We used to waste our time in the grocery store carefully reading the fine print on salad dressing labels. That was until we started making our own. As daunting as it might sound, it’s really one of the easiest things to do. There’s nothing better than a whisked dressing made from scratch. And to keep it simple, all you really need are 3-4 ingredients.
LET’S COMPARE: Here is the ingredient list on a popular salad dressing you can find in any supermarket:
INGREDIENTS: WATER, SOYBEAN OIL AND EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, VINEGAR (DISTILLED, BALSAMIC), SALT, RED RASPBERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE, ROASTED HAZELNUTS, ONION POWDER, XANTHAN GUM, SODIUM BENZOATE AND SORBIC ACID AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY), PROPYLENE GLYCOL ALGINATE, CITRIC ACID, SPICES, CARAMEL COLOR, NATURAL FLAVOR, FD&C RED 40, REB A (NATURAL STEVIA LEAF SWEETENER), FD&C BLUE 1, ANNATTO EXTRACT (COLOR).
Hmm . . . do you really need to pour corn syrup and food dyes on your salad?
Though there are some decent bottled brands, we tend to go homemade now the majority of the time. Our favorite dressings usually have an olive oil base, some type of lemon juice and/or vinegar, salt and pepper, and sometimes a dash of mustard or some fresh herbs if we have them on hand. Lately, I’ve been into white balsamic vinegar, which has a sweet and slightly milder taste than red balsamic. There are tons of different vinegars to choose from like apple cider (great for digestion), champagne, white grape juice, etc. We’re also a big fan of using freshly squeezed lemons.
And if you love creamy dressings, you have to try tahini (you know, the stuff they use to make hummus)? These ground sesame seeds can be found at any supermarket and are fabulous in salad dressings (they also make a great smoothie addition). See recipe below.
When making your own dressing, a basic rule of thumb is to stick to about two-three parts oil for every one part vinegar. Feel free to vary that slightly but try to stay around that ratio. So a simple but delicious vinaigrette may look like this
Optional additional seasonings:
- Mustard (1/2 – 1 tsp)
- Honey (1 tsp)
- Fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, or mint (finely diced)
Whirl in mini chop or shake in glass jar. Again, it’s fun to experiment with added ingredients. We found blending in some ripe avocado is super delicious and makes a nice creamy dressing. But the above basic recipe is a winner every time.
Below is another variation salad dressing using tahini as a base. This one reminds me of the dressings you get at the Japanese restaurants on top of the iceberg lettuce!
Place all ingredients in high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Store in glass jar in fridge for up to a week.
We also found a great “mixer” which is part hand blender, part container. You just take off the cap, pour in your ingredients, and then pull the ring up and down – there is a metal twister that hand blends the ingredients to perfection. You can then pour AND store the dressing right into the same container. Wonderful invention! See some types here. Another easy way to mix dressing is to put all the ingredients in an empty jam jar. Then put on the lid and shake (though some dressings do require blending).
Most homemade dressings will keep in the fridge for a few days, so don’t make too much at one time. If using olive oil, it may harden up a little in the fridge so take it out a few minutes before eating so it will become liquefied again. Then enjoy!