Feb 26

How to: Make a Vinaigrette


How to: Make a Vinaigrette (& Recipe)

I admit that, on occasion, I let Paul Newman or Brianna into my kitchen. Before I realized how easy it is to make my own vinaigrettes, their bottled selves were regular guests at our dinner table. Then I learned the three to one (oil to acid) rule and started playing with a variety of oils, vinegars, herbs, and spices. I learned that vinaigrettes can be made quickly and without all of the preservatives found in store-bought varieties. Whether you want an Asian flare with a miso dressing or a slightly sweet version to balance the saltiness of the bacon in a BLT Pasta Salad, this tutorial will walk you through the simple steps to make fresh, flavorful vinaigrettes. Scroll down to find the recipe for our favorite balsamic vinaigrette.

This step-by-step tutorial is part of my weekly how-to series.

The oil:

The most common oil used in vinaigrettes is olive oil. Considering that this is the most prominent ingredient, be sure to choose a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. In vinaigrettes that feature Asian or other strong flavors, use a neutral oil such as grapeseed, safflower, or canola. Nut and seed oils (e.g., sesame and walnut) can lend distinctive flavors. To avoid overpowering the other ingredients, these oils can be combined with a neutral-flavored oil


The acid:

The acid is the ingredient that packs the biggest punch in any vinaigrette. There are a wide variety of vinegars available. Everything from balsamic and port vinegars to red and white wine vinegars can change the flavor profile of the dressing. However, you are not limited to vinegars. Citrus fruits, such as orange, lemon and lime, add a bright note to any summer salad.



While wonderful vinaigrettes can be made by simply combining an acid, oil, and seasonings, a more stable emulsification can be achieved by adding binders. To stop the emulsification from separating, add mustard, honey, miso or an egg yolk to the vinegar mixture before whisking in the oil.

Other flavors:

To change the flavor profile further, season the vinaigrette with onions, shallots, garlic, herbs, pepper, or any number of dried spices (cumin, paprika, etc.)

How to do it:

In general, if you follow the rule of three parts oil to one part acid, you will be rewarded with a well-balanced vinaigrette.

In a bowl, whisk together your choice of acid, binder (optional), herbs, and other flavors, including salt and pepper.

Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the oil until emulsification forms. If you did not use a binder, you will need to re-whisk the vinaigrette prior to serving.

Vinaigrettes can also be made in a blender or a lidded jar (shake well).

How to Vinaigrette Collage

(Reminder: Head to my review blog to enter a giveaway, including a Dutch oven, from Cache Valley Cheese.)

Our Favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in olive oil until emulsification forms.

Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature and whisk again before using.


Printable recipe

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Serene @ MomFood February 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm

This is exactly how I make a vinaigrette (though I use a higher ratio of acid to oil, because I like mine tangy), and now I'm jonesing for that salad. Great post.


2 snacktive February 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Great tips! The balsamic vinaigrette sounds awesome and so easy because I have all of the ingredients (except for the shallot) already.


3 Kristen February 26, 2011 at 11:15 pm

This was a great tutorial. Thanks for all the great tips.


4 Jess February 27, 2011 at 12:40 am

I love these how to posts! This one is especially helpful, because I've been trying to cut back on a teeennssyy bit of carbs, so I've been trying to eat more salads…knowing how to mix up my own dressings will definitely help keep things interesting! Thanks!


5 Pegasuslegend February 27, 2011 at 1:01 am

This is great loving all your how to's your doing an excellant job!


6 lmn February 27, 2011 at 1:19 am

Great tutorial.

I've found that if olive oil is used, it will solidify when refrigerated. Just let it warm up and shake or whisk it up.

As Paul Newman once said, "The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is out grossing my films."


7 Dulce Dough February 27, 2011 at 1:29 am

Thanks for the great tutorial!


8 Cake Duchess February 27, 2011 at 2:19 am

Love the salad and such a great tutorial on how to make a vinaigrette. Hope you have a nice weekend, Dara:)


9 Cookin' Canuck February 27, 2011 at 4:09 am

Serene – Personal taste is exactly why everyone should taste their creations before serving. Then adjustments can be made to ingredient proportions and seasoning.

Snacktive – It's okay if you don't have a shallot. You could either leave it out or replace it with onion.

Kristen, Claudia, Dulce, Lora – Thank you!

Imn – Thanks for leaving the link to your post. It's a bit eerie how similar our two posts are – I promise I didn't copy!


10 warmvanillasugar February 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I love this section of your blog so much! This particular post is great. I think everyone should know how to make a good vinaigrette!


11 Boulder Locavore February 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Like you, I relied on bottled dressings feeling mine never tasted as good. I've marveled at salads when going out to eat also thinking how hard can it be to make a good dressing. After making the time to really study and make one, it isn't hard at all. It's great you are sharing this because for a simple thing to whip up, it does seem to the bane of one's culinary existence for many!


12 Belinda @zomppa February 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Thanks for sharing! I still try to get used to it, but vinaigrette's always hard for my immature tastebuds. Gorgeous photos – and seems all the more reason to make it at home (for the other people who will eat it!!)


13 Jessica @ How Sweet February 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Love this! I am not a huge fan of salad dressing so I always make my own. So good!


14 Sprinkled with Flour February 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm

What a great tutorial, as usual:) The balsamic vinaigrette is definitely one i'll be trying. I've been attempting to make one at home, but haven't been able to get it to taste just right. That was before I new about the rule of thirds though! Thanks for the great tips:)


15 Barbara | VinoLuciStyle February 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm

We are so on the same page. I remember when restaurants would serve salads and provide oil and vinegar and I thought…how boring. And it might be, but some herbs and a tasty vinegar make all the difference. Your lineup? Some of my best friends are in those photos!


16 Kalyn February 27, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Great post, and I love the sound of your favorite dressing.


17 Cookin' Canuck February 27, 2011 at 4:27 pm

warmvanilla – Thank you. I'm so glad people are finding the how-to posts helpful.

Boulder – Once I found out how easy it was to make my own vinaigrettes, I never looked back.

Belinda – Remember that you can adjust the proportions of oil and acid to suit your taste buds.

Jessica, Sprinkled – Thank you.

Barb – Vinaigrettes really can be so versatile and made to suit almost anyone's tastes.


18 Cookin' Canuck February 27, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Kalyn – We must have been writing our comments at the same time. Thank you for your comment. That balsamic vinaigrette recipe is a standard in our house.


19 foodwandeings February 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Seems like we got a similar pantry. Got the O Zinfandel and the Ume:) The Porto and avocado oil. Love this post and how to series!! Shulie


20 LKG February 27, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Hi. Great post – my dressings have always been a little hit or miss – now I know why! How long would a dressing like this last in the fridge if it did have fresh herbs and/or shallots in it? Thanks.


21 Torviewtoronto February 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm

delicious combination for the vinaigrette looks wonderful


22 my life be like February 28, 2011 at 4:11 am

your tutorials are always 100% awesome. Thanks for this post especially! i have been using the Newman's Own Light Raspberry Walnut dressing for about 3 years now. I'd love to try to make my own without preservatives :)


23 megan @ whatmegansmaking February 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I totally needed this tutorial! I've never really made my own dressings, but I totaly should. Thanks, I'm going to try it :)


24 Mary at n00bcakes February 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Fantastic how-to! It's great to get a straight forward explanation on something like this; it's nice to have a list of binders to have for later emulsifications as well. Thanks for sharing!


25 The Food Hunter February 28, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Great tips thanks!


26 Anonymous March 1, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Love the vinaigrette! Now what did you put in your salad…?


27 Cookin' Canuck March 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Anonymous – The salad in the photo is a very simple one – spinach and feta. I usually like to fill my salad with veggies (cucumbers, red bell peppers, etc), a touch of cheese (feta, Gorgonzola, Parmesan) and sometimes some dried fruit or toasted nuts.


28 marla March 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I have to admit, I too can get kinda lazy with the dressings. It is so simple to make our own. This lesson is a keeper & one I will refer back to often :)


29 Jason Phelps March 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I love the simple steps and hints on variations. I don't do this nearly enough.



30 Martha March 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Great tutorial. I love to shake my homemade dressings together in a jam jar instead of whisking them together in a bowl. That way any leftovers are ready for the fridge with less cleanup!


31 renee April 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

i grew up on homemade salad dressings. we always used a mortal and pestle or smashed it up right in the large wooden salad bowl. today i still make my dressings, but opt for a mini food processor. i put all the dry ingredients in and pulse, then add oil and acid, 1 part to 1 part. i too like a tangier dressing.


32 Joshua @ SlimPalate December 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Ah! I completely forgot about switching up my acid. I always have stuck with just red wine vinegar. The Ume Plum Vinegar sounds magnificent. I think I will be leaving the store tomorrow with an unusual amount of vinegar in my basket. Thanks for the post, super helpful.


33 Jojo February 13, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thanks so much for this tutorial. Have been wanting to make my own salad dressings. I wasn’t exactly sure which type of oil/vinegar to use (and was a little embarrassed to ask such a basic question). I appreciate your laying it out so clearly – for my first dressing, I’ll buy the same brands you listed and will experiment from there on.


34 Zulma January 7, 2014 at 9:02 pm

I’ll right away snatch your rss as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service.
Do you have any? Kindly let me realize so that I could subscribe.


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