Guide to Making Dressings From Scratch
Today I want to share a quick guide to making salad dressing with you. Making your own salad dressing is a cinch! I prefer to make my own over bottled salad dressings because those tend to be high in oil, salt, and sugar and often have ingredients you can’t pronounce if you got it from a regular grocery store. No thank you! The dressings chapter in my book happens to be the most loved so definitely check it out.
Just like you want to include all of the “5 Tastes” into each meal, in general you want your salad dressing to cover all of the 5 tastes as well: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. What you are typically putting the salad dressing on is going to have the bitter quality so you don’t have to put that into the dressing. So you play around with salty, sweet, sour, and pungent to get the blend that is suitable to your own personal palate. Here are the basic elements that I think of when making a dressing and the kind of ingredients I would use for that. These aren’t steadfast rules; you can play around and leave one of the elements out. But once you start to think in this way you will be making the most delicious salad dressings ever!
Quick Guide to Making Dressings
First, do you want the dressing to be creamy, vinaigrette style, chunky, fruity or savory. That will of course determine the kinds of ingredients you use.
I like to use some sort of citrus like fresh squeezed lemon, lime, and orange. Oftentimes I use the zest of the fruit as well. Also vinegars would fall under the sour category. I keep many on hand in the pantry for dressings; apple cider, balsamic, red wine, champagne, yuzu, ume, brown rice vinegar.
I use maple syrup generally because it adds to the liquid content of the dressing, but you can use whatever sweetener you like. Also you could use fresh fruit blended up for the sweet flavor, which will change the texture of the dressing. One of my favorite things to use if I feel like using the blender is soaked, pitted dates!
A pinch of sea salt, tamari or soy sauce, coconut aminos, or Bragg will do and this is always to taste. Miso is also great for seasoning the dressing and making it a bit creamy. Another way to season a dressing without using salt is to add sea vegetables like kelp, dulse, nori, or wakame. I generally use a lot less salt than most people in my dressings, so add more as needed. Just remember it will get saltier as it sits, so go light. If you add too much salt is is really hard to fix it.
This can be an optional element of the dressing because sometimes it can overpower it. Just depends on what you are going for. Some pungent things used in dressings are ginger, onion, green onion, garlic, chili peppers, black pepper, and some herbs.
Fresh or Dried Herbs
This is optional, depending on what you plan to serve the dressing on. The bonus dressing recipe below has fresh tarragon for an added punch of flavor. I often use fresh herbs because they add another dimension to the dressing, but dried are nice too.
Want to make it creamy?
I use soaked cashews or other nuts, silken tofu, miso paste, tahini, mustard, avocados, vegan yogurt, or vegan sour cream to make a creamy dressing. So you would use one of these in addition to the 5 tastes profile to make a creamy dressing. Flax meal is a great way to thicken up a dressing if you’ve too much liquid and adds some nice omegas too.
This could also be optional depending on what you are serving the salad with, but many herbs and spices are bitter like turmeric or certain fruits like grapefruit, capers and olives. Most times I leave this one out because what I’m serving the dressing on is bitter (like greens!).
Sometimes a little water is needed to make the dressing the consistency you prefer.
This salad doesn’t look very pretty but it was delicious. This was one of the most tasty salad dressings I’ve ever made. Fresh tarragon has a lovely flavor that is hard to describe; bright a little bit sweet and minty almost. Try it in soups too!
Succotash Salad with Tarragon Dijon Dressing
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup avocado, diced
1 corn on the cob, kernels removed
2 cups romaine, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, julienned
Tarragon Dijon Dressing
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon tarragon minced
1 teaspoon tamari
Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Season with tamari according to your preference. Mix together the first 4 salad ingredients in a bowl then pour dressing over it and mix well. Lay romaine and carrots on a plate then pile dressed veggies in the center. Top with tarragon. Enjoy!
Do you make your own dressings? What are your favorite ingredient combinations for dressings?