“This is one of the best salads I’ve ever had. The dressing is amazing – how did you make it?”
When I make a salad for someone, this is often the kind of feedback I receive.
Making a really, really great salad is easier than you think, especially when you know how to whip up a homemade dressing.
The best news? You can do it in under a minute once you learn the method.
Today I’m going to teach you the perfect homemade balsamic vinaigrette recipe.
Before we get into measurements, you need to know that it is the quality of the individual ingredients that will determine how good your dressing turns out. You don’t need to buy the most expensive ingredients, you just want to shop smart and be sure that each individual ingredients is delicious on its own.
The ratio of vinegar to oil is the main factor when it comes to the measurement of your ingredients. The ‘right ratio’ depends upon your personal taste. I tend to like a 1:1 ratio. Some people prefer a 1:2 ratio of vinegar to oil (1/4 cup vinegar to 1/2 cup oil) or even 1:3. Play around with it and you’ll quickly discover your ‘right ratio’.
Olive oil – look for extra virgin. Stay far away from pure and light olive oils which have been processed in a way that renders them rancid and toxic to your body. Choose California brands over European brands as it is estimated that 60% of European olive oils are mixed with inferior vegetable oils thus making them inferior in taste as well as harmful to your health. I like California Olive Ranch which is an easy find.
Balsamic vinegar – the most important ingredient. Not all balsamics taste the same! Look for smaller bottles of well-aged balsamic vinegar. You’ll spend a couple extra dollars but you’ll end up enjoying your salad much more than if you make the dressing with vinegar that comes in a big bargain bottle. The bargain bottles tend to be overly acidic and lack sweetness.
Mustard – dijon or grainy, whichever you prefer, just make sure you like the flavor of it when it stands on its own. It’s an optional ingredient, but I find it to be a flavor enhancer, and it helps with emulsification. I like Westbrae, Annie’s and Eden brands.
Salt – oh boy, does quality matter here when it comes to flavor (as well as nutrition). Celtic sea salt (Eden brand) or Himalayan pink salt (Himalaya or Essential Living) are both outstanding choices.
Black Pepper – freshly ground is always best.
Honey – If your balsamic is really good quality, you probably won’t need additional sweetness. But if you do, use local, raw honey from a farmer’s market or a health food market. If you use a different type of vinegar – red wine, apple cider, etc – then you might want to add the honey.
Fresh garlic– 1 small clove per 1/2 cup dressing is all you need. Raw garlic is potent so you don’t want to over do it.
Fresh minced shallots – a great flavor enhancer, these too are powerful so don’t go overboard. One – two teaspoons per half cup of dressing will do it.
The Ultimate Homemade
Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe
This recipe will work well with other types of vinegars such as apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar and rice vinegar.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid (mason jar works great) and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. If you use honey, you’ll likely need to whisk the ingredients together. Store in a jar for a week.
Cook’s Tip: Dip the measuring spoons into the oil before measuring the mustard and honey, and they’ll slide right off the spoon.
Photo credit: Kathleen O’Hara