Making your own salad dressing lets you take control of everything from flavour to nutrition to cost. You can easily tweak recipes to suit your family’s tastes and dietary needs, and it’s often cheaper to make dressings than it is to buy them. Plus, homemade dressing adds a personal touch to a crisp, fresh salad.
When making oil-based dressings, start with a three to one ratio of oil to vinegar or lemon juice, then add an optional emulsifier and flavourings. For all dressings, either shake ingredients in a sealed jar or whisk thoroughly in a bowl. Save on dishes by using your salad bowl to make just enough dressing and then adding the vegetables.
Five Basic Dressings
- French-Style Shallot Vinaigrette
Garlic and Dijon mustard are the standout flavours in this classic dressing. Use it to jazz up fresh greens such as romaine and bibb lettuce.
- Sesame-Ginger-Peanut Dressing
A sweet and tangy salad topper featuring flavours like sesame and ginger, this is the ultimate dressing for crunchy Asian salads. Alternatively, use it as a marinade for grilled beef or fish.
- Italian-Style Balsamic Vinaigrette
Rich and herbaceous, this vinaigrette is best for dressing chopped Italian salad, marinating sweet peppers or drizzling over braised vegetables, such as leeks.
- Easy Caesar Dressing
This variation on classic creamy Caesar salad dressing has a gentle bite thanks to lemon juice and crushed garlic, and it uses mayonnaise instead of the traditional raw egg yolk. It’s wonderful tossed with romaine lettuce and croutons or used as a dip for fresh vegetables.
- Yogourt Poppy Seed Dressing
Refreshing with a touch of sweetness, this dressing brings creamy flavour to crisp apple and walnut salad or spinach and strawberry salad. The optional horseradish boosts the flavour and adds kick.
Not all vinegars are the same. Here’s what to know about four common types and the flavours they impart.
- Cider vinegar has an apple flavour.
- Wine vinegar gives a subtle tart flavour.
- Balsamic vinegar has a sweet and syrupy tang.
- Rice vinegar adds a mild sweetness.
- For a more tart vinaigrette, ramp up the acidity with an extra splash of vinegar or citrus.
- To tone down the tang, add maple syrup, liquid honey, white sugar or extra oil.
- Mustard adds a bit of heat and complexity.
- Garlic intensifies a dressing.
- Mix in sesame, hazelnut or pumpkinseed oil to add nutty or grassy notes.
- For creaminess, incorporate mayo, sour cream, yogourt or buttermilk.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Vinaigrette for everything you need to know about creating your own varieties from scratch.
Salad dressings can last for several days when stored in the refrigerator. Why not make enough for several salads at once? Just create your dressing in a glass jar with a lid that seals well – add all ingredients, put on the lid and shake – and then refrigerate. Allow dressing to warm to room temperature if the oils have solidified and then shake well before serving.