Do you have so many bottles of vinaigrette in your fridge that when you open the door it sounds like wind chimes? How to make vinaigrette is one of the first things that any home cook should master for a couple of reasons. It’s expensive to buy and tends to be loaded with artificial ingredients to keep it shelf stable. I did a survey of eight popular brands of “Italian-style” vinaigrette. They averaged 17 ingredients. The basic recipe below has just oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper.
Most people think of vinaigrette as something only to use on green salads. A vinaigrette can also be used as a marinade, splashed on roasted or steamed vegetables or as a light sauce for chicken or seafood.
Three to One – Vinaigrette Ratio
1 part acid + 3 parts oil = fabulous stuff
“Acids:” Any kind of vinegar, citrus juices (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.)
“Oils:” Fruit & vegetable oils (olive, corn, avocado, etc.), nut oils (hazelnut, walnut, peanut)
In a bowl, add the acid, whisk in the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Congratulations, you’ve made vinaigrette. Alternately, and my preferred method, add the ingredients into a jar and shake. Too tart for your taste? Add a bit of olive oil. Not tart enough? Add a couple drops of vinegar. Needs more salt? Add some. Continue until it tastes good to you. The three recipes below are pantry/fridge-friendly versions of the three most widely used dressings.
Recipe: French Dijon Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive olive
1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few grinds fresh coarse pepper
Put the vinegar, mustard and shallots in a small bowl and whisk in the oil. Add the herbs, salt and pepper. Whisk again until incorporated. Taste. Or, you can put all the ingredients into a jar and just shake it vigorously.
Recipe: Classic Italian Vinaigrette
This is one way to use up that dried Parmesan cheese that comes in a jar or can. Adding it to a vinaigrette infuses it with some fat and gives it a boost of flavor. Of course, if you’ve got fresh on hand, by all means use it. I also like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes, but that’s optional.
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced or a pinch garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
Pantry Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette
This version uses jam to replace fresh berries and sugar typically found in berry balsamic vinaigrette and frankly, it’s what I use most of the time. You can replace the jam (or enhance it) by mashing up to 1/2 cup of berries but since berries vary widely in their sugar content, taste it before adding sugar.
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons jam
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
But you want a fancy designer gourmet vinaigrette, like a ginger-soy Asian vinaigrette? Use some things from the Asian flavor profile: ginger, garlic, miso, sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce. An Italian Vinaigrette? Basil, garlic, tomato, white beans. Get some ideas from our “Cheat Sheet” to Profiles
Be creative. Acid and oil don’t like to stay mixed, so if you want, add an emulsifier, like egg yolk, mayonnaise or mustard before adding the oil, drop by drop, while you whisk. Always taste the vinaigrette with a leaf or two of the greens it will be dressing, so you know what it will actually be like on the plate. Some lettuces can suck up the acid tang, others amplify, so taste before serving.
Some examples to get you started:
- Three great sherry vinegar-based vinaigrettes by Michael Ruhlman at SimplyRecipes.com
- Warm bacon vinaigrette by SmittenKitchen
- Sriracha-Balsamic Vinaigrette from BakeYourDay
- Asian Orange Ginger Vinaigrette from SteamyKitchen
- A slight variation on Classic French Dijon Vinaigrette with lots of photos by David Lebovitz
Updated Oct. 16, 2021.
Ann Bergstrom says
This is my favorite kind of recipe. Once the technique is understood, you can open it up to your interpretation, your mood, or just what’s in the pantry.
Thanks! I’ve come to find those are my favorite recipes to write. So many things in cooking are like jazz – you learn the technique, and then you can just keep riffing off it.
When someone writes an post he/she maintains
the thought of a user in his/her brain that how a user can
be aware of it. So that’s why this site is so amazing. Thanks!
How timely and appropriate! I just went the the Annual Mustard Festival on Saturday (8-3-2013) in Middleton Wisconsin. Using the end-of-the-jar mustard tip and turning it into a vinaigrette is so cool. Bottled dressings are so convenient but it is SOOOO easy to make your own, much healthier, and the real taste can’t be beat. Thank you for sharing this video.
Christine H says
Thanks for the primer on viniagrette! This is one of my “must learns” that somehow always has seemed so daunting. I’ve hated buying dressing from the store, but never felt good about what/how to make it…this will help tremendously. Thanks!
Loved your book,”Burnt Toast,etc”. I live in White Lake, Mi so recognized the area.