When you go to the store to look for salad dressing, you’ve probably taken a quick glance at the back of the label. You’ve seen that the bottles harbor upwards of twenty ingredients each: sugars, spices, oils, emulsifiers, vinegar, food coloring, preservatives, chemicals… You might have seen that and been scared off. Maybe you quit the dressing altogether, or you look for super “clean” brands with products made from only a few natural foods. Those options are undoubtedly better for your health — but not so much for your wallet.
Just one of those small bottles can tack on $7 to your grocery bill. That’s nearly a dollar per serving!
The solution is so simple: Make your own. The steps are so simple, and you can do it for a fraction of the price of the expensive, “cleaner” options. Since all the ingredients are actually just staples of your pantry, you’ll never get caught in a pinch where you’ve completely run out.
Really, these salad dressing companies have been hiding behind a veil of complexity for far too long. It’s time we realize the simplicity of the stuff and just start making our own.
Salad dressing has three simple components:
These are the oils, buttermilks, and tahini of salad dressings. Many store-bought varieties are made with a combination of corn, soybean, and other not-so-nutritious oils — which is why making your own blend is a much better idea.
Use olive oil or avocado oil instead for some monounsaturated or healthy omega-3 fatty acids. There’s a reason adding a drizzle of olive oil on anything makes it taste so much better. That stuff is great for you.
Vinegars or other thinning agents
Vinegar adds a sharp kick of flavor that’s hard to match with another ingredient. But watch out — a little vinegar goes a long way.
Different vinegars add different types of flavor to the mix. Apple cider vinegar is a good neutral addition to go with many recipes. White wine vinegar happens to pair excellently with garlic. Just save the balsamic for something that you want to taste, well… balsamic. The vinegar packs a strong punch that you’re not going to want to mix elsewhere.
Spices and flavor
This is where the magic happens. A nice oil and vinegar combo is great nutritionally, but it can only take the flavor so far. Lemon juice, lime juice, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, and soy sauce are good options for thinning out your dressing with more flavorful ingredients. Spices, too, are an absolute must.
All you have to do is get a little creative with your pairings, and you’ll have new and interesting ways to dress your salads every time.
Some of my favorites are:
Lemon garlic vinaigrette
2 parts olive oil
1 part white wine vinegar
1 part lemon juice
A smidge of Dijon mustard
2 parts sesame oil
1 part soy sauce
1 part lime juice
1 part rice vinegar
Red pepper flakes
Tahini lemon drizzle
1 part tahini
1 part lemon juice
Do a little trial and error if you’re feeling crafty; or, if you’re too nervous that you’ll end up serving something repellent, search some recipes online. Even classic dressings like ranch, balsamic vinaigrette, and chili lime are actually super-simple once you learn how they’re made. But if you must go store-bought, here are the healthiest and unhealthiest ones in the aisle.