How to Make a Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
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 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! 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, well, here’s a little more …
Choose your ingredients
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Yield: Approx. 1/4 cup, Serving Size: 2 tablespoons (1/2 recipe)
- Amount Per Serving:
- Calories: 180 Calories
- Total Fat: 20g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Sodium: 237mg