How to Make Healthy, Delicious Salad Dressing

Salad Dressing Spooned from Jar for Italian Chopped Salad Recipe

Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

Instead of purchasing pre-made salad dressings, you can make your own with a few fresh, nutritious ingredients. Homemade dressings require little effort to create. In fact, all that is required is a little imagination.

You can mix a tasty concoction with as few as three ingredients. Or, you can combine more, depending on your taste preferences. All you need is a healthy fat for a base, and then you can choose vinegar or citrus fruits to give it an acidic punch. Next, you will add herbs, spices, and seasonings.

Aside from creating something delicious and fresh, making your own salad dressing also allows you to control how much salt, sugar, and other ingredients you include in your diet. For instance, salad dressings sold in grocery stores sometimes contain unnatural preservatives or stabilizers.

They also may contain flavors and ingredients that you may be allergic to or want to limit in your diet. Here is what you need to know about creating a healthy, delicious salad dressing.

Start With a High-Quality Fat

When making homemade salad dressing, you want to begin with a healthy fat such as extra virgin olive oil, sunflower seed oil, greek yogurt, pureed avocado, or some combination of your favorites.

Nutritious fats like greek yogurt and avocado can help you create a creamy salad dressing while nutritious plant-based oils such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or sunflower oil are ideal for making vinaigrettes.

A basic ratio for your dressing includes three parts of high-quality fat to one part acid (vinegar or citrus juice). You can use a combination of healthy fats to get to your three parts, or just stick with one. The choice is yours.

Regardless of which type of fats you choose, they will serve as your base, provide thickness, impart flavor, and add nutritional value. In fact, extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat that may improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (K, A, D, E).

Additionally, there is some evidence that oils like extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, and sunflower seed oil can help reduce cholesterol, so adding them to your dressing could have an added benefit beyond taste.

Optional High-Quality Fats

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Flax seed oil
  • Chia seed oil
  • Pumpkin seed oil
  • Sesame or toasted sesame oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Greek yogurt
  • Avocado (mashed or pureed)

Pick an Acid

You only need one part acid to the three parts oil or yogurt in salad dressing—a little goes far and you do not want to overpower the flavor with the strong tang of this ingredient. Vinegars are one choice for your acid component and add a unique flavor profile.

They also provide health benefits, such as healthy digestion and necessary minerals. Most vinegars are free of sodium and sugar and are low in calories ranging between two and 15 calories per tablespoon. They also contain a trace amount of vitamins, amino acids, and polyphenolic compounds that can protect against disease.

Another option for an acid is to add a squeeze of juice or a sprinkle of zest from citrus fruits. Citrus can add a unique flavor and brightness to your dressing. What's more, citrus supports digestion, helps the body absorb nutrients, and provides antioxidants. Citrus also provides fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, magnesium, riboflavin, and folate.

Of course, you also can add both vinegar and citrus to your dressing. Just be sure to keep in mind the balance of three parts healthy fat to one part acid.

Optional Acidic Components

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Lemon juice or zest
  • Lime juice or zest
  • Grapefruit juice or zest
  • Orange juice or zest

Add in Flavor

Herbs and spices provide flavor, health benefits, natural coloring, and a strong fragrance to your salad dressings without any additional sodium or sugar. Plus, herbs can provide a number of health benefits.

According to a systematic review on herb intake, researchers found that herbs offer antioxidant effects, have anti-inflammatory properties, and combat microbes. They also may protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, defend against type 2 diabetes, and may even fight brain degeneration.

When choosing herbs for your dressing, you will need about 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of dried herbs or about 1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup fresh herbs. If you are using dried herbs, you may need to let your dressing sit for about 1 hour or more to let the full flavor of the herbs develop in your dressing mixture.

Optional Herbs and Spices

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Mint
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

Season the Dressing

According to research, adding salt to your recipes not only enhances the flavor of your other ingredients but it also increases the sensory attributes of foods. Salt can even make some otherwise unpalatable foods taste better (not that you will experience that with a dressing).

Remember, a dash of salt can go a long way. This fact is especially important if you are trying to limit your salt intake.

Some people also like to add pepper to their salad dressing, but it is usually an optional seasoning. While salt will enhance the flavors in your dressing, pepper changes the flavor profile by adding some depth and some spiciness.

If you make dressings consistently—and you like the taste of pepper—you may want to consider investing in a pepper mill. Try grinding whole black peppercorns or even pink peppercorns. The flavor of fresh cracked pepper adds a vibrant touch to your dressing.

Optional Seasonings

  • Salt (sea salt, Himalayan salt, kosher salt)
  • Cracked black peppercorns
  • Cracked pink peppercorns
  • Red pepper flakes

Recommended Salad Dressing Combos

When it comes to creating your own unique salad dressing blends, the combinations are unlimited. Choose your favorite flavors, spices, and herbs and experiment to see what works best for you.

Just remember that your ratio should be three parts healthy fat, one part acid, and either 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of dried herbs or 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup of fresh herbs. Here are some possible combinations for creating a nutritious salad dressing.

Possible Salad Dressing Combinations

  • Red Wine Vinaigrette: Extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh parsley, minced garlic, salt, pepper
  • Chili-Lime Dressing: Avocado oil, red wine vinegar, lime zest, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, ground cumin
  • Ranch Dressing: Greek yogurt, minced garlic, fresh dill, onion powder, lemon juice, salt
  • Balsamic Dressing: Extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and cracked black pepper
  • Avocado Dressing: Avocado (pureed), greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, minced garlic, salt, cracked black pepper, lime juice

Try These Salad Dressing Recipes

If you are looking for a few creative salad dressings to try, you may want to try one of these. You can alter the ingredients in each to suit your tastes and preferences or make them as is.

A Word From Verywell

You can make your own salad dressings without using loads of expensive ingredients and create mixtures tailored to your own preferences. All that you need is a high-quality fat, an acid, and then any combination of herbs, spices, and seasonings. These foods all offer health benefits, including necessary vitamins and minerals, for a refreshing, tasty salad.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is olive oil a healthy salad dressing?

    Olive oil can be a healthy salad dressing. Alone, olive oil provides flavor and may reduce LDL, the bad cholesterol. Other health benefits of olive oil include its anti-inflammatory properties; and it is a monounsaturated fat which typically does not promote weight gain.

    If you prefer not to eat olive oil alone on top of salad, you can add a vinegar, such as a red wine or balsamic or a touch of citrus juice. These two liquid toppings create a complementary (and nutritious) flavor profile.

  • Is it safe to use raw egg in salad dressing?

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that you can eat raw eggs if they are pasteurized. Although raw eggs contain a bacteria called salmonella (known to cause food poisoning), eating pasteurized eggs reduces the possibility of a salmonella infection.

  • How do you keep oil and vinegar from separating in a salad dressing?

    Oil and vinegar separate because the molecules do not bond. Because vinegar consists mostly of water, the oil will float to the top of the vinegar. You can simply shake up the dressing before you pour the mixture to combine these ingredients together.

    To stop this from occurring altogether, you need to add an emulsifier to the salad dressing. According to Harvard Health, an emulsifier keeps the ingredients mixed together. Potential emulsifiers include egg yolks, honey, mustard, or mayonnaise.

    If you use an ingredient that needs refrigeration, such as mayonnaise, be sure to not leave the salad dressing out of the fridge for an extended period of time.

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Harvard Health. Vinegar.

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  5. Vázquez-Fresno R, Rosana ARR, Sajed T, Onookome-Okome T, Wishart NA, Wishart DS. Herbs and spices—biomarkers of intake based on human intervention studies: A systematic reviewGenes & Nutrition. 2019;14(1):18. doi:10.1186/s12263-019-0636-8

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By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, CPT
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."