day. In the Twenty-First century, the supermarkets offer hundreds of brands and varieties of French dressings at the drop of a hat, full of sugar and calories. But the vintage dressing has not lost its touch yet retains several nutritional and health benefits. The dressing is popularly known as ‘Catalina dressing’ in some parts of the world. You may further enhance and enjoy these benefits by preparing them at home. 

Nutritional Properties of French Dressing 

As per the USDA, 100 gms of French dressing contains the following nutritional values.

  • Energy: 419 Kcal
  • Water: 39.3 gm
  • Total Fat: 39.1 gm
  • Carbohydrate: 18.8 gm
  • Sugars: 17.4 gm 
  • Vitamin E (Alphatocopherol): 5 gm
  • Fiber: 2.4 gm
  • Protein: 0.87 gm
  • Sodium: 661 mg
  • Potassium: 108 mg
  • Calcium: 27 mg
  • Phosphorus: 25 mg
  • Magnesium: 7 mg
  • Iron: 0.32 mg
  • Zinc: 0.12 mg
  • Carotene (beta): 232 μg

Note: The nutritional values are for one hundred grams of French dressing, but that is not the recommended amount for eating. The advisable amount of French dressing consumption is not more than two tablespoons a day for best taste and healthy imbibition of nutrients. 

French Dressing and Its Positive Impacts on Your Health

Vinegar is a Primary Ingredient in French Dressing

There are various types of vinegar, processed and natural, but only the latter is healthy for you. Best suited for French dressing, balsamic, red wine, or Champagne vinegar are good and pure in taste and offer many health benefits. Naturally produced vinegar aid in digestion, promote gut health, lower cholesterol, boosts metabolism, improve skin health, increase immunity, and help to lower and stabilise blood pressure. 

Also, according to research, vinegar has an anti-glycemic effect on the body (lowers or stabilises blood sugar levels), promotes anti-tumour activity, and reduces hypertension. Therefore, experts advise consuming such vinegar in condiments and salad dressings to derive maximum health benefits. 

It Offers the Benefits of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is not a single compound; it is a group of eight lipid-soluble compounds. ‘Alpha-tocopherol’ or what you might know as Vitamin E, is a compound that occurs naturally in foods safe for human consumption and has many health benefits. Seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, and certain vegetables are rich in Vitamin E. Since French dressing is incomplete without olive oil, it possesses high levels of Vitamin E. 

According to a study, vitamin E is rich in antioxidants. As a result, it is effective against cancer, arthritis, ageing, cataracts, platelet hyper aggression, and improves the overall blood flow. Thus, moderate consumption of French dressing to imbibe Vitamin E can enrich the body’s antioxidant defences and maintain good health.

Rich in Potassium

One hundred grams of French dressing contains almost 108 milligrams of Potassium. Potassium plays a vital role in maintaining the proper functioning of the body. For example, it helps in the smooth functioning of the kidney by regulating the fluid levels in our body, eliminating excess sodium, and preventing the formation of kidney stones. Potassium also aids in keeping the blood pressure low and ensuring a healthy cardiovascular system. 

Research says that potassium not only slows the progression of renal diseases but also plays an essential role in the management of hypercalciuria and decreases the risk of osteoporosis. It also hydrates the body and provides it with necessary electrolytes to lessen muscle soreness when consumed before or after a workout. Therefore, having a salad meal with a drizzle of French dressing will improve your health and satisfy your post-workout craving for some filling foods.

Calcium-Rich Accompaniments

Calcium is an essential nutrient for maintaining bone health, muscle functioning, and cardiovascular health. Studies show that appropriate calcium intake is beneficial in reducing hypertensive pregnancy disorders, lowering blood pressure levels, and preventing osteoporosis, colorectal adenomas, renal stones, and myocardial infarction. French dressing consists of decent calcium levels and is a good source of nutrients if one eats it in moderation. 

Best Ways to Prepare French Dressing

Classic French Vinaigrette Dressing 

The french dressing is a vintage, simple dressing enhanced by the inclusion of minced shallots. It is a very famous dressing prevalent in most restaurants and buffets.

Servings: 2

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Calories per serving: 128


  • Extra-virgin olive oil or any vegetable oil: 3 tbsp
  • Red wine vinegar: 1 tbsp
  • Minced shallot: 1 tbsp
  • Dijon-style mustard: ½ tsp
  • Kosher salt: According to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper: According to taste 


  • Whisk together oil, vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a large salad bowl.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the salad of your choice and toss well to combine well. Serve the dressing at room temperature for the best taste and texture. 

French Dressing Recipe

It is an American-staple, sweet, and tangy French dressing. It can be prepared within minutes and has a low calorific value.

Servings: 16 (2tbsp each)

Preparation Time: 2 minutes

Calories per serving: 146


  • Granulated sugar: 1 cup
  • Ketchup: 2/3 cup
  • Light olive oil: ½ cup
  • White vinegar: ½ cup
  • Dried mustard: ½ tsp
  • Chilli powder: ½ tsp
  • Celery seeds: ½ tsp
  • Onion powder: ½ tsp
  • Paprika: 1/8 tsp
  • Salt: According to taste


  • Add sugar, ketchup, olive oil, vinegar, celery seeds, chilli powder, dried mustard, onion powder, paprika, and salt in a blender or food processor. Process or blend until you get a smooth paste.
  • Toss a salad of your liking in it and serve at room temperature. You can even store it in the refrigerator.

Storage and Food Safety

Store-bought French dressings will last in the refrigerator for more than six months at least, more if mentioned otherwise on the label. They shall keep well as long as you refrigerate the dressings after opening the bottle. If left in the open, unrefrigerated, it is better not to consume post 24 hours. Since store-bought dressings have added preservatives, they last longer. You can store homemade French dressing in the refrigerator for a week, which is risky. Vinegar, salt, and sugar preserve the dressing and keep it safe from bacterial growth, but not as long as preservatives do. Also, it is better to shake the dressing and let it return to room temperature before consuming it to ensure the best taste and texture. 

Possible Adverse Effects of French Dressing 

High Sodium Content

Sodium is an essential nutrient that plays a significant role in the smooth functioning of the nervous system and kidneys. In addition, it is instrumental in regulating blood pressure. According to the FDA, an adult should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, almost equal to a teaspoon of table salt. However, 100 grams of French dressing contains 661 milligrams of sodium. This ratio means that two tablespoons of French dressing have around 185 milligrams of sodium, 8% of an adult’s advised total sodium intake in a day. 

Though it does not sound much, along with other meals, a generous helping of French dressing can quickly exceed the recommended sodium consumption. Studies show that excessive sodium consumption can lead to water retention, kidney diseases, and high blood pressure. 


Almost every person is allergic to something. However, in the case of people who are allergic to mustard seeds, paprika, or other ingredients of French dressing, its over-consumption or, more specifically, even slight consumption can lead to several problems. These problems may include itching of the mouth and throat, development of hives (a type of rashes), swelling of the skin, and even narrowing of the throat and collapse, amongst others. 

One should not take allergic reactions lightly and check the store-bought dressing bottles for further allergen warnings for any extra ingredients. Suppose you suffer from pollen allergy or other common forms of allergic sensitivities. It is wiser to carry adrenaline auto-injectors, a device you can immediately use when a severe reaction or anaphylaxis is suspected. 

Potential Weight Gain 

French dressing, or at least the currently favoured US version of the classic dressing, is high in calories, sugars, and preservatives (if store-bought). Adding a spoonful or two of it to your salads from time to time is acceptable. However, excess consumption of French dressing can be detrimental to weight loss and undo all the health benefits it usually possesses. It is better to make the dressing at home with organic ingredients and consume it in moderation if you intend to lose weight and make the most of its nutritional elements. 


After all these years, French dressing is a staple salad dressing that has not lost its appeal over time, both in taste and nutritional value. Though the original dressing offers more health benefits than the current, widely-prevalent American one, even the latter has not lost the goodness of Vinegar, Vitamin E, Potassium, and Calcium. There are a bunch of salads that you can dress using French dressing. As long as you enjoy your French dressing in moderation, you can derive all the benefits of its nutritional elements and not worry about the adverse effects of high sodium consumption and weight gain. Unfortunately, most sauces and dressings readily available today have significant chances of increasing your weight if consumed often.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. 1 What is French salad dressing made of?

A. Traditionally, a French salad dressing is made of olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced shallots (or garlic), salt, and pepper. However, according to the 1950 regulation of the FDA (amended in 2022), French salad dressing in the US must comprise olive or vegetable oil, vinegar, lime juice, mustard, tomato puree, ketchup, paprika, and other seasonings. Therefore, ingredients like staple oil, vinegar, and mustard combination remain steady, irrespective of time and locale.

Q. 2 Is French dressing the same as Thousand Island dressing? 

A. No, the Thousand Island dressing is different from French dressing on a fundamental level. Though both condiments are tomato-based, their recipes differ. The Thousand Island dressing combines ketchup, mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, vinegar, minced onion and garlic. In contrast, the French dressing is composed of olive oil, vinegar, mustard, ketchup, sugar, and paprika, among other seasonings. The former is mayo-based, while the latter relies more on vegetable oil. 

Q. 3 What is the difference between French dressing and Catalina dressing? 

A. Most people consider Catalina dressing to be a variant of the French dressing. Still, there is a slight difference as the former has a runnier consistency and is higher in ketchup content. In contrast, the latter has a normal consistency, with the chief focus being on the oil and vinegar consistency. The Catalina dressing comprises oil, vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper. In contrast, the French dressing includes olive oil, Dijon mustard, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, minced shallot or garlic, and paprika. Catalina sauce is ideal for those who like the taste of ketchup more in moderate amounts. In some regions, Catalina dressings are the commercial name for French dressing.

Q. 4 Can you substitute French dressing for Russian dressing?

A. The Thousand Island dressing is the best substitute for Russian dressing, but if it is unavailable, then French dressing is an ideal replacement for the latter. As Russian dressing consists of mayonnaise, ketchup, minced onion, hot sauce, pickled horseradish, and paprika, it only requires thickening and further spicing according to taste. All of the mentioned ingredients can be availed in a slightly-tweaked French salad dressing as the substantial ketchup-lipid base are already present.

Q. 5 What is the difference between French dressing and Russian dressing?

A. A French dressing is rooted in oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, ketchup, minced shallot or garlic, sugar, and paprika. On the other hand, the Russian dressing mainly comprises mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, minced onion, pickle horseradish, and paprika. The former is lighter and oil-based, while the latter is mayo-based and tangier. 

Q. 6 What is the healthiest dressing for a salad?

A. Any variant of a vinaigrette is the healthiest dressing for a salad as it is simply a combination of oil and vinegar with various spices and condiments in moderation, like the balsamic vinaigrette, lemon vinaigrette, or apple cider vinaigrette. 

Q. 7 Is Royal red dressing French dressing?

A. Yes, the Royal red dressing is a variety of French dressing, only it has more paprika and ketchup added to it, resulting in a deep red colour. 

Q. 8 Do they eat French dressing in France?

A. No, the modern-day French dressing of the US is native and does not originate in France. The French vinaigrette does trace its origin to France and is still widely consumed. The ketchup-based, sweet, and tangy French dressing is all-American and not eaten or preferred in France.  

Q. 9 Is California French the same as Catalina dressing?

A. Yes, the California French is a classic Catalina dressing, with bright red colour and notes of sweet tomato, tangy vinegar, and spicy paprika, among other ingredients. However, it has a thinner consistency than a classic French dressing. 

Q. 10 What is the worst salad dressing for you? 

A. Any mayonnaise-based dressing can be considered the unhealthiest one for you. Full of sodium and unhealthy fat, when mayo-based dressings have extra sugar, processed condiments, and excessive spices added, they become a ticking health-hazard bomb. Again, the Thousand Island dressing tops the list, closely followed by Ranch, Russian, and Catalina. 

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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