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balsamic vinegarette - recommendations?

i'm looking for a tasty balsamic vinegarette for salads. there are whole foods, sprouts, trader joes and ajs nearby as well as your typical grocery store. i suppose a recipe would work too, but i'd prefer one i can buy in a bottle. i just can't seem to find any that taste nearly as good as those i've had in restaurants.

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  1. Believe it or not, we really like the Safeway Select Enlighten Herb Balsamic Vinaigrette (Fat Free). I bought it on sale at Vons and went back for more. It's the most flavorful bottled balsamic I've ever had.

    4 Replies
      1. re: abbefaith

        It doesn't say 'organic' - just Fat Free. Had to go upstairs and check the bottle.

        1. re: mojoeater

          haha ok thanks. i've tried the safeway brand organic one and it was so-so.

      2. re: mojoeater

        I buy Cindy's all natural Balsamic at Whole Foods, and really like it.

      3. What is distinctive about the restaurant versions? Sweetness? Flavors other than vinegar?

        Have you tried straight balsamic vinegar? TJ even sells it in spritzing bottle.

        However if you go that route, you then have to choose among 2, 4, 8, 15 yr old vinegars :-)


        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          i think maybe sweetness and/or other flavors. the ones i love though are often just called balsamic vinegarette on the menu, so i am not sure of the other flavors! one that comes to mind is the balsamic vinegarette at firebirds rocky mountain grill.

        2. I just mix my own. Basic ingredients in mine are: Trader Joe's 10 year aged balsamic (the one in a squat square shaped jar with a cork stopper and a red label on it), extra virgin olive oil, salt, few grinds of pepper. Since I really like the taste of this balsamic and it is not too tart, I use a 1:1 oil to vinegar ratio. If I have more time on my hands, then I may add a little coarse grain Dijon mustard and some finely minced red onion.

          1. If you're looking for something with a little sweetness to it you might try this one.

            Start by crushing a clove of garlic with a little salt to make a paste, add some Dijon mustard then a little honey (I suppose you can just combine the two and put in honey mustard, but I've not tried that yet). Mix in some raspberry balsamic vinegar then drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to form an emultion. As far as quantities go this is one I never measure, if you've ever put together a vinaigrette before you know you can eyeball everything in the dressing.

            I usually put this on a salad of romaine lettuce, toasted chopped pecans, some sort of dried fruit be it raisins, cranberries, cherries or whatever then some goat cheese. This salad has all the classic things going for it that you find in a restaurant, sweet, sour, crunchy, salty. If you want to add the bitter you might try tossing in some arugula.

            Good Luck

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jambalaya

              That sounds great. I was at a wedding shower this weekend, and they served roasted vegatables- asparagus, red onion, red peppers and tomatoes. Your recie would be great on this. Thanks

            2. Suprisingly, at least to us, we love the Trader Joe's Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ccbweb

                The TJ's is good, but definitely on the sweeter side, but it's great over chopped tomatoes and red onions.

                I prefer the Whole Foods 360 brand Fat Free Balsamic Vinegarette... so good esp for 10 cal/tbsp

              2. The Girl and the Fig of Sonoma makes a wonderful fig balsamic. I've seen it for around $8/bottle. It's as rich as any you'll find at that price point and the fig adds sweetness - but not too much.

                Lately we've been substituting saba - our new favorite condiment - for balsamic. It's made from grape must and where most balsamics are slightly sweet with an acidic finish from the vinegar, saba is sweet but the finish is more earthy than acidic. It's amazing in salads.

                I rarely even make actual dressing anymore, I just do a couple swirls of evoo over the greens, then a couple of saba, salt and pepper and then mix it all together and plate it up. Yum!

                1 Reply
                1. re: mimosa

                  A little Saba (balsamico condimenti) and extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly cracked
                  pepper is the way to go. Not a pre-mixed, packaged product, but just as easy.
                  Call around and find Saba; I know that it's at Corti Brothers in Sacramento and you
                  can order it. There are other great posts on CH too about making your own balsamic reduction, which needs no oil or anything else to dress a salad.

                2. I like the Newman's Own Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette. It has some sweetness but also a peppery edge that I like.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dubedo

                    That is my favorite, too. And it's really low-fat.

                  2. I really like the balsamic dressing that is at the Whole Foods salad bar. If you ask for a plastic carton at the deli you can fill it and at check out they simply weigh the carton.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: OCEllen

                      I love Bariani's it's made from Trebbiano grapes and aged in barrels of various woods. Low acidity and lovely. They also make wonderful olive oil.

                      I also love Fini made in Modena, very aromatic and so flavorful.. on the expensive side but you must try at least once.

                      1. re: Lori SF

                        I think the OP wanted something 'more' than a straight vinegar, that is, vinegar mixed with oil and other flavorings. However, personally I lean toward a good vinegar by itself, or used with sparingly with oil and coarse salt (without any attempt at emulsifying them). Actually the more expensive the vinegar, the less likely I am use use it with anything else. That is why I used 'more' in quotes. Sometimes, less is more.


                    2. Whole Foods 360 degree was voted as one of the best in Cook's magazine, and it is relatively inexpensive.

                      1. thanks everyone for the suggestions!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: abbefaith

                          I like to make my own. I usually make enough for a few days in a row and refrigerate it. The oil congeals so its important to get it out an hour before you want it so the oil returns to liquid form.
                          I use 1/3 cup balsamic
                          1/3 cup ev olive oil
                          2 tablespoons coarse dijon mustard
                          a large pinch each of red pepper flakes and anise seed ground in the mortar
                          1 large pinch of dried basil.
                          1 grind of sea salt
                          2 grinds black pepper.

                          Shake it up in a jar and make sure you rub your salad bowl with garlic cloves before making the salad.