Recipe Connection: Frugal, Healthy Homemade Dressings with Olive Oil

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caesar salad 2

Since EVOO is best eaten cold (see this post for details on which olive oil to buy and how to use it), making salad dressing with it is a simple way to incorporate it into your diet. There’s also a great added health benefit to consuming olive oil with your vegetables:  carotenoids (beta-carotene, etc.) are best absorbed by the body in the presence of real fats, such as olive oil. You actually get more out of your veggies in a salad by putting fat on it than if you choose fat-free dressing! (source: World’s Healthiest Foods).

imarenegade_150When I gave up all white sugar for Lent, that nixed any storebought salad dressings for me, unless I was willing to pay an arm and a leg. I’m not. I had to learn to make my own or just use mustard on mysalad (which I actually love, but it gets old after a while). I’m also reading more and more about Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) that are hurting our food supply and our bodies. I’m all about God-Made Food (GMF). Soybeans and corn are almost always genetically modified, and since soybean oil is rampantly overused, it’s in about every dressing on the market. That’s just another reason to avoid manufactured dressing, plus the fact that olive oil is sooooo healthy for you.

Homemade Dressing Recipes

UPDATE: A new one! Asian Toasted Sesame

Homemade Italian Dressing

Whisk together:
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2+ Tbs white wine vinegar*

Add 1/2 cup Extra Virgin olive oil in a stream, stirring constantly.

1 tsp onion flakes or powder
1-2 cloves minced garlic (fresh is best)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
can use Italian seasoning instead of the thyme and basil

Shake well. You can store this on the counter. Olive oil tends to get solid in the refrigerator. Lasts at least 4 weeks, probably more!

*You can also use balsamic vinegar and similar seasonings (or almost no seasoning at all; balsamic vinegar is very flavorful!) for a totally different dressing. My 3-year-old loves “balsamic vig-a-grette” as he pronounces it!

Homemade Ranch Dressing

3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)

Mix and enjoy! Lasts at least 2 weeks, ultimately as long as your mayo and sour cream or yogurt would last.

UPDATE:  Another fun option is Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s ranch, but I add dill and double the seasoning salt.

timesaverTimesaver:  Make all three dressings at once; there are enough crossover ingredients to get out (and only washing measuring spoons once) that it’s worth it! You can also use the Dijon mustard bottle, when empty, for the next batch of Italian or Balsamic Vinaigrette. Just shake it up and you get all the mustard out into the dressing!

There are countless recipes for homemade dressing on the Internet. If you try these and don’t like them, or if it seems like too many ingredients or ones you don’t have, Google search for something do-able for you. If you want to know where I found an ingredient, just ask in the comments! (All spices are dried for convenience sake.)

When I wanted to make a homemade Caesar, I searched and found about six of them. I opened them all in tabs in a browser window and flipped back and forth through them all a few times. It’s amazing how many different variations can still be called “Caesar dressing!”  I gathered the ingredients most commonly mentioned and shot for middle ground on most items. (If one recipe called for 2 Tbs of something and it wasn’t even in some of the others, I might try 1 Tbs. I didn’t go with the recipe with FIVE garlic cloves, but used two instead.)  Here’s what I came up with that I really like:

Homemade Caesar Dressing

Note:  I use a stick blender or my mini-food processor to do this; if you don’t have one, I’m pretty sure you could use a whisk with the same results.

1 egg yolk, from pastured chickens, room temperature
2 tsp apple cider vinegar (raw is best)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbs (or a little less) fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp Worcestshire sauce
2 Tbs (or more) Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Blend up with the stick blender, then stream in 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. It should thicken up into a creamy consistency, which is SO FUN to watch! I’ve failed at this twice; the dressing was still tasty, just more like an Italian consistency. I read that the trick is to have room temperature ingredients. Hopefully I’ll perfect it soon, because Caesar is my FAVorite!

UPDATE:  If you have a failed batch, whisk up a new egg yolk and pour in the entire failed batch slowly as if it was the oil. That should thicken it up nicely! (Room temperature helps too.)

*great with homemade croutons! Find instructions at this post. For Caesar croutons, I make them with garlic powder or fresh garlic rubbed on the bread and Italian seasonings.

Is homemade dressing necessarily less expensive than Kraft or a store brand? With really good sales and coupons, unfortunately not always. :(  I bought a gallon of organic EVOO for about $22 online, so that’s still more than $1 a cup. For organic olive oil, though, it’s a good deal. A “deal” is all relative, I guess. That means the Italian, for example, is about $2.50 for 16 oz, the standard supermarket size. However, for the nutrition you’re getting, the expense is still minimal, and avoiding high fructose corn syrup and GMOs is…priceless.

UPDATE:  A post on giving away homemade salad dressings as gifts, along with a few new recipes!

Want to find even MORE healthy homemade dressing? I hosted a carnival of homemade dressings, and you can find a wide variety there!

Be sure to check out the latest Mary and Martha Moment for more on good deals vs. good spending:  Stewards of the Food Budget.

Other Interesting Posts:

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15 Bites of Conversation So Far

    • Katie says

      Wow, that’s the kind of recipe that stuns me b/c I don’t even know where to get two of the four ingredients. Sounds interesting, though! I’m not big enough on vinegar to use that big of a ratio. Thanks for sharing for other readers, though — Katie

  1. says

    Yummy! I made the Italian dressing last night, using red wine vinegar instead of white wine. I’ve needed a good homemade salad dressing for awhile, it was the one thing I was still buying. Thanks!

  2. says

    Hi, I’ve been wondering about a couple of the ingredients you list… dijon & worcestshire sauce. The last bottles I had of both of those listed questionable ingredients…. but maybe yours are different than mine.

    What brand/s where do you buy dijon & worcestshire?

    • Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship says

      Good question- I’ve since cut the Worcestershire entirely and don’t miss it, but Dijon always seems to have simple ingredients. What do you see there that’s no good? Thanks! :) Katie

  3. Penny says

    We love the Italian dressing! Thank you!
    I was wondering how long it is good for on the counter? I would guess that the Dijon mustard and garlic would start to deteriorate over time?

    • says

      Sorry for the incredibly late reply – I got behind on comments in August and never quite got caught up. :( Actually, there’s something preservative in nature about the vinegar; in fact, one way to traditionally preserve garlic is in vinegar and oil, so it does great on the counter for at least a month! :) Katie

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