Salads are part of almost every meal in our home. Of course, quality REAL ingredients are a big part of phenomenal salads, and we believe the right dressing CAN elevate a great salad to another level!
Have you ever noticed when you go to a high-quality local restaurant, they typically make their own dressing?
There is a reason for that…bottled dressings just won't do. Homemade dressings taste so much better…and are much better for you! And, they are much easier than you think!
Take a look at the ingredients in a typical salad dressing!
It may surprise you! We know...some of us have a very personal and strong relationship with our favorite dressings, but reading the ingredients could change your perspective.
Most bottled dressings have ingredients that are difficult to pronounce and that our grandmothers wouldn't recognize as food. Many of these ingredients are added to extend shelf-life or add texture, color or flavor.
For example, one dressing promoted as "healthy" is Kraft Zesty Italian (what could be bad? It is fat free!), but check out the ingredients:
INGREDIENTS: Water, Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Contains Less than 2% of Soybean Oil, Dried Garlic, Garlic, Modified Food Starch, Xanthan Gum, Dried Red Bell Peppers, Dried Onions, Spice, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium EDTA as preservatives.
Are all of these ingredients really needed?
And, this dressing isn't near as bad as some of the others on the shelf!
The great thing about salad dressings is they are super easy – and inexpensive – to prepare at home. We know, many of you might be thinking, who has time for that?! And, this used to be us! But we have realized how easy it really is, and the taste is totally worth it!
What’s the 2-1-1?
2 Tbsp of olive oil + 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
Just stir, shake or whisk together (small mason jars work great) - that's it!
You have just made a simple “vinaigrette” to dress your salad.
And, when we are in the mood for a creamier dressing, we add 1 Tbsp of Dijon mustard. The Dijon adds great flavor and helps “emulsify” the oil and vinegar (preventing the oil and vinegar from separating, which they tend to do without an emulsifier).
Even our kids enjoy it and can make this dressing - they will ask "2-1-1?" That’s 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard. This is our everyday dressing when we are in a hurry and need to get dinner on the table. It's simple, easy and tastes great!
Use this simple homemade dressing formula:
oil + acid + salt + pepper (or spices)
Acids include various types of vinegars and citrus juices. We like using the 2 to 1 ratio, 2 Tablespoons of oil to 1 Tablespoon of acid, but feel free to adjust to your taste. (Some people prefer a more robust dressing and like to use 1 Tbsp of olive oil to 1 Tbsp of acid, while others prefer 3 Tbsp of oil to 1 Tbsp acid.) And, if you are serving a crowd, you can easily increase the amounts, keeping the ratio the same.
Once you have this basic dressing down, get creative and use some of these ideas to mix and match, or create your own!
- Extra virgin olive oil + white wine vinegar + Dijon mustard + minced shallot or red onion
- Sunflower oil + red wine vinegar + minced garlic + grated parmesan
- Peanut oil + rice wine vinegar + soy sauce + minced fresh ginger and scallions
- Avocado oil + lemon juice + lemon peel + poppy seeds
- Hazelnut oil + cider vinegar + Dijon mustard + chopped chives + salt
- Walnut oil + white wine vinegar + chopped parsley + dried herbs (thyme, marjoram, basil, chives or tarragon)
The possibilities are endless!
Some of our favorite flavor-loaded vinaigrette dressings include:
- Apple Gorgonzola Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
- Moroccan Salad with Cilantro Orange Dressing
- Spinach Salad with Apples and Sweet Spicy Nuts with Red Wine Vinaigrette
- Kale, Clementine and Feta Salad with Honey Lime Dressing
- Arugula Salad with Orange Sesame Vinaigrette
- Mexican Salad with Honey Citrus Vinaigrette
- Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette
- Cabbage and Beet Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
You can even make simple creamy dressings using nothing more than a few REAL ingredients.
Check out these crazy delicious ideas:
- Kale Waldorf Salad -- it uses apples to get its “creaminess.”
- Hearts of Romaine Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing -- feta cheese makes it similar to a Caesar dressing.
- Caesar Salad with Avocado Dressing -- we have had Eat REAL America members tell us "this dressing is so good my teenage daughter eats it with a spoon!"
- Chopped Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
- Cobb Salad with REAL Green Goddess Dressing
- Fall Fattoush with Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing
Once you start making simple dressings at home, you just might start walking right past the salad dressing aisle in the store – and you will get the benefit of great taste, healthy nutrients, plus you will save some money in the process!