Got two minutes? Along with Olive oil, Dijon Mustard and Balsamic vinegar, that’s all you need to make a simple homemade vinaigrette. You can go from spending money on salad dressing to making your own healthier, tastier dressing at home.
I’ve always loved a good salad. Yet even when it’s snowing outside, I still can’t kick my salad habit. This homemade emulsified vinaigrette dressing is my favourite – and arguably the easiest to whip together, too. It’s super, super easy to make and way less expensive and healthier than the store bought one. And I know exactly what goes into it!
Emulsified dressings are thick and creamy and really cling to your veggies. This basic dressing recipe, which features Dijon mustard and subtly sweet balsamic vinegar, gives greens a creamy kick that tastes great all year round.
Not just for salads: Drizzle over roast potatoes, or spoon over a sandwich. They also make a light and brightly flavoured topping for poached or grilled fish or poultry, roasted meats, and cooked or raw vegetables.
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 6 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup Olive oil - Extra Virgin
- Black pepper - optional to taste
- Salt - optional to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and Balsamic Vinegar until dressing is emulsified and smooth.
- When incorporating the oil, don't add all of it at once. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil in a stream until the vinaigrette is emulsified.
- Season with salt and/or pepper, if using, and mix well any optional desired seasoning variations (see Notes).
- Once it’s mixed, just taste and adjust the seasonings if you like, and you’re good to go. Since tasting a vinaigrette on its own can give you a skewed idea of its flavour, taste it by dipping leaf into the dressing, shake off the excess, and try. This will give you a much better idea of how your vinaigrette will taste with the finished salad.
- Place the salad in a medium bowl and add enough dressing to moisten. Start with a tablespoon of dressing, toss, and continue adding until the greens are evenly coated and look glossy. Serve immediately.
- If you’re not serving your vinaigrette right away, you may have to shake or whisk it again right before serving. And be sure to taste leftover dressing before tossing it with salad ingredients: Sometimes the dressing needs a little re-seasoning to keep it tasting bright and fresh.
- Keep leftover dressing in a sealed jar, or another container with a tight lid, in the refrigerator for several weeks. If any of the ingredients in your vinaigrette were previously refrigerated or are fresh, like lemon juice or minced shallots, then store it in the refrigerator up to five days.
The salad dressed in the badly emulsified vinaigrette speeds up signs of wilting, while the salad dressed in the proper vinaigrette preserves its crispness and fresh-tasting.
Apparently, straight-up oil is much more damaging to leaves than an oil-vinegar mixture.
Unless you emulsify your vinaigrette, you end up with a pile of leaves dressed in oil, and a pool of vinegar at the bottom of the salad bowl, completely destroying the flavor of the sauce.
An emulsified vinaigrette, however, uses the power of surfactants to help both oil and vinegar cling tightly to the leaves. Balanced flavor in every mouthful.
The trick to getting your dressing to emulsify is to add a third ingredient that acts as a helper. Dijon Mustard is the classic French addition and my favourite, but you could also experiment others (see notes).
You can also exchange the basic ingredients
- three parts of vinegar to one part of emulsifier
- two to three parts oil to one part vinegar
Choosing the Oil:
Choosing the Vinegar
Choosing the emulsion
Optional seasoning variations
- Herbs: Stir in one or more chopped fresh herbs. Add 2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (dried herbs work, too). Tarragon and thyme are good on their own, while mint and basil pair well. Cilantro is surprisingly wonderful with dill. And chives and parsley go well with any herb. For an Italian flavour use oregano or Italian seasoning. Fresh herbs give vinaigrette a punch of brightness
- Try adding honey and toasted crushed nuts to a basic vinaigrette. It rocks in more ways than one
- Incorporate fresh flavor-boosters including chopped tomato, grated onion, or ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger — you can also use any juice squeezed from these. The Japanese restaurant favorite, carrot ginger dressing, is basically a vinaigrette pureed in the blender with lots of carrot and ginger
- Garlic: Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1/2 clove crushed, or garlic powder
- Scallion: Add 3 chopped whole scallions (about 1/4 cup) or Shallots to add pungency
- I also love to add 2 tablespoons whole Grainy mustard
- Incorporate grated or crumbled Bold cheese, such as Parmesan, feta, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola, or blue cheese. Use a whisk if you prefer a chunkier texture or a blender for a smooth one
- Spices: freshly ground black pepper, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, a bit of horseradish, red 'Fresno Chili' pepper, finely chopped, or even a bit of Sriracha add a bit of heat
- Mayonnaise, yogourt or Sour Cream
- Season your dressing with condiments such as Worcestershire sauce, reduced-sodium soy sauce, or steak sauce
- Season with toasted and coarsely crushed Seeds: 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, sesame seeds. Toast seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool, then chop. Whisk with the basic dressing
- Add briny elements such as capers, olives, dill pickles, or cornichons (French sour gherkins). Even the brine they're packed in can add a welcome hit of flavor
- Use anchovies to add depth to dressing. Start slow and use just enough to let the anchovy work its magic without overpowering the dressing. Anchovy paste is much easier to use than canned fillets
- Bump up a lemon-juice-based vinaigrette by adding fresh citrus zest, which packs an intense zap of citrus flavor
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