What’s in your salad dressing?

Q: Can you explain how to make a homemade salad dressing?

A: Yes, and here is how…

Salad Dressing Made at Home

I do not enjoy ‘store bought’ salad dressings! There – I said it!

I was, at one time, a bit lazy about making salad dressings and vinaigrettes so I had always purchased them. Needless to say, my salads lacked a fresh, light, flavour.

I think my salad dressing epiphany hit me when I ate a salad at the Olive Garden Restaurant – many years ago. It was so good. I could taste all the vegetables and I did not get an acidic sting on my tongue – nor was there a strong, lingering, garlicky, flavour in my mouth hours after eating it.

Salad Dressing Simple & Fast

It was around that time that I happened to be flipping through channels on the television, with my remote, one evening.  I landed on the Food Network station with Chef Michael Smith, one of our more famous East Coast Chefs. He was making a simple vinaigrette dressing for a salad – oil, vinegar, honey and mustard.  I thought if it is really that SIMPLE and FAST to prepare, I should give it a try!

The Basic Salad Dressing

Green Green Salad with lemon honey mustard vinaigrette dressing

A Vinaigrette is the most basic of all dressings. The base flavour is simply varied by the type of oil and vinegar used.

The Oil: What can I say? I use canola oil because I want to use a mild flavoured oil and of course, it is good for my heart. Sometimes I use cold pressed canola oil. It has a very distinct flavour and it has great colour!

The Vinegar: It is important to balance the oil in vinaigrette with some form of vinegar. The most common types are wine, cider and white. However, there are others, such as, herb, fruit, rice and balsamic.

Vinegars differ in their base and ingredients but they are basically all fermented from alcohol to acetic acid. The higher the percentage of acetic acid that the vinegar contains, the more sour and stronger the vinegar will be. This acidity information can be found on the labels of the vinegar bottles.

Tip Number 1:

Lemon juice can be used in place of vinegar when a more lemony flavour is desired.  Lemon juice can also be very acidic.

Tip Number 2:

The ratio of oil to vinegar varies among salad dressings. The flavour becomes blander and less acidic as more oil is added, but shifts to a sharp, acidic flavour when the amount of vinegar is increased.

What about emulsification?

Ah, yes – the emulsified dressing. I know what you are thinking, oil and water don’t mix, nor does oil and vinegar. Here is a solution. Mayonnaise is an emulsifier. It acts as a bridge between oil and vinegar and without getting technical, holds them together. Chef Michael Smith and I use honey and mustard as our ‘emulsifiers’. Perhaps not  as good as mayonnaise but they do hold the mixture together long enough to drizzle it on a salad.

Other Salad Dressings

There are so many possibilities for salad dressing bases. Cooked dressings have a viscous consistency due to a starch thickener. Some dressings are dairy based, using sour cream or yogurt as the main ingredient. A few dressings are made from fruit juices, some from mayonnaise. The sky is the limit.

Master the Basic Vinaigrette

Once I got the hang of making basic vinaigrettes, I never looked back. I like to make simple salad dressings to accent my salads, rather than bury them in mayonnaise based dressings or acidic dressings that leave me pucker- faced at the table. Greens are good for your health and good for your soul. A simple salad dressing takes them to whole new levels.

My personal collection

This is my vinegar, oil and honey collection. Oooooo…this seems to be a little bit of over-kill. Good grief!!! I have 15 kinds of vinegar in my cupboard and why do I have 3 containers of honey that have all been opened? I had to take a separate photo of my 6 kinds of mustard. Really – don’t panic – you just need one kind of each ingredient to get you started. (I suddenly feel very much like a crazy scientist!)

Judy's mustard collection


Create your signature dressing

If you are tired of the old purchased hum-drum salad dressings, I suggest that you go ahead and start creating your own signature salad dressings. Start mixing! I can bet you will find quite a difference in your salads!!

The Green Green Salad recipe that follows is a brand new recipe featured in our latest recipe book – Quick & Healthy, Recipes the whole family can enjoy.

Green Green Salad

 Green Green Salad

Yield: 6 servings

Salad Ingredients:

1 head lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces (1 )
1 cup sliced green grapes (250 mL)
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced (3 )
1 green apple, cored and thinly sliced (1 )
1/4 English cucumber, diced (1/4 )

Dressing Ingredients:

2 Tbsp canola oil (30 mL)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (15 mL)
1 Tbsp honey (15 mL)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (2 mL)
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano


1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.
2. In small bowl, whisk together canola oil, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, and fresh oregano.
3. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information:

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups Calories: 100
Cholesterol: 0 mg Total Fat: 5 g
Carbohydrates: 13 g Fibre: 2 g
Protein: 1 g Saturated Fat: 0 g
Sodium: 35 mg

Eat Well…Judy

Ask Judy Guest BloggerJudy is a home economist, educator, food stylist, recipe developer & tester, mom, lazy gardener and Zumba enthusiast.  She welcomes the opportunity to experiment with new food items and share her passion and creativity with her clients, family and friends.

She is the food stylist for www.canolainfo.org and www.canolarecipes.ca as well as many other clients.  If you have a recipe or ingredient question for Judy be sure to send it in to [email protected] or leave it in the comment section below.



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