Say “buh-bye now” to bottled dressing. Making your own salad dressing isn’t just easy – it’s economical, healthier and more satisfying. And it’ll impress your friends.
I’m going to get a little bossy. Ok those of you who know me well are saying “what’s new?” But seriously, listen up. Open your fridge. Do you have more than 2-3 bottles of salad dressing in there? If you do, I’m here to create some space for something better like wine or kombucha – c’mon, they’re both fermented! Speaking of fermented, I don’t know about you, but when I do buy bottled dressing (and I’m not saying I NEVER do – hello Hidden Valley Ranch), I typically use it one or two times before it’s relegated to a section of the fridge hidden by the leftovers where all the bottles go to die. You know that section. It’s the one that you re-discover when a well-meaning friend or sister-in-law (you know who you are) digs back in there and says: “you know this expired three years ago, right?”
Back to the bossiness. Open your pantry or cabinet. Do you have oil, vinegar, salt and pepper? Maybe some mustard, sour cream or mayo? How about some jam? Or some dried herbs that need used or better yet, some fresh ones that you’re going to have to pitch because you only used the 1 or 2 teaspoons you needed? My friend – you have all the makings of lots of salad dressings. And I promise that you can make 2 or 3 dressings in the time it takes to drive to the store (and that doesn’t include the shopping time). Get it? Making salad dressing is easy-peasy.
What are the basic components of a kick-butt dressing?
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 bases:
- Olive, canola, sunflower seed, sesame, grapeseed, peanut, avocado
- mayonnaise, sour cream, or buttermilk
Emulsifiers: These babies are the ingredient that brings connect everything together and add richness. Some of the most popular are:
- egg yolks
- mayonnaise (or yogurt, sour cream)
- aquafaba – the liquid from a can of chickpeas – learn more about it here
- tomato paste – yup!
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:
- vinegar – white, balsamic, white balsamic, apple cider, rice, champagne
- citrus juices – lemon, lime, grapefruit, oranges
- pickled juices – juice from a pickle jar – double yup!
Seasoning: 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. You get the idea.
Some seasonings I love in dressings:
Level I –
- garlic (fresh is preferred but powder and salt are cool)
- salt and pepper
Level II –
- your favorite hot sauce
- worcestershire sauce
- dried herbs like oregano, thyme, dill
- Spices like chili powder, cumin,
- sugar, brown sugar
You can also think when creating a dressing (or any recipe for that matter) as a balance of the
four , well really, five tastes:
- Umami – that physical mouth-watering reaction when you add an umami loaded ingredient like red meat, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese or tomato sauce.
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.
C’mon – time to clean out the fridge! (Ok – might have crossed the line from bossy to just obnoxious!) Enjoy!
for a few or many:
make a full recipe of dressing early in the week to have all week.
mix up dressings in a mason jar for easy storage. you can label the lid with a piece of tape and a sharpie and just remove the tap when you change the dressing out.
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, the best you can afford
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp garlic, freshly minced or from a jar
- 1/2 tsp oregano, dried
- 1/3 cup olive oil, your favorite brand
- 1/4 tsp salt, to start
- 1/8 tsp pepper, ground
- pinch of crushed red pepper, optional
- Combine the balsamic, sugar, garlic and oregano 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.
- 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.
- Follow the recipe but place the ingredients in a jelly or canning jar. Shake vigorously to incorporate and mix the dressing.