How to make vinaigrettes and dressings

Discover how to make a variety of salad dressings, from your own garlicky Caesar to a classic French vinaigrette.

Salad dressings

Shop-bought dressings can be expensive and often contain ingredients that may turn your healthy, low-calorie salad into quite the opposite.

Once you know the ratios for a homemade dressing, you can experiment away to your heart's content and determine exactly what you want in yours. Plus, you'll always have exactly what you need right there in your storecupboard.

The classic vinaigrette 

A classic French vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar. As a basic recipe, you can start with the following, simply mixing it in a jam jar: 

120ml olive oil 
40ml white wine vinegar 

From here you can switch up the ratios depending on your taste. Some prefer a more vinegary flavour. If so, bump up the vinegar and add less oil.


Olive oil
Using different oils can really change the flavour of your dressing. Mild olive oil or rapeseed oil is a good start if you're adding a host of other ingredients and you want them to shine. Alternatively, choose a stronger flavoured oil like sesame for an Asian-inspired salad or walnut for a nutty taste. Diluting these with a milder flavour oil will stop them being overpowering.


In addition to white wine vinegar, red wine, sherry, balsamic and cider vinegars can all be used in the same quantities as above. It's really down to personal taste and it's great to have a selection of vinegars in your cupboard to give variety to even the simplest salads.


Lemon juice
There are now a whole host of flavours you can add to your vinaigrette: 

Lemon juice or zest - if you're using lemon juice, you may want to use less vinegar to avoid a tart dressing. 

Sugar, honey, maple syrup or agave syrup - again if you find you're dressing is a little tart, a pinch of sugar or drizzle of honey or syrup can take the edge off it. 

Fresh herbs - any of your favourite herbs will work. Finely chop leafy herbs like coriander, basil, parsley, tarragon or sage or add large sprigs of woody herbs like rosemary and thyme and allow to infuse for a while. 

Mustard - any of the mustards make a delicious addition, a small amount of English is a traditional choice. Course grainy mustard and a bit of honey is another classic combination. 

Crushed garlic or finely chopped shallots - add these for a punchier flavour. 

Soy sauce or Thai sweet chilli sauce - try one or other for an Asian salad. Soy also adds a savoury depth of flavour.

Creamy dressings 

Mayonnaise is a great base for a creamy dressing, let it down with a little water to make it pourable. Add crushed garlic and grated Parmesan for a Caesar-style dressing. 

Houmous or tahini mixed with a pouring natural yogurt , lemon juice or water also work well for a healthy and creamy dressing with a little Middle Eastern flair. Add garlic and seasoning and sweeten with a little honey if you like.

Do you have a signature dressing? Share your favourite ingredients below...

Comments, questions and tips

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TheEightHours's picture
15th Mar, 2015
Here is a recipe for an easy garlic oil, I'm loving it at the moment
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