This is one of our base recipes. Shopping for salad dressing can be overwhelming when trying to balance flavor, price, quality, and nutrition. An easy solution to this dilemma is to make your own homemade salad dressing! This simple vinaigrette base recipe is made with only 4 ingredients, is exceptionally nutritious, and comes together in just minutes. Learning how to make salad dressing from scratch allows you to control the ingredients, flavor, and cost – triple win!
Three Must-Know Cooking Skills
For recipe success, learn how to:
Culinary Tips for a Basic Vinaigrette Dressing (with Variations)
This is a standard vinaigrette recipe, so we use the traditional oil to vinegar ratio: three parts oil to one part vinegar/acid, but this ratio can vary depending on your choice of vinegar/acid and personal taste. The less acidic the vinegar/acid, the less oil you need. It’s all about balance!
Add the oil in a slow and steady stream for the best emulsion. Pause and taste as you add the oil; you might not need all of it.
If the vinaigrette is too tangy, add a little honey, agave, or maple syrup to taste.
Use fresh garlic over pre-chopped. It makes a huge flavor difference!
- Vinegar: substitute any type of vinegar or citrus juice. Aged and infused vinegars add more complex flavors and oftentimes a touch of sweetness. Apple cider, balsamic, champagne, red wine, rice wine, sherry, and white wine are all good options. Citrus juice provides a milder flavor, so consider mixing it with vinegar for a more flavorful dressing.
- Garlic: substitute 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot, ½ teaspoon garlic flakes, or ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: substitute an infused extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. We don’t recommend using vegetable oil, as this is not a heart-healthy oil. If you want to enhance the vinaigrette with a strongly flavored oil, such as sesame, walnut, or truffle oil, still use extra virgin olive oil as the base, then add the strong oil a little at a time, to taste.
Base Recipe Variations
Remember that this is a base recipe, so the goal is for you to customize it to your taste!
Once you know the basic vinaigrette ratio and ingredients, there are endless types of vinaigrettes that you can make and customize to your taste!
Get creative with different combinations of oils and vinegars, then add other ingredients such as mustards, jams, fresh or dried herbs, spices, sweeteners, or fruits. The sky is the limit!
Need some vinaigrette recipe inspiration?
Use these recipe variations for inspiration, then have fun exploring other flavors, ingredients, and textures!
Equipment for Mixing the Vinaigrette
Mixing oil and vinegar creates an emulsion. Because oil and vinegar don’t like to stay together, this emulsion won’t last forever, but having the right equipment can help!
The traditional way to make salad dressing from scratch is to use a mixing bowl and whisk. Another easy way to make an emulsified vinaigrette is by shaking the ingredients together in a mason jar or shaker bottle.
Health Benefits of Homemade Vinaigrette
Making your own vinaigrette allows you to choose what goes into your body, which is a great way to promote your health. All of the ingredients in this vinaigrette base recipe are ones that you can see, recognize, and pronounce.
Vinegar provides a lot of flavor without providing a lot of calories. The acidity in vinegar balances flavors and can help reduce the amount of salt needed in a dish which may be helpful when trying to manage high blood pressure. (1) Vinegars also contain probiotics, vitamins, minerals, acids, and antioxidants that benefit health in numerous ways, from helping fight off diseases to controlling blood sugar levels. (2, 3, 4)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet. It contains high amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols which may reduce inflammation. Additionally, certain nutrients require fat for absorption; using an olive oil-based dressing on your salad can help you get the most nutritional bang for your buck. (5, 6)
No Unnecessary Ingredients
Not all food additives are bad or dangerous, but we believe that it’s best to be cautious when handing your health over to food manufacturers. Many store-bought salad dressings contain fillers, stabilizers, and flavor enhancers that may not promote your health. Making your own salad dressing can give you some peace of mind; you will be able to see, pronounce, and taste all of the ingredients!
Use the basic oil to vinegar ratio to make any quantity of vinaigrette – from a single serving for lunch to a large batch for a dinner party. Use this vinaigrette dressing tossed in with a green salad, mixed into a grain salad, or as a marinade for meat.
How to Store Homemade Vinaigrette
For best quality, store the vinaigrette in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. If you added fresh herbs, it probably will not last as long. If you used dried garlic instead of fresh, it will last longer than two weeks.
The vinaigrette may solidify in the fridge. Don’t worry if this happens! Simply let it sit at room temperature for 5-15 minutes, then shake vigorously to redistribute the emulsion. If that doesn’t work, microwave it for a few seconds until the oil liquifies again.
Want more healthy recipes?
Vinaigrettes aren’t just for green salads! Use this healthy salad dressing recipe in some of our favorite non-leafy salads!
Vinaigrette Base Recipe
- ¼ cup acid (vinegar, citrus juice, or combination)
- 1 small garlic clove, minced (may sub ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder)
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Combine acid and garlic in a small bowl.
- Slowly add the olive oil, whisking continuously.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!