Easy homemade salad dressings can also be a chicken marinade or vegetable dip. Here are 4 simple recipes for Ranch, Caesar, Vinaigrette, and Green Goddess. Make only as much as you need!
Why make your own homemade salad dressing?
Making my own salad dressings is something that I have done for years without ever buying a bottled dressing. It’s not because I’m so diligent that I never ever take the easy way out. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s truly a matter of convenience.
Bottled salad dressings go bad, but you can only buy them in the quantities in which they’re sold. Even a simple bottled vinaigrette will go bad over time, and then you have to have it rattling around in the door of your refrigerator, mocking you every time you open and close that door.
Once you know, you’ll never forget that a basic vinaigrette is based upon the simplest of simple ratios: 3 to 1 oil to acid ratio. That means that you can throw together as much or as little vinaigrette as you like, at any time. And it doesn’t even need to be refrigerated.
I almost always use white vinegar from Trader Joe’s as my acid since it’s mild (almost a tiny bit sweet), and I add salt and pepper plus a tiny bit of honey because I find it balances out the whole thing perfectly.
I’ve always loved ranch dressing, but I often find myself chasing the perfect texture and taste. If you ask me, this recipe nails it. Ranch dressing should not be super thick. It’s slightly sweet, slightly acidic, with just the right kick from finely minced garlic.
This one needs to be refrigerated, but it’s thin enough that it should be pourable right out of the refrigerator. And it’s easy enough to make that you can throw it together on a weeknight. Yes, you can!
Don’t have buttermilk? Try plain yogurt. And the best way to mince garlic super fine is to chop it with your favorite chef’s knife, and periodically press it into a paste with the flat side of the knife. Wanna make it even easier? Try adding a tiny bit of kosher salt as you’re chopping and pressing.
Caesar salad dressing
Caesar dressing really should have a raw egg yolk in it. But you can still make a very authentic-tasting Caesar salad without the egg, because really who has raw pasteurized egg yolk lying around? Not me (well at least not usually).
Instead of anchovy paste, I use either fish sauce (which is mostly anchovies) or Worcestershire sauce (which has anchovies) because, well, I just don’t keep anchovy paste on hand since my family doesn’t love it in everything. Except they don’t even know they’re eating it in this dressing.
Green goddess dressing
Finally, green goddess dressing. My absolute personal favorite. You can make it with flat-leaf parsley (curly-leaf parsley has practically no flavor!), or with basil.
I really really prefer parsley here, since it doesn’t mask the rest of the flavors but just perks up the whole dressing and makes it taste super fresh. If you don’t have scallions on hand, leave them out but they do give some nice bite. I store them in the freezer when I buy them fresh, but I also really like freeze-dried scallions and garlic.
So here you have the 4 most essential dressings. One you mix up just by shaking (vinaigrette), one just by whisking (ranch), and two by blending (Caesar and green goddess).
All are exceedingly easy to make, and call for ingredients you probably have on hand already. Now finish up those bottles rattling around in your refrigerator door, and never buy dressing again!
Ingredients and substitutions
Eggs: Each recipe that has mayonnaise has eggs, but there are a number of egg-free mayonnaise recipes on the market. If you like the taste of any of them, give it a try. But remember that these are raw recipes, so if you don’t like the taste of the ingredient alone, you won’t likely enjoy it in the dressing.
Dairy: In place of sour cream, try plain Greek yogurt (or nondairy plain Greek yogurt). In place of buttermilk, try half plain traditional yogurt (or plain nondairy yogurt) and half milk (or nondairy milk).
Anchovy/Worcestershire/fish sauce: In the Caesar and green goddess dressings, you need some sort of ingredient to add umami flavor. If you can’t have or don’t care for any of these ingredients, try adding mild white miso paste or a bit of gluten free tamari. Be sure to source gluten free ingredients, of course.
Salt and pepper: Increase or decrease the salt and pepper in each recipe to taste. You can eliminate the pepper entirely, but not the salt entirely (although you can decrease it quite a bit).
Variations on vinaigrette: To make the vinaigrette into mustard vinaigrette, add 1 tablespoon Dijon or yellow mustard. You can leave out the honey, but it really helps to add balance to the recipe. In its place, try using some granulated sugar.