HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

The Holy Grail: Does anyone make a good fat-free salad dressing?

I love salad, but salad dressing has too much fat for my new Weight Watchers life style. I have been experimenting with various iterations of Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar, but I am wondering if anyone has come up with a tasty, fat-free dressing that can be used liberally on salads and cold vegetables. I know that there are a plethora of bottled dressings out there, but out there is the US and I am in Egypt where there aren't any. Plus, I usually hate those things with weird guar gum texture and all sorts of nasty additives.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. OPTION 1: Mix together buttermilk, fat-free sourcream and dijon mustard and combine with honey and rice vinegar. Diced garlic optional. Salt and pepper to taste.

    OPTION 2: Nonfat yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Blend together and refrigerate before using.

    1. One I like to make has no oil. I use either Dijon or stone-ground mustard mixed with cider vinegar and then grate a clove of garlic and shred a few carrots to mix in with my lettuce. This salad is very flavorful and the dressing is so creamy, most guests don't even notice there is no oil. Another I have made without oil uses tahini, but I am afraid that might be too high in fat for your needs. If you have fresh lemons available, often a salad will taste great with just a squeeze of lemon and some spices if you prefer. Best of luck; wish I knew some more.

      1. I know what you mean. i check ingredients very carefully for guar gum. Trader Joe's used to have a ff Red Wine Vinaigrette (based on Annie's, i think--or maybe the exact same as) that had no guar gum stuff in it and didn't have that yucky faux-fat texture. It was not bad. I haven't bought it in a while, though, so can't be sure they still have it. Also, you may not be near a TJ's. If not, look for Annie's version.

        An unasked-for suggestion: try a really good EV olive oil? A little goes a long way. :)

        1. I haven't been on Weight Watchers for a while, but are you maybe over thinking it? Restrict the amount of dressing instead of no dressing at all? You can make a wonderful dressing - 3 tablespoons good olive oil, one tablespoon good vinegar or lemon juice, a little salt and pepper, and a smidge of prepared dijon mustard. Whisk that very well and measure out one tablespoon to serve on your salad. That's all a one-person salad really needs to bind it together and it's less than 100 calories. I did the whole thing with trying to find good no-fat diet dressings... then I found that recipe, and using it every day didn't make a bit of difference to my weight loss. Good luck with your diet.

          1. How about a Japanese style - vinegar (mild rice), salt, and sugar? I use that on cucumbers, carrots, daikon, spinach. Toasted and partially ground sesame seeds are also used with this, though that's starting to add some fat.

            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj

              Here's a great Japanese lo-cal dressing recipe .... The big thing to remember is that you will need to restrict fats while you are dieting, but it's not healthy to cut them out entirely.

              Ingredients

              1/2 cup minced onion
              1/2 cup peanut oil
              1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
              2 tablespoons water
              2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
              2 tablespoons minced celery
              2 tablespoons ketchup
              4 teaspoons soy sauce
              2 teaspoons white sugar
              2 teaspoons lemon juice
              1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
              1/2 teaspoon salt
              1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
              Directions

              In a blender, combine the minced onion, peanut oil, rice vinegar, water, ginger, celery, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper . Blend on high speed for about 30 seconds or until all of the ingredients are well-pureed.
              Nutritional Information

              Amount Per Serving Calories: 82 | Total Fat: 7.7g | Cholesterol: 0mg

            2. roxlet, nonfat yogurt, mustard, vinegar, garlic and herbs are your friends. You're a chowhound, so you can make a million of variations.

              I have no idea if you can come by American-style cultured buttermilk there, but that's also another great creamy base, especially combined with powdered buttermilk or regular milk, strained (Greek) yogurt, garlic and herbs into your own variation on ranch -- which is NOT a dirty word, no matter what anyone tells you. It's an all-time classic.

              It's not ENTIRELY fat-free, but miso/carrot dressings are far less caloric than their Western counterparts, too.

              5 Replies
              1. re: dmd_kc

                Alas, no buttermilk at all in Egypt -- and believe me, I looked high and low. I'm just looking for something I haven't tried/heard of. I am not eliminating fats, but I'm just trying to find a good, fat-free dressing so that I can use my points in other places -- like sauteing vegetables, etc.

                1. re: roxlet

                  roxlet, i don't want to get off topic here, but i'd caution you not to fall into the fat-free dressing trap unless you include some ingredients in the salad itself that contain a little fat. many of the nutrients in salad/raw vegetables (Vitamins A, D, E & K, and the carotenoids including beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein & zeaxanthin) are fat soluble, so fat is required for proper intestinal absorption of the nutrients. this isn't to say you need to drown your salad in oil, and as long as your general dietary fat intake is sufficient you *should* be fine, but consuming a little bit of fat along with your veggies will help maximize the nutritional benefits. ok, lesson over.

                  i was also going to suggest powdered buttermilk, but since that's not available, can you get your hands on some chia or flax seeds? if you whisk some of the ground seeds in to your dressing, they'll add body, thickness, and a hint of nuttiness....plus there's the fiber & Omega-3 bonus!

                  yogurt based-dressings are great with some Dijon mustard and all sorts of herbs...or spices like curry powder.

                  my other favorite dressing trick requires the addition of a [good] fat - i love to blend in a little mashed avocado.

                  and just a general tip, there's a reason most bottled dressings contain a lot of sugar - sweetness can really help enhance the savory flavors. obviously the processed stuff contains more sugar than it needs, but i always add a couple drops of stevia, agave, or honey to my dressing to round out the flavor - feel free to use your preferred sweetening agent for this...though you all know by now that i'm certainly not going to encourage you to go the artificial route ;)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Thanks, GHG. My problem is not too little fat, take my word for it! WW would let me do whatever I want -- within my point allowance, so it's really a matter of stretching that point allowance with a point-free salad that can get me over those moments when you really would like to eat something, but your points are already accounted for by dinner. I have not seen anything like chia or flax seeds here. It's kind of a bizarre shopping scene. You can go into an upscale supermarket and they will have many, but odd, foreign products -- things like pop tarts, for example. A downscale supermarket seems to have very little but fruits and veg, and sometimes some pretty sad ones too. I have a pretty good green grocer across from my apartment, so I can get lettuce for now, but not has the temperature rises. I am definitely messing around in the yogurt dressing world, but I do not like sweet dressings -- or sweet food (only sweet sweets :-)!) so I do not like adding a sweetener to salad dressing.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      as a last resort i guess you could find a good online source that will ship to you, and just order things like powdered buttermilk and chia seeds.

                      i need to clarify something - i didn't mean that you should make your dressing sweet - i don't like it like that either. but you know how sometimes with baked goods and sweet things the flavor just seems to be "missing" something, and a pinch of salt does the trick? i've found that dressing often benefits from that same light touch with a sweet element, otherwise it can taste a little flat.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Ah, I see. I'm almost always an oil and vinegar gal, so the sugar thing threw me off. I'll give it a whirl next time I'm concocting. Thanks for the tip!

              2. Try this:

                Mix well together, to taste:
                several Tablespoons high quality vinegar, such as white balsamic or raspberry vinegar
                1 - 2 Tablespoons high quality fruit preserves (extra points for sugar-free)
                1/2 - 1 teaspoon high quality Dijon mustard
                Pour over salad greens or coleslaw vegetables

                Back story:
                When I was looking around for the exact same thing, I found the following recipe, which my family liked pretty well: www.fatfreevegan.com/dressings/raspbe.... This was *after* we'd tried several alternatives, and after we'd all agreed that the store bought fat-free stuff was yukky beyond belief. But this recipe takes a while to put together and, one night after a long work day when I was too tired to go to the effort, it occurred to me that the frozen concentrate and fruit were simply ways to add fruity sweetness to the recipe. I happened to be staring at a jar of blackberry preserves. The result was so well liked - even more than the original recipe - that we've never bought store dressing since. The results can be varied by type of preserves and vinegar. Also, I've sometimes added fresh herbs.

                1. Try kachumber salad. Naturally full flavored, yet fat free.

                  1. The word salad comes from latin 'salt'.

                    I still recall a lunch with some Mexican oil field workers - sliced cucumber (an maybe other fruit) simply dressed with salt and lime juice. It opened my eyes to the fact that salad dressings don't need to be thick, creamy, or complicated.

                    Mexicans also dress mixed fruit and vegetables with powdered chile, salt, and citrus juice.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: paulj

                      Yes, I do this too with cucumbers -- lime juice, salt and chile powder. It is very good, but doesn't work for me on a leafy salad. My husband learned this when he was a shrimp farmer in Mexico one summer during college...

                    2. vietnamese cabbage chicken and mint salad? the dressing is sweet but it is oil free and is incredibly tasty for a meal that doesn't contain starchy carbs (I add snow peas, carrots, peppers any other crunchy veg I have around, but not lettuce) - it is great if you make the salad base and top with a chargrilled piece of chicken or fish.

                      I would also suggest miso based dressings, the miso helps to emulsify the dressing so you need less oil.

                      Good luck!

                      1. another dieting tip I read was to just dip your fork into dressing and then spear yr lettuce leaf or whatever, stops you eating so much dressing.

                        if you love vinaigrette, then use lots of mustard in the dressing which again acts as an emulsifier and reduces the need for oil. The french actually make their dressing very mustardy and then add a dash of water which reduces calories and makes the dressing a better consistency.

                        1. i'm weird but on my salads, i personally combine an organic veggie broth (pavillon's/safeway brand), bragg's amino acids, and onion powder (a specific brand from my kosher market that has a toothsomeness to it). it sounds horribly boring, but i enjoy it quite a bit, i think due in part to both the wonderful heartiness of the particular broth i use and the onion powder.

                          i used to combine white balsamic vinegar with bragg's amino acids. i enjoyed that too.

                          1. In the yogurt section; see if you can find "Labne" (Kefir cheese) it is a wonderfully creamy Lebanese cheese that I use and smear a bowl with, then toss greens and veggies to coat and finish with sea salt and cracked pepper. It has a lemony kind of zing but is mostly creamy tasting, like a great ranch.

                            1. Fish sauce + Lime Juice + Sugar + Cilantro + Hot Pepper. Makes a wonderful dressing.

                              1. Roasted garlic lends a wonderful creaminess and mouthfeel without adding fat (provided you roast the garlic without oil- just wrap up in foil and toss onto the grill or in the oven). I blend it up and add it to traditional vinagrette base (dijon, vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper) when I want to reduce or totally cut out the oil.

                                For a creamy dressing- as other have suggested, yogurt is a great base, with roasted garlic, dijon, salt, pepper, lemon juice, green onion and chopped fresh herbs (parsley, mint, dill are all particularly nice). Thin with a little water if necessary. A bit of tomato paste stirred in can give a pretty pink hue, flavor and a little added richness.

                                1. If you can get Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix in a packet, use that replacing most of the oil with V-8 juice.

                                  1. Raspberry vinaigrette? Several recipes on the net. Here's one:
                                    http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/raspber...
                                    You can cut down the oil as suggested above.

                                    1. I like to mix whole grain or dijon mustard with a little bit of honey and black pepper. It's good drizzled on steamed vegetables as is, but you can thin with a splash of hot water to use on salad.

                                      One restaurant that we go to reduces balsamic vinegar till it's syrupy. I use that on a salad as dressing. Strong, but so good.