Homemade salad dressing is a simple way to take baby steps toward better health. It is an often over-looked condiment that can have a surprisingly big impact on your health.
What is in Salad Dressing?
If you take a look at the ingredient list on a store-bought bottle of salad dressing you might be surprised by the length of the list.
Most store-bought salad dressings include unhealthy and unnatural ingredients such as
- vegetable oils, especially soybean and canola
- fillers & preservatives
- added sugar, especially in low-fat dressings
- monosodium glutamate
Shouldn’t salad dressing just have a few ingredients? Yes, it should. But that’s not the case if it’s not homemade.
Commercial salad dressings are usually unhealthy because of the rancid vegetable oils (like genetically modified soybean oil and canola oil), gums, fillers, preservatives (salad dressing is not meant to last a year!) added sugar (most kids already get way too much), food coloring (that can mess with your brain) monosodim glutamate (this is a deal breaker for us) and flavorings (even the “natural” flavorings can be bad for you). Plus other non-food items like disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate. I don’t even know what those are!
Your body does not recognize most of those ingredients either. Which means it doesn’t know what to do with them. Your body considers them toxins, and your liver has to work overtime to remove them. This can contribute to inflammation and disease. Bet you didn’t know your salad could be so harmful, did you?
Why You Should Make Your Own Salad Dressing
I have some good news for you. There is a very simple solution. Homemade dressing. Making your own salad dressing is SO EASY it only takes about five minutes. So easy even your kids can make it. And not only is it easy, it’s also healthy!
When you’re trying to make good food choices by eating salad, make sure you reap the full benefits with homemade salad dressing.
Now you know how simple and how important it is to make your own salad dressing. But how?
I’m answering all of your salad dressing questions and sharing some of our favorite recipes. Bring on the leafy greens!
What is the Healthiest Dressing for a Salad?
Ultimately the healthiest homemade dressing for a salad has two criteria:
- healthy fats
- you’ll eat it!
I know fat still gets a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. You NEED fat to assimilate the vitamins you’re eating. Fat-soluble vitamins without fat don’t do much. So your “healthy” salad isn’t so healthy after all without the fat. Read more…
How Do You Make a Good Vinaigrette?
A vinaigrette is basically oil mixed with an acid (like vinegar). It is arguably the easiest salad dressing to make, coming together in less than 60 seconds! Three parts oil to one part vinegar is a good rule of thumb to follow. Then it’s up to you to add ingredients for flavor. It can be as simple as salt and pepper or you can get fancy by adding soy sauce, ginger and sesame for an Asian toasted sesame dressing. Read more…
How Do You Make Healthy Creamy Salad Dressing?
If you like your salad dressing creamy, you need the right base ingredient. Sour cream, yogurt and mayonnaise all work well. Any one of the three is fine or you can combine them for a more balanced flavor. An egg yolk emulsified with oil is also creamy and dairy-free.
Beyond the base, creamy salad dressing can be as simple as adding some herbs and spices. Or if you really like flavor you can go wild with garlic. Read more…
What Are the Different Types of Salad Dressing?
If you’ve ever shopped for salad dressing you know the options are endless. But in general all salad dressings stem from a few basic varieties.
- Creamy (like Ranch, Blue Cheese and Caesar)
- Vinaigrette (like Italian)
- Tomato-based (like French)
- Russian-style (like Thousand Island)
- Sweet (like Honey Mustard)
To please everyone you’re usually safe having Ranch, French and Italian on hand. Most people tend to gravitate towards one style over the others. Some like it sweeter. Some like it more savory. Our family’s ultimate favorite is homemade Caesar, minus anchovies. Read more…
At our house one salad dressing reigns supreme – ranch! My kids learn to make it themselves by the time they are three or four years old. It works as a dressing or an easy veggie dip. It’s not surprising to know that ranch dressing is by far the most popular salad dressing in all of the US as well. It is so versatile and delicious. Read more…
How Do You Make a Simple Salad Dressing?
Contrary to what the ingredient list on a bottle of salad dressing would have you believe, it is possible to make a simple salad dressing. With as few as three ingredients you can dress your greens. A combo of your favorite oil, vinegar and salt makes a light, refreshing salad dressing. Sour cream and a few herbs make a simple creamy dressing. An easy Italian that everyone will recognize comes together in just a few minutes. Read more…
What Can I Use Instead of Salad Dressing?
Salad dressing is kind of a misleading term. Sort of a formal name. But really you can use anything you want to dress your salad. Even just a little Read more…and salt will do. A drizzle of mustard and honey. A dollop of sour cream or mayonnaise. Leftover pesto or hummus. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The next time you want a salad but don’t have any dressing on hand, don’t panic. Look in your refrigerator or pantry for whatever topping you have on hand or try making homemade mayo with simple seasoning.
Easy Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes
Our homemade ranch dressing uses simple, whole food ingredients. In the past we’ve tried a mixture of homemade mayonnaise and yogurt, mayonnaise and sour cream, then graduated to just sour cream since it was so much easier.
You can easily switch up the base to use any combination of mayonnaise, yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream. You can even try using coconut milk yogurt if you are dairy free. Each base will have its own flavor and will make your ranch thinner or thicker. They’re all delicious!
Garlic might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about kid-friendly food. But it really is! And it has so many health benefits. Check out this easy creamy garlic dressing that kids will love to help make…and eat! It’s a win-win situation.
A salad is more about composing beauty and balancing interesting flavors than following a recipe. Sometimes the best salads are born of inspiration and availability. When I wanted to make something healthy and festive, my first idea went something like this: “What do I have that is green or red?” I figured out a great way to tweak my homemade Italian dressing and make it Greek, and it was just perfect.
Since extra virgin olive oil should be consumed cold for best health benefits, homemade Italian dressing is a simple way to incorporate it into your diet. You actually get more out of your veggies in a salad by putting fat on it than if you choose fat-free dressing. AND it may even protect brain function as we age. Score and double score!
This is a reverse engineered Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing, souped up to be so much healthier because it uses healthy oil, real seeds and real garlic. If husband says, “This might be better than the real thing,” I’m jumping for joy knowing I have a winner.
This is my all-time favorite homemade Caesar dressing, and I often make a double or triple batch in a full-sized food processor. A single batch can be made with a stick blender or in a mini-food processor. There aren’t any anchovies in this recipe, so it’s perfect for those who don’t have them on hand or just don’t want to use them.