Homemade Salad Dressings

Steak salad with roasted peppers and green goddess dressing.

A year or so ago, a friend tweeted to the world at large about her major discovery: making her own salad dressing was fun! And easy! And it tasted so much better than bottled dressing!

Yeah, we all tweeted back, we know. Welcome to the club.

Since going gluten free, one of my rules for food is that what I eat should include as few ingredients as possible (it makes reading labels so much easier!). I also want to be able to pronounce every ingredient. If you look at the ingredients on a bottle of commercial salad dressing, you might wonder what is going on. I, for one, am curious why “color” needs to be added to some of these products.

Below are ideas for great salad dressings you can whip together in just minutes. Use these as starting points for your own salads; the links take you to the full recipe.

  • Vinaigrette: For most of the salads in our household, we stick with a simple vinaigrette. Good olive oil, tasty vinegar, a dash of salt and pepper are all it takes to make this dressing. Whisk them together and toss into your salad. Sometimes, things get fancy with orange juice or lemon juice. For the most basic vinaigrette, the rule is three parts oil to one part vinegar.
  • Upgrading Your Vinaigrette: The 3:1 ratio is just a suggestion. Start there, then add more vinegar to taste. And play with your vinegar flavors. Some are light, some are intense. If you want the emulsion — the result of whisking the oil and vinegar together — to hold longer, or just want a bit of sweetness, add a bit of honey. Mustard is also tasty and helps with the emulsion. Herbs, garlic, minced onions all add flavor as well.
  • Buttermilk Ranch Dressing: When I’m craving a creamy dressing, this is my go-to basic. The basics of a Ranch dressing are mayonnaise, sour cream, and vinegar. As you’ll see below, there are lots of ways to expand on this basic recipe.
  • Blue Cheese Dressing: I am a bit of a Wedge Salad fanatic, so I make this dressing all the time. It features mayo, sour cream, buttermilks, and, of course, blue cheese. Because I’m perpetually on a diet, I try to be virtuous and use as little dressing as possible. Mostly I fail in this task, but my intentions are good!
  • Classic Caesar Dressing: I love making Caesar dressing, and, yes, I always include the anchovies. They add umami, that extra flavor profile. In addition to the anchovies, this dressing features garlic, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, and capers.
  • Miso-Sesame Dressing: The salty, yummy miso mixes with nutty sesame oil in this dressing. Because the main flavors are so intense, use a light rice vinegar so the vinegar doesn’t overpower everything else. I also like to add a bit of orange juice for to brighten the flavor.
  • Green Goddess Dressing: Green Goddess dressing is another play on Ranch dressing — herbs such as parsley and chives amp up the color and flavor. My version has anchovy paste, but you could use gluten-free soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.

What are your go-to salad dressings?

Tip of the Week

If you want a thicker vinaigrette, whisk a very small amount, a 1/4 teaspoon or so, of xanthan gum into the dressing. The emulsion will hold longer, and if you’ve added herbs or spice, they will be suspended in the emulsion instead of settling to the bottom.

Menu of the Week

Several times each year, I start craving iceberg lettuce. This is not a normal, it-will-pass craving. No, I go on binges where I have salads featuring iceberg lettuce for days in a row. Needless to say, nothing hits the spot more than a wedge salad. This steakhouse classic is satisfying on a hot summer night or moody, rainy night.

Grilled Steak
Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
Rice Pilaf  (if the steak and salad aren’t enough)

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