Whenever I tell someone I love healthy food, the first thing they inevitably ask me is if I eat salad all day. Here’s the truth for you: I actually don’t really like salad that much. I am definitely not one of those people who grab a mixing bowl from the cabinet, dump in a bunch of greens, and happily go to town. I am not a rabbit, and I don’t enjoy eating like one.
For me, for a salad to be good, it has to be something substantial. It has to have a great mix of flavors, textures, and really good dressing. I love veggies, but let’s call a spade a spade—veggies can be boring-tastic if you don’t do something to spice them up a little bit. And a good salad dressing goes a looooooong way to making veggies exciting (even for those folks who aren’t big veggie fans—like my two year old, who happily chows down on raw veggies when they are dipped in the Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing you’ll see below).
Salad dressings are super easy to make at home, and I think learning how to make your favorite dressing in your own kitchen is a super useful skill to have. It’ll save you tons of cash. The markup on bottled salad dressings is CRAZY—most of them you can make for pennies on the dollar.
You can completely control the ingredients. Have you ever cruised the salad dressing aisle and checked ingredient lists? There are definitely some cleaner options out there, but many of them are packed with artificial colors, flavors, and more sugar and salt than is really necessary.
And my favorite part is that you can completely customize the taste to your liking. Once you “land” on your house dressing that is perfect for your family’s tastebuds, you always will have that recipe in your pocket. It’s like having the healthy eating gold ticket!
Below, I’m sharing eight of my favorite simple, easy, and healthy salad dressing recipes that you can make at home. Honestly, you probably have most of the ingredients to make most of the dressings already in your pantry and fridge—there are no fancy pants ingredients that you’ll have to track down at a speciality store.
All eight recipes can be made using the jar-and-shake method. Just grab a jar with a tight-fitting lid (I use a wide-mouth pint canning jar and a plastic cap), toss in all the ingredients, and shake the dickens out of it until it’s well-blended. There are a couple recipes below that could be made smoother if you use a food processor or a blender—but you don’t have to if you’re fine with a chunkier dressing.
All the recipes below make about one cup of dressing—enough to last for a few days of salads, but not so much that it goes bad before you get a chance to use it up. Use up the dressings with dairy in them within a week. The vinaigrettes can last two or more weeks in the fridge in an airtight container.
Each recipe below has amounts for using fresh OR dried herbs—you can use all fresh, all dried, or any combination of the two. Just keep in mind that the dried herbs will take a while longer to impart their flavor on the dressing. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re using mostly fresh ingredients, you can get by with using your dressings within 15-30 minutes. If you’re using mostly dried ingredients, you’d be better off waiting 2+ hours so the flavors can really develop. Let’s get started.
I think everyone needs a really good ranch dressing recipe in their back pocket—and this is mine. By using a base of whole milk Greek yogurt, the dressing is packed with healthy fat and protein. If you’d like to make the dressing lighter, you can use lowfat Greek yogurt (I’d skip nonfat—in my opinion, “nonfat” just means “nonflavor”).
This recipe uses a little bit of buttermilk (it really helps give the dressing that typical ranch flavor), but if you’re sick of buying big containers of buttermilk and not using it all, do what I do—freeze it! I freeze buttermilk in one ounce cubes, and then I have it on hand whenever I need it for dressings, pancakes, or biscuits.
Good for: All kinds of salads, dipping veggies, dipping pizza (so good), honestly, dipping anything.
Notes: Store in an airtight bottle or jar in the fridge for up to a week. If you’re looking to make a thicker ranch dip, only use 1/4 cup of buttermilk. For a thinner dressing to drizzle onto salads, add more buttermilk.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of salads, one of my joys in life is a really good, loaded taco salad topped with this dressing. It’s bright, citrusy, and just a little bit spicy. I’m a weakling when it comes to heat, so if you like more of a kick, add more red pepper flakes. I also like to make a bean salad with pinto beans, chickpeas, and black beans (plus some diced red onion and bell peppers) and drizzle it with this dressing. Yum!
Good for: Taco salads, marinating shrimp or chicken for tacos, bean salads.
Meet my husband’s favorite salad dressing. Sweet and tangy, honey mustard is super versatile and works with a ton of different flavors. This recipe is so quick and easy, I doubt you’ll even need to print it out.
Good for: All kinds of salads, dipping chicken fingers (so good!), marinating meat.
It seems like everyone and their mother have an Italian salad dressing recipe they swear by, and this is mine. It’s not as sweet as many of the ones you’ll find on the store shelf—it’s packed full of herbs and has a nice, nutty flavor thanks to a good dose of Parmesan cheese.
Good for: Side salads (especially with lasagna!), antipasto salads, dipping breadsticks, marinating chicken or fish, pasta salads.
You either love blue cheese or you hate it, and I’m staunchly on the “love it” side of things. This dressing is creamy, tangy, and earthy. If you want to keep this dressing vegetarian, make sure you pick up vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (I like Annie’s brand). Normal Worcestershire sauce is made using anchovies.
Like the ranch dressing above, using a base of whole milk Greek yogurt adds a nice boost of healthy fat and protein. If you’d like to make the dressing lighter, you can use lowfat Greek yogurt.
Good for: Steak salads, dipping hot wings, iceberg wedge salads, any hearty salad that can stand up to the strong blue cheese flavor.
Note: If your blue cheese is chunky, use fork to smash down and big pieces—you want the blue cheese flavor to be in the entire dressing.
If I had to pick my favorite dressing from this list, it’d be this tangy, citrusy lemon vinaigrette. I’m a little bit lemon obsessed, and I could honestly eat this stuff on every single salad I’ve ever made. If you aren’t a fan of lemons, this dressing isn’t for you!
Good for: all salads (especially Greek salads or salads with fruit), drizzling on gyros, marinating chicken or shrimp for the grill, everything ever in life.
It’s taken me years to finally appreciate the flavors of ginger and sesame—but I’m starting to really love the tangy earthiness that comes with these Asian flavors. I use this dressing more often as a marinade than a salad dressing! It’s great for marinating chicken drumsticks or for using with meat in the slow cooker.
Good for: Marinating meat, Asian slaws and salads, cold noodle salads.
And last, but certainly not least, my balsamic vinaigrette recipe. EVERYONE needs to have a balsamic vinaigrette recipe in their wheelhouse. This is, without a doubt, my most used recipe out of the list. Mostly because it’s so darn easy and so darn tasty.
I do highly recommend investing in a good balsamic vinegar—trust me, not all vinegars are made the same. You’ll really notice the difference if you spend a few more bucks on the good stuff. It’s worth it.
Good for: All salads, drizzling on fresh tomatoes, drizzling on watermelon (seriously, try it), marinating meat.
Note: Add a pinch of cinnamon to make a dressing that is DELICIOUS on top of salads with fruit. My favorite is spinach, pear, blue cheese, and walnuts!
If you master these eight dressings, you’ll be in good shape to never buy the bottle stuff again if you don’t want to. And if you’re looking for even more salad dressing recipes (seriously, that wasn’t enough?), here are a few others that I have kicking around: creamy avocado vinaigrette, coconut milk ranch dressing, clementine vinaigrette, lemon poppyseed vinaigrette, and lemon sesame vinaigrette.