Many years ago, I would eat a salad with nothing but a little grated fat-free cheese and a fat-free dressing, all-the-while thinking how virtuous I was while choking it down. Flash forward to the current pendulum swing back to Real Food and now I totally LOVE salads! Once I started creating these DIY salad dressing recipes, I now even CRAVE them! Rather than the tasteless low-fat salads of old, they are now piled high with bacon, blue cheese, avocado, eggs and tons of dressing. No, they are not diet food, but I am getting tons of nutrients from the giant bowl of veggies and eggs, good fats from the olive oil and avocado and a little flavor kick from the bacon and raw milk cheese. With my DIY Caesar salad dressing I have found the most successful method of getting my two kids to eat a lot of vegetables, too, so that’s a big PLUS. Remember the kale post? One idea I didn’t include is Kale Caesar, but my kids will devour a giant kale salad even though they won’t willingly eat cooked kale. (I just toss kale with the Caesar dressing below, croutons and parmesan cheese.)
DIY Salad Dressing Basics
A basic vinaigrette was one of the first things I learned. It’s a formula, really. Once you learn this formula, you can make salads for days with no repeats! Dijon Vinaigrette, Apple Cider Vinaigrette, Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette…etc. It all comes down to the flavoring agents which I will expound upon in a bit.
There is of course the whole creamy dressing category and it really is simple, too…mayo, yogurt or sour cream can replace the oil in the formula above and it’s a done deal.
DIY Salad Dressing Technique
In a mason jar or salad dressing shaker, mix the flavoring agents and acids together first. Add the oils and shake thoroughly. Taste your dressings on a piece of lettuce or other veggie to check seasoning level and add salt and pepper accordingly. Note: If you are making a creamy dressing, you may want to whisk the ingredients in a bowl or in a small blender/food processor then store in a bowl.
DIY Salad Dressing Components
I will first give you the components I use so if you’re feeling creative or just want to sub in what you have, you can easily do so. Then in the next section I will give you my actual recipes.
- Acids – lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, red or white wine (yes wine, not vinegar)
- Oils – extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil*, coconut oil* (will give it a coconut flavor), bacon fat*, mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream
- Flavoring agents – garlic, shallots (I soak in warm water with a little salt for 5 minutes), green onions, fresh herbs, dried herbs (especially oregano), cheeses (strong cheeses such as feta, blue or Parmesan), honey, maple syrup, apple juice concentrate, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, Worcestershire sauce
*use one part along with two parts of another milder oil to get flavor without heaviness
DIY Salad Dressing Recipes
This is not an exhaustive list and certainly when I create other salad recipes, I will include the dressing (unless it is included here then I will point back to this post) so stay tuned and sign up for my email list so you won’t miss any new ones. (And I promise I won’t abuse this privilege by selling or giving away your info!) These can all be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Dijon vinaigrette – 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp wine vinegar (red, white or sherry), 1 crushed garlic clove, 6 tbsp EV olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
- Sweet Balsamic vinaigrette – 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 6 tbsp grape seed or EV olive oil, S & P to taste
- Caesar vinaigrette (no anchovies) – 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp Worcestershire, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 tbsp wine vinegar, 6 tbsp EV olive oil, S & P to taste
- Lemon Sesame vinaigrette – 1 tbsp chopped and soaked shallot, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 4 tbsp grape seed oil, S & P to taste
- Chile Lime vinaigrette – 1 crushed garlic clove, 1/2 tbsp chile powder (ancho, pasilla or typical chili powder), 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp honey, 6 tbsp grape seed oil (If using EVOO for this one only use 4 tbsp), S & P to taste
- Vietnamese vinaigrette – 2 tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp soy or tamari sauce, 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup, 1 tbsp chili garlic paste or 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 4 tbsp grape seed oil, S & P to taste
- Classic Italian-American Vinaigrette – 2 tbsp wine vinegar, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 crushed garlic clove, S & P to taste
- Ranch Dressing – 1/3 cup yogurt or sour cream, 2/3 cup mayonnaise, milk to thin to pourable consistency (or leave out for dip), 2 tsp each sea salt and dill weed and 1 tsp each oregano, Italian Seasoning, granulated onion, granulated garlic and black pepper.
- Whole30 or Paleo Ranch Dressing – 1 cup homemade mayonnaise or other compliant mayo, 2 tbsp almond milk, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp each sea salt and dill weed and 1 tsp each oregano, Italian Seasoning, granulated onion, granulated garlic and black pepper.
- Blue Cheese Dressing – 1/4 cup yogurt or sour cream, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, a handful of parsley, 1/2 chopped shallot, 2 tbsp wine vinegar, 1/4 cup (or more) crumbled blue cheese, S & P to taste
- Greek Feta Dressing – 1/3 cup yogurt or sour cream, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tsp oregano, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup crumbled feta and S & P to taste. Thin to pourable consistency with almond milk or water.
I’ve started making salads almost every night since as I said, my kids will eat raw veggies way more than cooked, so I am constantly mixing up a batch of some sort of dressing and we use them within the seven-day mark. If that’s not appealing, but you want to use up your dressings quickly enough so they don’t spoil, try taking Salads-in-a-Jar to work. They can be made several days in advance and are very convenient. For a fabulous tutorial and lots of ideas visit “Organize Yourself Skinny”. On the other hand, the one dressing you can actually keep in your pantry that will not spoil is the Sweet Balsamic. With the Dijon you can keep it at room temperature for a month. without it you can keep it indefinitely. It also happens to be a kid favorite so if you only make one dressing, make that one.
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