I grew up with mostly store-bought salad dressings (like many of you, I assume) and when I moved out on my own, it didn’t even occur to me to make salad dressing. When I realized you could make oil-and-vinegar dressings (the simple answer to the “what is vinaigrette?” question) at home I couldn’t believe how easy it was (like so many of the other pantry basics that I discovered could be easily made at home).
Once I realized how easy dressings were, it gave me the confidence to make a lot of other salad dressings, too, like Caesar, Honey Mustard, and the best Ranch. But our staple salad dressing remains this easy homemade vinaigrette ratio of oil + vinegar + Dijon + seasonings.
Take five minutes to whip up the basic homemade vinaigrette recipe or one of the variations and it will become a staple for you too. You really don’t have to put up with additives or lots of sugar like the store stuff!
I’m sharing the basic recipe plus a few of our favorite varieties, but with this recipe in your cooking arsenal you’ll find it really easy to put your own spin on it with different vinegars (red wine vinaigrette), herbs (Italian dressing), seasonings (lemon-pepper), and other ingredients to create lots of different salad dressings.
Below find the basic vinaigrette ingredients and then how to add or change ingredients to make three other dressings: Balsamic, Lemon-Herb, and Asian Style (and you’ll also find even more ideas for variations in the full recipe). You can click at the top or bottom of the page for a printable recipe with the variations listed.
Basic Homemade Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
olive oil + cider vinegar + Dijon + garlic + salt & pepper (honey or other sweetener optional) = Basic Vinaigrette
Your basic vinaigrette can start with any vinegar or oil you have, really, but since it’s only a few ingredients, it’s nice to use a quality olive oil and flavorful vinegar that’s milder than plain white (though it will do in a pinch!) like apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. Leave as-is or add Italian seasonings for ‘Italian’ dressing.
Variation 1: Balsamic Vinaigrette
basic vinaigrette ingredients + balsamic = Balsamic Salad Dressing
All you need to do is lower the amount of your base vinegar (cider, red wine, etc) some and add balsamic vinegar to create your own fancy-schmancy balsamic salad dressing. Not all balsamics are the same, though – if you’re using an aged balsamic that’s thicker (and sweeter) you’ll want to add just a Tablespoon or two. If your balsamic is the regular variety, you may be able to use mostly balsamic, but most balsamic dressings have another type of vinegar.
Since balsamic is naturally sweeter, you probably won’t need any honey if you used it in the basic recipe.
Variation 2: Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette
olive oil + lemon + Dijon + garlic + herbs of choice + salt & pepper = Lemon-Herb Dressing
Simply replace the vinegar with lemon juice, add herbs and you’ve made a lemon herb salad dressing. A completely different flavor from the base recipe – how easy is that? It’s wonderful for Greek salads with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.
Variation 3: Asian Style Vinaigrette
olive oil+ rice vinegar + sesame oil + Dijon + honey (not pictured) + sriracha sauce + garlic + s&p = Asian Dressing
Did you know you can take the same basic homemade vinaigrette salad dressing recipe, use rice vinegar and add Asian flavor from sesame oil and sriracha sauce to make an Asian dressing? Yep, it’s that easy! This is perfect for Asian inspired cabbage slaws (cabbage + carrots + onions + sesame seeds) and noodle salads.