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Guide to making dressings from scratch

* updated from 2011

If you’re a fan of salads, this guide to making the ultimate vegan dressing from scratch is going to make your day!

Making your own vegan 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 buy it from a regular grocery store. No thank you!

And it almost goes without saying that homemade is always more economical than store-bought dressings.

The dressings chapter in my book happens to be the most loved so definitely check it out.

The secret sauce to making the perfect vegan dressing

Just like you want to include all of the “5 Tastes” into each meal, in general you want your vegan dressing to cover 4 of those tastes as well: sweet, sour, 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.

Play around with salty, sweet, sour, and pungent to get the blend that is suitable to your own personal palate. Making dressings is that easy!

Here are the basic elements every salad should contain

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 of using a balance of the 4 tastes 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. But don’t feel like you have to buy them all; just a light and a dark vinegar will do.


I use maple syrup or agave 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.

Filtered Water

Sometimes a little water is needed to make the dressing the consistency you prefer.

Looking for inspiration?

Genius Kitchen claims to have to recipe for the world’s best vegan dressing. Check it out right here.

You like it unusual? Try this vegan Ginger Sesame Salad Dressing from VegKitchen. 

If French dressing hits your sweet spot, then try this recipe.

And last but not least, a Blissful and Fit recipe inspiration.

This salad was one of the yummiest I’ve created in a long time. Fresh tarragon has a lovely flavor that is hard to describe; bright a little bit sweet and minty almost.

Pssst: Try taragon 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


  1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Season with tamari according to your preference.
  3. Mix together the first 4 salad ingredients in a bowl then pour dressing over it and mix well.
  4. Lay romaine and carrots on a plate then pile dressed veggies in the center.
  5. Top with tarragon. Enjoy!

Do you make your own dressings? What are your favorite ingredient combinations for dressings?

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  1. I always make my own dressings. I like using tahini with some spices and water to thin it out, but I think I might try this one soon. It sounds delish 🙂

  2. I often make my own dressings, including everything from creamy ones with a bit of strawberry, tahini dressing, or a some sort of vinegar. Recently, I made one with a mix of fresh dill, mint, and basil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, evoo, salt and pepper, which has a lot of wow factor. You can use any herbs you like though, so next time I might prepare it with fresh cilantro/coriander and sage instead of mint just for a change of pace.

  3. Wonderful break down. I usually use avocados or tahini to make a dressing creamy. I try to stay away from nuts and oils. Fresh berries and citrus are my favorite fruits to blend into dressings and apple cider is my go to vinegar. I've been loving a blend of tahini, fresh dill, apple cider vinegar and lemon lately!

  4. Flax seed meal is a great thickener for salad dressings.  My friend makes her own that is different each time.  She will make a large enough quantity to last a few days.  The salad dressing does still have to be shaken well prior to being used each time, but it works well for her.  I never use her dressings, though, because I'm intolerant to onions and citrus, which she uses all the time.  Still, I love the idea of what she does, and she never buys the stuff in the grocery stores.  With my food sensitivities and intolerances, though, I usually stick with a splash of olive oil and a natural sea salt that still has all of its trace minerals in it.

    1. You will love the recipes in my book Blissful Bites because I rarely use onion. The dressing chapter is the most loved! Great idea using flax as a thickener!

  5. Thank you so very much! I haven’t been very successful making salad dressings,because there always seems to be something missing. I would be very grateful if anyone can teach me.
    Thank you for these lists of categories!

    1. This guide will definitely help! It’s all about mixing a little bit of this and that to make something you’ll enjoy.

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