How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette

I’ve always loved a good green salad. But ever since I wrote A Guide to Salad Greens over on Oh My Veggies a few weeks ago, my obsession with green salads has doubled. Tripled. Quadrupled! Okay, I’m just totally all about the greens right now.

The thing is, I just cannot find a store-bought salad dressing that I like. Most of them taste cloying and weird to me. But you know what? That’s okay. Because it’s super, duper easy to make my own homemade salad dressing. And way less expensive. And I know exactly what goes into it!

Vinaigrette is my favorite – and arguably the easiest to whip together, too. We’re talking 30 seconds or so. Less time than it takes to shop for a bottle of the stuff at the store!

So as I was shaking together my umpteenth jar of vinaigrette, I thought, hey! I should write a new tutorial! And so here it is: How to make a simple vinaigrette salad dressing.

The main thing?

Know the formula

Once you know the formula for homemade vinaigrette, you’re set!

The magical vinaigrette formula

1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil
+ salt and pepper to taste

Wasn’t that easy?! You’re done!

Okay, here’s a little more info.

Choose your ingredients

How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette

Oil

You can go with extra virgin olive oil, which I use 95% of the time. Or choose a light, flavorless oil like grapeseed oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil. For some extra flavor, you can even swap in a touch of nut oil like walnut oil or hazelnut oil; or a bit of sesame oil adds a delicious Asian vibe. Just use a light touch with the more strongly flavored oils.

It goes without saying that higher quality oil is going to taste the best. But personally, as you can see by the photo, I’m not opposed to a little Costco generic brand love. Tastes pretty great to me!

Vinegar

Ahhh, so many lovely varieties of vinegar. Most wine vinegars will yield a lighter vinaigrette. Rice vinegar is also a nice, light choice. Apple cider vinegar lends a nice little bite (I like using it in salads with apple). Balsamic vinegar is a bolder choice, but lends a wonderful sweet/tart flavor to the mix. Sherry vinegar is also nice, but can be bold, so tread lightly.

Lemon juice is often substituted for vinegar, but I prefer to supplement the vinegar with acidy citrus juices (orange and lime juices also fall into this category) rather than replace the vinegar entirely. Generally I’ll swap out half the vinegar for citrus juice if I’m going that route.

Add-ins/seasonings

As I referenced in the formula above, aside from oil and vinegar, the only other thing you really need for a superb and super-simple vinaigrette is a bit of salt (I like kosher salt or sea salt) and pepper (I prefer freshly ground black pepper).

But it’s fun to do more, if you want! Here are some ideas for deliciously aromatic add-ins:

  • Fresh chopped herbs like dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, or thyme (dried herbs work, too)
  • Finely minced garlic or fresh ginger
  • Shallots, scallions, or onion
  • Bold cheeses - finely grated or crumbled - such as Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola, or feta
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, a bit of horseradish, or even a bit of Sriracha add a bit of heat
  • Dijon mustard adds flavor and acts as an emulsifier – it’s kind of vinaigrette’s best pal. More about emulsifying in a minute.
  • Sugar or honey helps mellow the vinegar’s acidity, if necessary, plus, honey works as an emulsifier, too.

Mix it!

How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette

Yes, oil and vinegar likes to stay separated. But for vinaigrette, we want it together – at least long enough to get it onto our salad.

One effective way of mixing it together (also known as “emulsifying”) is to use a blender. But I feel like that over-complicates the process and, let’s be honest, I don’t like the extra clean-up. And this is all about simple!

So I almost always mix my vinaigrette one of two ways:

Whisk it in a bowl

Add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and briskly whisk until all of the ingredients come together. That’s it! You can also add all of the ingredients except the oil, then whisk while adding the oil in a stream, which can help with the emulsification.

Shake it in a mason jar

This is my favorite method because it’s easier (read: lazier). Just add all of the ingredients to a mason jar, screw on the lid, shake for a few seconds, and: voila, vinaigrette!

How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette

Bonus: you’ve now got a ready-made container for storing leftover dressing in the fridge for later on!

Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve

Once it’s mixed, just taste and adjust the  seasonings if you like, and you’re good to go. Tasting tip: For the most accurate idea of what the dressing will taste like on your salad, dip a leaf into the dressing, shake off the excess, and try.

If you’re not serving your vinaigrette right away, you may have to shake it again right before serving. But here’s where the bonus of a couple of the add-ins come into play: both Dijon mustard and honey help emulsify the dressing, which keeps it together longer. So consider adding one or both of these if you’re entertaining and don’t want the embarrassment of a broken-down dressing (the horror!) or if you are just plain tired of shaking.

And … that’s it!

How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette

Here’s the quick-and-dirty with handy-dandy print option. Now go forth and dress!

Print Recipe

How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Got two minutes? Along with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, that's all you need to make a simple vinaigrette at home. Trust me, it'll beat the pants off of store-bought! This basic vinaigrette recipe yields enough vinaigrette to lightly dress a salad for four.

Yield: Approx. 1/3 cup

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or a more neutral-flavored oil like grapeseed, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or balsamic, apple cider, rice, sherry, or other wine vinegar)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • A turn of freshly ground black pepper

Optional add-ins:

  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs like dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, or thyme (dried herbs work, too, just use 1-2 teaspoons instead)
  • A finely minced garlic clove
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced or grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots, scallions, or onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated or crumbled Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola, or feta
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon horseradish, or 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon sugar or honey

 

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a small mason jar, screw on the lid, and shake until blended. You can also whisk the ingredients together in a bowl or whirr them together in a blender.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Add to salad, toss, and serve.
  3. Keep leftover dressing in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 days.

How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette

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10 Responses to “How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing”

  1. Julia posted on May 27, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Yeeeeah! Homemade vinaigrettes and salad dressings are my faaave! I love this guide – so perfect for making the most delicious dressings for all the summer salads!

  2. Lauren posted on May 27, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    This is my favorite, favorite way to make vinaigrette — the possibilities are endless! Thanks for the reminder, since I haven’t done it in a while. Vinaigrette is perfect for a summer salad!

  3. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup posted on May 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I’m so glad you decided to write a tutorial for us! I agree that bottled dressing never tastes very good. This formula is wonderful as it allows us to use what we have on hand and gives us endless options. Thank you! 

  4. Lauren @ Living the Savory Life posted on May 27, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Really nice post!! Homemade dressing/vinaigrette is so lovely and can be really easy! (especially now that you’ve broken it down) I feel like so many don’t know how simple and delicious it is. My mom always eyeballed it but I still get better results when I measure. I use old jelly jars for my dressings. If I were smart I would just mark the lines on the jar…

  5. Olivia posted on May 28, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    This is my favourite way to make vinaigrette too. Great tutorial. Thnaks ;-)

  6. ami@naivecookcooks posted on May 29, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for such a helpful and in depth tutorial!

  7. Frankie posted on July 6, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    You left out a word in the first sentence.  “You can’t go wrong with”

    • Karen Raye replied on July 6th, 2014 on 8:12 pm

      Hi Frankie, another reader just pointed out my typo, too! Just fixed it. Thank you. :)

  8. Don Howard posted on July 6, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Wait.. you CAN’T go with Extra Virgin Olive Oil or is that a typo?

    • Karen Raye replied on July 6th, 2014 on 8:10 pm

      Yikes, that was a typo! Thanks for asking; I’ve fixed it.

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