Food & Drink

Simple recipes will help you make an easy homemade salad dressing

You’ll never go back to store-bought salad dressing after making your own easy version.
You’ll never go back to store-bought salad dressing after making your own easy version.

We all like to cut corners when it comes to a weeknight dinner. After all, the energy we’ve expended all day doesn’t easily revive itself when we are confronted with preparing food at 6 or 7 p.m.

Of all the things we use from the supermarket, bottled salad dressing seems pretty ubiquitous, especially since there are so many flavors and we make ourselves feel better by choosing “lite” and fat-free versions. (But we ignore all the sodium and sugar that come along with any packaged food, even the supposed healthy versions.)

For me, all it took was lunch with a friend, who served a simple salad of spring greens, slices of avocado and chunks of roasted chicken, to change my mind. All in all, a nice meal, until she brought out her secret weapon: homemade, oil-based dressing, with a hint of garlic in it. It turned lunch into a seriously wow moment. I honestly couldn’t believe how much better the meal tasted than if I’d used one of my bottled versions.

So, if you’ve ever stood in the supermarket aisle and wondered what dressing to buy, head over to the aisle where the good olive oil is, then grab some fresh ingredients and try one of these recipes from Use it on salad, of course, but try any of these as a marinade on chicken or pork or spoon over meat before serving. You will appreciate the difference.

At a glance

“Light” dressing isn’t always the best, according to a nutritionist:

  • Nutritionist Keri Glassman recommends choosing salad dressings with the shortest list of recognizable ingredients, and preferably an oil-based viniagrette.
  • She cautions that while “light” store-bought dressings save on calories and fat, they often are higher in sodium and sugar. For example, Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Italian Dressing has just 50 calories and 5 grams fat in 2 tablespoons, but 440 mg sodium.
  • A 2-tablespoon serving of a homemade, oil-based balsamic vinaigrette typically has 80-90 calories and 8 grams fat.

Raspberry Poppyseed Salad Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

1/3 cup raspberries

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Pinch of salt

In a high-speed blender, combine olive oil, pomegranate juice, vinegar, shallot, raspberries and honey. Blend until smooth. Stir in poppy seeds. Salt to taste.

Pairs with: Any salad that combines meat and fruit. Also great on top of grilled chicken or pork.

Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing

3 to 4 fresh limes, juiced and zested (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, lightly packed

1/2 cup olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons honey (depending on desired sweetness)

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients until smooth.

If a thinner consistency is desired, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water.

If you like cilantro, double the amount in this recipe and puree in your blender until bright green and pesto-like.

Pair with:

Quinoa, tomato and spinach salad

Black bean, corn and tomato salad

Use as a marinade for chicken and pork

Drizzle on top of stir-fry or veggie side dish for a Tex-Mex flavor

Balsamic Fig Salad Dressing

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh chopped shallots

3 to 4 whole dried figs, sliced or chopped (or 3 tablespoons fig jam)

1 tablespoon honey, if additional sweetness is desired

In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients until smooth.

If a thinner consistency is desired, add 2 to 3 tablespoons water or broth to the blender.

Pair with: Any salad. This dressing also pairs nicely with cheese plates and makes a great marinade.

Greek Feta Salad Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Juice of 2 lemons

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon marjoram or Italian seasoning

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a high-speed blender, combine olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and basil. Blend until well combined. Stir in spices and crumbled feta. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Like a creamy Caesar with a Greek-inspired twist, this simple feta dressing is bright and zingy. If you’d like a more creamy version, add a little more feta and puree it all in your blender until smooth.

Pair with:

Romaine lettuce tossed with tomatoes, pasta and olives

Cucumbers and chopped onions

Homemade falafel, gyros or pita

Grilled lamb, pork, steak or chicken

Sesame Orange Salad Dressing

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons extra-light olive oil

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons tahini dressing

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar (white, apple cider or rice)

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

1 clove garlic

Place all ingredients together in a high-speed blender until smooth.

Drizzle on top of salad, toss in some mandarin oranges, sliced almonds or chow mein noodles. Pair with Asian salads and crunchy cabbage slaw.