Homemade Salad Dressings – Rules of Thumb

Over time, I’ve learned to cook things without even realizing it – and homemade salad dressing is one of my “a-ha” spheres. I used to be intimidated by friends who would whip up fresh dressings, and for years I relied on a bottled goddess dressing for all my greens. Then I started following simple dressing recipes, memorized a few, experimented, and gradually realized there is a general formula for success.

And don’t forget your ratios… in the words of Oscar Wilde: “To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil one must mix with one’s vinegar.”

Happy Cooking,

So, here’s our round up of Five Rules of Thumb for great homemade salad dressing:

1. Splurge on high quality ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is worth it, really – and even within EVOO, all are not created equal
  • Balsamic vinegars, salt, pepper, mustard, honey – ditto
  • When lemon juice is called for – squeeze it fresh (no plastic bottle jazz)

2. Ratios matter

  • Oil and acid are typically the foundation of homemade vinaigrette dressings, and there are standard ratios for oils:acids. Advice varies from a 2:1 ratio to a 3:1 ratio (I prefer 2:1 as it’s less oily- my go-to foundation is 4 tbsp EVOO & 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice)
  • Oils: Extra virgin olive oil is the most common and reliably divine – although some recipes call for canola oil as it is more neutral in flavor
  • Acids: Balsamic vinaigrette and lemon juice are the most common, but you can use any citrus juice (lime, orange) – and/or any vinegar – cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar… the list goes on (I have a fig vinegar I use often, and last Christmas a friend gave me a pear vinegar from a local farm that I love)

3. Salt and Pepper

  • Always add these, to taste, and per rule #1 we’re firm believers that high quality ingredients make a big difference (again, we love celtic sea salt)

4. Experiment! Try adding different ingredients, here are some common ones

  • For zip: Garlic, shallots, chives, Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes
  • Sweet tooth: honey, brown sugar, real maple syrup, real fruit jam
  • Fresh or dried herbs: oregano, basil, mint, dill, chives
  • Combine acids: try mixing two different vinegars, or a citrus juice with a vinegar
  • Creaminess: mayo or yogurt, or even tahini if you have it on hand
  • User our Guide to Flavor Combinations

5. Shake it up 

  • Forget your whisk the best way to mix up your dressings is a container with a lid, like a mason jar – shake it all together to mix well (if you don’t have fresh ingredients you can make enough for a week of salad, leave in your pantry, and give a shake each night)

Here are a few of our favorite homemade salads with simple dressings included. We encourage you to practice, experiment, and make them your own – it’s a cinch – and cheaper, tastier, fresher then anything made in a factory.

  1. Arugula Peach Jicama Salad
  2. Green Salad with Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette
  3. Asian Slaw with Peanut Dressing
  4. Chopped Salad with Chive Vinaigrette
  5. Whole Foods Market Healthy Salad Dressing

Related Links:

About Mary

Gatheredtable Founder.

1 Response

  1. […] “Anything Goes” Leftover Salad As we start to move toward warmer weather I find myself turning my leftovers into salads more and more often. I love to just fill a big bowl with leafy greens and then top it with almost anything I have left: pasta, rice, roasted veggies, shredded meat or beans, and then add any type of cheese or nut. As with the rest of these recipes pretty much everything is optional, really even the greens, just use whatever combination strikes your fancy. If you want to really go wild, check out our post about making your own dressing. […]

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