The Simple Formula Behind Every Good Salad Dressing

I don’t know about you but I’m craving salads this week. I’ve been eating a lot of cooked, heavier foods and my body just wants green, fresh things. I recently looked across my collection of my favorite dressing and sauce recipes and realized in a moment of profound insight that they all are variations on the same basic formula.

This “non-recipe” is meant to empower you (and me) to stop buying bottled dressings and become enlightened by the simple, essential formula behind a good dressing, get inspired to try creative variations on that formula, and crush any mental barriers you have about making your own salad dressing.

My dressing aesthetic tends towards creamy (ranch, tahini, etc) but I can also get into a nice delicate vinaigrette. Whatever your preferences, here is all you need to know to up-level your salad dressing game. 


Essential Components of a Kick-Ass Salad Dressing:

1. Something fatty

  • Oil (olive, canola, avocado, sesame etc.)
  • Nut or seed butter (tahini, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Mayo (I use vegan mayo)
  • Hummus
  • Yogurt
  • Avocado
  • Soaked cashews (for blended dressings)

2. Something acidic 

  • Vinegar (balsamic, sherry, red wine, white wine, rice, etc)
  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice 

Magic Ratio: 

Combine the fatty thing and the acidic thing in a 3 to 1 ratio. 3 times more fatty thing than acidic thing.

Flavorings (Optional)

The fatty ingredient and the acidic ingredient make a perfectly nice dressing on their own, but flavors are obviously fun too!

  • Miso
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Orange
  • Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, chives, parsley)
  • Dried seasonings (cumin, garlic powder)
  • Chili paste 
  • Soy sauce
  • Canned chipotle pepper
  • Mustard
  • Honey 
  • Capers & caper juice (for Caesar dressing!) 
  • Turmeric

I challenge you to find a combination of fatty thing, acidic thing, and the flavorings listed above that DOESN’T work well. Well, maybe a few of the flavorings don’t go great together, but the point is that you can often be creative and use what you have to invent endless dressing possibilities. 

Here’s an inspiring quote to send you on your way:

“That we are willing to pay three or four dollars for bottled salad dressing when a delicious vinaigrette costs just pennies to make yourself, is an example of just how far away from the kitchen our processed food system has taken us. Embrace a single ratio, and you will walk away with a thousand vinaigrettes.”

~ Michael Ruhlman 

Tips for Mixing Dressing:

  • The most effective way of combining oil and the vinegar is in a blender. I love to use little blender cups like a magic bullet, because they have lids so I can store them right in their blender containers! Blending also helps the flavor gets evenly incorporated with chunky ingredients like garlic, ginger, or fresh herbs.
  • You can also add the ingredients to a glass jar or bottle and shake to combine, or stir in a cup with a fork. 
  • For best results, all your ingredients should be at room temperature when you begin. The cooler the oil, the more difficult it is to emulsify it.
  • Once you’ve mixed things up, it’s nice to let the flavors meld for a while, especially when you go beyond the basic formula and introduce flavorings.

💡 Tips for Bright Line Eaters:

  • Start by weighing the things that count toward your food plan, and then play with condiments freely to your hearts content. It’s really helpful to use 1/4 or 1/2 of a protein serving in a dressing in the form of nut butters, tahini, or hummus. 

10 Flavor Combos for Inspiration!

Left: Orange Ginger Poppyseed Right: Miso Sesame Ginger 

Left: Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette Right: Basic Lemon Vinaigrette

Left: Caesar Dressing Right: Ranch Dressing

Left: Turmeric Tahini Right: Garlic Lemon Tahini

Left: Cilantro Avocado Lime Right: Chipotle Lime

What are your favorite dressing combos? Comment below!

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5 Comments

  1. Katie! What a fantastic post! Thank you!

  2. So helpful!! Thanks!

  3. This is awesome! 2 thumbs up :-D. Exactly the info I’ve needed as I don’t want to buy the stuff anymore. Thank you Katie

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you💖

  5. Anonymous

    Mmmm mmmm can’t wait to try many of these!

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