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Jan 21, 2011 09:14 AM

Restaurant Style Greek Dressing

Does anyone have a "Restaurant Style" Greek dressing recipe ?

For years I've been using a great "authentic" style Greek dressing for traditional Greek salad with just Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumber, Red Onions, Olives and Feta. Occationally though, we crave having the lighter version served at Greek run family restaurants. The style seems to be very consistent from restaurant to restaurant but all my searching for a recipe has come up short.

After closely examining a particularly tasty Greek salad dressing at a local restaurant (I asked for dressing on the side), it seems to be mostly a very light oil, tiny bit of clear vinegar, and small amount of herbs (Oregano, plus ??). There doesn't seem to be much, if any, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, mint, or fresh garlic. Alas, the kind Greek lady running the restaurant won't part with the recipe...

Anyone know how to create the lighter Greek dressing ?

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  1. It's possible your dressing has a mix of oils, both Greek olive oil and another lighter oil, like soybean or canola, white wine or white vinegar, definitely oregano and possibly basil, and hopefully salt and pepper.

    Is the use of a very light oil why you refer to the dressing as light, or do you think of this dressing as light, as in diluted with something more than oil, more a lower calorie dressing?

    1 Reply
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      The "light" Greek dressing I spoke of definitely isn't a traditional Greek dressing, and I'm 99% sure it isn't olive oil (at least not 100%). There is a pleasant "watery" aspect to these salads that I always attributed to the lettuce (also not traditional).

      To clarify, the Family "Restaurant" Style salad dressing I am asking about isn't a traditional Greek salad (which we eat very regularly). This is a restaurant / diner imitation which is very good (IMHO) in it's own way.

      PS I've usually used lemon juice plus finely diced lemon rind to up the lemon flavor without the lemon tartness in my traditional Greek salads. The good sherry vinegar suggestion sounds very good.

    2. I am of Greek ancestry. Authentic Greek dressing is olive oil, vinegar and dried oregano. No other ingredients. It’s already light since olive oil is good for you. I have found good Greek or Italian olive oil seems to work best. And vinegar is very important. The red wine vinegar sold in the US is truly nasty stuff. When I make Greek salad I use Spanish sherry vinegar and the salad comes out closer to Greek salads I have eaten I Greece. I love Greek salads and during the summer we often make a big Greek salad as our dinner served with crusty bread and maybe tzatziki on the side. For me a Greek salad showcases the quality of the vegetables so I always use the best ingredients: bland mass produced tomatoes and Iceberg lettuce won’t work.

      20 Replies
      1. re: Ridge

        When I make this at home, I use tomatoes, cucumbers, red and green peppers, red onions, chopped parsley, pitted kalamata and crumbled feta. Same dressing as above with lots of oregano, s & p (now I will look for Spanish sherry vinegar, thank you!) and a tiny pinch of sugar. Not sure how traditional this is, but the first time I made this my younger son goes, "Okay, Mom? Love this salad, but these are the proportions I want next time: Please double up on the cucumbers and the tomatoes." The kid knows what he wants :)

        1. re: lilgi

          Your recipe sounds traditional. The dressing in Greek salad is simple and brings out the flavors in the salad. Although the traditional ingredients are tomato, cucumber, onions, olives and feta you can experiment and add things you like. My mom adds capers and sometimes dill. I add peppadew peppers and arugula.

          1. re: Ridge

            Today we enjoyed Greek salad with "Capirete-Vinagre de Jerez", a $3 bottle of sherry vinegar that I got from my local market, (they had pricier ones too, also didn't have the name of yours with me.)

            I just had to say, what a difference! How one ingredient can turn a dish into an experience. Of course, I only had my Progresso red wine vinegar to compare it to, but you are absolutely right, the sherry packs a lot of flavor. I liked the suggestion of arugula and will add that next time as well. Always looking for new ideas with arugula.

            1. re: lilgi

              One of the differences you probably tasted is the difference in acidity. The brand Sherry vinegar you used is 8.5% acidity. In contrast, my Terre Medi red wine vinegar is 6.5% and my "O" champagne vinegar and Villa Monodori balsamic are 6%.

              Incidentally, the price you paid for your vinegar seems to be an amazing bargain. I pay more than double that for the same brand. There's a "20" on the label of my vinegar. Does that mean 20-year old sherry vinegar? I don't know. If so, that might account for the price difference.

              1. re: Indy 67

                I just looked at the bottle and acidity on mine says 7%, but it doesn't say "20". When I go back I'll take a look to see about the ones you mentioned. Now after trying this vinegar I'll be looking for more recipes to use it.

                I felt it was a good price too, and not having tried this style vinegar I thought it would be a good place to start before trying any of the pricier ones.

                1. re: lilgi

                  If you're branching out to try interesting vinegars, here are more recommendations: (You're quickly going to realize that I'm quite obsessed with good vinegars seconded only by good mustards!)

                  Most everything by the "O" company. I'm using the plain champagne vinegar at the moment, but I really enjoy the bright flavor of the Citrus Champagne variation. I also like the hint of sweetness in both the Pomegranate and Port vinegars. The Port has a balsamic-like style at a fraction of the cost and the Pomegranate has a bright-yet-still-sweet taste.

                  The one objection I have to the O company's products is that they use two different shape bottles for their vinegars: a very tall and thin bottle with a super narrow cap and a shorter, more squat shape with a chunkier cap. The shorter, chunkier cap is much easier to use and I've seen my skinny vinegar bottles sway precariously if I pull out my pantry shelves too enthusiastically. I can't figure out any reason for these two bottle styles!

                  Sotto Voce, a company I first encountered at their stand in Seattle's Pike Place market, makes wonderful herb-laden vinegars. Right now, I've got some Vinegar with Lemon (Aceto al Limone), Vinegar with Basil, Tomatoes & Garlic (Aceto Riviera), and Vinegar with Lime, Ginger, and Chili Peppers (Aceto Orientale) in my pantry. This company has a web site and that's the way I get this vinegar now. If you go to the web site, you'll see that each bottle is gorgeous to look at so they make great gifts.

                  Finally, I really have a problem buying balsamic here. I go to Italy about every other year and always pick up a bottle of the DOC stuff from Modena or Reggio-Emilia. The best stuff is packaged in 100 ml bottle which is convenient considering the legal limit for liquids in carry-on luggage in Europe. I've had lots of amusing incidents flying home with the real balsamic. The security folks start to give me a hard time since I keep the bottle in its protective commercial packaging and don't use a quart-sized plastic baggie. However, when they see what I'm carrying, they just smile and tell me everything is all right. Of course, this always has taken place flying out of/through food loving destinations such as the airports in Rome or Paris. (At CDG in Paris, you arrive at one terminal for flights within Europe and have to go to an entirely different terminal for trans-Atlantic flights which means security all over again.) I also try to be super-cooperative like packing all my typical carry-on toiletries in my checked luggage. The Villa Manodori (spelled wrong in my previous post) is a great non-DOC vinegar. It's expensive (~ $50) but a bargain compared to the price of DOC vinegar in the US.

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Thanks for the recommendations, I look forward to trying the citrus and pomegranite. But I wanted to mention that I picked up a few more bottles of the Spanish sherry vinegar for boneless/skinless thighs that I usually cook in a marinade with lemon juice or balsamic. When I make these thighs I usually have them in the oven, sometimes up to two hours until everything (I mean EVERYTHING) completely melts off and makes great pan juices. I saw your "20" ($5.69) and Ridge's "Solera 77" ($4.19) and picked up both. I didn't see any products by the company "O" there but I'll have to look again when I have more time.

                    I did write down their priciest Balsamic of Modena which comes boxed. Manicardi Boticella ORO "25" for $47, and ARGENTO for $37. Just wanted to mention those among so many others that they had in case it sounds familiar.

                    I think that first bottle that I bought will probably go this week!

              2. re: lilgi

                I’m glad you liked the salad. My mom (an amazing cook) was the first person who introduced me to Arugula growing up. It’s very popular in Greece. I could eat arugula every night and I make a big arugula salad about once a week, sometimes with a Caesar salad dressing and sometimes with a blue cheese-ranch dressing. Let me know if you want the recipes and I will post them.

                1. re: Ridge

                  I'd LOVE to try your recipe for Caesar dressing if you wouldn't mind posting. I bought some arugula yesterday and I'm going to try it with Greek salad first (I make this a lot at home, it's a great way to get my teens to eat more veggies and they love it.)

                  Arugula with Caesar dressing sounds terrific! I'm going to give it a go probably next week. I like doing crumbled blue cheese with a fruity dressing rather than blue cheese dressing, would work very well this way too.

                  In case you didn't know, I have posted before that Greek food for me is like no other; it's so much more about the person that's cooking than the food or recipe itself; when you get it right it's an experience (seriously, I think my eyes have rolled to the back of my head on more than one occasion.) I think I adore your mom :)

                  1. re: lilgi

                    Here are the recipes. They are modified versions of recipes I found. I think the Caesar was from the NY times and I think I came up with the second one by adding blue cheese to a recipe for ranch dressing also from the NY times. I make the croutons for both salads.

                    Arugula Ceasar:

                    For the Croutons:
                    • 2 large garlic cloves
                    • Pinch of salt
                    • 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
                    • ~ 1/2 baguette cut up into 1/4 inch slices
                    For the Salad:
                    • 1 egg
                    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
                    • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
                    • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed
                    • Salt and black pepper (~1 teaspoon) to taste
                    • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
                    • 4 flat anchovies
                    • 1 teaspoon capers
                    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
                    • 1/3 cup virgin olive oil
                    • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese -- grated
                    • Salad: I use either arugula or ½ arugula and ½ romaine

                    Croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush the garlic cloves with a garlic press. Slice up the baguette into ¼ inch slices

                    - Combine garlic, oil, salt, and bread slices in a bowl. Mix until bread coated evenly. Spread the coated bread onto a baking sheet and bake until the croutons are golden. This should take about 10 minutes.

                    Grate the Parmesan cheese.

                    Bring a pot of boiling water to boil, add egg and cook for just 45 seconds. Remove from heat and let it cool off.

                    Crush the garlic with garlic press. Mash together the garlic, anchovies and capers with your fingers until a uniform paste is formed. Add lemon juice to paste and whisk until blended in. Then add Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt & pepper, and mustard. Whisk until smooth. Crack coddled egg and add to these ingredients. Mix well to combine. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream while constantly whisking again until smooth.

                    To serve:

                    Tear the romaine lettuce into 1-2 inch pieces and add them to a large bowl with the arugula. Add half the dressing, toss, add remaining dressing and Parmesan cheese and gently mix to blend ingredients. Serve and top with croutons.

                    Blue cheese buttermilk salad dressing

                    1 large clove garlic minced
                    2 heaping tablespoons olive oil
                    1 coddled egg
                    2 1/2 ounces blue cheese (St. Agur is my favorite to use)
                    3 tablespoons buttermilk
                    3 tablespoons yogurt
                    3 teaspoons red sherry vinegar
                    1/4 teaspoon sugar
                    Salt, freshly ground black pepper, smoked red pepper to taste,
                    small pinch white pepper
                    Salad: I use arugula or ½ arugula and ½ good mixed salad greens. Can also add avocado and cherry tomatoes if in season.

                    Add egg and red pepper to garlic and mix with whisk. Whisk in vinegar and allow to rest for 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Then whisk in yogurt and buttermilk until smooth. Add salt, sugar, black and white pepper and mix. Add blue cheese to one side of the bowl and mash it with your hands, incorporating in the dressing as you mash. Continue to mash and blend cheese into the dressing with your hands until the cheese is well incorporated. Then use whisk to mix it up more. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add to salad and mix well.

                    1. re: Ridge

                      Thanks, my family will love it!

          2. re: Ridge

            "red wine vinegar sold in the US is truly nasty stuff."

            I assume you're talking about mass market red wine vinegar produced in the US, not imports, and sold in supermarkets. There are brands of excellent US produced small batch, distilled, aged or specialty vinegars available, perhaps you should look for some of those if you haven't found a spermarket brand you like. Since it seems from your profile that you're located in CA, I bet you have many great vinegar options produced out there.

            It could be just about the amount the level of acidicity you prefer, and a search may lead you to one you truly enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Spanish sherry wine vinegar, but there are very good red wine vinegars available here. Don't dismiss them all. I think you could easily find a red wine vinegar in a supermarket in this country, either domestic or imported, that is not nasty stuff.

            Often vinegars are a blend pressed from grapes from different regions of countries, and the margin of flavor between an high end import and a mass market vinegar can be narrow. I often wonder if the high end imports are worth the price, when compared in a side by side taste test to less expensive brands.

            Pompeian, for example, is a mass market brand imported from Italy, and was highly rated in a taste test done by CI when tested against other mass produced brands and imports. Many CH posters have recommended Pompeian as well. A few US produced common brands fared quite well in the taste test also:




            1. re: bushwickgirl

              You are right, I was too dismissive of red wine vinegar. Once I discovered the Spanish sherry vinegars, I became hooked on them, and I think I prefer them to red wine vinegars, even good ones. But saying that all red wine vinegars are nasty is incorrect.

              1. re: Ridge

                I hear you. I prefer sherry vinegar to red wine vinegar as well, I find the sherry deeper in flavor, more complex and less acidic, depending on the brand.

                I hope you can find a red one to your liking at some point. Red wine vinegar has some nice applications other than dressing a salad.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  I was wondering what else do you use red wine vinegar for? A while ago I made pasta with a red wine vinegar based sauce but I haven’t made it in ages. It was very good. And today I made blueberry jam where I added red wine vinegar.

                  1. re: Ridge

                    I use it in butter sauces for fish, pickled vegetables, I guess that's a dressing, or in roasted eggplant dips, splash a little on fried potatoes and onions, use it in a Sauerbraten marinade, or for other game such as venison, beef or pork spare ribs, in bbq sauce instead of cider vinegar, Romesco sauce, and this delicious dish, from Paula Wolfert:


                    I use a very scant cup of vinegar instead of the somewhat silly 14 Tbsp. measurement the recipe calls for. I don't know why it was wriiten out that way.

                    And your blueberry jam, very nice, and it's good in other jams or chutneys, onion, fig, cranberry.

                    "Solera 77 Sherry Vinegar Reserva" Excellent vinegar.

                    I was chefing somewhere back a few decades ago and we got a then new on the market cabernet wine vinegar in from our wine distributor, from a CA vineyard, name escapes me, but that might be a variety of red wine vinegar for you to try. I used it in a sauce for calves liver, with currents and shallots.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      gool old paula, genuflect, genuflect! i like the sound of that recipe, bwgirl; i'm going to try that. wonder if you've ever seen/had something like this old spanish recipe of mine, something like:
                      in evoo sautee almonds, bread, garlic.
                      remove from pan
                      for a few min.,saute skin-on chicken on both sides in pan w/ some added evoo
                      add chicken stock and red wine vinegar.
                      cook til done.
                      puree bread mixture and add back into pan(maybe w/ some mayo too); whisk to combine. maybe lemon juice to finish.
                      something like that! romesco/ tarator/arabic influences in there for sure, eh?

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        "romesco/ tarator/arabic influences in there for sure, eh?"

                        Oh yes, definitely.

                        There's also the tasty and easy Italian Pollo all' aceto, chicken with vinegar:


                        I'd up the garlic just a bit on that, but that's just me.

            2. re: Ridge

              What brand of Spanish sherry vinegar should we look for?

              1. re: walker

                The one I use is Solera 77 Sherry Vinegar Reserva. I really like it.

            3. "Alas, the kind Greek lady running the restaurant won't part with the recipe..."

              Could it be she wouldn't part with the recipe because it's actually a commercially prepared dressing she gets from her broadline distributor or local restaurant supply house?

              5 Replies
              1. re: DiningDiva

                Possible, but knowing her, her temperament, the daily specials she puts out, and the stink eye you get with any cheek, I'd bet it's hers.

                1. re: PoppiYYZ

                  yyz, it's times like these that i think, laughingly, about theJapanese movie Tampopo. Pretty much a take-off on Amer. Westerns, it comcerns a 10-gallon-hat- hat wearing Japanese trucker who sets out on a mission, with a newly- widowed noodle shop owner, to make the very best noodles in Japan. Their ploys, amongst many clever ones, include wee-morning-hours raiding of a noodle shop's dumpster to i.d. the flour he is using!...............

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      Does that make it a true "Spaghetti Western"? ;)