Have you ever noticed that a lot of your eating habits come from your childhood?
I remember setting the table as my mom finished cooking dinner. I’d carefully fold the napkins, add the knife, fork, and spoon in the appropriate place. Then I’d head to the fridge, pull out several bottles of salad dressing, and line them up in the middle of the table.
Ranch for my sister. Thousand Island for my mom. Italian for my Dad. Nothing for me.
I found something highly displeasing about blopping salad dressing on my veggies and shoveling a heaping spoonful of cold sauce into my mouth. I became known as “the one who eats her salads dry.”
As an adult, I would whip a salad together and serve it “dry” to my family. They’d often raise an eyebrow and head to the fridge.
It was only after eating a really good salad at a restaurant that I started to wonder why. What made it different? Why was it so good?
At a restaurant, there is no “blopping.” Instead, they mix together a dressing, add it to the salad, and mix it thoroughly so every leaf is saturated at just the right level. It makes it taste better! And I set out to discover if I could improve my salads too.
In theory, you can use bottled salad dressings and mix thoroughly. I’ve done that. It works. But I still find bottle dressings somewhat lacking in taste and flavor.
So I set out to create my own. And discovered just how easy it is to make truly yummy dressings that are so much better for you too.
If you’ve never created your own salad dressings before, you’re in for a real treat. (They’re plant-based salad dressings, which makes them even better.) Once you discover how much better they taste, you’ll never go back to those highly processed bottles again!
(Cause it’s so SUPER EASY!)
Oil and Vinegar
Let’s start with the easiest. Buy a high-quality, great-tasting extra virgin olive oil. Yes, you can taste the difference, so experiment. Look for organic or a name you can trust.
We have a local vineyard near us that makes delicious olive oil too. We took the tour a few years ago – it’s a fascinating experience. You’ll learn a ton about olive oil production. You can even start with a fused olive oil if you desire – it adds flavor even before you get to the vinegar.
With an olive oil at hand, it’s time to find vinegar to use. This is where you can have fun. Buy several different kinds. Play with your creations. You’ll find something you truly love.
I suggest you head to a well-stocked market and pull a few to try. I have a coconut vinegar that’s scrumptious. I’ve tried Acid League Vinegar Kits and had great luck. Honestly, if it sounds good to you, it’s worth trying. You can truly create some magical dressings with some of the flavors you’ll find on the shelves. You can always add salt and pepper too, to spice things up.
I typically start with a 1:1 ratio, and adjust accordingly. I prefer more flavor than oil. But this is your dressing … go wild!
Because I never liked salad dressings as a child, I’ve found my flavors vary from the norm. I’m still not a huge fan of traditional ranch. So I look for other flavor combinations.
Like this recipe. I love cilantro (no soapy taste here.) If you love it too, give this dressing a try. It’s easy to make, works well in a salad, works equally well in a rice bowl, and tastes great for dipping veggies.
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Small piece of serrano pepper, seeded (size depends on your taste)
- 3 garlic cloves
- Sea salt, to taste
Soak cashews in water 2+ hours until soft. Drain, then place in a high-speed blender. Add ½ cup water and blend into a creamy texture, adding more water until you reach desired consistency. Blend in cilantro, lemon juice, serrano pepper, garlic, and salt until smooth. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
Sometimes only an oil-free dressing will do. While I use olive oil a lot in my cooking, sometimes it just seems to be too much. I’m a big fan of balsamic vinegar, and use that in a variety of ways too. This works great on salads, equally as well as a marinade. Try it on mushrooms, or as a marinade for tofu.
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients and whisk until well blended.
If you haven’t discovered all the magical ways to use tahini, let me get you started. I always store a few extra bottles in my pantry. You can use it for baking and cooking – it truly is a versatile resource.
- ? cup tahini
- 1 medium lemon, juiced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Sea salt to taste
- Water to thin
Place tahini, lemon juice, maple syrup, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Then add water until creamy and reaches desired consistency.
Green Goddess is another one of my favorites because of its versatility. You can use it on salads, sandwiches, rice bowls, or as a dip. Really, there isn’t a wrong way to eat it! Plus, it’s super easy to make, and tastes a lot better than anything you’ll find in the store. And it’s plant-based – what could be better!
- ½ cup cashews
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, tightly packed
- ¼ cup fresh basil, loosely packed
- ¼ cup fresh chives, loosely packed
- 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon coconut aminos or soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Soak cashews in water for an hour or more to soften. Drain. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Add more water until you reach your desired consistency. Adjust flavor to taste.
Get out there and make your own salad dressing!
Are you motivated to try your own dressing? Have you whipped up a batch before and found one you love?
Once you have the supplies handy in your pantry, you’ll never look at store-bought dressings in the same way again. Making them fresh tastes so much better!
I dare you to give one a try tonight! 😉