CALLING ALL SALAD LOVERS!!!
Sorry to yell at you but I have been super excited to share this post with you! How to make vinaigrette dressing for salads has been on my mind since like day one when I started this blog back in 2014. That’s a long time to be thinking about a post. I think it’s about time, my friends.
If you don’t already know this about me I love a good salad. Don’t believe me? Check out all my salad recipes! Any good salad requires a delicious dressing, one that is flavorful, well seasoned, and clings to all the lettuce leaves and veggies. It’s gotta be tangy, slightly sweet with a hint of garlic. I am very proud to report that I haven’t bought a bottle of salad dressing since Paul and I have been married, which has been 4 years (<– WHAT how did that happen?)! Once I learned how easy and fun it is to make a good vinaigrette dressing I never looked back.
In this post I will share my basic recipe and my essential ingredients for making a vinaigrette plus some tips on how to customize the flavors. Soon you will be a vinaigrette dressing rock star! Let’s do this!
6 reasons why you should make your own vinaigrette dressing
- It saves you money: I’m not one for math, but the general rule of thumb is that anything you can make yourself will be cheaper
- It’s healthier: you are in control of every ingredient that goes into your vinaigrette dressing. Even organic store bought vinaigrette can have preservatives and other scary ingredients in them that we don’t want in our bodies. How do you think those bottles last on the shelf for so dang long?! Plus they can use oils that don’t contain healthy fat, such as canola oil and soybean oil.
- It’s quick and easy: to make a basic vinaigrette dressing all you need are handful of 6 basic ingredients you probably already have on hand. To make it all you do is whisk it together, shake it in a jar, or blend it. (More about that later).
- It’s fun: making your own dressing can be a way to branch out. Add in dried or fresh herbs you need to use up, throw in a spoonful of Greek yogurt for a creamy texture, the sky is the limit.
- They last a week: a vinaigrette dressing can last up to a week in the fridge. Make one or two of them and you will be enjoying flavorful salads all week long.
- You will rock at marking delicious, healthy salads and of course eating them!
essential ingredients for making vinaigrette dressing
Now that you know why you should be making your own vinaigrette dressing for salads let’s talk about the basic ingredients.
Basically a vinaigrette is mixture of some kind of acid , olive oil, and salt and pepper. Simple, right? I have added a few more ingredients that I consider to be essential to a good vinaigrette. Such as garlic, Dijon mustard, and honey.
let’s break down the ingredients
The acid: Acid is what gives the vinaigrette dressing it’s distinct tangy, sharp flavor that we know and love. Make sure you chose a vinegar you enjoy the taste of because that will be the dominate flavor.
You can use a vinegar such as: balsamic, red wine, white wine, champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, apple cider vinegar (<- get raw unpasteurized for health benefits!). Or there are the citrus juices, such as: lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, or orange juices for a sweeter taste. When using citrus juices make sure to use fresh squeezed for the ultimate flavor.
The oil: Good quality oil both in taste and flavor is key here. You want the oil to be fruity, yet a mild taste so it doesn’t overpower your salad.
My go to is extra virgin olive oil. You could also use avocado oil, walnut oil, or pumpkin seed oil. Don’t be afraid of the fat here friends, it’s what gives the dressing body and if you are choosing a good quality oil it contains those healthy fatty acids our body needs. Just make sure it’s a cold pressed oil and not heated during the extraction process to ensure it retains it’s health benefits.
The Dijon mustard: I always use Dijon mustard in my vinaigrette dressing both for flavor and to add a little thickness to the texture. You could use also use a grainy mustard for slight added texture. However, I would suggest staying away from yellow mustard. Although yellow mustard is great on hot dogs it’s flavor is too sharp and overpowering for a vinaigrette.
The honey: Honey helps to cut down the harshness of the acid and add a little sweetness. I especially prefer honey when making a vinaigrette dressing because it’s thick and adds more body to the dressing. However, if you are vegan or don’t have honey on hand a good quality maple syrup or agave nectar would also sweeten things up.
Minced garlic: To me a good vinaigrette dressing has to be a little garlicky. It’s not super essential but I think it adds depth and flavor that I greatly miss when it’s not there. All it takes are one or two cloves. BTW to save time I love using my garlic press!
Salt and pepper: Salt and pepper should be pretty obvious, salt brings out the flavor and pepper adds a slight kick. But it’s easy to under season a dressing, which leaves your vinaigrette tasting flat and by extension your salad. Don’t be stingy, taste and adjust until you’ve got it just right.
change up the flavors
Now that you know about the essential ingredients for making a vinaigrette dressing let’s talk about ways to add your own flair. This is the fun part!
Herbs: Dressings are a great way to use up fresh or dried herbs your have lying around. Pretty much anything goes. If using fresh make sure to chop the herbs up real fine. For dried you want to use less than you would fresh because they are more concentrated (dried herbs you need 3 times less than fresh). Herbs give your vinaigrette dressing a fresh and springy taste.
Spices: You can also add in spices or spice mixtures. Some of my favorite are Italian seasoning or Greek seasoning. However, you can get creative, try curry powder, chili powder, or a touch of cinnamon for warmth. To kick up the heat try adding crushed red pepper flake or cayenne pepper. (Try my 15 minute Italian salad or easy Greek salmon salad).
Plain Greek yogurt: I have found that a dollop of plain Greek yogurt can add a nice thick creaminess to the dressing. You could also use sour cream.
Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds texture and salty nuttiness that only Parmesan cheese provides.
3 easy ways to make vinaigrette dressing
Since this post is titled how to make vinaigrette dressing you knew there had to be a section about how to actually make it, right?! Okay, you’ve got all of the ingredients for your vinaigrette dressing, but how do you actually go about making it?! There are three easy ways.
First, you must know that a really good vinaigrette dressing has been emulsified – this makes the dressing thick an creamy. An emulsion is when two liquids that naturally separate are combined, like oil and vinegar. There are 2 ways to go about creating an emulsion. Although, I must say that when I’m in a hurry, and I usually am, I just make a temporary emulsions, meaning that the oil and vinegar will separate as they sit. It’s all about preference and what works for you. (To learn the science behind an emulsion, I found this video helpful.)
Now about those 3 easy ways to make vinaigrette dressing
- Whisk the ingredients together. this is the classic, no fail method. Simply whisk the vinegar, mustard, honey, and salt and pepper together until combined. Then slowly stream in the oil while whisking constantly until all of the oil has been added. If done correctly this creates an emulsion, it can take up to 2 minutes. To be honest, I am not usually patient enough or have the steady hand to whisk the oil in slowly. My vinaigrette usually ends up separating after it sits for a while with this method. it still tastes delicious and I’m usually okay that it separates.
- Use a blender or food processor. this method IMO is the easier way to create an emulsion for your dressing. All you do is add the vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper to the blender and blend until well combined. Next you slowly stream the oil into the blender while the motor is running on low. Using a blender is my favorite way to make a thick creamy vinaigrette dressing.
- Shake shake shake it in a mason jar. This is probably the most popular method. You simply add all your ingredients to a mason jar with a tight fitting lid and shake away until it’s all combined. This method is my go to way to make vinaigrette dressing. Yes, it does separate fairly quickly after it sits but it is the most convenient method. You make the dressing in the mason jar, serve from it, and store any leftovers all in the same nifty container. Yaay for less dishes to wash! Gotta love those handy mason jars!
See, making your own vinaigrette dressing is super duper easy and I totally believe in you!
IMHO blender method yields the best results, however I usually don’t want to wash my blender so I usually go with the mason jar method on a regular bases. However, if I am serving a salad to someone, or in my case photographing it for the blog that is when I bust out my blender.
Look at that! Now you are armed and ready to make really awesome vinaigrette dressings from scratch for all of your salads for eternity! You will be the salad making champion and life will be amazing! (<-because you will have ALL OF THE SALADS tossed with easy to make homemade, yet tasty vinaigrette dressings! What more do you need in life?! Okay maybe we need a little chocolate in life, only because we must balance out all of those healthy salads! 🙂 )
- ¼ cup vinegar/acid of choice: balsamic, white wine, red wine, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice etc
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey (for vegans sub maple syrup or agave nectar)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, each
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup good quality oil that is mild in flavor: extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, pumpkin seed oil etc
- Optional: Any dried/fresh herbs or spices to vary the flavors (refer to the post for more ideas)
- Whisking method: To a small mixing bowl add the vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and garlic. whisk until combined. Slowly stream in the olive oil while continuously whisking until all the olive oil is gone. Add in any other flavors you might want. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.Dress your salad just before serving it, so it doesn't get soggy - gross.
- Blender/food processor method: add the vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper to the blender and blend until well combined. Next you slowly stream the oil into the blender while the motor is running on low until all the oil has been used. Add in any other flavors you might want. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. I have found this method to be the easiest way to create an emulsion so that the vinaigrette dressing doesn't separate. Dress your salad just before serving it, so it doesn't get soggy - gross.
- Mason jar method:Add all your ingredients to a mason jar with a tight fitting lid and shake away until it's all combined. Add in any other flavors you might want. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. This method will separate after it sits. Dress your salad just before serving it, so it doesn't get soggy - gross.
This amount of dressing makes ½ a cup. It will dress about 4 small salads or 2 big ones. You can easily adjust the proportions to fit your needs.
Store leftover dressing in an air tight container for up to 1 week (maybe sometimes longer).