Salad dressing, for many, makes salad edible. I know that salads are the only source of vegetables for many people who are new to a healthy eating lifestyle. For the average vegetable-avoider, it is the salad dressing that ties the dish together and makes those vegetables delicious, or at least tolerable. The downside to many supermarket salad dressings is they are full of sugar, chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, taking your healthy salad and reducing it to a processed, candied treat. Instead of purchasing dressing with ingredients like disodium guanylate, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, titanium dioxide (also used in paint to make colors brighter), and high fructose corn syrup, you can easily make your own dressing at home, quickly with fresh ingredients that match the fresh, healthy salad that you are eating.
The trick to making a tasty salad dressing at home is simply knowing the basic formula. The Salad Dressing Formula is this: 2 parts oil plus 1 part food acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice) plus an emulsifier.
When picking oils to use in your homemade salad dressing, choose high quality oils that are either olive oil or another monounsaturated fat (the kind of fats that lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol) such as avocado oil, walnut oil, almond oil, pumpkin seed oil or sesame seed oil. Food acids include all vinegars (apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red or white wine vinegar or rice vinegar) or citric acids like lemon juice, lime juice, orange or tangerine juice. The emulsifier can be as simple as whisking the two other components together until they are emulsified. A number of ingredients can serve as an emulsifier as well, such as Dijon mustard, honey, yogurt, light mayo, tahini or nut butter. The emulsifier serves as a mixing agent that holds the oil and the acid together in a blended, salad dressing state rather than re-separating back into oil and vinegar.
Whisking together 2 parts oil with 1 part vingar is the simplest vinaigrette. By mixing different oils and vinegars, you can achieve a variety of flavors from just 2 simple ingredients. This delicious Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe is an example of how simply you can create your own vinagrette:
1. Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Whisk all the ingredients together. Toss with your greens or drizzle on your salad. Serves 6.
Then, if you want, you can add an emulsifier ingredient. The emulsifier can add a dimension of flavor and texture, such as sweetness if it is honey or creaminess if it is yogurt, along with blending the oil and acid together. From there you can add any kind of flavor ingredients you want. A good place to start is with herbs and spices. Here is a list to get your creative salad-dressing-making ideas flowing:
- Dry Mustard
- Poppy seeds
This Herby Dijon Dressing is an example of using an emulsifier and herbs to create a beautiful, full-flavored dressing:
2. Herby Dijon Dressing
- 1/4 cup almond oil (or olive oil)
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 fresh basil leaves, minced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Dash of salt and ground black pepper
Whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl or pulse together all the ingredients in a small food processor. Chill until ready to use. Serves 3.
Alliums make great additions to your salad dressing. Finely chop garlic, scallions, red, white or yellow onions, shallots or leeks, and whisk them into your dressing.
3. Lemon Shallot Dressing
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
- 1/3 cup avocado oil or olive oil
- salt and pepper
Whisk together oil and lemon juice. Slowly add agave or honey until well emulsified. Stir in shallots and salt and pepper. Chill before serving.
Or, you can take your dressing in another direction by adding fruit puree. Blueberries, raspberries, papaya, kiwi, and even applesauce make great salad dressings.
4. Strawberry Citrus Dressing
- 1/3 cup light oil such as avocado or walnut oil (you can always substitute olive oil)
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons grapefruit juice
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 8 strawberries
- 1 Tablespoon honey or agave nectar
- Salt and pepper
Blend all ingredients in a Magic Bullet or small food processor, or with a hand mixer in a small bowl. Mix well until fully blended. Keep chilled until used.
Homemade salad dressings can make great marinades for chicken, steaks, tofu or fish. They can also be used for sauces on steamed vegetables, roasted potatoes or other root veggies. I created this version of Goddess Dressing to use as a sauce on my Buddha bowls (steamed veggies with brown rice,) but it tastes great as a marinade for chicken as well. I made it using similar flavors as commerically prepared "Goddess Dressing." The only difference I can tell is this version tastes fresher.
5. Goddess Dressing
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 Tablespoons tahini
- 2 Tablespoon soy sauce (I use gluten-free tamari sauce.)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced (Dried can be used, too.)
- 1 teaspoon fresh chives, minced
- water as needed (a tablespoon or two to make it thinner)
- optional: 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Blend all ingredients (except sesame seeds) by whisking together, shaking in a sealed jar, or processing in a small blender or food processor. Add sesame seeds by stiring them into dressing if using them. Makes 1 1/2 cups. Can be refrigerated for one week.
Do you have a favorite homemade salad dressings? Show us on your favorite salads on our Pinterest page!