When I was a kid I never wanted to eat salad because my parents were terrible at making them. They were basic & boring: lettuce, cucumber & Kraft Italian Dressing.
As a teenager & 20 year old, I was fortunate enough to have friends who knew how to make or where to buy salads that make you crave them again. Full, complete meals made of mostly produce.
Some days I just want some iceburg & red onion smothered in Thousand Island. Other days I want baby spinach with cucumbers & carrots & roasted red peppers & mozzarella & Balsamic Vinaigrette. Then I’ll want a classic chicken Caesar salad. What always makes or breaks a salad for me is how it’s dressed.
Dress for success
Making your own dressing is easy & affordable. Truthfully, you pay for the packaging when purchasing brand name salad dressings. Plus, making your own allows you to tweak the recipe for your taste.
According to Wise Bread, “The non-refrigerated kind have all sorts of unpronounceable additives, and the healthier jar type found near the produce aisle run at least $4 a jar — and they usually turn bad before [you] finish them.”
First you’ll have to decide if you want a vinaigrette (oil + acid + flavor) or a creamy salad dressing. (To find out which dressing pairs better with what kind of salad, scroll down a bit!)
olive (virgin, extra virgin), soybean, avocado, vegetable, corn, nuts (peanut, walnut, almond, hazelnut, etc.), seeds (flax, sunflower, safflower, hemp, grape-seed, sesame, etc.),
citrus juice (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, etc.), vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, champagne, red wine, white wine, etc.), with added texture (pickles, relish, capers, etc.),
egg / white / yolk, cream, buttermilk (i.e. ranch), mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, yogurt, cheese, tahini (& other nut butters),
salt & pepper, herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.), spices (cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, etc.), seeds (poppy, sesame, mustard, flax, etc.), other produce (garlic, shallots, onion, tomatoes, etc.), anchovies (i.e. caesar), miso, sweeteners (sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, molasses, etc.), other condiments (mustard, soy sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce, etc.), grated / crumbled cheese (Parmesan, blue cheese, feta, etc.),
How do I make this dressing?
This is where you have to put on your thinking cap & your adult pants. Recipes & directions vary immensely depending on what kind of dressing you’re making. Some are as easy as two ingredients in a bottle & shake; some require quite a bit more equipment than that to make. Don’t worry, I believe in you & here;s some to start you on your journey:
- Ranch Dressing
- Italian Dressing
- Greek Salad Dressing
- French Dressing
- Russian Dressing
- Dijon Vinaigrette
- Thousand Island Dressing
- Catalina Dressing
(did you see what I did there?)
Which salad should I pair my homemade dressing with?
Good question & the answer is easier than you think…
- Iceberg & Romaine – universal
- Arugula & Spinach – light (recommended: balsamic vinaigrette)
- Radicchio & Watercress – mid-weight (recommended: ranch)
- Endive & Frisee – heavy (recommended: thousand island)
- Kale & Swiss Chard – acidic (recommended: lemon vinaigrette)
Recommendations by protein:
- None – universal
- Vegetarian – “green goddess“
- Seafood – citrus & garlic
- Poultry – Italian
- Pork – honey mustard
- Red Meat – blue cheese