This is the recipe you're looking for! The flavor is a spot-on match for the legendary Original Taco House Fiesta Dressing! Sweet, spicy, and tangy, it's perfect for tacos, salads, sizzling meats, party dips - and much, much more!
The Original Taco House
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.
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.
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.
How We Created this Spot-on Copycat 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. (FYI: I also reached out to the Waddle family, who owned the restaurant. >>crickets<<)
So 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.
Once we gathered the specific ingredients, 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, we hit it pretty darn close. (We even nailed the exact calorie count of the original!) The mixture we 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.
Taco House Dressing Ingredients
To replicate the exact flavor of the dressing, we were careful to choose brands for premade ingredients (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.).
- Canola oil: You can use any light-tasting neutral oil.
- Canned tomatoes: Use plain crushed or diced tomatoes.
- El Pato Tomato Sauce (yellow can): This sauce has the exact list of "hot chili sauce" ingredients as are listed on the OTH dressing label, in the same order. Also, its use has been confirmed by a number of former OTH employees.
- Red wine vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Lemon juice: Use fresh, frozen, or bottled.
- Salt: We use kosher salt.
- Garlic powder
- Hot sauce: We use Chalula.
- Xanthan gum: This is a thickener, and can be found the bulk food area of many stores. It's totally optional; however, if it is omitted, the dressing will be a little thinner.
- Cheese: The bottle calls for grated Romano; however, we usually use Cotija (which is essentially Mexican Romano).
- Black pepper: Use freshly cracked black pepper.
How to Make Fiesta Dressing
Once you gather the ingredients, making this dressing really couldn't be easier!
Put everything in a blender jar except the cheese and black pepper, and blend until everything is 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.
If you use xanthan gum, it is critical that it be added before blending. If you add it later, it will be clumpy.
Top Tip: Picador Sauce
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!
More Salad Dressing Recipes
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.
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 ⅓ cup 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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Do you know how long the dressing will last in the fridge?
This dressing lasts quite a long time for one with no preservatives: at least two weeks in the fridge (based on personal experience and FDA recommendations).
Please please a recipe for the season chips. Someone? Anyone?
Thank you for the recipe, it is fantastic. There is a restaurant in St Helen’s, OR, called Burrito House. They have a dressing that tastes just like like OTC.
You are so welcome! Thank you for the kind words, and the info on the Burrito House, too. (They probably use my recipe! 😉 ) Seriously, that's not too far away - we will have to check it out!
Sam McGrady says
Still looking for the recipe for the OTH mild sauce. Jeff will not make it. It was Nate who died, not Jeff.
Hello Former OTH Staff -
Can you help Sam out? Contact me, and maybe we can put it all together.
Renée • The Good Hearted Woman
Any recipes for the Original Taco House’s salsa recipe? Or salt seasoning recipe for chips???
I'd forgotten about the seasoning salt! It was so unique and tasty! Occasionally, former employees leave OTH recipe tips here; hopefully, someone will leave us a clue.
Does anyone know the recipe for The Original Taco House refried beans, they were my favorite but I can't find anything close to them. I would also buy them from refrigerator across from the cash register at the Powell location. The packaging most likely had the ingredients but I never looked so I'm hoping someone else did. I would appreciate the help.
Okay wow! I have to admit I was skeptical because one, it was super easy, and two, nothing could ever compare right? WRONG!! This was spot on and brought me back to so many years of my childhood. Made the crispy taco bowls for the family tonight and it was a huge hit. Thank you for the effort you put into figuring this out because you killed it!
Wow right back at you, Alyssa! Thanks so much for the glowing feedback! I'm so glad it made you happy!
I just called Duck Tales & spoke with Steve. He said we need to call ahead to order the dressing & salsa, they are NOT doing the enchilada sauce.
I know they told me enchilada sauce, not salsa. Oh well.
The PIC sauce was a mix of 3 parts dressing and 1 part El Pato sauce. Lucky for you, you can make this one yourself with the original poster's dressing receipe and some El Pato sauce, which is widely available everywhere. Source: I was a cook there for 4 years
Thank you so much for this tip about how to make OTH Pic Sauce!!! (I'll be sure to include it in the next post update.) This will make a lot of people very happy.
Do you remember how to make the mild sauce? Someone said it was just El Pato out of the can??
Sam McGrady says
Do you know how to make the mild sauce?
I wish! Anyone???
Can you please share your tweaks with us?
Hi Julie - Tweak away. However, I think if you read through all the rest of the comments, you will find that this recipe is pretty spot-on as it is. Everyone's palate has a slightly different memory, but this recipe isn't base on memory - it was developed after hours and hours of discovery and comparison testing alongside our last remaining bottle of the real thing.
Les Barker says
I was a huge fan of The Original Taco House salad dressing. I've now prepared this recipe several times, and with only a few very minor tweaks it's (to me) indistinguishable from the original! THANK YOU so much for making the effort to clone this unique and fondly remembered recipe!
You can buy salad dressing and enchilada sauce at Duck Tales, in Vancouver. I just bought 2 32 oz containers.
Thank you for finding the recipe. I craved their nachos so many times over the years. About Jeff, unfortunately he passed away when The original taco house was still open. His family couldn’t decide who would succeed the business so that’s why it abruptly closed in 2017. It is very unfortunate.
Oh, that's such sad news! We had heard that it was due to a death in the family, but thanks for confirming it.
P.S.Just to clarify: this is my own recipe - a copycat. It's spot-on, but I had no access to the actual OTH recipe.
Jill K. says
Do you have the copy cat recipe for the old guacamole they used to make?? I’ve been craving the salad dressing and the old style guac and I can’t find the recipe anywhere!
Thank you for posting the salad dressing recipe!
Thanks for stopping by, Jill. I wish I had their guac recipe, but unfortunately, it's very difficult to get a perfect copycat without something on hand to compare your recipe testing against.
I dont know the exact receipe, but the guac had a large ratio of mayonaise. That's what made it special. Try making a standard guacamole (without tomatoes), and add Mayo to taste.
Thank you for this. I lived in Portland over 30 years ago and the OTH meat and cheese salad was always a special treat. Getting set to make this. On the hot sauce, do you use the original or the green pepper hot sauce?
Glad we can help! Meat & Cheese salads were always one of our favorite things! (Did you know this salad dressing also makes an amazing nacho dressing? I think OTH use to douse the El Picadors in it before broiling them up.) As for the hot sauce, I use original.
Terry McDonald says
Thank you for the recipe, I only had half a bottle of Taco House dressing when they closed and it didn't last long. I just made a batch today, and the flavor is wonderful. I can't wait until tomorrow to try it after the flavors have all blended together!