Salad is an integral meal in any healthy household, mine included.
We eat salad at least 2-3 times per week, either for lunch or dinner.
No matter the ingredients, salads can be a bit boring until you blanket your ingredients in some delicious, healthy salad dressings.
Homemade dressings are the backbone to any salad.
We need to examine exactly what ingredients make the perfect salad dressing recipes.
Our 6 best healthy salad dressing recipes are:
- Raspberry Vinaigrette
- Citrus Vinaigrette
- Dill Vinaigrette
- Basil Vinaigrette
- Lemon Caesar Dressing
- Japanese Carrot-Ginger Salad Dressing
Healthy Salad Dressing Ingredients
The standard, basic ingredients for salad dressing recipes are oil, vinegar, and the obvious salt and pepper.
Generally, my rule of thumb is to use 1/3 cup vinegar to 2/3 cup oil and adding salt and pepper to taste.
This will make one cup of perfectly tart dressing in its simplest form, great for dressing a simple side salad of mixed greens.
There are a wide range of different oils and vinegars to use in this simple application, marrying your homemade dressing flavors with the salad ingredients.
Vinegars for Salad Dressing
An integral part of salad dressing is an acid, meaning a vinegar or citrus/lemon juice.
The acid provides a brightness in comparison to the oil’s fat, balancing one another out on your palate.
Some of the most popular acidic ingredients for homemade dressings are:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
- Rice vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
- Champagne vinegar
- Lime juice
- Lemon juice
- Orange juice
Using any of these vinegars along with oil and an emulsifier will make a vinaigrette, a popular vinegar-based dressing on which we based  of our homemade salad dressing recipes.
Oils for Salad Dressing Recipes
Oils add the fat necessary to make any salad dressing.
Unless you dress your salad with pure lemon juice, there is always some type of oil inside the salad dressing.
My favorite oils for homemade salad dressings are:
- Extra virgin olive oil (most popular)
- Regular olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil
- Flavored oils (garlic, herb, citrus, etc.)
- Sunflower oil
- Canola oil
Extra virgin olive oil lends the best universal flavor to salad dressings, as it is the most common oil called for in salad dressing.
Sesame oil is pungent, so you may use that in combination with another listed oil.
Sunflower oil and canola oil are both very light oils with neutral flavors.
If you do not want your oil to be a main flavor component of your homemade dressing, use a neutral oil.
Emulsifiers – How to Keep the Salad Dressing from Separating
An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that do not typically mix well, such as water and oil.
The emulsifier is an added ingredient that stops the vinegar from separating from the oil.
It creates a suspension of water molecules within the oil, making a homogenous mixture of the liquids.
Since vinegar, which is water-based, cannot fully mix into oil, the added emulsifier halts the oil from separating.
Common emulsifiers in homemade salad dressings are:
- Dijon mustard
- Yellow mustard
- Maple syrup
- Egg yolks (be sure you trust your organic, free-range egg farmer before consuming raw egg!)
- Tomato paste
Miscellaneous Homemade Salad Dressing Ingredients
While vinegar, oil, and emulsifier are the common core vinaigrette ingredients, there are countless flavors that can be added to your dressing.
Some of my favorite optional ingredients for healthy dressing are:
- Greek yogurt
- Soy sauce/tamari
- Onion powder
- Dried herbs
- Maple Syrup
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Black pepper
Summary: A wide variety of ingredients can go into salad dressing, but the most important are oil, acid, and an emulsifier.
Can I Make Homemade Salad Dressings in a Mason Jar?
One of the easiest ways to make a healthy salad dressing is inside of a mason jar.
Simply add all of your dressing ingredients to a mason jar with a tight lid, and shake shake shake!
This is a great opportunity to get the kids to help you in the kitchen because they can exhaust their energy.
Shaking up some dressing is an awesome opportunity for kids to get their sillies out!
Once the dressing is homogenous, serve the dressing right away on top of your favorite salad.
One simple dressing to make this way is honey mustard.
Just pour equal parts honey and Dijon mustard into a jar and shake it up!
Store the honey mustard in the fridge for whenever you need it, up to 1 month.
You can pop the lidded mason jar in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
Summary: Make your dressing inside a lidded Mason jar for easy mixing and storing.
What is the Difference Between Vinaigrette and Dressing?
Although they may be synonyms of one another, dressings and vinaigrettes do differ.
Vinaigrette is a type of dressing, but not all dressings are vinaigrettes.
Did I lose you with that sentence?
It is similar to comparing sweet potatoes to regular potatoes.
In this analogy, a sweet potato is a type of potato, but not all potatoes are sweet.
Vinaigrettes are only a variety of salad dressing, and there are tons of other types of salad dressings.
Vinaigrettes have a runny texture and are lighter in nature.
They are great for marinades as well as topping vegetables.
There are always oils, acids, and flavorings inside vinaigrettes, most commonly balsamic vinaigrette, red wine vinaigrette, or a lemon vinaigrette.
Dressing is an all-encompassing sauce, usually served cold on top of salads, meat, and fish.
There are no restrictions about what base this sauce can have; be it oil, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, avocado, or anything else.
Ranch dressing is a dressing and not a vinaigrette because it is Greek yogurt or mayonnaise-based.
The word “dressing” can also be used in reference to stuffing, the bread-based Thanksgiving side dish.
For our purposes today, we are referring to dressing as in salad dressing only.
Summary: Vinaigrettes are a type of dressing made with oil, vinegar, and flavorings, but not all dressings are vinaigrettes. Dressings can be yogurt, mayo, or oil-based.
What is the Best Salad to Serve with Healthy Homemade Dressing?
A universal homemade salad recipe that goes great with any dressing is great to have in your recipe arsenal.
Think about your favorite salad ingredients, and choose 3-4 of them in addition to your favorite lettuce.
For me, my perfect universal salad would be arugula, heirloom tomatoes, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, and sunflower seeds.
It is a standard line-up of ingredients that would play well with any dressing flavors.
Some of our other favorite homemade salad recipes include:
- Cranberry Spinach Salad
- Asian Chopped Salad with Tofu
- Mediterranean Salmon And Vegetable Quinoa Salad
- Gluten-Free Cold Asian Noodle Salad
There are countless healthy recipes for salads, so you will surely find one that you like.
Summary: Any array of your favorite veggies can make a salad, so pair ingredients with dressing that you already enjoy.
What Other Tools Can Help Make Homemade Healthy Salad Dressing?
If you prefer to use a machine or utensil to make healthy salad dressing, you are in luck!
Food processors or blenders are the easiest tools by far to make salad dressing recipes.
Simply add all of your ingredients, minus the oil, to the food processor or blender and mix.
Open the top of the machine and slowly steam in your oil to create the emulsion.
We did a thorough analysis of the Best Combo Food Processor/Blenders, should you need one for your homemade salad dressings.
Summary: Blenders and food processors are an invaluable resource when making dressings.
Are Homemade Salad Dressings Healthier Than Store Bought Salad Dressings?
Yes! Well, depending on the dressing.
Store bought salad dressings (and any other store bought ingredients, technically) tend to be high in sodium, refined sugars, and fat.
When making your own healthy salad dressing at home, there are no extra additives, unless you add them yourself.
Cooking homemade meals steers you toward a more wholesome diet with more fresh produce and less processed foods.
Processed foods, in my opinion, never taste as great as the whole foods that nature intended.
Buying a balsamic vinaigrette or apple cider vinegar dressing at the store may taste sweeter, saltier, or generally more “fake” due to the chemical additives that you cannot pronounce or identify in the ingredients list.
Adding your own vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to your salad is guaranteeing that you can pronounce and identify each ingredient that you are putting into your body.
Instead of all the excess sugar found in store-bought dressings, you can sweeten your homemade variety perfectly with maple syrup, agave, or honey.
If you are in a pinch and cannot find the time to whip up a homemade dressing, an organic bottled dressing with whole ingredients will be the best option.
Summary: Homemade dressings will always be better for you than processed, store-bought options. They are much tastier too!
These homemade salad dressings are some of our most treasured recipes, because we eat a variety of salads day-to-day.
Each recipe has been tested, tasted, and approved by my family taste-wise, and approved by our nutritionist health-wise.
All dressings are gluten-free, dairy-free, and easy to make.
We are starting out strong with one of the best salad dressing recipes ever! This fancy vinaigrette is made with sweet raspberries and white wine, making any salad go from casual to classy.
Fruity dressings are delicious because they add a sweeter element to a savory salad. Another one of my favorite fruity dressings is one with citrus.
There is no shortage of summer salad recipes, and this amazing Citrus Vinaigrette would be lovely on top of every single one!
Moving on from fruity to herbaceous, some of my favorite dressings require freshly chopped herbs.
This dressing is a punchy, tangy dressing that is very flavor-forward. Mustard, dill, onion, and garlic make this recipe unique and spicy.
If you have tons of fresh basil in your garden, salad dressings are the perfect opportunity to use it up!
This simple dressing requires no work at all and only 5 ingredients, yet has more flavor than any store-bought dressing I’ve ever had.
Moving on from the vinaigrettes, my favorite creamy dressing is Caesar, so I had to make a healthy version.
Lemon Caesar Dressing
Our version of Caesar dressing is a healthy take on the classic, with the addition of lemon zest and yogurt. There are some elements of ranch dressing as well, from the Worcestershire.
Complex salad dressings are perfect for simple salads when you want a bit more interest in your plain salad. This last one does not disappoint.
Japanese Carrot-Ginger Salad Dressing
This gluten-free dressing is made with coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, spicy ginger, and two types of vinegar. Swap out hot mustard for Dijon mustard if you do not like a lot of heat.
Other Helpful Information
Be sure to get a really good quality olive oil for your salad dressings.
If you choose to use a different variety of oil, such as avocado oil, make sure it is robust enough for salads.
Since you are not cooking the dressing, the flavors are a bit less forgiving, so be sure to use good raw ingredients.
I also really like aged balsamic vinegar, because older aging has a much more developed flavor.
Some balsamic vinegar is aged up to 10 years!
Having great quality flavorings stashed in the pantry make for a quick dressing, such as maple syrup, Dijon mustard, fresh black pepper, and a variety of vinegars will be invaluable to salad dressing makers.
You will want an excellent quality whisk if you decide to mix by hand, in order to emulsify the dressing.
If you are on a budget but are still looking for a quality blender, read through our list for the best budget blenders.
The Good, Old Salad Days
Enjoying a homemade healthy salad dressing atop your favorite greens is one of the most underrated meals out there.
The fine elements that go into salad dressings should not be taken for granted, like healthy apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Vinaigrettes are a type of dressing that utilize vinegar, oil, and emulsifier.
Dressings are all-encompassing sauces that top salads, meat, and fish and are usually served cold.
The best way to make a great healthy salad dressing is to experiment with what flavors you enjoy, and go from there.
Use our salad dressings as a guide to incorporate more salads into your diet, and improve your overall health.
Leave a comment below with your favorite dressing on our list!