Recipe-Free: Vinaigrette

You know, the easiest and most convenient way to get more greens into your diet is with a big, hearty leaf-y-licious salad. Though, the store-bought creamy, fatty salad dressings we sometimes pour on top of our veggie pile, almost defeats the purpose. So, I want to share with you a great no-recipe recipe for a healthier vinaigrette you can make from stuff you’ve already got in your cabinets at home.

This is a really great basic technique to have in your cooking repertoire that will allow you to bust out thick, delicious, home-made vinaigrette, recipe-free in minutes! With one simple proportion to remember, you can easily combine lots of fun ingredients to make your own flavorful dressing that you can also use as a marinade or to drizzle over veggies and fish.

Your vinaigrette will keep well in the fridge for up to a full week, so you can get the most out of your tasty batch. Just bring it to room temp and whisk it a little with a fork before serving. Another idea? Use your vinaigrette to dress pasta and grain salads for a delicious treat.

Just Remember … 1:3

A vinaigrette is a mixture of oil (I prefer olive oil for its flavor and health benefits) and vinegar which is where you can get creative). The general proportion for vinaigrettes is 1 part vinegar to 3-4 parts oil (to taste).

Vinegars to Experiment With:

  • Balsamic – great for Italian vinaigrettes
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – lightly sweet, pairs really well with fall flavors
  • White Wine or Champagne Vinegar – elegant, neutral, lightly flavored and colored
  • Red Wine Vinegar – perfect for Greek salads and grilled meats
  • Rice Wine Vinegar – lightly sweet and great for Asian dressings

Get that creamy, thick finish for your home-made vinaigrette using my simple trick to get the oil and vinegar to bind well. This step is what I call the “insurance phase” when I teach cooking classes, and it’s an easy way to add a burst of flavor to your dressing. Just add a teaspoon or two at first, then more as needed.

Insurance Ingredient Options:

  • Maple Syrup – amazing with balsamic and cider vinegars
  • Dijon Mustard – a staple that works in all dressings
  • Honey – pairs well with any vinegar for a lightly sweet finish
  • All Fruit Jam – orange marmalade and apricot jam are amazing with rice wine vinegar. Raspberry works wonders on red or white wine vinegar

Whisk it Up!

Pour your vinegar and one of the thickeners above into a medium sized bowl.

Slooooowly add the oil, whisking continuously, until combined. Start with the magic ratio: 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar and taste. If it’s too tart, add a little more oil until it’s just right. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This method will give you a delicious, thick, basic vinaigrette.

In the mood to get a little more creative? 

Try these easy add-ins to create your own custom version of vinaigrette:

  • Add minced garlic, shallot or onion for some extra bite
  • Chopped fresh herbs like dill, basil, parsley and tarragon work well in vinaigrettes
  • Slash calories and fat by replacing bit of the oil with chicken stock, fruit juice, pureed roasted peppers, or water
  • Replace some of the oil with flavored oil for a taste twist (sesame, walnut or hazelnut)

Here are some of my fav combos to get you started:

  • Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette: Balsamic Vinegar + Maple Syrup + Shallots + Olive Oil
  • Greek Vinaigrette: Red Wine Vinegar + Dijon Mustard + Red Onion + Dill + Olive Oil
  • Orange-Sesame Asian Vinaigrette: Rice Wine Vinegar + Orange Marmalade + Sesame Oil + Olive Oil
  • French Vinaigrette: White Wine Vinegar + Dijon Mustard + Honey + Tarragon + Olive Oil

What’s your favorite vinaigrette flavor combination?