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Really Dietetic Salad Dressing

Any good, simple ways to dress a salad with no or very little oil, and no sugar (with or without artificial sweetener)? Please give specific amounts, or ratios of ingredients.
Thanks very much!

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  1. For me, salad dressings come in three versions: silky dressings with about a 4 or 5 olive oil to vinegar ratio, creamy dressings like blue cheese, and then really tart vinegar dressings. I love all three and sometimes the tart, vinegar dressing can be the best. I often just put all the ingredients in the salad bowl, do just a splash of olive oil, squeeze half a lemon over the salad, then do quite a few shakes of red wine and white wine or champagne vinegar. With a lot of salt and pepper and good, fresh salad ingredients, you have a terrific salad. You could easily eliminate the oil as well.

    If you want something more specific, take a mason jar (or however you like to prepare a dressing), do a couple of Tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup mixture of the vinegars,the lemon juice, maybe add a teaspoon or tablespoon of course ground mustard (I like a healthy dollop) and some herbs, particularly thyme leaves. Chopped shallots and garlic add flavor as well. You can chop them and let them sit in the vinegars and lemon juice for about ten minutes before adding the oil and the seasonings. When everything is added, shake it all up and taste it, adjusting the ingredients for your own taste. This doubles easily (or triples) and will keep for a week or more in the fridge.

    Also, just a hint of cream, even a teaspoon, can bring it all together without adding many calories at all.

    1. Is tahiini dressing ok? I use tahini (1TBL), soy sauce (1tsp), lemon juice (1TBL), olive oil (only 1/2 TBL) - then add water to thin it out to our liking.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lexpatti

        While delicious, tahini is very high fat/calorie. *sniff* That's a good idea, though, the thinning w/ water (the ultimate diet food!) I'll have to give that a try.

        My go-to dressing is now good-quality balsamic vinegar. It's not very good on iceberg, but I like it on mesclun, arugula, leaf, etc.

      2. There is also just plain fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or something like rice vinegar.

        1 Reply
        1. re: brittle peanut

          I think a mild vinegar is the way to go -- requires so much less oil! I think doing a white wine vinegar with mustard and lemon, you might not need oil at all to make it have a creamy texture.

          Personally when I'm doing true-dieting, I just put salt and pepper on my salad. It works better than you'd think.

        2. To save on fat, I take xanthum gum mixed with water to make a thickened mix that will replace the oil. I then sub that thickened water for the oil in any regular vinaigarette recipe. I also have been known to pour off most the oil from Girard's brand champange vinaigarette and then fill the bottle back up with the xathum gum thickened water.

          Xanthum gum is a thickener used in commercial bottled salad dressings to add thickness of texture and I believe it also helps to keep oil from separating in some. In bottled reduced or non-fat dressings they typically use xanthum gum, water, and corn syrup to help sub for the oil.

          I probably should stick my answer in the thead "things you eat yourself, but wouldnt serve other people" I find the flavor and texture great and don't miss the oil at all, but I would worry about serving it to other people!

          For creamy dressings, try using nonfat or 2% fat Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk or water to replace the aioli or sour cream base, and add whatever seasonings would go into your recipe to make ranch, blue chees, etc.

          I also sometimes just sprinkle on a good champange or red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, sprinkle of garlic powder and oregano (or whatever dried herbs strike my fancy) and some parmesan or feta cheese. This really will be enough for a salad with good quality fresh ingredients.

          1. A dollop of Dijon mustard, grated fresh ginger, minced garlic, pepper, hot pepper flakes or minced fresh jalapeno, a few tablespoons of fish sauce (this really rounds it out without oil), maybe 1/2 cup malt vinegar (my current odd favorite- but use what you like) and just a tablespoon of olive oil. Shake up well in a jar. Leave your salad a little wet if you want as this is very tart. I love it with a little protein like lean broiled beef bits and a few small avocado chunks. Dinner many nights.

            1. i don't have measurements; i honestly just do to taste b/c everyone likes different proportions of acidity, sweetness, tartness, etc. sorry!

              i like ponzu drizzled on almost anything

              balsamic vinegar and bragg's amino acids (and sometimes a little mustard and Jamaican Me Crazy seasoned salt or crushed garlic)

              bragg's amino acids + seasoned rice wine vinegar + chives (+ginger)

              3 Replies
              1. re: Emme

                emme, that's great. I use Braggs allllllll the time but never made a dressing out of it. Thank you. I love sauting with that - best mushroom burgers ever.

                1. re: lexpatti

                  gosh, isn't Bragg's the best thing ever (esp for those of us gluten intolerant folk for whom the wheat in soy sauce is deadly)?

                  it's great for marinades (and subsequent grilling)... i make one out of the dressing i listed above including balsamic, lemon juice, mustard, and garlic salt and/or garlic and jamaican me crazy.

                  the other topper for salad that i love is SALSA! i just made my own great salsa this last weekend... in some Pam, sautee some onions, sliced jalapenos, basil, cilantro, and oregano and S & P (garlic if you like but i didn't), until the onions are translucent. add a can of ground or crushed tomatoes, a can of diced green chiles, vinegar, and a *little* splenda/stevia let stew over low heat, then cool and refrigerate... the oregano was the neat addition, and you can vary the heat with the jalapenos.

                  1. re: Emme

                    very kewl! I don't know why I never played with Braggs more - I love the flavor. I did your salad dressing w/ rice vinegar - loved it. Just joined weight watchers and the salad I never get sick of is cabbage (white and red-shredded), broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (sliced thin). It last a long time and each night you can have it a different way, saute with Braggs and a little cheese on brown rice, steam it, and just as a salad (I like to keep changing my dressing).

              2. This is more of a technique than a recipe. It comes from Crescent Dragonwagon's Dairy Hollow House Cookbook (recipe called "The Salad"):

                In the bottom of your salad bowl, put in your olive oil. You only need a little bit - a teaspoon or two (enough to coat the lettuce). To the oil, add a minced garlic clove. Put in your lettuce. Make sure it's very dry (use a salad spinner). Sprinkle w/ salt and pepper and toss until the oil coats the lettuce. Chill until ready to serve.

                When ready to serve, squeeze about 1/2 lemon into a small bowl. Add 1/2 tsp or so of Pickapeppa sauce (or worcestershire, or dijon, or whatever...). Mix. Pour over salad and toss.

                This is my "go-to" salad technique and it works with very little oil or as much as you like. And it has infinite variations (use flavored vinegars instead of the lemon juice, or use lime juice, orange, or a mix... or you can use other flavorful oils). And you don't end up with your salad swimming in dressing.

                You can add anything else you want in the salad. However this dressing is great with baby lettuce mix or herb salad mix just by itself.

                1. I had the best cole slaw at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, and I don't know what's in it besides pineapple juice concentrate, but I imagine that, along with some rice vinegar, salt and pepper, would be worth an experiment or two.

                  1. Look for thai/vietnamese style dressings - they never include oil except maybe for a dash of toasted sesame oil. This is my standby thai recipe:

                    2 green onions, finely sliced
                    2 shallots, finely minced
                    juice of 1 lime
                    4 tbsp fish sauce
                    2 tsp sugar (or equivalent of splenda)
                    1-2 thai chilis (or to taste)

                    This keeps in the fridge for a few days. I use this with green salads (especially nice when topped with rare steak slices), aisan style slaw (cole slaw mix with added cilantro, peanuts), rice noodle salads (add carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber, cilantro). It's also good over plain steamed fish or to dip grilled shrimp.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: buttertartz

                      ooooh, love this one buttertartz, thanks. This is right up my weight watchers alley!!! And will go awesome with my salad (posted above).

                    2. Btw, in terms of trying to reduce fat, consider the following caloric information per tablespoon of volume:

                      1. Oil=120 calories [Butter=100 calories, but it's not useful for salads]
                      2. Sour cream=50-60 calories
                      3. Light sour cream=35-40 calories

                      This is why "creamy" dressings are often lower in fat and calories that virginal vinaigrettes.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Karl S

                        And to split hairs a little more, olive oil offers "good fat" whereas the cream & sour cream offer saturated fat, just another observation! Oil comes in with the most calories, true, but it may matter that those are good calories.

                        1. re: Val

                          True, but many people don't have cholesterol problems, and for them the calories matter more than the kind of fat.

                      2. Aha -- I was just thinking, you could use buttermilk and yogurt to make your own ranch dressing. I never have mayonnaise on hand, so I've made it with just those (or even just yogurt) and it's pretty good. Sorry, I don't have a recipe, but somehow milk product + garlic + salt + celery leaves or some other herbs becomes really tasty and pretty low-calorie.

                        1. I would go with very good balsamic vinegar, straight.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: foiegras

                            Yes, I was going to nominate straight balsamic...I usually drizzle evoo over the salad and then balsamic but have also done just straight balsamic...of course, if you crush up some fresh garlic, that would offer even better nutrition and flavor IF you can eat raw garlic, not everyone embraces doing so.

                          2. A couple of dressings that I like when going low cal/low fat.

                            (1) Make the packaged Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (the one where you add buttermilk), only use non-fat mayo instead of regular mayo. I'm not usually a fan of non-fat mayo, but for this use, you can barely tell the difference.

                            (2) Make a dressing with seasoned rice wine vinegar, dijon mustard and oil (I use vegetable oil). When you make a typical vinaigrette, you need approximately 3 or 4 oil to 1 vinegar, but with the seasoned rice vinegar, you can go 1 to 1.