How to make homemade salad dressing (with mix and match chart!)

Say “so long” to bottled salad dressing. DIY salad dressing saves space in your fridge, is economical, fresher and far more satisfying than store-bought. Learn how to make homemade salad dressing using easy ratios and ingredients with the included handy chart. Get ready to make everything from Italian and French vinaigrettes to Southwest salad dressings from ingredients you already have in your pantry and spice drawer.

small bowl of salad dressing with a fork in it on a black tile background.

Do you have more than 2-3 bottles of salad dressing in your refrigerator? If you do, I’m here to create some space for something better (wine or kombucha…they’re both fermented!) Learn how to make homemade salad dressing using a building block of simple ratios and ingredients.

Ready?

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The best salad dressing is in your pantry

Trust me…it’s not in bottles sitting on your refrigerator door. The best salad dressing recipe is right in your pantry among the oils and vinegars. And in your spice drawer. Dorothy, you’re about to discover you had the homemade salad dressing power all along!

Basic components

oils and vinegars with weck jar and whisk near white tray with bowls and garlic and salt and pepper.

Making salad dressing is easy-peasy. Here is what you probably have sitting in your pantry:

  • Oils
  • Emulsifiers
  • Acids
  • Seasonings

Oils

This is the base of the dressing and the vehicle for all the good stuff. You can’t have a dressing really without the base. Yes, there are dressings without the oil (or fat) but to me, that’s pretty much like pouring water on your lettuce and eating it. Let’s be clear: I am not about wet lettuce.

Here are some standard and unique oil bases:

  • olive oil, canola, sunflower seed, sesame, grapeseed, peanut, avocado
  • mayonnaisse, sour cream or buttermilk

Emulsifiers

These are the ingredient that connect everything together and add richness. 

Some of the most popular emulsifiers are:

  • egg yolks
  • mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream
  • mustard
  • honey
  • tahini
  • tomato paste
  • aquafaba – the liquid from a can of chickpeas

Acids

For me, it’s all about the acid. I am a vinegar lovin’ girl. I like things tangy.

Some examples of great acids for dressings:

  • vinegars, white, balsamic, white balsamic, apple cider, rice, champagne, sherry
  • citrus juices – lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, etc.
  • pickled juices – juice from a pickled vegetable

Seasonings

These are the game-changers. There are Level I seasonings that are pretty much expected and required. And then there are the Level II Seasonings that have the ability to carry your dressing (and salad) to any country or taste profile you want.

  • Italian? Garlic, oregano and maybe some crushed red pepper.
  • Asian? Ginger, Chinese 5 Spice powder.
  • Southwest? Chili powder, cumin and cayenne.

Some of the best salad dressing seasonings and herbs include:

Level I –

  • garlic (preferably fresh but powdered is fine)
  • salt and pepper

Level II –

  • your favorite hot sauce
  • worcestershire sauce
  • dried herbs like oregano, thyme, dill
  • ginger
  • spices like chili powder and cumin
  • sugar, brown sugar and honey

Methods and mixing tips

Salad Dressing 101 ingredients on a white plate and mason jar.
  • Whisk method. A classic French whisk and a glass measuring cup is the tried and true method for emulsifying salad dressing really well. I also love using this mini whisk too.
  • Blender method. A high speed blender is also a great way to mix salad dressing. And buying a renewed Vitamix blender is a great way to score a great deal!
  • Shake method. This might be my favorite method. Use either a mason jar (I love these canning jars from Weck) or a salad dressing mixer container to shake up your favorite homemade dressing recipe! And your vinaigrette dressing will stay emulsified longer too!

Homemade dressing reference chart

chart showing how to make Italian, Southwest, Asian and French style salad dressings

Here’s a handy little chart to start you off. Think of a dressing recipe as a building block or a formula (or DO-RE-MI). If you know the basic formula, all you do is swap out one ingredient for another to change the flavor profile and your dressing.

Easy, right? I’ll likely keep tweaking the chart and if you have other seasonings or flavors you typically add in salad dressings, please leave a comment below and I’ll add it.

BONUS TIP: Meet the five tastes

You can also think when creating a dressing (or any recipe for that matter) as a balance of the four , well really, five tastes:

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Salty
  • Umami – that physical mouth-watering reaction when you add an umami loaded ingredient like red meat, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese or tomato paste.


Pro tip

Mix up dressings in a mason jar for easy storage. Label the lid with a piece of tape and use a sharpie to add the name and the date. Remove as needed.

-Josie + Nina


Storage and freezer suggestions

Storage. If your dressing doesn’t contain dairy or Dijon mustard, it likely will not require refrigeration. That doesn’t mean you can’t refrigerate it. Olive oil will thicken when refrigerated but will quickly return to its natural state once it comes to room temperature.

Salad dressings can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If the recipe doesn’t call for mayonnaise or dairy, it will keep longer.

Freezing. You can freeze vinaigrette in small plastic freezer safe bags. Defrost them by sitting upright in a small bowl of warm water in the sink, in the fridge overnight or by letting them come to room temperature on the counter.


Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


salad dressing chart to make Italian, Southwest, Asian and French Style dressings.
4.67 from 3 votes

How to Make Homemade Salad Dressing from Scratch (includes easy reference chart!)

Learn how to make homemade salad dressing using easy ratios and ingredients. You'll be making everything from French vinaigrettes to Italian and Southwest salad dressings from ingredients you already have in your pantry and spice drawer. Includes easy mix and match chart!
5 minutes
Total Time:5 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • cup oil
  • 2 Tablespoons emulsifier
  • ¼-⅓ cup acid
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning, oregano, thyme
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Combine the acid, emulsifier, and sugar if using in a glass measuring cup. Slowly pour the oil in a steady stream while whisking continuously whisking. Add the spices and sugar and correct for seasoning. 
    salad dressing chart to make Italian, Southwest, Asian and French Style dressings.

Notes

Oil Options
    • Olive, canola, sunflower seed, sesame, grapeseed, peanut, avocado
    • mayonnaise, sour cream, or buttermilk
Emulsifier options
    • egg yolks
    • mayonnaise (or yogurt, sour cream)
    • mustard
    • honey
    • tahini
    • aquafaba – the liquid from a can of chickpeas – learn more about it here
    • tomato paste 
Acid Options
    • vinegar – white, balsamic, white balsamic, apple cider, rice, champagne
    • citrus juices – lemon, lime, grapefruit, oranges
    • pickled juices – juice from a pickle jar among others!
Seasoning Variations
  • Level I
    • salt and pepper
    • garlic (fresh is preferred but powder and salt are cool)
  • Level II:
      • your favorite hot sauce
      • worcestershire sauce
      • dried herbs like oregano, thyme, dill
      • ginger
      • Spices like chili powder, cumin,
      • sugar, brown sugar
Blending Options:
  • Whisk: If you have a hard time whisking, hold the whisk between the palm of both hands and swish back and forth (like you’re washing your hands) while keeping the whisk at the bottom of the measuring cup the whole time.
  • Blender: Add the acid and emulsifier into a blender jar. With the blender on low, pour the oil in through the hole in the lid until thickened. Stir in herbs and seasonings.
  • Mason jar: Follow the recipe but place the ingredients in a jelly or canning jar. Shake vigorously to incorporate and mix the dressing.
Storage:
  • Refrigerate homemade oil based dressings up to 3 weeks in the fridge
  • Cream based dressings: use within 7 days.
Freeze:
I have frozen many oil based / vinaigrettes in small plastic freezer safe bags. I then defrosted them by sitting upright in a small bowl of warm water, in the fridge overnight or by letting them come to room temperature on the counter. I don’t recommend freezing mayonnaise or milk-based dressings.
Course: Salad
Cuisine: All, American, French, Italian, Mediterranean, Southwest; Tex-Mex
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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6 Comments

  1. Five stars for the articulate and comprehensive info! I always make my own dressings, but I know with your input I will be able to make some needed improvements. Thank you!
    Can you recommend a quality brand or two of balsamic vinegar? I have tried several and have yet to find one I like. I notice you do not list red wine vinegar, which to me is a good thing. I have tried quite a few and find them all unpleasant tasting.
    Most often I use lemon juice, either in place of vinegar or in addition to. O makes a citrus champagne vinegar I really like. And I am crazy for lemons! Also, they have a good aged sherry vinegar, and I add very thinly sliced shallots right in the dressing when I use that, kind of a French-y flair. Also, Maille makes a mustard that is a blend of dijon and whole grain that I love in dressings.
    Thanks again for your great work. I am going to put your info to use tonight as I have lots of green goodness in my fridge right now!!5 stars

    1. Janice! Your comment made my day!! Thank you so much for such detailed and well-thought out feedback and I’m so happy you found the information worthwhile. I actually do favor balsamic over red wine vinegar, largely because I’ve had such a hard time finding a red wine vinegar I really like (might be an idea for a new post😊). As far as balsamic goes, of course I love ones I found in Tuscany but those were brought home in my suitcase and I haven’t repurchased because right after I was there the pandemic happened. And then old habits crept in. When it comes to good balsamic, age is what matters and also if it’s from the Modena region, that seals the deal. When I worked at Williams-Sonoma, I loved Fini. It’s so good (and from Modena) and reasonably priced for Italian sourced balsamic. I also find Costco’s balsamic (also from Modena) quite good (love the price for the size!). And if you are not already part of my email list, I plan to spend part of the summer going down a whole salad dressing rabbit hole! Thank you so much again for taking the time to comment…it means so much! Lori

  2. Is it better to use dried herbs in dressings since they do sit in the fridge for at least a week?
    Love, love your chart. Thanks!

    1. Hi Dee! Thank you so much! That is a great question – I am going to update the post with that info as well. Salad dressing made with fresh herbs will be best used within a week so you should be good. I find that most homemade dressings at our house only last a week anyway because they get used up so quickly 😊 Thanks again!

  3. Hi Lori,
    This has been one of my favorite blogs yet! I have been wanting to make my own dressings more often—the chart really helps.
    Take care and tell everyone I said hi.4 stars