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Umami salad dressing

So often I'll come across incredible vinaigrettes while eating a salad at a restaurant. I'll ask the staff what is in the dressing and usually they'll respond with some variation of olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, shallots, s/p. I make this type of dressing at home all the time and although it is delicious, it doesn't ever have that extra wow factor that I often experience when eating out.

I've been reading up on umami and some of the most common ingredients being tomato paste, anchovy paste, nutritional yeast, dried porcini mushrooms, fish sauce, parmesan cheese & truffles. I'm going to start experimenting with each of these, but thought I'd also turn to the boards and see if anyone has experiencing using these (or any other "secret" ingredient) in their dressings and/or a recipe they can share.

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  1. Soy sauce

    It goes into my vinaigrettes.

    1. Fish sauce is my standard along with a smidge of Dijon mustard. Also re-evaluate your oils and vinegars by tasting them. If they fall flat so will your dressing.

      1. I eat salads almost daily and make a wide variety of dressings. I think adding an ingredient with umami is a good idea ( instead of just more salt) but I have also found that ratio and balance is just as important. Adding just a pinch of sugar, just a bit of soy sauce, adjusting the acid ratio to your taste, etc can really balance out a dressing.

        1. Maybe they use a dash of MSG. I'm always amazed at how a very small amount can put the wow in soups and stews

          1. It could be umami or it could be some added sugar.

            2 Replies
            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Could be. I usually use a squirt of honey in my salad dressings to take the sharp edge off the acids

              1. re: scubadoo97

                an alternative to honey is a half teaspoon of seedless raspberry preserves.
                essentially you are creating raspberry vinaigrette for a fraction of the cost of the real thing and adding the sweetness of honey/sugar at the same time.

              1. Two of my favourites

                Anchovy lemon dressing - olive oil, anchovy paste, fresh lemon juice, freshly ground pepper.

                Lemon miso dressing - lemon zest and juice, miso, olive oil. This one is amazing tossed with halved cherry tomatoes and diced onion.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                  I do the lemon miso all the time. I just did this tonight on a roasted veg salad. It is one of my favorites! Everyone loves it.

                2. The difference between $2 vinegar and $12 vinegar is night and day, the quality of oil and vinegar is front and center here.

                  I've often used miso in salad dressings and usually sprinkle nutritional yeast on all veggies, it also incorporates well into a dressing- beware nutritional yeast can taste salty so i wouldn't combine it with soy sauce or miso in the same dressing.

                  1. A lot of Japanese salad dressings have umami flavor -- soy, miso, or sesame flavor.