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Make Your Own Salad Dressing

By Alana Sugar, May 18, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
I am often asked for good ways to improve one’s diet. One of my top suggestions is to eliminate overly processed oils and damaged hydrogenated fats. One great way to do that is to make your own salad dressing. The possibilities are endless and the result is healthy, refreshing and delicious. Don’t get me wrong! Buying salad dressing is great when you need to save time. I certainly have my favorites that I will always buy, and I love the fact that the dressings at Whole Foods Market are clean and delicious, made without all of the chemicals additives so many commercial salad dressings have. They’re also made with good quality, non-hydrogenated oils. Still, if you like experimenting in the kitchen like I do, and knowing exactly what goes into your food, then making your own salad dressing is a sure bet for a fun event! Might even save a bit of money too. Here’s my guide:


First on the list for making your own salad dressing is choosing good quality oil. Our stores carry a wonderful assortment of naturally processed, cold pressed and expeller pressed oils, and many are perfect for salads. Avoid the typical solvent extracted oils you find in other stores. Learn more about expeller pressed and cold pressed oils. Olive oil is a well-known favorite. For me, there is nothing finer than an extra virgin olive oil for salad. Olive oil comes from different regions and the flavor of the oil depends on the climate, region, growing method and the olive itself. The flavor of olive oil can be strong, peppery, spicy, earthy (I call it “grassy”), or even mellow and mild. For fun and variety, you can substitute some or all of the olive oil with any of the following:
  • Walnut oil
  • Roasted nut oils, such as walnut or hazelnut (incredibly delicate and delicious) – roasting changes the flavor
  • Canola, avocado or sunflower oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cottage or ricotta cheese


The next ingredient in your salad dressing is something with a little acidity. This adds a nice balance in flavor and gives your salad some “pep.” Our stores carry a wonderful assortment of vinegars with a wide range of flavors. If vinegar is not your thing, there are plenty of other options. A good ratio of oil to vinegar is about 3:1, but this depends on your personal taste. Try some of these – I will combine different citrus in a dressing but usually not vinegars.
  • Chardonnay white wine vinegar (or other white wine vinegar) — a little light
  • Balsamic vinegar — darker and a little sweeter
  • Raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar — delivers live enzymes and probiotics
  • Red wine vinegar — very tangy and acidic
  • Sherry vinegar—more subtle flavor than red wine vinegar
  • Lemon and/or lime juice
  • Pomegranate, grapefruit, orange, and/or pineapple juice — these are not as strong in flavor, so you may need a bit more


You can always keep your dressing simple with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, but there are a few extra “sparklers” I often use:
  • Mustard (dry, prepared Dijon or honey mustard)
  • Minced fresh shallots, chives or spring onion
  • Crushed or minced fresh garlic
  • Fresh minced or dried crushed herbs such as basil, tarragon, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram (the addition of fresh herbs add a great antioxidant boost)
  • Finely chopped anchovies or capers for a bold punch of flavor
  • A small amount of raw honey or agave nectar, if you like your dressing slightly sweet
  • Unpasteurized miso in place of salt adds live enzymes and natural probiotics as well as wonderful flavor
  • An ounce or so of feta cheese in place of salt in your recipe adds great flavor and a creamier consistency


Now that you have the basics, here are some simple ideas for complete salad dressings to get you inspired:
  • Enzyme/probiotic salad dressing: Whisk together 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, ¼-1/3 cup raw apple cider vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 small minced shallot, 1-2 teaspoons fresh white or mellow miso, 1 teaspoon raw honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Adjust the ingredients to personal taste.
  • Greek-style salad dressing: Puree 1 cup extra virgin olive oil with 1/3 cup lemon juice, an ounce or two of feta cheese, a clove of garlic, some fresh or dried oregano and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Spicy Asian-style dressing: Blend ½ inch piece of fresh diced and peeled ginger root with 1 or 2 cloves of garlic and 1 cup of refined expeller pressed sesame or canola oil in a blender. Add the juice of one or two limes, and 2-4 tablespoons of sesame tahini. Add tamari, crushed red pepper and honey or agave nectar to taste.
  • Balsamic-walnut dressing: Whisk together 1 cup roasted walnut oil, 1/3 cup fig or blueberry infused balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of prepared mustard, 1 small chopped shallot, salt and pepper. Look for roasted walnut oil in a nicely-labeled tin container with the rest of the bottled oils in our grocery section.
RECOMMENDED RECIPES Manchego, Apple and Almond Salad Vegan Caesar Salad Green Salad with Rotisserie Chicken and Blackberry Dressing I always store my salad dressing in the refrigerator where it will last up to a month and even longer if it is just olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. If you use fresh herbs or chopped onion and garlic, try to use the dressing within a week or so. If your dressing contains mostly olive oil, it will solidify in the fridge. Pull it out about ½ hour before you use it or run the bottle under a little hot tap water; it will liquefy quickly. Some people leave olive oil and vinegar out on the counter and that’s okay to do, too. Just give it a good shake before using. If you have a recipe you love for salad dressing, or any must-have ingredients, I’d love to hear about it.
Category: Healthy Eating




Donna Papacosta says ...
I've been known to buy some great bottled dressings at Whole Foods, but I prefer to make my own. Here is my tip for cutting WAY down on oil and making a great dressing: Put one or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the salad bowl. Add chopped garlic, herbs, etc. Let it sit for 30 minutes. THEN add the the chopped veggies, greens, etc., and use a salad fork/spook to bring up the oil from the bottom to coat the leaves. Then add the other ingredients -- lemon juice, etc. Toss again and enjoy. I promise that you will not miss the extra oil.
05/18/2009 2:09:12 PM CDT
NJ_Cher says ...
Terrific post. I sometimes make my own salad dressings and will now be even more inspired with all these ideas.
05/18/2009 3:59:45 PM CDT
Alisa - Go Dairy Free says ...
This is my new favorite salad dressing recipe, and it is actually oil-free - http://www.onefrugalfoodie.com/2009/05/06/non-fat-salad-dressing-bursting-with-flavor/
05/18/2009 6:20:55 PM CDT
Carol says ...
Great ideas for dressings. I often make my own dressing but had not thought of some of those combinations. Love the feta cheese tip. I also appreciate the information on the qualities added by some of the ingredients I don't usually use. One question: I usually use a 2:1 (or less) ratio especially with a milder/sweeter acid source. Am I missing something? Thanks for the nice article.
05/18/2009 9:57:58 PM CDT
Bonita says ...
Unfortunately, most salad dressings are made with soy oil. Soy products are very controversial as is Canola oil which I stay away from as a overcomer of breast cancer 19 years ago. I have to make my own salad dressings. It's empowering to see this information and that others are doing the same. Next Level Self Care to Empower YOU!
05/20/2009 4:48:53 PM CDT
christi says ...
SALAD DRESSING RECIPE=Honey and dijon mustard is a great recipe for salad or dip with chicken....You can make in a medium size tupperware contaciner and have on hand at all times. Its cheaper and lasts longer than a four dollar bottle which goes in a week!
05/20/2009 4:52:18 PM CDT
Sharmila says ...
For a single serving: - drizzle of olive oil - splash of balsamic vinegar - spoon of dijon mustard Shake and pour over mixed greens. Looks so pretty and everyone loves it. Even easier than buying a salad dressing. Plus, nobody every really finishes an entire bottle of dressing, right? Less waste this way :)
05/20/2009 5:08:15 PM CDT
Qiana says ...
Tahini makes a great vegan and gluten free base for a creamy salad dressing, whether lettuce/vegetables, pasta or potato. I mix it with a lot of lemon juice, a bit of olive oil (helps emulsify), salt and pepper. Sometimes I will add avocado, red pepper or kalamata olives to the base. It also makes a great dip for artichokes or other veggies. Thanks for the other ideas!
05/20/2009 5:10:17 PM CDT
Laura says ...
A great salad dressing is SALSA! Make your own with fresh organic vegetables!
05/20/2009 5:23:42 PM CDT
~M says ...
I like 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil with a 1/2 tablespoon each balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses...it's especially good on salads with fruit.
05/20/2009 5:26:23 PM CDT
Peggy says ...
I too now make my own salad dressing. I have really enjoyed them with my container garden grown lettuce this spring but will keep it up. I find a little bit of pressed garlic reduces my need for oil as it intensifies the flavor and I use about a 2:1 ratio as well. I make the dressing about every 2-3 days and the freshness also seems to help the flavor. I like swapping vinegars and citrus. Thanks for the tips!
05/20/2009 5:29:48 PM CDT
Leslie Trippy says ...
I've been making one incredible salad dressing for years (although I do buy some organic, pre-made, bottled dressings from time-to-time)and here is the recipe: 1 C organic flax seed oil 1 C fresh-squeezed lime juice 6 TBL Braggs liquid aminos as much chopped fresh garlic and peeled, chopped, fresh ginger as you like (I use about a 2" piece of ginger and about 8 cloves of garlic) I bought an inexpensive glass jar w/lid at CostPlus World Market and just shake all the ingredients together and put it in the fridge! It lasts quite awhile, but we do eat salads almost everyday.
05/20/2009 5:54:05 PM CDT
Jim says ...
I have a different take on the anchovy component, with a creamy, sweet, low-sodium, high-omega-3, high-protein salad recipe I’ve used and loved for years. In a food processor, I puree: 1/4 lb baked (or canned) salmon, sardines, or mackerel A low-moisture fruit (i.e. persimmons, mango, papaya, banana) No-salt mustard, parsley and dill, lemon juice, and a little olive oil About 6 oz is plenty for 5 - 7 oz of arugula or dandelion greens. The sweetness of the fruit nicely balances the bitterness of the arugula or dandelion. I often sprinkle some slivered almonds and dried onions on top.
05/20/2009 11:00:08 PM CDT
Claudia Ura says ...
I make my dressing with Org. Olive Oil (WF brand), equal amounts of either Balsamic or org apple cider vinegar to Nama Shoyu soysauce, I add a big teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a bunch of fry Tarragon as well as Dill - it's great!
05/21/2009 9:47:53 AM CDT
Terry says ...
Sure would like a printable version.
05/21/2009 10:34:05 AM CDT
Susan says ...
I hope this gets to Alana since she asked for salad dressing recipes. This is one of my favorites: 1/4 C. olive oil 1/4 C. Fresh lemon juice 2 TBS. Honey or Agave Nectar Mix well. I love this on Arugula, 1 hard-boied egg, 1/4 avocado and 1/2 can tuna in water, drained. Or add any other ingredients you prefer.
05/21/2009 12:08:48 PM CDT
mo says ...
The simplest of all recipes: l part sushi seasoned vinegar to 1-2 parts Canola Oil. (e.g. 1 tbsp sushi vinegar to 2 tbsp of Canola Oil Whisk together in the bottom of a medium bowl. Fill with mixed field greens/baby red and green romaine or whatever salad mix you like. Make more dressing if you prefer to taste.
05/21/2009 6:50:38 PM CDT
Michele says ...
I didn't enjoy making my own dressings until I bought a hand blender (immersion-type) which turns oil and vinegar into something resembling mayonnaise in texture. You can use whole garlic cloves, too, as the blender purees them completely.
05/21/2009 11:50:27 PM CDT
Sat Nam Kaur says ...
I got this recipe from The Austin Meditation Center some years ago. Many thanks to them because it's still my number one favorite dressing. I almost never buy store bought dressing anymore because this is so easy to make. I use this all the time on salads, steamed veggies, rice, quinoa and as a marinade for baked tofu. Lemon-Tamari Dressing Start with the juice of one fresh lemon. Add an equal amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add around 1 tablespoon each of Organic Tamari and Nutritional Yeast. Shake and serve. Store any extra in the Fridge. It's so good and good for you.
05/22/2009 9:46:56 PM CDT
keith snow says ...
Great article..we love to make our own vinaigrettes and publish lots of videos to help others. Here is a video showing sesame chive vinaigrette: http://www.harvesteating.com/public/1070.cfm keith harvesteating.com
05/23/2009 1:37:21 PM CDT
Shannon says ...
Love this website and all the great ideas!Cannot wait to make the Vegan Ceasar Salad! Thanks Whole Foods!
05/26/2009 1:24:24 PM CDT
derf says ...
vinaigrette that can't miss 1 tsp grey poupon mustard 1 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 thinly-sliced garlic clove kosher salt to taste ground black pepper to taste sprinkle parmigiano reggiano pinch dried basil pinch dried sage 1/2 tsp honey mix thoroughly slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, whisking vigorously to incorporate oil until mixture emulsifies. refrigerate and store for up to a week. bring to room temperature and shake before using.
06/02/2009 3:03:34 PM CDT
Steve says ...
I am new to vegan dining, only three weeks. I made the switch in order to reverse my recently-diagnosed diabetes. I am following a regimen designed by Dr. Neal Barnard. It is quite austere (rigorous?) because it calls for the virtual elimination of oils from the diet (whether natural, as in nuts and seeds, or whether expeller-pressed or derived through other processes). My question is, is it possible to make salad dressings, especially the creamy ones by substituting soy (and, if need be, using cornstarch or other thickening agent)?
09/24/2009 6:45:46 PM CDT
Laura Maynard says ...
My husband is a diabetic and I'm a vegetarian so sometimes it's easier just to make my own salad dressing that suits us both. Our favorite is my honey cinnamon dressing. All my friends and relatives have asked for the recipe. 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 3 tablespoons honey (I use sugar free honey - find it at walmart) 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (I usually just shake the container 4 or 5 times until the mixture gets a light cinnamon coloring) And a big spoonful of splenda, you can use sugar Mix it all together with a fork! And waaaaalaaa! It's amazing, trust me!!! We put it over baby spinach, almond slices, and fresh cut strawberries. Outstanding!!!
06/09/2010 11:21:51 AM CDT
Whitney says ...
I grew up eating a salad with every dinner. My mother makes her salad the same way her grandmother did and now that I have grown I'm the designated salad-maker at family dinner. Use a wooden salad bowl. Mince or crush 1 plump clove of garlic and rub it into the interior of the bowl. Be sure that if you just washed your greens, that you dry them before adding them. I use romaine lettuce or spring mix or spinach leaves (whatever we have) and top with whatever vegetables I'm in the mood to eat: red onion, tomatoes, carrots, corn, green onion, bell pepper, etc., broccoli, etc.) For the dressing, first, I drizzle about 2T of olive oil directly on the salad, then I add a generous amount of red wine vinegar. Grandma says put the vinegar on second because it adheres to the olive oil and you'll get better flavor that way. Season with oregano, salt and pepper to taste. I put the bowl in the refrigerator until dinner is ready so the greens are crisp by the time we're ready to eat.
06/09/2010 4:01:06 PM CDT