Have you ever wanted to know the secret to making restaurant-worthy salads at home? Here’s a hint: it’s the dressing.
More though, it’s the flavor of the individual ingredients in your homemade dressing.
The best news? You can whip up homemade dressing in less than a minute once you learn the method. Today I’m going to teach you the perfect homemade balsamic vinaigrette recipe.
Back to the ingredients. High-quality doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, it just means shopping smarter and choosing the right ingredients. When preparing a homemade salad dressing – or anything for that matter – make sure that each individual ingredient is delicious on its own.
The ratio of vinegar to oil in the perfect vinaigrette is up for debate – I really like half & half. Some people prefer a 1:2 ratio of vinegar to oil (e.g. 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 cup oil) or even 1:3. Just play around with it until you find how you enjoy it most.
Choosing The Right Balsamic Vinaigrette Ingredients:
- Balsamic Vinegar – the most important thing! Not all balsamics are made the same. I repeat, not all balsamics are made the same. If it’s too bitter or acidic alone, you’ll end up with a less-than-pleasing dressing. Balsamic vinegar that comes in giant bargain bottles tends to be acidic, look for a smaller bottle of well-aged balsamic. A little goes a long way and for a few extra dollars you’ll end up loving your salad. I’ve been loving aged fig balsamic lately.
- Olive Oil – look for extra virgin and something with a light pleasant flavor.
- Dijon or Whole Grain Mustard – I love the grainy kind – I’ve been using Sierra Nevada Stout a lot lately. Some people like Grey Poupon and I’ve used it on occasion. Again, just make sure you like the flavor before adding it to your dressing. Most people consider this ingredient optional in balsamic vinaigrette, but I always add it as it really enhances the flavor and also helps the emulsion process.
- Sea Salt – I always use sea salt for it’s rich mineral content, look for a finely ground salt so it dissolves in your dressing. I use the brand Real Salt.
- Black Pepper – freshly ground is always best, I twist my grinder to a medium grind.
- Optional add-ins – Fresh garlic or fresh minced shallots. I don’t always add these because a high-quality mustard will already contain these flavors. Raw garlic is incredibly strong; if using just smash the clove and let it sit in the vinaigrette for a few minutes to infuse flavor but not over power it. Per one cup, one smashed garlic clove or one teaspoon minced shallot should do it.
- Just say no to added sugar. If you use a good aged balsamic, you won’t need to add any extra sweetness. Also, aged balsamic contains a little sugar, so be mindful of how much you consume and skip any added sugar in your salad (e.g. candied nuts, etc.). Some naturally occurring sugar (e.g. apple) is ok.
This recipe also works great with any kind of vinegar you like, especially red wine vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is full of health benefits and is also great in this recipe.
Make your homemade salad dressings in small batches. It only takes a minute to make fresh dressing and fresh is always best. It will keep up to one week in an airtight glass container in your refrigerator if you have leftovers. It might separate, just shake it up before using. The recipe below makes 1 cup, but you can use the proportions to make any amount.
The Perfect Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe
Makes 1 cup
- 1/2 cup extra balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Recipe: Place all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid (a mason jar works great). Shake vigorously for 30 seconds until emulsified. You can also emulsify your vinaigrette in a blender or food processor (work on low, increasing the speed as you stream in the oil last). I only use a blender when working in extra large quantities. Up to about a cup, shaking it like crazy in a mason jar works great (and there’s way less clean up.)
Alternatively, you can whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. To use this method, whisk all ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl, then stream in the olive oil while you continue to whisk until the dressing has emulsified.
For a single serving, use one tablespoon each vinegar and oil, a small dab of mustard (about 1/8 teaspoon and just small pinch of salt and pepper.
Recommended salad: The Best Summer Party Salad
Have you tried this recipe? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Happy Salad Making,