Making an herb vinaigrette dressing is easier than you think. All you need is an acidic base and a flavorful oil. Stir in the seasonings of your choice, and it's done. Ban the bottle and make an oil & vinegar salad dressing at home!
Why this recipe works
- Choose the flavor profile of a vinaigrette based on your choice of vinegar, oil, and seasonings
- Mixes together in about 5 minutes
- Contains no preservatives, additives, or stabilizers
I'm forever trying to reduce the amount of processed foods in my family's diet, and salad dressing is a great place to start. Who needs all those preservatives and stabilizers when I can make a delicious oil and vinegar salad dressing in just a few minutes?
Since herb vinaigrettes are eminently customizable, I can match the flavors to whatever I'm serving the dressing with. And it tastes so much better than store bought salad dressing!
Emulsions cast a wide net
Did you know that the lowly vinaigrette dressing belongs to a family of sauces bigger than just salad dressings?
The mixing of oil and water is called an emulsion. Vinaigrettes are a temporary emulsion sauce, meaning the oil and vinegar separates.
Examples for more stable emulsions are mayonnaise and Hollandaise sauce. Caesar salad dressing is a semi-stable sauce because even though it'll stay mixed for a long time, it will eventually separate (or break).
What you need
An herb vinaigrette is really just oil and vinegar dressing (or another acid like lemon juice) mixed together with a few seasonings for flavor. You can mix and match the type of vinegars and oils you like based on the flavor profile you want.
The amounts of everything else you add (like salt, pepper, sugar, and flavorings like herbs and garlic or shallots) depends on your own taste.
How to make an herb vinaigrette
Want to know a secret? No real recipe is needed for a vinaigrette, like with my flaky all butter pie crust. It's more about the recipe ratio, 3-1 (3-parts oil to 1-part acid). The rest are just seasonings.
Step 1: Mix the seasonings
For a White Wine Herb Vinaigrette, start by mixing the seasonings together, in this case dried herbs, sugar, salt and pepper, and some finely minced garlic (photo 1). You can mince the garlic by hand, or use a garlic press).
Step 2: Stir in the vinegar
Pour in your vinegar of choice (photo 2). My family likes the combination of white wine vinegar with a bit of red wine vinegar added for extra depth.
Step 3: Whisk in the oil
Whisk in your oil of choice (photo 3). I like to cut the extra virgin olive oil with some canola oil so the dressing isn't so heavy.
Simple to make, it comes together in a snap. Just let the mixture sit 20 minutes or so to let the flavors meld, then mix well before serving.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
You can use dried or fresh herbs, but keep in mind that dried herbs are about 3 times more potent than fresh herbs. Use garlic, shallots, or replace either with garlic powder or onion powder. Sugar cuts the acidity a bit and adds a nice counterbalance, but it's optional.
And if you want your emulsion to be a bit more stable, adding in a teaspoon of mustard or mayonnaise can help. You can even use an egg yolk to stabilize the emulsion if you feel comfortable. That's how Caesar salad dressing was made traditionally. Just don't feed it to pregnant women in case of salmonella concerns.
Herb vinaigrettes are very forgiving. Play with different flavors of vinegar or other acids, like red wine, apple cider, balsamic, fruit or citrus juices. Choose a flavorful oil. Olive oil is nice, but there's also walnut, avocado, sesame oils, just to name a few. It's just keeping that 3-1 oil and vinegar dressing ratio that's important, and even that isn't set in stone. It's completely up to your taste.
Pro Tip: Storing salad dressing
You might be asking yourself, "what can I store my salad dressing in?" A salad dressing mixer is a convenient way to store your homemade herb vinaigrette. I like the built-in blade that lets me mix the dressing in the jar without making a mess.
There are of course many other containers, ranging from a simple mason jar to a fancy crystal bottle. I have even used this salad dressing cruet from Good Seasons powdered mix (yes, from when I still used a dressing base from an envelope. I shudder to think about it).
More than just salad dressing
These dressings make a great marinade for chicken, fish, or cooked vegetables, either to soak the item in or drizzle after being cooked. The possibilities are endless!
Ditch the bottled dressings forever and get creative with your oil and vinegar salad dressings to really brighten up your meals.
It's as easy as 3 to 1!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Did you know that salad dressing is a form of an emulsion sauce, that is, a mixture of oil and water? There are temporary emulsions that don't stay mixed (like vinaigrettes) and stable emulsions that stay mixed over time (like Caesar dressing or Hollandaise Sauce). These can add a layer of flavor to your dishes. Give these a try!
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Herb Vinaigrette (Oil & Vinegar Salad Dressing)
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, minced, see Recipe Notes
- 1 teaspoon dried herbs, see Recipe Notes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic or small shallot, pressed or minced, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder, see Recipe Notes
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar, or your preferred vinegar, see Recipe Notes
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, for a tangier flavor
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or another flavored oil, see Recipe Notes
- ¼ cup canola oil, if desired, or more of the oil used above
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard, optional, see Recipe Notes
- Add all ingredients in the order listed into a small bowl or directly into a salad dressing mixer. Whisk or shake to mix.
- Let the mixture sit 20 minutes or so to let the flavors meld.
- Mix again before serving.