Make Your Own Salad Dressing

by in Healthy Recipes, Meal Makeovers, March 23, 2010

Simple Salad Dressing
Bottled salad dressings are my pet peeve — the majority of them are full of sodium, sugar and other preservatives. Whether you like a vinaigrette or the creamy stuff, you only need a few simple ingredients (and a couple minutes) to make some yourself.

Dressing Basics
There are endless rows of bottled dressings at the grocery store. Depending on the kind, they are usually high in fat, sugar or both — and they all have too much sodium. You may think it’s wise to opt for the lower-calorie offerings but light and low-fat dressings often have even more sugar to make up for the lack of flavor.

To ensure you’re getting real ingredients, homemade is the way to go, but watch those portions. A vinaigrette may seem lighter but most are made predominantly from oils, which offer heart-healthy but unavoidable calories. Keep serving sizes to a tablespoon. You can store most homemade dressings in the fridge for up to a week (not that a batch will last that long!).

A Simple Vinaigrette
Just join some sort of acid, oil and flavorings and — ta-da! — you have salad dressing! You can use vinegar or citrus juice for your acid. For oil, choose extra virgin olive oil if you want some olive flavor or canola or grapeseed oil if you want something neutral. Turn up the flavor with minced shallot or garlic, fresh or dried herbs, cumin, paprika or mustard — all those add minimal calories. Try orange juice, honey, jam or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.

For a basic vinaigrette, combine one part acid to two parts oil, but that’s not mandatory. Taste as you go and adjust according to your preference.

RECIPE: Simple Salad Dressing

Creamier Choices
Mayo or sour cream make for creamy dressings but the calories coming from fat pile up. Thick and rich Greek yogurt is the key to a lighter creamy dressing. Using low-fat buttermilk or light sour cream will also lower the total fat. Try pureed avocado or almond butter to add unsaturated fat (much more heart healthy).

RECIPES: Ranch Dressing and Green Goddess Dressing

Another Favorite: Honey Mustard
This recipe below doesn’t use oil so it’s low in fat and calories. This dressing works on more than salad greens — use it as a veggie dip or spread some on sandwiches.

Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing
Makes 3/4 cup

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup reduced fat (2%) Greek style yogurt
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer to a resealable jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Nutrition Info (per tablespoon):
Calories: 30; Total Fat: 0 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Carbohydrates: 7 grams; Protein: 0.5 grams; Sodium: 133 milligrams; Cholesterol: 0.5 milligrams; Fiber: 0 gram

Asian-Inspired Picks
I love sesame dressing but my favorite brand had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. I came up with my own. Toss this with mixed greens and sliced cucumber, rice noodles or use as a marinade for chicken or fish.

Sesame Ginger Dressing
Makes 1 cup

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup ginger-lime syrup (recipe below)
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 scallion, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan until golden; set aside to cool. In resealable jar, combine ginger-lime syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, scallion, lime juice, canola oil, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Cover, shake well and serve. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Ginger-Lime Syrup
Makes enough for 2 batches of dressing
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, cut into large chunks
Lime zest (use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to peel off one strip — about 1/4 of the lime)

Combine ingredients in small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove lime and ginger, transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Nutrition Info (per tablespoon):
Calories: 62; Total Fat: 5.5 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Carbohydrate: 4 grams; Protein: 0 grams; Sodium: 63 milligrams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Fiber: 0 gram

TELL US: What’s your favorite salad dressing?

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Comments (42)

  1. Kelli says:

    I've started making my own dressings and sauces, and I'll now never look back!

  2. Seloegal says:

    I can no longer eat store bought bottled salad dressings. Here's what I make: extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar (4:1 ratio), dijon mustard (depending on how much oil/vinegar I use, I add as little as a teaspoon to as much as a tablespoon, and a garlic clove. De-lish!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I bet you could freeze leftover dressing in ice cube trays. As a single person I am not sure how fast I would go through the salad dressing.

  4. YAAA says:

    Lime and EVOO… tiny bit of parm and away we go!

  5. GettingHealthy says:

    What about salsa and ranch dressing? I guess I could try mixing the ranch dry packet and yogurt together and then add the salsa. anyone have a recipe for that or would that work?

  6. Guest says:

    My vinaigrette: Put into a jar with a lid or a salad dressing container, two tablespoons each balsamic and tarragon vinegar; one tablespoon rice or other mild vinegar; one teaspoon honey; one scant teaspoon dijon mustard; 1/2 tsp. herbs of Provence (rubbed in palm), 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, and two tablespoons olive oil. Add a little salt, shake vigorously, and dress a spring mix salad with fresh pears and toasted walnuts. Toasting in the microwave with a little honey (butter your dish for easier clean-up) is really delicious.

  7. Guest says:

    To Guest:above: I am Guest, and I apologize for putting a recipe from memory. When I recreated it myself, I found that I had to add two more tablespoons of olive oil and one extra teaspoon of honey. I have just made a new salad mixture I just love, and I use the above vinaigrette with added slightly apple jelly – one part jelly to two parts dressing. Pour over fresh spinach, sliced sweet apples, and toasted pecans. Yummy to me. Last evening I added a little left over mango to the mix, and yummy again!

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