You’ve chopped the lettuce, sprinkled on the cheese, and added the nuts to create a beautiful salad. Now only one thing is missing: salad dressing.

Having a good salad dressing is equally as important as the salad itself! While you can always use storebought salad dressing, making your own at home yields much tastier results. Plus, you get to control exactly what goes into your dressing and can adjust the seasonings to your personal preference. 

In this article, we’ll explain an easy and basic formula for making salad dressing at home. Once you know this formula, you’ll be able to whip up a vinaigrette in a matter of minutes for just about any occasion!


The Basic Salad Dressing Formula

From green goddess to balsamic vinaigrette, there are many different types of salad dressing but they all follow the same basic formula: 3 parts fat: 1 part acid: small amount of emulsifier: seasonings to taste.

You’re probably thinking: “Well that’s great, but how do I know what’s a fat, what’s an acid, and what’s an emulsifer?” Fear not: while these words may sound a tad scientific, you likely already have ingredients in your pantry that fall into these categories! 

Check out some common examples below.

Examples of Fats

  • Extra virgin olive oil (most common)
  • Sesame oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Cashews
  • Fresh cheeses
  • Tahini

Examples of Acids

  • Vinegar (balsamic, white wine, red wine, apple cider etc.)
  • Citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange, etc.)

Examples of Emulsifiers

(can also double up as fats or seasonings)

  • Honey
  • Mayo
  • Mustard
  • Tomato paste
  • Tahini
  • Miso
  • Egg Yolks
  • Avocado
  • Maple Syrup
  • Miso

Examples of Seasonings

  • Salt
  • Herbs (fresh or dried)
  • Spices (pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder…)
  • Aromatics (garlic, ginger, onion, shallot)
  • Zest: lemon, lime, orange etc.

What is an emulsifier and why do you need one?

If you’ve ever tried to combine oil and vinegar together to make a dressing, you probably noticed that the liquid remained separated like oil and water. That’s because oil and vinegar alone won’t combine – they need an emulsifier! Emulsifiers coat the oil molecules and make it easier for vinegar to bond with oil. They also thicken the dressing, helping to create a cohesive blend with flavor throughout.

A note about seasonings

Seasonings should be added to taste. There is no formula! Simply add and adjust to your personal preference. Start with a small amount, then add more as you go. Pro tip: taste the salad dressing by dipping a lettuce leaf in it, that way you get a true sense of how it will taste on the salad.

Three Basic Salad Dressing Recipes

Ready to become a salad dressing connoisseur? Put this formula into practice with these three basic salad dressing recipes. Simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl or cup, and whisk to combine. 

salad dressings

Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1½ cup Zucchi Garlic extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional: dried Italian seasoning mix

Try this salad dressing on our Farro, Kale, and Butternut Squash Salad.

Chili Lime Salad Dressing

  • Zest and juice of 2 limes (about 4 tablespoons juice and 3 teaspoons zest)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ cup Zucchi Chili Pepper extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced OR 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Try this salad dressing on our Chili Lime Shrimp Salad.

Pesto Vinaigrette

  • 1½ cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup Zucchi Pesto extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh, finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic, optional
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Try this salad dressing on our Spring Pesto Panzanella Salad.

Salad dressing–it’s simple as that!

Looking for more olive oil recipe ideas? Explore more Zucchi recipes and olive oil cooking tips.