Can You Live Without Poppy Seed Dressing?

Oct 15, 2014

“I cannot get by without Poppy Seed Dressing though I’m personally tired of it,” wrote Helen Corbitt in 1974 book, “Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company.” Dog-eared, brown and oil stained, forgotten until just recently, this page in my cookbook has seen almost 40 years of action. Early in my culinary career as a new chef and caterer, Corbitt’s recipes and cuisine inspired countless coffees and brunches, buffet suppers, cocktail parties, and elegant dinner parties.

When we first settled in Bangor, our neighbors, the Chapmans, were from Austin, and Iris introduced me to Helen and Texas cooking. Corbitt, a dietician and former home economics instructor at the University of Texas, drilled into her students the importance of the freshest ingredients, treated with respect and served with flair. Later at the Neiman Marcus Zodiac Room, Helen served the likes of Bob Hope, Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Windsor and Zsa Zsa Gabor heavenly popovers, baked Alaska, and fruit salad with poppy seed dressing.

It’s the flavor combination of tart, sweet and savory combined with the texture of poppy seeds that make this dressing addictive. Poppy Seed Dressing is delicious on practically every kind of fresh salad, and really highlights fruit. For years I served a spinach, orange and red onion salad doused Poppy Seed Dressing. My latest version contains apples, dried cranberries and grated cabbage. Unleash your creativity, enjoy, and send along your favorite salad recipes!

Poppy Seed Dressing

Poppy Seed Dressing

Cheryl Wixson
This recipe is adapted from one by Helen Corbitt, an early advocate of fresh and local ingredients, and the Texas department store Neiman Marcus’s Food service director from 1955 - 1975.


  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons onion juice *
  • 1 cup canola oil or sunflower oil (not olive oil need neutral flavor)
  • tablespoons poppy seeds


  • In the bowl of your blender, whisk together the sugar, dry mustard and salt. Add the vinegar and onion juice, and blend thoroughly. Slowly add the oil, while running the blender, and continue to add and beat until thick. Beat for a few more minutes, then add the poppy seeds. Store in a cool place, but not the coldest place in the refrigerator. The dressing should not separate unless it gets too cold or too hot. May be remixed if it separates. Makes about 2 cups dressing. * To prepare onion juice, grate, finely chop or puree a raw onion and strain the juice. (Prepare to weep, as Helen writes)

Cheryl's Notes

Nutritional analysis per tablespoon: 81 calories, less than 1 gram protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fat, 61 mg. sodium, less than 1 gram fiber.

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