How to Make Healthy, Homemade Salad Dressing (+ 3 Simple Recipes to Try)

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How to Make Healthy, Homemade Salad Dressing (+ 3 Simple Recipes to Try)

As a kid, I would have been happy to drink Hidden Valley ranch dressing out of a sippy cup, and I didn’t discover that salad dressing could be homemade until a college summer abroad in Italy. Imagine my culture shock when server after server kept bringing me bottles of oil and vinegar instead of a salad smothered in creamy mayo and sour cream based ranch.

I adapted and in the 12 years since Italy, I haven’t purchased one bottle of dressing. It was just so much more fun making my own, and it freed me from worrying about expiration dates, ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce, and bottles cluttering precious fridge space. Instead, I started building a collection of vinegars which regularly consists of balsamic, red wine, apple cider and rice, which is plenty for a variety of homemade vinaigrettes.

To help you ditch the bottle salad dressings, we created this easy-to-use infographic to get you inspired. Use our cooking formula as a start, and then get creative from there! Just remember to taste, taste, taste until you get the mix of flavors that bring your salad to life!

For additional salad inspiration, check out these delicious salad recipes from Cook Smarts and some of our very own!

Cook Smarts Homemade Salad Dressing

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  • Carrie Corman

    I’ve always found the 2 parts oil to 1part acid recipe to be too oily for my taste, so I use a 1 to 1 ratio usually. And, if you don’t mind going a little high on sodium every once in a while, the liquid from a jar of pepperoncini makes a delicious dressing with olive oil and fresh basil, oregano, and thyme. Has just a little spicy kick!

    • Marissa Henn

      I always make my own dressing but never thought to add the liquid from the pepperoncini jar! Can’t wait to try this! Thanks!

    • Beth Perry

      I I feel that way too. Sometimes I even use less than 1 part oil! Yum, peppercini liquid. I bet that does add a kick!!

  • Justwanna Seepagesilike

    Great great great article I’m actually going to try it you make it look easy!!

  • will

    Can you advise how long the dressings will keep?

  • TheDude74

    So what’s the best way to mix this up to serve? Whisk/spoon/fork/blender?

    • Madison

      I just made some in a little mason jar. I added all of the ingredients, put on on the lid, and shook until it was all mixed together.

  • Zakalwe

    3 tbsp. of olive oil has 360 calories!

    • cattail722

      Pretty sure you’re not meant to eat all of the salad dressing at once!

      • vallkim

        Even if I eat only half, it’s still 1/2 my fat allowance for the day. Is that still healthy?

    • jlock

      Fats don’t make us fat. SUGAR does!

      • Judy

        Grain carbs make us fat, too!

        • cattail722

          Grain turns into sugar.

          • Judy

            Ever since I ate very, very sparingly of grains, I can eat as much fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds as I want without gaining weight. I am 68 y/o, 5’3 and 115 lbs and lead a relatively sedentary life. When I ate grains, I was 10 lbs heavier, so sugar was not the culprit for me.

          • Jenny

            Anyone have a idea how to make a blue cheese dressing?

  • Helen

    Great article thanks, but I’d like to see an oil free dressing?

    • Jess

      Helen, I make the soy one. I only use 1 tablespoon of oil and the other 2 tablespoons try pickled ginger. Ginger makes it a little thicker, which I think is a great replacement to the sticky texture of the oil.

  • Greg Dahlen

    for a while now I’ve been pushing the masai diet. The Masai are a people in Kenya who are famous for living only on products from the cow: milk; beef; and blood that they extract from their cows without killing them. The Masai also follow an important rule: “If a man eats meat and drinks milk on the same day, he is a glutton.” Therefore every day, I, who follow the diet, have to choose whether it will be a milk day or a meat day (so far I haven’t found a source for blood.) While I like meat, I prefer milk, so basically I’ve been living on fluid milk products for the last six years. Most days I drink perhaps a gallon (3.5 liters) of some kind of milk, usually skim, and that’s all I eat or drink. Sometimes I have some cream, or half and half, or some other kind of milk: 1%, 2%, or whole. I have done very well on this diet, I am six feet, one inch and this morning weighed 151 pounds. On my last physical, my PCP told me I am in the top 3% of people my age healthwise, which I attribute to the diet (my PCP is very aware of my diet.) I believe this diet would be excellent for everyone, and am particularly interested to see if it might help people with various diseases, including biggies like cancer and AIDS, and have been pushing the medical establishment to test it.

  • Kbella

    My favorite is made with equal parts grapeseed oil, white balsamic vinegar and pure maple syrup. Toss it with Romaine lettuce, goat cheese, blueberries, walnuts, unsalted sunflower seeds, and crumbled feta cheese. YUM

  • Carey Perkins

    I wish all these tips and recipes were available in a print version. Fancy graphics look nice and all but make this site pretty useless, for me, anyway.

  • Kate Jones

    Making your own dressing is so satisfying. I love being able to choose the level of complexity based on how much time I have, and store it for future enjoyment if there is some leftover. The core ingredients are basic kitchen staples that I always have on hand.

    I don’t care for most processed dressing nowadays because I can taste the difference. They typically contain a ton of sugar. I loved Hidden Valley Ranch as a little girl, but after I got out of the habit of using it, it isn’t as good as I remember.

  • Eating as a Path to Yoga

    I really dislike vinaigrettes. Anyway, it’s better to eat salad with a dressing that has full fat in it, so that you can really absorb the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables.

    • Judy

      Amen! That is why I only eat 100% full-fat, organic plain yogurt … None of those, low/nonfat, real/fake sugar yogurts for me!

  • Meagan Ruth

    How long do they keep?

  • Charise Wernicke

    One of my favorite dressings is one I created accidentally a few years ago when I was filling up my salad box at the local health food place. Its very simple and great with spring mix or romaine. Its a mix of half a splash each balsamic and red wine vinegar, a splash of olive oil, some juice from the pickled beets, salt and pepper, and finally a scoop of sunflower seeds/ pumpkin seeds/ or pine nuts. If I want to be crazy I’ll add some of the brine from the olives or some of the brine from the pickles. It all kinda depends on what the salad bar or I have on hand.