You can't buy the legendary Original Taco House Fiesta Dressing at the restaurant or in the store anymore, but now you can make it at home! Perfect sweet heat for tacos, salads, sizzling meats, party dips - and much, much more!
What's the History of this Recipe?
On December 31, 2017, the Original Taco House, Portland's first "Mexican" restaurant and a fixture on the Eastside for more than fifty years, abruptly closed its doors forever - yet another old-school Portland restaurant lost to the mists of time.
The Original Taco House was one of those places that brought families together. The food was dependably good and priced to sell in our working-class neighborhood, and when I was little, it was one of my family's go-to spots for a night out. My Dad was a middle school teacher, and he often had former students who waited tables there, so there was always a smiling face to greet us. They treated Dad like a celebrity, and we always got great service.
^^^ The Original Taco House on Powell was the second OTH to open. [Image by Victor von Salza, used with permission]
When I got older and started dating Mr B, we made some fond memories of our own at Original Taco House. The original location on 82nd Avenue was just a short walk from our high school, and in 1980-something you could get a beef "El Picador" (what they called nachos before we called them nachos) or a large "meat & cheese salad" - both smothered with that amazing Original Taco House Fiesta Dressing and big enough for two - for four or five bucks. Needless to say, Mr B and I spent many (extended) lunch hours there sharing a meal and gazing adoringly into each others' eyes.
Later, when I went on to have my own family, we often found ourselves eating at the Original Taco House when we visited my parents, to the point where it became one of my kids' favorite eating spots. And the last time we ate there as a family, my grandchildren were sitting around the table with us. After three generations, dinner at the Original Taco House had become a solid family tradition.
Our last family dinner at the Original Taco House. We don't usually take pictures at restaurants, but this was a special occasion. (Any time we get five of our girls all together in the same place at the same time, it is a special occasion!)
After all that history, it probably goes without saying Mr B and I were pretty broken up about the Original Taco House's sudden closing. Sure, the decor was dated and the menu anything but authentically Mexican, but we loved it because of those things, not in spite of them.
Now there will be no more pictures of adorable black-eyed babies in sombreros hanging on the wall watching you eat. No more burros with brightly colored saddle packs. No more (amazing!) corn-flake crusted deep-fried ice cream balls. No more sizzling "El Picadors" heaped with melting cheese and olives and peppers. No more amazing house-made Fiesta Dressing.
What Goes into this Recipe
When I figured out that our favorite salad dressing would no longer be available, I started to worry. I checked our bottle in the fridge: only about two or three ounces left. I checked local stores: discontinued, and limited to stock on hand. Amazon: same. I sprung into action:
Me: "OK, no one touch the taco salad dressing!"
Them: "Why?" (Until that moment, no one was even thinking of it.)
Me: "I have to figure out the recipe before it's all gone. I need it for taste comparison."
Them [reaching into the fridge door for the bottle]: "What if we just use a little?" (Once again, no one had even considered using it that day until I mentioned it.)
Me: "Not. One. Drop." (Translation: Just put the bottle down and walk away slowly, and no one will get hurt.)
Good thing they know when I mean business.
To recreate the recipe, the first thing I did was consult the ingredient label on our treasured "last bottle."
Conveniently, ingredients on product labels are listed in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount first, followed in descending order by those in smaller amounts. This gave me a good road map for figuring out the recipe.
Original Fiesta Dressing is essentially a Tex-mex spin on Catalina: a sweet, spicy, and tangy, with just a hint of Romano.
I chose the brands of necessary premade products (i.e., El Pato Tomato Sauce, Chalula hot sauce) based on the ingredients listed parenthetically on the label list (i.e., the list of collective ingredients in the hot chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc. as listed on the label) in an effort to keep them as close to the original ingredients used as possible.
- El Pato Tomato Sauce has the exact list of "hot chili sauce" ingredients as are listed on the OTH dressing label, in the same order. It was the only sauce I could find that did.
- Xanthan gum is a thickener, and can be found the bulk food area of many stores. You don't have to use it, but if omitted, your dressing will be a little thinner.
After that, it was just a lot of mixing, tasting, adjusting, tasting, mixing, adjusting, tasting... and repeat. (Let's just say that I have enough Fiesta Dressing in my fridge now to get us all through a major nation-wide salad dressing shortage.)
In the end, I think we hit it pretty darn close. (We even nailed the exact calorie count of the original!) The mixture I created is somewhat creamier in appearance than the original Original Taco House Fiesta Dressing, but the flavor is spot-on and it has the familiar slightly sweet kick and peppery tang that we crave so much.
FAQs & Expert Tips
Original Taco House's El Picador Sauce Recipe
It definitely takes a village sometimes! I'm thrilled to share this tip with you!
According to Dieggs, who worked as a cook at OTH for four years, "the PIC sauce was a mix of 3 parts [Original Taco House Fiesta] dressing and 1 part El Pato sauce."
It just doesn't get any easier than that. Thanks again to our wonderful readers!
Fiesta Dressing adds a sweet little kick to tacos, salads, and nachos, of course, but I've also used it in everything from eggs to soups to casseroles, and as a marinade for grilling, all with amazing results. (Try it on our Vintage Layered Taco Salad)!)
Original Taco House Meat & Cheese Salad: The entire recipe for The Original Taco House "Meat & Cheese Salad" is contained in its name: Meat+Cheese+Salad (i.e., lettuce, tomatoes, dressing). So simple, and yet so good. (We make ours with seasoned ground chicken.)
Original Taco House Fiesta Dressing
- 1 Blender
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup Canola oil
- 6 tablespoons crushed or diced canned tomatoes drained
- 6 tablespoons El Pato Tomato Sauce, Mexican Hot Style Yellow can (not green)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce I use Chalula
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum optional
- 1 ounce Romano cheese fresh, finely grated
- ¾ - 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Put everything in a blender jar except the Romano cheese and black pepper, and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Add the cheese and pepper and pulse to break up the cheese a bit more.You want the pepper and cheese to be a little grainy to give the dressing some texture.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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