Salad Dressing Guide: Create delicious salads every, single time

Published on: 05/16/2023
healthy salads and salad dressings

Summer is almost here, and while salads are delicious all year round, I find they’re especially good during spring and summer. This could be because produce is fresh and local this time of year, or because it’s hot out, and salads are lighter, cooler meal idea. 

As a culinary dietitian, I’m always getting asked for salad dressing recipes. To be honest, I don’t follow a recipe when I make salad dressings. I throw a bunch of ingredients together and adjust as I need to until it tastes amazing. With that being said, I do have a formula that you can follow to make amazing salad dressings every single time. I call it my Salad Dressing Guide. 

We’re only going to cover vinaigrettes in this post. Vinaigrettes are salad dressings that contain oil and vinegar. We won’t go into creamy dressings, like mayonnaise-based dressings or those with a cashew base. Those are in a class of their own. And note, this is my take on vinaigrettes. It might not be the classic, traditional template, but it works for me.

Let’s dive in!

Salad dressing guide 101:

When making vinaigrettes you only need three things – oil, an acid and flavour boosters. I’ll give examples of each ingredient in a bit, but first let’s review some important tips about salad dressings.

Firstly, salad dressings should add to the flavour of the salad, but not overpower the actual salad. You want to be able to taste the lettuce and the other ingredients. The purpose of a dressing is not to hide those flavours, but balance and enhance. 

The standard ratio for vinaigrettes is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. However this ratio may change if you’re using a more flavourful oil (you might use less) or acid (you might use more) or depending on your preference (if you prefer a more oil-rich dressing vs a more acidic one). Be sure to always taste your dressing before you add it to your salad, and ideally, try it on a piece of the lettuce in your salad to see how it will pair. 

Pro tip: make your salad dressings in a mason jar. It means you can shake them, and store any extra in the fridge for later use. 

If you remember from high school science class – oil and vinegar don’t mix. They will separate if left alone. Give your dressing a good shake before drizzling on your salad. 

Okay, now let’s look at our ingredient options.


You can use any oil you like, but since it’s the base, choose one with good flavour. Olive oil is the most common oil – it’s flavourful without being too overpowering.

Some other oils you can use are: 

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnut oil


So many options here! Again, you want to choose something that tastes good on its own. Classic vinaigrette uses red wine vinegar, but any acid will work.

Some acid options include:

  • lemon juice
  • balsamic vinegar
  • white balsamic vinegar
  • white wine vinegar
  • red wine vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • lime juice
  • orange juice
  • grapefruit juice

Flavour boosters:

These are what make your dressing stand out! Mix and match different ingredients to create unique combinations. Just note, if you’re adding herbs, spices, ginger or garlic, but sure to mince or chop very finely. You don’t want someone to get a full clove or chunk of garlic while they’re eating their salad. 

Some flavour boosters include:

  • salt and pepper
  • garlic
  • herbs and spices
  • maple syrup (or sugar)
  • soy sauce
  • ginger
  • miso
  • tahini
  • nutritional yeast
  • Dijon mustard – this adds lots of flavour, but it’s also an emulsifier (allows the oil and acid to mix without separating)
  • sesame oil – technically this is an oil, but the flavour is so strong you only need a little bit. You wouldn’t use this as your sole oil source in a dressing. 

Now that you have a salad dressing guide, go and create your own delicious salad dressings! Get creative and see what you come up with!

Get my FREE Summer Salads Recipe Book

If you’re looking for more salad and salad dressing recipes I have just the thing. My Summer Salads Recipe Book includes 21 super simple salad recipes that are perfect for summer. They all take 30 minutes or less to make, and are perfect for meal prepping during the week or bringing to a backyard BBQ. It’s completely free and you can grab your copy right here.

If you want to learn more about me and what I do, check out my services and how we can work together. And follow me on social media (Instagram and Tik Tok) @harvesttablenutrition.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi there! I’m Bailey!
Jacqui portrait

I’m a Plant-based Culinary Dietitian helping people transition to a plant-based diet, and showing the most delicious side of plant-based eating. Happy eating!

More about me

grab a recipe book
Jacqui portrait

Fall Recipe Book: a 7-day meal plan featuring seasonal fall plant-based recipes

Grab Your Copy


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This