Salad dressing can be many things – creamy, tangy, sweet, chunky or smooth. When it’s good, salad dressing makes a salad. Think fresh Caesar dressing made with egg yolks, anchovies, lemon, and a great olive oil. The flavors meld together in a velvety, briny goodness. A great salad dressing evenly coats the greens and vegetables it is served with. It makes greens, vegetables, and other toppings taste better and compliments their textures.
In addition to tasting great, salad dressings made with quality ingredients are fabulous sources of healthy fats like olive and avocado oils. When made with nut and/or seed butters (think tahini or peanut butter), salad dressings and sauces also contain protein and minerals.
Think Outside the Bottle (of Salad Dressing)
I’m guessing most of you have experienced a neon-orange, super-sweet version of “French” dressing, or a low fat Blue cheese dressing that tastes like mixture of plaster of Paris and foot sweat (and contains no actual cheese). Some store-bought dressings are better than others, but overall, bottled dressings often have the following characteristics:
1. Mystery Oils
Most shelf-stable dressings are made with refined, less healthy oils – primarily soybean or vegetable oils, because they are cheap, stable, and available. Vegetable oil on a label means a mixture of different oils. If you want to know more about refined oils, read this post all about oil processing.
2. Added Sugar
Sugar is a major ingredient, often second only to water or oil. French, Catalina, Teriyaki, and fruity vinaigrettes can be very high in sugar. Even dressings that we think of as salty (eg, Italian) may have sugar added.
High sugar content is especially common in low-fat salad dressings, because the manufacturer has to make up for removing the fat, which creates a smooth texture. The solution is often increasing the sugar content, to make the dressing taste better.
3. Mystery Ingredients
Ingredient lists are extremely long and complicated. They include mysterious additives that you’ve never heard of and/or can’t pronounce.
4. Flavor and Texture Weirdness
Low fat and fat-free dressings can have odd flavors and textures. We’ve already talked about sugar and palatability, especially for low fat dressings. In addition, the texture of low fat dressings can also be funky. For example, thickening agents like starch and gums are used to replicate the smoothness and viscosity of oil. These agents can make the dressing thick in a weird, gelatinous way.
Some bottled brands I like:
To be clear, I love the convenience of buying a pre-made salad dressing. For instance, a few of my favorites are Toby’s (all flavors), Bragg’s Vinaigrette, and Stonewall Kitchen’s Olive Oil & Balsamic Dressing. These brands contain the fewest overall and most “real-food” ingredients.
Why Make Your Own Salad Dressing?
I like to save money, make my own food, and make it in large quantities (think 32-oz instead of 12-oz bottle). Several years ago, I found this version of “Magic Sauce” that was used in a paleo tuna casserole recipe. I’ve modified it for my own purposes, so that I can use it as both a salad dressing and savory sauce as needed. You can use this recipe as-is, or as a jumping off point for your own version of “Magic Sauce”.
For this recipe, you will need a blender or high-powered food processor.Print
It’s a salad dressing, it’s a dip, it’s a simmer sauce! Magic sauce is also gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and full of healthy fat. Make soon and use liberally.
1 – 1 ½ cup water
½ cup tahini
½ extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup coconut aminos (or soy sauce. Omit salt if using soy sauce)
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ of a whole lemon
2 – 4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin (or whatever spice and/or herb you like)
Pepper to taste
- Put everything in a blender and whir until smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little more water to thin the consistency.
- Transfer to your favorite bottle and store, refrigerated, for up to 7 days.
Pour over your salad and eat immediately, and/or transfer to your favorite dressing bottle and refrigerate.
Storage note: Sometimes the tahini and olive oil will get thicker as the salad dressing cools in the refrigerator. Let the dressing sit at room temperature for a few minutes (or add a little water) and shake as necessary to thin the dressing out.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Category: Dressings & Sauces
- Method: Blender
- Cuisine: Fusion
- Serving Size: 2 Tablspoons
- Calories: 85
- Fat: 8.9 grams
- Carbohydrates: 1.2 grams
- Protein: 0.9 grams
Keywords: vegan, 30 minutes or less, gluten free, dairy free
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Guidance For Industry Food Labeling Guide.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-food-labeling-guide.