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What’s for dinner?: How to make easy homemade salad dressing

Categories: Food & Cooking


Katie Workman at home with her sons

Homemade Vinaigrette (aka salad dressing)

Salad dressing is somewhat of a hot button for many of us.  We either have a little fear of it, and keep hitting the bottle (bottled dressing, of course), which is often pretty gross, or if we do make our own we get stuck in that one-dressing rut.

But it’s all good news!

For those of us who are scared of vinaigrettes (just a French word for oil and vinegar), this basic recipe lets you have make you own dressing in 2 minutes.  Then for all of us, becoming a salad dressing master is one of the easiest things to conquer in the kitchen.

Ok, here’s the basic recipe.  I like it a little vinegary.  If you don’t, use less vinegar (yes, it is that simple).

Basic Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil, preferably extra virgin
1/2 cup vinegar of your choice (red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, cider vinegar, etc.)
coarse salt to taste (1/2 - 1 teaspoon)
freshly ground pepper to taste (1/2  - 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)

Put everything into a container with a lid, cover, and shake.  Don’t you feel great?  It will last for a week, happily.


you can add (alone, or in combination):
-1 tablespoon minced shallots
-1-3 tablespoons finely chopped onions
-1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/2-1 teaspoon dried herbs or 1-2 teaspoon minced fresh herbs - just one, or a mixture
-1-2 teaspoons minced sun-dried tomatoes
-1-2 tablespoons minced black olives
-2-3 tablespoons crumbled or shredded cheese, such as goat cheese, feta, or Parmesan
-blend two kinds of vinegars to equal the 1/4 cup (some good combos: red wine and balsamic vinegars, white wine and rice wine vinegars)

Now, for those of you who need a moment away from the classic vinegar based dressing, this one is a favorite in my house.  I have a friend who was sick for a while, and salad with this dressing was one of the few foods she craved.  It’s very fresh and clean, and apparently restorative.  Nice with bib or butter lettuce, romaine, and spring veggie salads.  The rice wine vinegar softens the acidity of the lemon juice.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

¼ cup chopped shallots
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, strained (about two juicy lemons)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put it all into a plastic container with a lid, cover, shake, and it will last a week.

I am always looking for new vinaigrette ideas, so if you’ve got ‘em, please share!

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38 comments so far...

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you, Katie Workman! Now I finally know how to make a good salad dressing!!!!!!

    Abby  |  April 13th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

  • Katie,

    This is great. I’m always in a “rut” when it comes to making my own vinaigrette. I;m looking forward to more posts!!


    Christine Brown  |  April 13th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

  • I love an easy vinaigrette! This one, with all the tasty variations, has my mouth watering already. It’s similar to my recipe but I can’t wait to try the alternate version with olives, sun-dried tomato, and feta — how scrumptious. Great ideas to perk up the same old boring salad. Thank you!

    amy ziff  |  April 13th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

  • This sounds so fantastic! I can’t wait to try it tonight. Thanks Katie!

    dana  |  April 13th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

  • I am ashamed at all the bottle vinaigrettes I’ve got cluttering up my fridge. I’m going to make the 2-minute vinaigrette tonight. I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to add any of the finely-minced add-ins, which sound delicious nonetheless, but I can definitely make the easy starter recipe. I love fast-and-easy solutions–thanks, Katie!

    Melissa  |  April 13th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

  • Great recipe - easy to follow and good variations! Thanks!

    Lucinda  |  April 13th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

  • Ok - you’ve convinced me. No more store bought dressing!

    Angela  |  April 13th, 2009 at 3:59 pm

  • This is a great article. I often find myself in the 1-shot wonder salad dressing grouping, I usually just dress a salad with some sesame oil and a little salt. But, I really like the last recipe you shared - I don’t like an overly vinegar-y taste, so but I never thought to use rice wine vinegar! Cool idea. So much more mild for my particular palate.

    Work it girl!

    Nicole  |  April 13th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

  • I make the same balsamic vinaigrette all the time it sometimes feels too sweet and heavy. The lemon vinaigrette sounds great — very light and fresh. I am going to give it a try tonight. Thank you!!!

    jenny  |  April 13th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

  • I have been making oil, vinegar and salt salad dressings for years.
    I am not a big one on measuring so, over the years I learned that if you go around the bowl once with each ingredient it also will work. Putting you finger over the olive oil as it comes out to fast. I use red wine vinegar. Our family seems to like that the best.
    I have showed many people over the years and no one ever goes back to bottle dressings.

    nancy caputo  |  April 13th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

  • In my very hectic working Mom life I am always excited to find quick and easy recipes for a home cooked dinner. This dressing will be a great addition to dinner tonight and with so many variations I can be the Salad Queen for the Spring…Great Recipe cannot wait for the next blog…

    Lisa  |  April 13th, 2009 at 5:57 pm

  • My kids are actually eating salad now! Thank you so much for this delicious recipe….

    Preeti  |  April 13th, 2009 at 6:41 pm

  • What a GREAT salad dressing - love the basic recepie with shallots!
    Katoe isa great addition to you site - I LOVE COOKSTR!!!!

    Patrick Joggerst  |  April 13th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

  • When it’s my husband’s turn to cook, he’s always dragging some yucky bottled dressing out of its hiding place, claiming it’s too hard to make dressing. But I think I can convince him to try your simple vinaigrette, particularly with the minced olives add-in. My family has never met an olive it didn’t like. Thanks for the idea!

    Suzie  |  April 13th, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  • Homemade salad dressing is the best, and this recipe sounds amazing! I can not wait to try it with dinner tonight, my husband and children will be very impressed! Thanks Katie…keep the recipes coming!!!

    Anne Marie  |  April 13th, 2009 at 8:21 pm

  • Thank you for making this so easy! I am always unsure of the proportions ! I have already prepared the dressing for tonight and threw in some black olives as you suggested and it is great! Both daughters tried it and loved it!

    Michelle Dana  |  April 13th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

  • Great recipe! Thanks for sharing this. Sometimes the simplest ones are the most difficult to figure out, aren’t they?

    JJ  |  April 14th, 2009 at 12:02 am

  • sounds fresh and fabulous. looking forward to trying these esp with the many alternative “mix-ins.” love that the dressing will keep for a week.

    cath  |  April 14th, 2009 at 12:15 am

  • The lemon vinaigrette sounds great and I love the variations you provided for the basic vinaigrette. I cant wait to try one tomorrow. Thank you Katie for sharing your salad dressing solutions. Looking forward to seeing more of your recipes and special features.

    Kristen  |  April 14th, 2009 at 2:51 am

  • Thanks Katie, I am a huge fan of workitmom, and will now add you to my favorites, too. I always make my own salad dressings aka vinaigrettes, but I never knew that I could keep them for more than one day or that I could blend vinegars together. It would have never occurred to me. Thanks for the tips. I look forward to the next post.

    Kim Yorio  |  April 14th, 2009 at 3:32 am

  • Thanks! I will give it a try tonight. Looks good :)

    Miranda  |  April 14th, 2009 at 11:55 am

  • All right Katie! My salad dressings will be “mixed up” now, thanks for the great variations! Can’t wait for your next post!

    Molly  |  April 14th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

  • Oh my God, so great to see Katie here, she’s just great. There are few people out there who know food, cooking and recipes the way she does, she is just a great addition to the site!

    Bruce Shaw  |  April 14th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

  • I always feel guilty about not making my own dressings - this looks simple enough so I’m going to give it a go.
    Adorable boys by the way!

    Sarah K  |  April 14th, 2009 at 7:17 pm

  • Having a homemade vinaigrette in the fridge is such an uncomplicated dinner solution. Love having all the variations as well. I hadn’t really thought about rice wine vinegar. Good idea. Keep the easy stuff coming!

    Suzanne  |  April 14th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

  • …wow..made the basic one with minced shallots tonite…so easy and so delicious! - plus the kids loved it! thank you, Katie!! Can’t wait for your next blog!!

    Leigh  |  April 14th, 2009 at 10:44 pm

  • Katie - thank you for this recipe! I love salad…LOVE IT…but I’m tired of those store bought dressings and package mixers. This is much, much better, and allows me to be a lot more creative in my own kitchen!

    Adam  |  April 15th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

  • Thanks for these recipes. I always KNEW it was easy to make a vinaigrette and felt like a jerk ’cause I could never get it quite right. Your basic recipe, with a little garlic, made my salad taste so…French! And delicious. My family also likes sweet dressings but I hate that bottled, gloppy, ketchup-y stuff. Any ideas?

    Carolan  |  April 16th, 2009 at 12:22 am

  • feared it…made it…l LOVED it! My favorite variation was with feta cheese, shallot sand dried herbs- fabulous on a greek salad! Then the one where I mixed the vinegars on bibb lettuce with heirloom tomoatos was devine- it tasted different the the standards and my guests requested the recipe. Love the new blogger!

    elizabeth williams  |  April 16th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

  • Love the vinaigrette ideas! Thanks, Katie. Looking forward to the next blog.

    Debby  |  April 17th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

  • LOVE IT! More importantly, my daughter loved making it with me!!!!


    Lynne  |  April 17th, 2009 at 10:02 pm

  • I had no idea it was so easy to make my own dressing. All my bottles are now in the recycle bin - hooray!

    Amy Wilton  |  April 18th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

  • Thanks! My mom has been making a version of the basic one you listed for years. It’s still my favourite and I hardly ever eat bought dressing. I am going to try the lemon one, sounds yummy!

    Kami  |  April 19th, 2009 at 3:11 am

  • I’ve been stuck in that vinaigrette rut forever…thanks so showing how to shake it up. It’s a beautiful thing….

    David  |  April 20th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

  • This is fantastic! I love having easy recipes to follow — and I need more. Keep them coming!

    Tory Rubin Miller  |  April 22nd, 2009 at 1:12 pm

  • Terrific, love the variations. Can’t wait to read more tips from Katie.

    Tricdia  |  May 27th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

  • Thanks for the rice wine vinegar tip. I’m always looking for new variations.

    jean  |  May 29th, 2009 at 4:24 am

  • Awesome! I adore all things lemon…including gressings. I have a great salad dressing recipe but it is not easy and not nearly as good for me.

    Christine  |  October 21st, 2010 at 2:06 pm