Basic Homemade Vinaigrette Recipe

homemade vinaigrette recipe

Making salad dressing at home is faster and easier than you think, and it means you can customize the all-important dressing to your own tastes. Once you have this basic vinaigrette down, you can experiment with variations. The ratios for a vinaigrette salad dressing stay the same, so you can customize it to match your salad by using different oils, juice, and flavorings.

Basic Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar or acid (balsamic, red wine, citrus juice, or a combination)
  • 1 Tablespoon sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon flavorings (finely minced herbs, mustard, minced shallots, garlic, dried spices, etc.)
  • salt and pepper

Let's take a closer look at each of these components:

Oil: This is most frequently extra-virgin olive oil, but a neutral vegetable oil, avocado oil, or even a combination of stronger oils like sesame oil can be used. Occasionally mayonnaise serves as the oil component--particularly in creamy dressings. It all depends on the flavor you're looking for and the salad you plan to dress.

Vinegar or acid: Any type of vinegar from plain white to balsamic, red wine, or champagne vinegar will bring acidity and brightness to cut through the oil. Citrus juices like lemon or lime have the same effect, so you can use any vinegar, citrus, or a combination. Again, it depends on what flavor you want to create.

Sweetener: The simplest sweetener is granulated sugar, but some dressings may use honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, or juice from sweeter fruits. Each of these will bring its own unique flavor to the final dressing.

Flavorings: This tiny component packs a huge punch in the dressing. Think finely minced herbs, a dab of dijon mustard, minced shallots or grated onion, pressed garlic, a bit of miso paste, or spicy pepper blends. A little goes a long way, supported by the oil and acid of the dressing base.

 Salt and pepper: Always taste your dressing and adjust the salt as needed. Salt enhances flavor so don't skip it unless you have to for dietary reasons.

How to Make Vinaigrette:

Technically you should whisk everything except the oil together in a bowl, and then stream the oil in in a slow stream, whisking the entire time, to emulsify the dressing. If you have the time (and arm power) to do that--great! If not, you can instead use this method:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a jar and screw on the lid
  2. Give the jar a vigorous shake. 

With this non-emulsified dressing, you'll have to shake it again each time before you dress your salad, but that's a small price to pay to save yourself all that whisking. 

How to make a Creamy Dressing:

Follow the same method as vinaigrette, but substitute a 1:2 mixture of oil and dairy (such as buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, blue cheese, feta, or grated parmesan) in place of the 1/4 cup straight oil. Using mayonnaise as the oil here will make a thicker dressing and give the emulsification a boost, because mayonnaise is already an emulsion. So then the ratio for a creamy dressing becomes:

  • 4 teaspoon oil
  • 8 teaspoon dairy
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar or acid (often lemon juice or white vinegar for creamy dressing)
  • 1 Tablespoon sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon flavorings (finely minced herbs, mustard, minced shallots, garlic, etc.)
  • salt and pepper

Keep this handy reference to remember the basic ratio and get creative with your salad dressing creations!

Vinaigrette Ratio Reference