When it comes to salad dressings, your best bet is to make your own at home. Most store-bought dressings are made with cheap refined vegetable oils (e.g., soybean oil), added sugar (e.g., high-fructose corn syrup), maltodextrin, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, and MSG.

Our favorite homemade salad dressings are vinaigrettes, which are simply a combination of oil and vinegar (or lemon juice). The classic formula is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, but this can be tweaked based on personal preference. For instance, if you like a vinaigrette that’s tangier, you might increase the amount of vinegar (2:3, 1:2, or even 1:1). This mixture can be further flavored with the addition of herbs and spices, and it is often combined with an emulsifying agent (e.g., Dijon mustard) to help prevent the oil and vinegar from separating.

With regard to choosing an oil, the following would be good choices for a homemade salad dressing (preferably extra virgin, cold-pressed):

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Nut oils (e.g., macadamia, walnut, hazelnut, pecan)
  • Sesame oil

With regard to choosing a vinegar, you also have a number of options:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Fruit-infused vinegar (e.g., lemon, raspberry)
  • Lemon juice

Remember, if you add some Dijon mustard (e.g., ½ to 1 tablespoon), it will help prevent the oil and vinegar from separating. From there, you can start to get creative with seasonings and other add-ins:

  • Salt and pepper
  • Italian seasonings (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme)
  • Crushed garlic
  • Minced shallots
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Roasted bell peppers
  • Avocado (helps to make a naturally creamy dressing)
  • Tomatillos and jalapeño peppers
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Minced anchovies
  • Lemon or orange zest
  • Grated ginger
  • Greek yogurt (in place of mayonnaise)

As you can see, there are many, many options. Depending on the type of ingredients that you select, you can whisk together a simple vinaigrette by hand in a bowl, or with a more involved recipe, you might use a food processor or emersion blender. If you use a food processor, it’s a good idea to start with all of the ingredients except for the oil, which you will add to the mixture slowly and steadily to ensure a proper emulsification.