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Healthy Salad Dressing

By Alana Sugar, June 6, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
What could be cooler than a crisp green summer salad? You know: plenty of dark leafy greens, ripe red tomatoes, purple onions, fresh herbs, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, peppers — you name it. So healthy! But salad is only half the picture. Personally, I could never eat a salad without the dressing; it seems to me the two make a very happy marriage. Why? Because behind every successful salad stands an incredible dressing! But the kind of dressing matters when it comes to keeping the relationship healthy. Too bad so many commercial salad dressings fall into the category of “junk” food. One quick trip down the salad dressing aisle at any conventional grocery store features an astounding array of bottled chemicals, sugars and high fructose corn syrup, overly-processed oils, chemical dyes and preservatives. All in the name of “good” salad dressing! Since I have no intention of creating conflict and eventual divorce between salad and its cohort, I’m in favor of a healthy salad dressing revolution. Good salad dressing not only adds great flavor but nutritional value as well. Salad vegetables, whether composed of leafy greens or other vegetables, contain fat-soluble nutrients such as Vitamin K and Vitamin A. This means they need fats and/or oils to be properly absorbed. You can add good quality expeller pressed oils, or forego the oils and add whole nuts or nut butters instead. You get the health benefits of nuts and seeds without adding any extracted oils. Since this is a topic near and dear to my heart, I’ve written about it before! In my “Making Your Own Salad Dressing” post, I walk you through the process of selecting vinegars, oils and other ingredients to mix up your own delightful dressing. So, not to repeat myself, I’m going to focus this post on expanding your dressing world a bit. Have you ever made a dressing from nuts, seeds or nut butters? It’s very easy and nuts and fruit can make for creamy, juicy and flavorful salad dressings without adding any extracted oils. Plus you get the health benefits of those nutrient-dense nuts and fruits. Here’s a starter recipe for a healthy salad dressing:
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts, cashews, almonds or pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh fruit, such as plums, peaches, blueberries or strawberries
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk (or fruit juice, such as pomegranate or orange)
  • 1 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (or vinegar)
Puree all ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth. For thinner dressings, add a little more soymilk or fruit juice. That’s it! Super simple. From here, experiment with a variety of nuts, seeds or avocado as a base and try different fruit like pineapple, grapefruit, kiwi and berries. For extra flavor, add fresh or dried herbs, sesame or flax seed, mustard, onions, garlic or shallots. Soaking dried fruits such as cranberries, dates, raisins or figs in hot water and adding to the dressing in place of half of the fruit makes a delicious, sweet dressing – a good complement to a fruit, vegetable or whole grain salad. Instead of whole nuts, you can also try nut butters such as almond or peanut butter or tahini (ground sesame seeds). Some delicious combinations are:
  • Cashews, peaches, orange juice and white wine vinegar
  • Almonds, blueberries, soy milk, and lime juice
  • Walnuts, plums, apple juice and lemon juice
  • Pecans, peaches, water and sherry vinegar
Some other ideas for additions that carry the flavors of the dressing are:
  • Varieties of prepared mustard (Dijon, honey mustard, spicy, etc.)
  • Fresh or dried herbs (basil, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, etc.)
  • Dried nutritional yeast (tastes a lot like parmesan, it’s dairy-free and has good B vitamins)
  • Onions, chives, garlic, ginger, radish, shallot, scallions, etc. – add flavor and punch!
  • Sea salt, miso (fermented soybean paste), gomasio (a combination of toasted sesame seeds with sea salt), white pepper, black pepper, ground orange or lemon peel, and a dash of kelp or dulse granules (sea veggies that add flavor and nutrients)
Here are a few more healthy, no-oil added dressing recipes: Making your own dressing really doesn’t take much time. Try it and see for yourself! Now, if you do buy some bottled dressing, be sure to look for preservative and additive-free dressings based on healthy natural ingredients such as vinegar, mustard and expeller pressed oils. Shy away from buying dressing with added sugar, fructose or high fructose corn syrup. You might try a fat free, low sugar dressing — you can always add your own nuts or seeds. Here’s to building good health through salad! If you have a favorite healthy salad dressing recipe, I’d love to try it!
Category: Healthy Eating




Georgia says ...
Dressing can really make or break a salad. It's nice to have a few basic recipes on hand, but I like your idea of adding in unexpected ingredients. I'm trying soy milk next!
06/06/2010 9:18:40 PM CDT
Val says ...
Hi there. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this article. Thanks so very much for sharing these awesome ideas. I was wondering, a lot of these call for tofu. I know I can substitute almond milk for soy milk, but I'm not sure what a good substitute is for tofu (I'm allergic to soy). Many thanks! Val
06/08/2010 1:28:06 PM CDT
Sarah says ...
Love your ideas! I'm usually just an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette gal myself, but I love the fruit juice idea. One of my favorite salads at Panera has a white apple vinaigrette and I'd love to try to recreate that.
06/09/2010 11:34:28 AM CDT
paig292 says ...
@Val Thank you so much for your enthusiasm! We are glad you like our ideas. If you are allergic to soy products, no problem! Tofu is used to add nutrients, thicken and help flavor salad dressings. Avocado will do much the same. If you not allergic to dairy, organic cottage or ricotta cheese will also provide creaminess and flavor. Thanks again for question.
06/09/2010 2:31:49 PM CDT
Dayna says ...
I love strawberry walnut salad. I mix a handful of fresh strawberries with a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar and a couple tablespoons of walnut oil, whirl it together in the blender, and drizzle it on fresh spinach salad with sliced strawberries. Top it with walnut pieces and a little feta cheese, and it is a terrific summer salad.
06/09/2010 2:50:18 PM CDT
Kathleen says ...
Try virgin coconut oil. I have food allergies (yeast, dairy, soy, gluten, etc.) the biggest of which is yeast so I cannot have vinegar. One day I decided to warm up some coconut oil and try it on my salad. What a discovery! Try it with mixed greens, chopped egg, toasted almonds or pecans (or both), your favorite veggies and a nice crisp sliced apple.
06/09/2010 3:56:23 PM CDT
Kim Scudera says ...
Here's a salad dressing dilemma: I'm allergic to citrus, and have developed a sensitivity to sulfites, so no vinegar! I couldn't agree with you more that salads without dressing are not as good as they could be! Ideas? Thanks!
06/10/2010 9:15:05 AM CDT
Sarah G. says ...
I am going on a vacation where we make many of our own dinners. I would love to make some of these dressings and take them with me, but am unsure as to how long they will stay fresh. Unfortunately in our cabin I will not have access to a blender! Any idea as to how long I can count on these dressings to last if kept cold??
06/16/2010 8:16:21 AM CDT
sugara says ...
@Kim Scudera: Thanks for your comment! Sometimes just a little good quality olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper is great on a salad, especially with pungent vegetables such as radish. In place of vinegar, try a bit of pomegranate juice, or blend some yogurt with herbs, salt and pepper. This can work, too. One of my favorites is cottage cheese; personally, I think it makes a wonderful salad dressing when mixed with fresh herbs, garlic, sea salt and pepper.
06/16/2010 4:08:59 PM CDT
sugara says ...
@Sarah G Thanks for your comment! I would suggest keeping these dressings for no more than 2 days to one week, depending on the ingredients you use. Straight oil or nuts with vinegar or citrus will last a long time; an avocado blend will not be good more than a day or two. If you don't have refrigeration, an olive oil and vinegar dressing can go unrefrigerated. Make small amounts at one time and leave it out on your kitchen counter. Without a blender, it works well to add small diced onion, shallot, fresh herbs and garlic.
06/16/2010 4:13:18 PM CDT
wendy says ...
If people don't have time to make a dressing...follow your heart has a great selection & healthy with several low calorie choices
06/16/2010 5:21:38 PM CDT
Laurie says ...
Yes, I have really been loving making dressings with nut butters lately. Just enough nut butter to give texture without adding much fat, and then all kinds of other ingredients. I used to "collect" salad dressings....healthy ones....some fattening, some with no fat. They are still sitting somewhere on my shelves and I should just throw them out. It has been a year or two since I just started loving the ones that I make more!
06/17/2010 1:10:06 AM CDT
Johanna Eisler says ...
What a delightful and encouraging page. I plan to try many of these ideas! My husband can't have sulfites, so I'm just learning to be creative in the salad dressing "department." He does not have a problem with dairy, so I've found that using a pure sour cream like Daisy for a base to be excellent. To that I add fresh minced garlic and/or onion (dehydrated garlic and onion contains sulfites), lemon juice, salt and pepper. From there I may add dill or any other favorite sulfite-free herb. Delicious! Thank you so much for being an oasis in a desert of additive-loaded shopping! I've always enjoyed shopping, but since his sensitivity was discovered, shopping has become a chore. Thanks to you, I can enjoy shopping again! A thousand thanks!
03/11/2011 7:35:15 AM CST
Betty says ...
Found another interesting recipe on http://www.cookingadviceblog.com/caesar-salad-dressing-low-cal/ , hope i can post it here 1/3 c Tofu 2 T Lemon juice 1 1/2 t Dijon mustard 1 ea Garlic clove, minced 1 t Anchovy paste, or anchovy 1/4 t Salt 2 T Parmesan cheese, grated 1 T Olive oil 1 pn Sugar, pinch 1 pn Pepper In small saucepan of simmering water, poach tofu for 2 minutes; drain, chop coarsely and let cool. In blender, blend lemon juice, mustard, garlic, anchovy, salt, sugar and pepper. With blender running, gradually add tofu, cheese and oil. Transfer to small jar and refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days. Makes 1/2 cup. Per T: about 30 calories; 1 g protein, 3 g fat; 1 g carbohydrate.
05/18/2011 3:24:32 AM CDT
Tina says ...
Great nutrient dense ideas to dress your salads!
03/29/2013 7:47:51 PM CDT
Tina says ...
Dressing your Salads
04/08/2013 9:37:38 AM CDT
Laura says ...
Great ideas, but I wish you would do a better job following through on these concepts in your stores. It's so frustrating that I can never find nutritional and calorie information for the dressings on your in-store salad bar. Also, it seems like there are very few healthy/low-fat dressing options available on your in-store salad bars (although I can't tell for sure since nutritional info is missing!) I would definitely go to your salald bar more frequently for lunch if I had a better idea of what I was really eating!
07/02/2014 10:43:32 AM CDT
Nancy Latimer says ...
What is the salad dressing made by three brothers as shown on Fox News Saturday morning?
08/30/2014 5:30:06 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@NANCY - I didn't see the segment but our product options differ. Check with your local store to see if they have the specific brand in stock.
09/01/2014 1:24:16 PM CDT
nadia Morinia says ...
I have to say I am in Love and yes I said in love with that creamy apple dressing. I am very disappointed that it is not for sale. And I live too far to run buy my salads from whole foods daily. But I will eat a salad everyday If I had that dressing in my home.
01/19/2015 1:44:10 PM CST
Susan says ...
THANK YOU SO MUCH! I was looking for exactly something like this. Healthy, no sugar, no dairy, no other junk. And it looks really easy to prepare. Can't wait to try it.
01/23/2015 1:06:06 PM CST
sandy kleck says ...
We are looking to make a salad dressing to bottle and sell at Whole Foods. Can you tell me what I can use as a natural preservative, and when bottling the dressing, how can we seal the bottles without canning?
02/25/2015 4:26:29 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SANDY - I would suggest possibly reaching out to a salad dressing vendor that we currently sell to see if they have advice!
02/26/2015 12:44:27 PM CST
Holly says ...
Good way of describing, and pleasant post to obtain data concerning my presentation subject, which i am going to convey in school.
08/19/2015 5:43:10 PM CDT