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Lets talk salad dressing

I try to make my salad dressings a little bit lower in fat than the "gold standard" 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar, and balance it out usually with some type of sweetner (honey, sugar, maple syrup depending on the dressing)... They always taste good to me but wonder if thats ONLY because I kind of like acidic flavours.. to me it doesn't taste acidic.. Whenever I try the 3:1 ratio, it doesn't taste like anything to me. What am I doing wrong?

So, a few questions:

What is your basic vinaigrette recipe/ratios?
Do you find a more acidic dressing offensive?
Any tried and true recipes that everyone seems to love?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I dress my salad greens with malt vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I got hooked on malt vinegar when eating fish and chips at a restaurant near the campus of Villanova U. I don't measure the 2 ingredients because I'm the only one at the table who uses that dressing.

    1. I usually do something closer to a 50/50 ratio. I like a vinegary bite! My usual dressing (the family devours it so it must be good) is Oil/Balsamic, with a squirt of honey for sweetness, one of mustard to emulsify, and a smashed clove of garlic. This lives in a glass jar in the fridge for about a week and the flavors really meld.
      I also dip my pizza crusts in this dressing. Yum!

      1 Reply
      1. I do my own dressings and vary them quite a bit but my fav is definitely fresh lemon juice + olive oil but a good cider vin is a close second w/ rice wine vinegar and white balsamic.

        1. I also tend to go closer to 50/50, as I find the standard ratio to oily and bland. I also often balance it out with a bit of sweet. If I don't do sweet I add mustard to help the dressing emulsify with less oil.

          1. I just got a revelation from a guest: don't make dressing!

            Assemble your bowl of salad, squirt on a tiny bit of dijon mustard, a small splash each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix by hand.

            The second time, you will (as I have) want to reduce the amount of oil and vinegar and maybe the mustard.

            1. When I first started cooking, I used a very high vinegar ratio and still enjoy it. But an aunt of mine made the silkiest dressing with which I fell in love ... still very tasty ... and taught me the higher oil ratio. Below is my personal dressing which I stand by as one of the best. Once you have the fixings, it is extremely easy to make. And guaranteed to have great spice and flavor. Give it a try... you can always add more vinegar, though I am betting you don't need it. And one secret... two different vinegars. I often use red and white/champagne but sherry with one of those is wonderful as well:

              Buy these things:

              - a mason jar with a screw top or some kind of smaller jar you can shake easily
              - Shallots
              - Garlic (you can easily buy garlic already peeled now..you just need to also have
              a Garlic Press)
              - A good quality olive oil, such as Colavita
              - Wine vinegars...red wine vinegar and champagne vinegar
              - lemons
              - course ground mustard (with seeds, I like 'La Favorite Course Ground Dijon' but
              there are lots of choices)
              - salt and pepper

              All of these things keep a while (the peeled garlic in the fridge, shallots out on the
              counter, lemons on the counter, mustard in the fridge, everything else in the

              Here is what you do:

              Chop one half shallot pretty fine. Add the shallot and two garlic cloves, pressed,
              to the jar. Add a combo of red and champagne vinegar, about 1/4 cup total. Add
              some salt (a few good shakes) and let it sit 10 minutes.

              Add 1 cup olive oil, a spoonful of the mustard, the juice of half a lemon (just cut it
              in half and squeeze right into the jar, no worries about the seeds), lots of black
              pepper and more salt to taste. Put the top on and shake it up well. Voila!

              You can add to this:

              thyme leaves (yum, I do this all the time)
              Any herbs, really, I like rosemary and thyme the best

              A couple of variations:

              To this, at the end, add some crumbled blue cheese for a blue
              cheese vinaigrette

              Also, you can make this, then add a few glugs of buttermilk, chives, thyme and
              some mayo to make a really good homemade vinaigrette ranch.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Tom P

                Tom P -- I just tried your recipe, with only a few changes and you're right -- it's beautifully creamy. I didn't have any shallots on hand, so skipped that, switched the lemon to a lime and used mostly apple cider vinegar with a splash of balsamic. Also, I chickened out at the last minute and used a little less than 3/4 cup oil. Like I said, though, it's beautiful. Thanks for the recipe!

                1. re: Tom P

                  Tom P, do you use regular olive oil or extra virgin for this? It does sound very silky, haha due to the fat in the olive oil, eh, but it's good fat. During the work week, I just use balsamic vinegar on my greens...this would be a nice weekend treat, though.

                2. I use about half oil half vinegar (or lemon juice) and no sweetener, and that tastes fine to me. I do tend to mix and dress the salad before putting it on the table.

                  My default is about two parts olive oil, one part fresh lemon juice, one part wine vinegar, a dab of mustard (usually dijon) and salt and pepper, and I steep a smashed garlic clove in it until just before I dress the salad.

                  For a variation, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some soy sauce makes a darker dressing. For an asian vinagrette, rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce in about a 4:2:1 ratio, with shredded ginger.

                  1. I also make dressings that are heavy on the acidity, often with only a splash of olive oil, but I balance it with higher-fat, creamy salad components such as feta or blue cheese or avocado. If I'm doing a salad that is strictly vegetables, I might add a bit more oil to the dressing (closer to a 50/50 ratio).

                    I rarely measure ingredients for vinaigrettes, but one of my favourites is: a lot of fresh squeezed lime juice mixed with a touch of raspberry-infused balsamic and a splash of olive oil. Add a clove of crushed garlic, a (small) spoonful of sugar, some salt and fresh ground pepper and (the secret ingredient:) dijon mustard (enough to make it creamy and complex, not enough to make it taste like mustard). Perfect on a green salad with red bell pepper, blue cheese, sliced apples and grated carrot.

                    If I have really good olive oil, my love-of-acidity thing goes out the window. Really good olive oil is best with fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

                    1. My wife and I still disagree on this point. She prefers the 3:1, whereas I prefer closer to a 2:1 ratio. It's pretty much different every time, but generally speaking, we mince some shallots, macerate them in vinegar (your choice; we usually use red wine, balsamic, white wine or maybe even some cider, depending on what else we're going to be eating), This is all done in a prep bowl. Start streaming in oil slowly and whisking. Season with salt and pepper and you're done. If you'd like some insurance, a bit of mustard will help your emulsion come together a little more quickly.

                      1. I go about 1.5 to 1. I followed recipie the other way nd ended up pouring off mot of the oil. It was too bland otherwise. I found that a repurposed small soda bottle (Diet Pepsi) worked really well as a shaker and the molded bumps helped to emulsify the dressing.

                        1. I make mine in an old Spanish olive jar, (tall and thin). I use 2 parts evoo to one part vinegar, either balsamic, red, white, white infused with tarragon, rice, cider, or black). I usually use some type of herb like fresh basil, cilantro, or dried Herbes de Provence. Usually, but not always, a squirt of Dijon, cap it and shake it up.

                          We do this 3 or 4 times a week.

                          1. For a mild, low-fat dressing, I use the one recommended in a diet plan: 2T orange juice, 1T oil, 1T wine vinegar, salt. This is for one serving of a big salad, lots of lettuce.

                            1. I often mash a small clove of garlic with some salt in a mortar, add one part sherry vinegar (often just a single tablespoon) & let it sit for a couple of minutes while I'm puttering with other things. I add two parts olive oil just before I dress the salad & call it a look.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: THewat

                                I call that perfect because it's EXACTLY what I do!

                              2. Creamy ranch dressing can be easily made using a 24 oz wide mouth bottle. fill it about a quarter of the way up with buttermilk and then add half a packet of ranch dip mix, a teaspoon of dried dill, a 1/4 tsp garlic powder, a half tsp fresh coarsely ground pepper and two heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise. Cap and shake vigorously to mix and then add more buttermilk to bring the level within a half inch of the top and shake again to mix.

                                This is a lot better than the prepared stuff.

                                1. I use much less oil to save on calories and add agave, honey or a packet of Splenda.

                                  1. I rarely, if ever, make salad dressing, but the other night I had people over and made this arugula salad with shaved parmesan and the dressing was great. I used everything in the recipe but cut down on the oil. I will make this dressing again.


                                    1. I go the 3 to 1 oil to vinegar but that may include a mix of vinegars and lemon, usually including a bit of balsamic which adds the sweet element.

                                      1. I don't think you're doing anything wrong. The culprit is probably the quality of the oil and vinegar being used.

                                        Acidic is fine, as long as it matches the salad. I don't have a favorite recipe, but that's more because I just toss in whatever is appropriate and/or available. I often find myself lacking a proper sweet element such as an appropriate fruit, so I toss in some good jam. My lazy approach is just to go with oil, lemon juice and balsamic (or jam).

                                        1. You're not doing anything wrong. The 3 oil to 1 vinegar is just a basic starting point.

                                          When personal preference comes into play, the sky is the limit.
                                          I generally like a 1 to 1 or even a 1 to 2 ratio of oil to vinegar for a basic salad.

                                          1. Wonderful!! Thanks to everyone! I think I need to experiment more with the shallots and garlic additions.. but otherwise I think I'm happy with what I'm doing. Thanks for the reassurance!

                                            1. I don't measure, but my oil is probably 3 of 5 parts. I almost always use white balsamic vinegar, which gives a little sweetness to the final product. My go to is probably 3 parts olive oil, 2 parts white balsamic vinegar, a dollop of half and half and fresh ground pepper. I don't know why this seems so good, but it does.

                                              1. Don't follow a recipe. I use dijon mustard, diced shallots and whatever type of vinegar suits my fancy. If you want to add sweetness, fine. I never measure and go only by taste. Don't forget to add some salt and pepper to taste once you reach the acidic/oily balance.

                                                1. Made a creamy feta dressing this morning for a green bean, cherry tomato, pinenut salad for dinner tonight: Good quality feta, red wine vinegar, oregano, freshly ground black pepper, evoo, and a little water, whirred together in the food processor.We love this.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    My goodness that sounds good! I can understand that you would love it.

                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      what is your ratio of oo and vinegar? you used dried oregano, Im assuming?

                                                    2. We prefer vinegar-heavy dressings. Normal formula is 1 tsp emulsifying agent (normally honey or mustard, occasionally egg yolk), 1 tbsp oil, 3-4 tbsp acid.

                                                      Spices, garlic, shallots, herbs, etc are all dependent on the recipe.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: odkaty

                                                        Okay, good. Im just so happy to see Im not the only one who enjoys acid. I suppose that dressing is a very individual thing, because many other ppl would flip your recipe based on their taste.

                                                        1. re: hungryabbey

                                                          I rarely use oil in dressing, except as a seasoning (ie, toasted sesame oil). I usually do a mix of acid -- lime juice or vinegar -- and an emulsifier, like mustard or yogurt, with whatever herbs or spices I'm feeling.

                                                          I'm sure it's not to everyone's taste, but it's what I like. :)

                                                      2. With fig season upon us, I remembered last night to make a Fig Vinaigrette which uses shallot, walnut oil and red wine vinegar processed with fresh fig. Wonderful texture and it was great on cold green beans.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                          1. re: hungryabbey

                                                            Having it again tonight with arugula, fresh figs, feta (wanted Roquefort but we're out of it) and toasted walnuts. Extra drizzle of walnut oil.

                                                        1. I like to first macerate finely chopped shallot in the acid (usually white wine vinegar, and / or some lemon juice), along with some kosher salt and some ground pepper, then I add the oil (at least 3:1 oil:acid, sometimes even 4:1 or more) and beat. Occasionally I'll use a little mustard, but I find that, with the shallot in there, it usually emulsifies well enough. I used to use a more even balance of oil / vinegar, and I just don't think it tastes good that way. I think using enough salt is key, though. I had a salad at Chez Panisse that really was *that* good, and since then, I think my dressings have been coming out much better.

                                                          I do the same exact method but with only lemon juice sometimes, for a little bit "softer" taste - I find this works well on warm vegetables, for example, young carrots, halved or quartered (depending on size), and boiled until just soft.

                                                          I've also been playing around with the Italian method where you salt the greens, add either just a touch of vinegar or none at all (directly to the greens), and then add lots of good olive oil and mix well.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: will47

                                                            When we have wonderful arugula, my husband (half Italian) likes it best with only olive oil and salt--no acid at all.

                                                          2. You know when your in the mood for a thick, clingy salad dressing poured over an iceburg wedge? Here's what I make. I doctor up a Good Season's salad dressing with feta and sun dried tomatoes, maybe a little agave. I whir it up in the blender and it get really, really thick and creamy. Blending it also allows me to use more water and less oil, thus saving on calories too!
                                                            Seriously good.