I can’t remember the last time I purchased salad dressing. Homemade salad dressing is healthier, less expensive and much better tasting than store-bought dressing. And it’s easier to make than you might think.
More people have asked me for my salad-dressing recipe than anything else I’ve ever prepared. I’m mostly a by-the-books cook, but this is the one of the few things I make without a recipe. It’s adapted from the salad dressing my mom made when I was growing up, and I use it every single night. Why mess with perfection?
You can whip up a delicious dressing in less than five minutes using ingredients you have around the kitchen. I make mine in recycled jars, but you could get a fancy salad-dressing shaker for easier shaking and pouring.
When you have a tasty, homemade salad dressing, keep the salad simple. The biggest mistake people make is putting too many things in a salad, which can overwhelm the taste buds. My favorite salads contain three ingredients: mixed greens, something slightly sweet (tomatoes in the summer, grapefruit or oranges in the winter), and something savory and crunchy (sliced fennel, carrots or radishes).
When I make salad dressing, I ignore the traditional ratio of one part vinegar to three parts oil. I like a tart, not oily, dressing, so I use more vinegar than most recipes recommend. Feel free to adjust the oil/vinegar ratio to your taste.
This is my most-requested recipe and the dressing I use every night. It’s simple but so delicious. The key is to use quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
3/4 c. olive oil (1,440 calories—168 g fat)
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar (112 calories—24 g carbs, 16 g sugar)
1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard (7.5 calories)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Per tablespoon: 76 calories—8.2 g fat, 1.17 g carbs (.78 g sugar)
Combine all ingredients in a salad-dressing shaker or a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well. It’s important to shake until the mixture is emulsified (the oil and vinegar are mixed thoroughly). Refrigerate. This dressing keeps for weeks, but you might need to take it out an hour before serving if the olive oil solidifies.
I’m very partial to vinaigrette salad dressings—I’ll take one any day over a creamy, ranch-style dressing. We have a lemon tree in our backyard, which means I’m always looking for ways to use lemons.
3/4 c. olive oil (1,440 calories—168 g fat)
1/2 c. lemon juice (from about 4 lemons) (30 calories—10 g carbs/3 g sugar)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard (10 calories)
Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper)
Per tablespoon: 72.8 calories—8.3 g fat, 0.5 g carbs (0.2 g sugar)
Combine all ingredients in a salad-dressing shaker or a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well. Refrigerate. This dressing keeps for weeks, but you might need to take it out an hour before serving if the olive oil solidifies.
Creamy Yogurt Dressing
If I’m going to make a creamy dressing—and I don’t do it very often—I make it with yogurt, not mayonnaise. I love the tangy taste of yogurt on a salad. With this dressing, avoid citrus and try romaine lettuce with cucumbers or another mild, crunchy vegetable.
1 c. plain whole-milk yogurt (you can also use Greek yogurt) (149 calories—8 g fat, 11.4 g carbs, 8.5 g protein)
1/4 c. olive or avocado oil (480 calories—56 g fat)
1/4 c. lime juice (or lemon juice) (15 calories—5.3 carbs/1.5 g sugar)
1/3 c. chopped Italian parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Per tablespoon: 26.8 calories—2.7 g fat, 0.7 g carbs (0.1 g sugar), 0.4 g protein
Whisk everything except the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until use, whisking briefly if the oil separates. Keeps for about a week or a few days if you use parsley.
If you ever find yourself without any dressing on hand and don’t feel like making a big batch, you can create a delicious dressing right in the salad bowl. Put together your salad and add a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and toss. Adjust ingredients to taste.
Try these recipes, and you might never buy salad dressing again!
About the Author: Hilary Achauer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health and wellness content. In addition to writing articles, online content, blogs and newsletters, Hilary writes for the CrossFit Journal. To contact her, visit hilaryachauer.com.
Cover image: iStockphoto.com/DirkRietschel