I’ve always loved a good green salad. The thing is, I’ve never been able to find a store-bought salad dressing that I like. Most of them – especially store-bought oil and vinegar dressing – taste cloying and weird to me.
But you know what? That’s okay! Why? Because it’s super, duper easy to make my own homemade oil and vinegar dressing. And way less expensive. And I know exactly what goes into it!
Vinaigrette, a dressing made with oil and vinegar, 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!
First and foremost …
What are the ratios for a traditional vinaigrette?
1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil
+ salt and pepper to taste
Simple, right?! But that’s not all you need to know! Read on for even more about making the perfect homemade vinaigrette for you.
What is the best oil for homemade vinaigrette?
You can’t go wrong 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. Avocado oil can be delicious, too. 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 nutty vibe that complements Asian foods nicely. Just use a light touch with the more potent 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!
What is the best vinegar for vinaigrette?
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.
What can I add to vinaigrette for flavor?
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).
Sugar or honey helps mellow the vinegar’s acidity. Bonus if you use honey, which works as a salad dressing emulsifier, too (more about emulsifiers in a bit).
It’s fun to do even more, if you want! Here are some ideas for oil and vinegar salad dressing add-ins:
Use balsamic vinegar. A touch of sweetener – granulated sugar, honey, pure maple syrup, or even brown sugar – helps mellow out the acidity, while a bit of Dijon mustard helps round it out. I like to use white balsamic vinegar for a lighter balsamic dressing in both flavor and looks.
Add fresh chopped herbs like dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, or thyme (dried herbs work, too, but can be more potent – you’ll want to start with about 1/3 of dried vs. fresh.)
Add finely minced ginger.
Add finely minced fresh garlic or even some garlic powder in a pinch.
Add fresh or frozen raspberries along with the other salad dressing ingredients to a blender and puree. Also works with strawberries or blueberries! Go with about 1/2 cup berries per 1 cup of dressing. A bit of shallot and a drizzle of honey go nicely too.
Use champagne vinegar for a light, elegant touch.
Citrus vinaigrette (lime, orange, or lemon vinaigrette)
Swap out half of the vinegar for lemon, lime, or orange juice. Blood orange is especially pretty! Throw in a little zest for an extra punch.
Crushed red pepper flakes, a dab of horseradish, or even a bit of Sriracha add a touch of heat.
Add a bit of finely minced shallots to the equation. Shallots add so much flavor! You can also add onion or scallions.
Dijon mustard adds flavor and acts as an emulsifier – it’s kind of vinaigrette’s best pal. More about emulsifying in a minute. I like to add about a half teaspoon to a teaspoon of Dijon mustard per 1 cup of dressing.
How to mix vinaigrette: My two favorite methods
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.
A tip Brandy shared has been a bit life-changing, too: just whisk the vinaigrette right in the salad bowl, add the greens, and toss. It only works if you’ve got just the right quantity for your salad, but it’s still an incredibly convenient option when the stars align.
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!
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!
Favorite Homemade Dressings & Salads
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How to Make Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
- 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 vinegar, rice, sherry, or other wine vinegar))
- Pinch kosher salt
- A turn of freshly ground black pepper
Optional add-ins (read entire post for even more ideas!):
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs ((think 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 are delicious too))
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or 1 tablespoon horseradish or 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
- 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.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Add to salad, toss, and serve.
- Keep leftover dressing in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 days.