One of the keys to a great salad is good salad dressing and there is nothing better than making your own homemade vinaigrette! In just a few easy steps you'll have a fresher, healthier version of your favorite bottled dressing.
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I've got a question for you - how many bottles of salad dressing do you have in your refrigerator? A salad is such an easy go-to option for lunch or a quick healthy dinner, and it's great to have a bottle or two (or maybe five) ready and waiting when you are making a salad. But here’s the thing - a lot of store-bought dressings contains preservatives, which is what lets you keep it in the fridge for so long! Sometimes they also contain a lot of added sugar, so I wanted to give you a formula for how to make vinaigrette in just a few easy steps.
I usually make a least one or two different dressings each week. That way have I options depending on my mood and what I'm cooking that week. If you usually cook for one or two you can make a small batch but if you are feeding a crowd just double or triple the basic recipe. And the best part is you probably have most of the necessary ingredients on hand anyway.
The Basic Vinaigrette Recipe
We'll start with the classic vinaigrette formula, which is one part vinegar or another acid (like lemon juice) mixed with three parts oil. So that means for each tablespoon of vinegar you use you'll need three tablespoons of oil. Pretty easy, right? You can also add in a few extra things for flavor, consistency and variation.
What Oil is best for Vinaigrette?
You can use just about any oil - extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil just to name a few. The key is to use a high-quality oil. That doesn't mean it needs to be super fancy or expensive just good quality as it's going to make up one of the primary flavors in your dressing. One that note be careful not to use an oil that has too intense of a flavor, say a peanut oil, as it can overwhelm the other flavors in your salad.
Choosing the Vinegar
Just about anything goes when it comes to picking a vinegar for your dressing. Some of my favorites are champagne, white wine, apple cider and balsamic. I also like using lemon and lime juice quite a bit.
Adding Seasonings to your Vinaigrette
Once you've got the basic components you can start adding in some extra flavors to really take your vinaigrette to the next level. A little bit of dijon mustard adds a nice tanginess and thickness, a bit of minced garlic or shallot gives you a bit of a kick and fresh herbs add a nice bright flavor. For some dressings, you'll want a hint of sweetness that you get by adding a touch of honey or agave. You'll typically want to add about ½ teaspoon of dijon for every 3 tablespoons of oil. Use the measurements in the basic vinaigrette recipe as a guideline but also season to your liking!
Putting Your Vinaigrette Together
Once you've decided on the ingredients going into your vinaigrette, it's time to whisk everything together. This recipe makes about 4 tablespoons of dressing or enough for three to four salads. You can double to triple you have some for later in the week.
Add a tablespoon of vinegar or citrus juice to a small bowl or mason jar. Add salt, pepper and any other seasoning such as mustard and garlic. Whisk or shake the jar to combine.
Add the oil and whisk or shake again to combine. Combining oil and vinegar is called an emulsion. Getting them to stay combined can be difficult so it's likely they will separate again. If that happens before you use all of the vinaigrette simply whisk or shake the jar again to recombine.
That's it - those two steps will give you a great tasting homemade salad dressing every time!
Storing your Vinaigrette
One of the reasons I like to use a jar or the salad dressing mixer I list below when making a vinaigrette is both make it easy to shake it up after it starts to separate, which is inevitable. If you just make a basic dressing with vinegar and oil you can store it on the counter or in one of your kitchen cupboards for a few weeks. If you add any ingredients such as mustard, shallots or lemon juice the vinaigrette should be stored in the refrigerator. It will keep for about a week so I suggest making smaller batches so it doesn't go to waste!
These are a couple of my favorite flavor combos along with some serving suggestions but the possibilities are really endless!
Asian: Rice vinegar + ginger + garlic + dijon mustard + soy sauce + sugar + avocado oil + sesame oil
Great on slaws, noodles and other Asian inspired salads
Citrus: Lemon, lime or orange juice + zest of same fruit + shallot + dijon mustard + honey + avocado oil
Nice with fish or light summer salads
Apple: Apple cider vinegar + dijon mustard + shallot + agave + olive oil
Excellent on fall salads
Pomegranate: White wine vinegar + reduced pom juice + honey + dijon + salt + pepper + olive oil
Great on farro or other hearty grain salads as well as wintery green salads
Sherry: Sherry vinegar + shallot + lemon+ dijon + pepper + olive oil
Try it tossed with beans or on roasted potatoes
Champagne: Champagne vinegar + dijon mustard + honey + salt + pepper +olive oil
You’ll love this on just about any salad including potato salad
Balsamic: Balsamic vinegar + garlic + honey + olive oil
Great as a marinade for chicken or on a traditional Caprese salad
Have fun experimenting with different flavor combos. I'd love to hear about any really interesting ones you come up with - leave me a note in the comments or take a photo and tag me on Instagram #foodiegirlchicago
Basic Champagne Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon dried garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Add the vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, salt and pepper to a small bowl or mason jar. Whisk or shake to combine.
- Add the olive oil and whisk or shake to combine. Serve on the salad or your choice or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.