Growing up, I looked forward to making our own Italian dressing with a packet of zesty herb mix, oil and vinegar and shaking it up in a plastic-lidded glass cruet from Good Seasons. Easy enough for a kindergartener to do! Now, I still prefer the taste of my own dressings to the store-bought ones, either refrigerated or on the shelf.
Fresh is also healthier, not to mention cheaper. No chemical preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, excessive sodium or sugar. Make your own salad dressing so tasty, you’ll want to take it everywhere! …okay, so maybe just to restaurants and potlucks. Still, a custom dressing that only has in it what you want sounds good enough for every salad venue.
Creating your own basic blend takes little time and effort, even for beginners. Moving on to crafting more unique flavored dressings means following established recipes rather than trial-and-error. Here, we give you the rundown of what it takes to make a simple vinaigrette, with two additional dressing styles, plus tips for the best results.
oil – extra virgin olive, avocado, flaxseed, grapeseed, safflower, soybean, etc. (coconut oil solidifies)
acid – vinegar (apple cider, red wine, white wine, balsamic, etc.) or lemon juice
sweet – agave syrup or honey
savory – garlic, onion, mustard or Worcestershire
spice – salt & pepper
Optional Ingredients: sesame oil, lime, orange juice, ginger, dried herbs (basil, dill, tarragon), buttermilk, grated Parmesan cheese, horseradish, avocado, cilantro, parsley, and so much more…
Equipment needed: measuring cup, measuring spoons, bowl, whisk, wide-mouth cruet, or sealed jar/bottle. Optional ingredients may require knife & cutting board or food processor.
Time needed: Just 5 minutes for a basic recipe with dried herbs, 10-15 minutes for those with 10+ ingredients or fresh herbs to chop.
Awesome 8-ingredient DIY Dressings
Staple Vinaigrette – best with spinach, arugula, or mesclun
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
pinch of salt & pepper, to taste
- Whisk together in bowl
- Suggested additions: tarragon; lemon-thyme
Creamy Ranch – best with iceberg, romaine or radicchio lettuce
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup nonfat sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of salt & cracked pepper, to taste
- Whisk together in bowl
- Suggested additions: dried chives; Worcestershire
Vegan Green Goddess – best with leaf lettuce, endive or kale; also good on bowl meals
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves
- Blend all in food processor
- Suggested additions: lime & cilantro together; cayenne pepper
1 cup of dressing yields about eight 2-tablespoon servings.
For peak flavor, allow blends to sit at least 30 minutes for ingredients to meld.
Keep refrigerated in airtight container for up to 5 days.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t: Counteract tartness by adding more agave syrup or honey – it’s extra sugar.
Don’t: Over–season your dressing without tasting it first, as that could ruin the finished product.
Don’t: Pre-dress your leafy salad more than ½ hour before you’ll serve it or the oil (& vinegar) may wilt the delicate tender greens.
Don’t: Store mixed vinaigrette at room temperature as the oils can turn rancid over time.
Do: Enhance your salad with natural sweetness from cranberries, mandarin slices or strawberries.
Do: Add salt (up to 1/4 tsp.) and pepper (up to 1/8 tsp.) bit by bit until desired flavor is reached.
Do: Consider adding an emulsifier (like prepared mustard, honey, or tomato paste) to vinaigrettes, which helps keep oil from directly coating leaves.
Do: Refrigerate any unused dressing (all kinds) and allow to come to room temperature, then shake up before reuse.