A Dietitian's Guide to Salad Dressing

Updated: Jun 26


Salad dressing may be the most important ingredient in any kitchen (or at least top 10). Let's be honest, a salad is only as good as it's dressing and getting creative with salad dressings can mix up your salad flavors and keep things exciting. I'm a big fan of making huge, 'everything but the kitchen sink' salads with a delicious salad dressing. Salad dressings tie everything together with tons of flavor, they make veggies even more delicious and they should add a source of healthy fat to a meal. Healthy fats are important for heart, brain and hormone health and fat is necessary to absorb fat-soluble vitamins found in certain vegetables. Fat also slows digestion, keeping you full and satisfied longer.

Salad dressing can also be the difference maker between a nourishing salad and a not-so-healthy high sugar and high fat bowl of veggies. Salad dressing can really sabotage your health goals if you're not using the proper amount and the right ingredients. If you're trying to eat more salads and veggies, I definitely recommend using a quality salad dressing. Here's my guide to salad dressings: how I choose my salad dressings, how I make my salad dressings and what brands I buy. Enjoy!

Store-Bought Salad Dressing

Avoid:

  • Fat-free, Low-fat, Light: A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything artificially made to be 'fat-free' - they're usually highly processed and full of sugar or other fillers.

  • Cream-based: These are typically higher in calories and saturated fat.

  • Added-sugars: always read the ingredient list and nutrition label.

  • Read the ingredient and avoid anything that you don't recognize like emulsifiers, stabilizers, preservatives, coloring, high-fructose corn syrup.

  • Processed seed & vegetable oils: soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, grapeseed oil.

Measure it out! Drizzle and mix! 1-2 tbsp of dressing can go a long way!

My Recommended Store-Bought Brands

  • Tessemae's

  • Primal Kitchen

  • Bragg

  • Chosen Foods

  • The New Primal

  • Haven's Kitchen

You can shop for the above brands on my Amazon Store!

KEEP IT SIMPLE & GO HOMEMADE

More often than not, I make my own salad dressings. The key to a good homemade salad dressing is the perfect proportion of healthy fat and acid with spices and flavors. An added emulsifier, sweetener, and/or flavor enhancer helps, too. Below are my favorite ingredients in each of these categories and a list of more than 10 of my favorite homemade salad dressing recipes to get you started. I like to make a big batch of salad dressing and keep it in the fridge for about a week. Let me know if you try any of these recipes!

My Favorite Homemade Salad Dressing Ingredients

Simple and Delicious Homemade Dressings

Cilantro Tahini Dressing

  • ⅓ cup tahini

  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro

  • ¼ cup water

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • 1 fresh garlic clove

  • ½ tsp tamari soy sauce

  • ½ tsp balsamic vinegar

Egg-Free Caesar Dressing

  • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in water (overnight or at least 1 hour)

  • ¼ - ⅓ cup water

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • ½ tbsp honey mustard

  • 1 small garlic clove

  • ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (omit for vegan version)

  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast

  • Salt & pepper to taste

Simple Herb Vinaigrette

  • ⅓ cup olive oil

  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar

  • 1 tbsp honey

  • 2 tsp dijon mustard

  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp dried basil leaves

  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves

  • 1 tsp dried parsley leaves

  • 1 tsp salt

  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

Italian Dressing

  • ¾ cup olive oil or avocado oil

  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar

  • 1-1.5 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 tsp salt

  • ½ tsp black pepper

  • 2-2.5 tsp worcestershire sauce

  • 4 small garlic cloves, minced

Creamy Date Dijon Dressing

  • 4 medjool dates

  • ½ cup dijon mustard

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

  • ⅛ tsp sea salt

  • ¼ tsp black pepper

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • ½ cup olive oil

  • 6-8 tbsp water (depending on how thin/thick you like it)

Lemon Turmeric Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 cup plant based yogurt or greek yogurt

  • 2 tbsps olive oil

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • Zest from one lemon

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

  • 1 ½ tsp ground turmeric

  • Sea salt and pepper

Asian Sesame Dressing

  • ¼ cup coconut aminos or soy sauce

  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • ½ tbsp sesame oil

  • 1 tsp minced garlic

  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger

  • 3 large pitted medjool dates

Balsamic Almond Butter Dressing

  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil

  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

  • ¼ cup almond butter or cashew butter

  • 1 ½ tbsp stone ground mustard

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 2-4 tbsp water

Avocado Cilantro Lime Dressing

  • 1 large avocado

  • ½ cup cilantro

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 2-4 tbsp water

  • Juice from one lime

  • 1 large garlic clove

  • 1 tsp sea salt

Cashew Ranch Dressing

  • 1 cup raw cashews

  • ¼ cup full fat coconut milk

  • 1 tsp dijon or stone ground mustard

  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  • ¾ tsp garlic powder

  • ¼ tsp onion powder

  • ½ tsp sea salt

  • ¼ tsp pepper

  • ⅓ cup packed chopped herbs: equal parts chives, cilantro, and dill (about 2 tbsp chopped each)

Champagne Vinaigrette

  • ⅓ cup champagne vinegar

  • ½ cup olive oil

  • 2 tsp dijon mustard

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 1 small shallot, finely diced

  • 1 tsp honey

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ¼ tsp pepper

Citrus-Date Vinaigrette

  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice

  • 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

  • Salt & pepper