There are two types of salads: sad salads and scene-stealing salads. A sad salad is one that was thrown together without a real plan. Its sole purpose is to deliver a few vegetables, but it lacks flavor and excitement. A scene-stealing salad is one that just might outshine the main dish. It’s packed with good ingredients, and topped off with a delicious salad dressing. The easiest way to ensure you’re making exciting salads at home is with a good homemade salad dressing recipe. If you learn how to make salad dressing at home, then even the simplest salads will feel like a treat. Follow these tips from Blue Apron Chef Ramell Chambers.
How to make salad dressing
Homemade salad dressing is way better than anything you buy, which is why we’re showing you how to make nearly any dressing at home. All you need to get started is a jar with a lid or mixing bowl and a whisk.
Vinegar for salad dressings
At their most basic, salad dressings are made up of vinegar, or another acid, and oil. The standard oil to vinegar ratio is 3:1, but some oils and vinegars are stronger. We use red wine or white wine vinegar in our everyday dressings. When we’re craving something different, Champagne and sherry vinegar offer a bit more personality, as does balsamic. You can also use lime juice or lemon juice, or even the juice from a freshly squeezed orange. Depending on how much you like vinegar or lemon juice, you can cut the acidity in two ways: adding more oil or throwing in a pinch of salt.
Oil for salad dressings
You really taste the oil in salad dressings, so opt for your most delicious, high-quality oil. We always use extra virgin olive oil in our dressings. If you’re looking to shake things up, you can look out for fun oils at your local specialty store. Walnut or sesame oil can change the flavor profile of your dressing. You can also experiment with other fats, like rendered duck or bacon fat. We always say to add oil to your taste, so really do try the dressing as you go. The best way to sample your dressing while it’s in progress is to dip in a lettuce leaf and take a bite.
How to make a creamy salad dressing
For a creamier salad dressing, you can whisk in a spoonful or mayonnaise, sour cream, or greek yogurt. Add some grated parmesan, and you’ll have a good approximation of a Caesar salad dressing.
How to mix salad dressings
The goal of mixing a salad dressing is to create an emulsion. That means that tiny drops of oil are suspended in the vinegar, so that the mixture appears smooth and homogenous. This is easy to do by vigorously whisking in a bowl, or by shaking. To shake, just combine all of your ingredients in a jar, screw the lid on tightly, and firmly shake for 10-15 seconds. You can store any leftover dressing in the same jar.
How to flavor salad dressings
After you’ve picked your oil and vinegar, it’s time for the fun part. Adding some herbs or other flavorings will take your salad to the next level.
You can add finely chopped aromatics like garlic, shallots, or herbs. We like to mince shallot finely, and cut garlic even more finely so that it turns into a paste. To mellow the taste a bit, we usually marinate the shallot or garlic in vinegar for 10-15 minutes before serving. To get creative, try roasted garlic, pickled shallots, or charred scallions. When in doubt, a spoonful of mustard will add a ton of flavor.
Tips for homemade salad dressing
- Mason jars are your friend, they’re inexpensive and seal tightly.
- Try experimenting with alternatives to oils like rendered duck or bacon fat
- If you’re using dried herbs in your dressing, allow them to soften and saturate in the dressing for at least 5-10 minutes before serving
- Always make a little extra. Leftover dressing is great for dips or future meals.
- Mustard (dijon, whole grain) is a salad dressing secret weapon. It packs huge flavor and helps to keep everything emulsified
- Don’t forget to season your dressing with salt and pepper!
- Salad dressing will keep for about a week in the fridge