Homemade salad dressing is an incredible accompaniment to any recipe and can be used to complement not only green salads but roasted vegetables, grilled meats, sandwiches, pasta and more. Spending a little extra time making salad dressing from scratch leaves room for creativity by the creator to add ingredients that amplify desired flavors. My mom always made salad dressing from scratch, and to this day everyone agrees that salad always tastes better at Grandma’s house.

Homemade dressings can be divided into two main categories: vinaigrettes and cream based dressings. Vinaigrette recipes are fairly straightforward and have a base of oil and something acidic like vinegar. A good ratio to consider when making basic vinaigrette from scratch is to use three parts oil to one part acid. However, if you enjoy a little more acidity and brightness from vinaigrette consider changing the ratio to two parts oil and one part vinegar.

Cream based dressings use ingredients like buttermilk, mayonnaise, avocado, yogurt or other ingredients as their base. Seasonings and fresh herbs can be added to give the dressing a nicely rounded flavor. These dressings are typically chilled but should be removed from the refrigerator 15 minutes prior to serving to be enjoyed closer to room temperature so the flavors will taste bolder.

Tips and Tricks!

  • Don’t forget when taste testing salad dressings that they should be treated as a seasoning and will taste strong if you are testing them off of a spoon. Try tasting them on a leaf of lettuce or any ingredient in the recipe they will adorn for a more accurate tasting of the final product.
  • If your homemade dressing is a bit too sharp or acidic be sure the salt content is adequate. Salt tempers the acidic quality of the recipe and boosts flavors. Sweetness in ingredients like honey, sugar or jam can be added in small amounts to round out flavors and tame acid in a dressing recipe as well. Have an empty raspberry jam jar with a bit of jam left inside? Add vinaigrette ingredients like balsamic and olive oil to the jar and shake vigorously for a delicious result.
  • Vinaigrettes will separate if you do not use an emulsifying agent to bind the acid and oil together. The most common emulsifier is mustard. Miso (fermented soybean paste) is another popular option and adds a lot of depth and body to a dressing recipe but is also quite salty. Miso should be used accordingly and tasted as it is added to ensure the final product isn’t over salted. Honey can be used to stabilize a dressing due to its thick consistency but is not a true emulsifier.
  • Citrus flavors add brightness and freshness to any dressing recipe by adding the juice of various types of lemons, oranges or limes. If you want a greater punch of citrus in your recipe, rub the zest of the citrus used together between your fingers with the salt or sugar in a recipe. This action will release the oils in the citrus zest and give a big bold flavor boost.

Try our family favorite salad dressing which complements any array of fresh greens or goes great tossed with roasted veggies!

Simple Vinaigrette

By: Cristen Clark

Ingredients:

2 large cloves garlic, minced finely or 4 small cloves

1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 tablespoons vinegar (red wine vinegar or champagne vinegar work well)

2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients into a mason jar and shake excessively until homogeneous. This takes about 30 seconds. (tall quilted jelly jars are my favorite size.) Refrigerate if not using within a couple days. *If you refrigerate, be sure to pull out about 20 minutes or more before using so the olive oil can come up to temperature (sometimes if the olive gets too cold it can solidify.)

Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at cristen@foodandswine.com or at foodandswine.com.