Fresh, Homemade Salad Dressings

Add a splash of flavor to spring or summer greens with these favorite salad dressing recipes from Mother Earth News bloggers.

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Try several of these salad dressings for different flavors each night of the week.

Photo by istock/delmonte1977

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As the weather warms, fresh-picked ingredients with a fruity, flavorful dressing can make a satisfying meal when you can’t imagine turning on the stove. Homemade salad dressing is far superior to store-bought — you can use ingredients you already have on hand and herbs from your garden, adjust the texture and flavors as you prefer, and whisk up a dressing in minutes.

With this in mind, we asked our Mother Earth News bloggers for their favorite homemade salad dressing recipes. The creative concoctions here feature mostly on-hand or homegrown ingredients and bring a wide variety of flavors to the table. Experiment with a tart dressing one night and a spicy one the next to transform the same garden greens and vegetables into different-tasting meals. Between the bloggers’ various techniques for preparing and emulsifying the ingredients — whisking, blending, shaking in a jar, or mixing dressing in the same bowl from which you’ll serve the salad — you’re sure to find a salad dressing recipe that works for you.

Find more delicious recipes and food-related topics from our bloggers on our Real Food blog, or click on their names below to learn more about each blogger.

Kristi Quillen

Blackberry Vinaigrette Dressing

By Marion Wick

My family loves this dressing. It came about when five bottles of our homemade blackberry juice started to ferment on the pantry shelf. I emptied the juice into a jar and added a mother of vinegar, which I normally use to make apple cider vinegar. The outcome was brilliant — pure blackberry vinegar.

I always have this on hand in summer because its pleasant, fruity taste goes well with just about any greens.

Yield: about 4 cups.

Ingredients:

• 1 cup blackberry vinegar
• 1/2 cup blackberry juice
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 2 cups hazelnut oil (or other complementary-flavored oil, such as almond or walnut)
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Simply blend the ingredients and bottle the dressing, which will keep fresh for a long time in a fridge or cool pantry.

Maple Poppy Seed Dressing

By Kelsey Steffen

This tangy and sweet salad dressing pairs perfectly with leafy greens, especially when topped with diced fruit, chopped nuts, and feta cheese. Don’t let the fear of dragon breath keep you from this one — the onion loses its pungency when it combines with the sweet maple syrup and tangy apple cider vinegar. Easily make this a meal by topping your salad with sliced chicken, crumbled bacon, diced fruit, feta cheese, some avocado, and a sprinkle of crushed nuts or seeds.

Yield: 3/4 to 1 cup.

Ingredients:

• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil
• 1/4 red or white onion
• 2 tsp Dijon mustard• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 tsp poppy seeds

Directions: Blend all ingredients except the poppy seeds together in a blender until the onion is puréed and the ingredients are emulsified. Add the poppy seeds and blend quickly to combine. Chill and enjoy.

Orange-Ginger Salad Dressing

By Brenda Lynn

At Japanese restaurants, I tend to order the green salad with ginger dressing, and it seems I can never have enough of it! After years of experimenting with various ingredients, I’ve come up with something that approximates the restaurant experience, but this version is slightly lighter in texture and less salty.

I enjoy it with beets, greens, and toasted walnuts, or tossed with rice, slivered almonds, and dried fruit. Add some feta to either of these dishes, and you’ll have a complete meal.

Yield: about 1 cup.

Ingredients:

• Juice from 2 oranges
• Juice from 1 lemon
• 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
• 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
• 1 tbsp white miso paste
• 1 clove garlic
• 1/4 tsp white pepper
• 1 tbsp sesame oil
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 2 tbsp honey

Blend all ingredients together in a food processer, chill, and serve.

Lemon Herb Dressing with Nutritional Yeast

By Kirsten Shockey

This dressing has been my go-to for the past two decades. It’s meant to be made in a bowl for one family-sized salad. Our children loved this dressing because a generous helping of nutritional yeast added some kind of cheesy umami that they found addicting. The herbs in this variation are my favorites, but use your own favorites or a seasonal combination.

Yield: enough for one family-sized salad.

Ingredients:

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 clove garlic, grated extra fine
• 1 tsp dried dill weed
• 1/2 tsp oregano
• 1 to 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (or more for a thicker dressing)
• Pinch of salt, to taste

Directions: Place all the ingredients in the bottom of a salad bowl. (Yes, the one you will be serving the salad in — why make an extra dish to wash?) Whisk all ingredients together and put prepared salad greens on top. You can do this well ahead of prepping the rest of the meal because the greens won’t wilt until you toss to coat the greens before serving.

Jam Dressing

By Starry Hilder

I preserve hordes of produce — much from my garden, and much from the wild. The wild pickings involve a lot of beautiful fruits, which I make into fruit leathers, butters, and jams.

But as any homesteader will tell you, there’s only so much jam you can eat. That’s why I started experimenting with other uses for my home-canned jams. What’s all that extra jam good for? Salad dressing!

You can use any flavor of jam for salad dressing — apricot, raspberry, grape, blueberry, and more. It just depends on which flavors you prefer.

Yield: enough for 4 adult-sized salads.

Ingredients:

• 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
• 4 to 7 tbsp (depends on your preferred level of sweetness) of any flavor home-canned jam• 1/2 tbsp dried hot pepper

Whisk all ingredients together for about one minute and serve. Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator.

Tangy Citrus Dressing

By Dede Ryan

This delicious, fresh dressing is easy and quick to make and disappears just as fast. The tangy, slightly citrusy flavor profile pairs well with spinach and other dark, leafy greens. The texture is surprisingly creamy and delicious. I use fresh herbs just picked from the garden, but if they aren’t available, dried herbs can produce a fine result.

Yield: enough for a salad that serves 4.

Ingredients:

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 tbsp white champagne vinegar
• 1 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
• 1/2 tsp finely chopped chives
• 1/2 tsp finely chopped parsley
• 1/2 tsp finely chopped oregano
• Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients and whisk until herbs are well-mixed. I pour the dressing into a canning jar to store in the refrigerator. Shake just before serving.

Easy-Measure Garden Herb Vinaigrette Salad Dressing in a Jar

By Ilene White Freedman

The first time I made salad dressing was at a colonial farmhouse event. I was the gardener for the kitchen garden, and it was only my second year ever planting a garden. The cook asked me to make salad dressing with oil and vinegar and some of my herbs. He handed me an empty jar and reassured me that it would taste great. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I discovered that vinegar, olive oil, and fresh herbs make a salad dressing that’s vibrant and delicious.

Today, my go-to dressing is reminiscent of that first experiment. You can use any size jar (I use a pint jar); just use a 1-to-1-to-4 ratio of the liquids. You can mark the fill points on the jar with a permanent pen.

Yield: about 1-1/2 cups (in a pint jar).

Ingredients:

• Balsamic vinegar
• Olive oil
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Several sprigs fresh herbs or a pinch dried herbs — oregano, thyme, and tarragon are my favorites
• 1 to 2 tsp honey or maple syrup, optional

Directions: Fill the jar 1/2 inch with balsamic vinegar. Add another 1/2 inch with an equal amount of water. Add about 2 inches olive oil to fill the jar. Drop in the rest of the ingredients, screw on the lid, and shake to emulsify.

Green Tahini Salad Dressing

By Anna Twitto

This recipe gives a refreshing twist to the classic Mediterranean tahini dip — fresh green herbs lend lovely color and a delicious, tangy, bitter flavor that goes great with the oily element of the tahini. The best part about it is its versatility — no exact measurements are needed, and it’s possible to play with the type and amount of greens and liquids. You can create your preferred flavors with different herb combinations and can make a thicker, spread-like consistency or a thinner salad dressing depending on the amount of liquid you add. You could also try the flavor of lime instead of lemon juice, or even add in some amba, a vinegary mango condiment used in Middle Eastern cuisine.

I recommend using tahini from hulled sesame seeds for its sweeter taste and smoother texture. It’s true that the sesame seed hull contains large amounts of calcium, which you’ll lose with hulled seeds, but the calcium in that form may not be as readily absorbable by the body anyway.

Yield: about 1 cup.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup tahini from hulled sesame seeds
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 2 to 3 garlic cloves
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• 1 cup chopped fresh green herbs, such as a mixture of parsley, cilantro, and dill
• 1/2 cup to 1 cup water

Place all the ingredients except water in a food processor and start blending. Add water gradually until you reach the desired consistency — more for a dressing, less for a spread.

Keep in mind that this salad dressing will thicken slightly in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about one week.

Ranch and Balsamic Honey Combo

By John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist

Live on the edge and mix together both of our favorite salad dressings we make at Inn Serendipity. Take a few spoonfuls of the Ranch Dressing and drizzle some of our Balsamic Honey Dressing over the top for a remarkably tasty blend for a fresh salad. Both are featured in our Farmstead Chef cookbook (available on Page 96), and we grow most of the organic ingredients we use in the recipes. At the dinner table, it’s a fun way to add a little pizazz by encouraging family and friends to use a bit of both dressings. Try to prepare the dressings at least a few hours before you use them to let the flavors marinate. Shake well before using and store in the refrigerator. The garden-fresh flavor and lack of preservatives mean you’ll only want to whip up what you need.

Balsamic Honey Dressing

With just the right amount of kick, this dressing showcases summer salad greens. Store any leftover dressing in a glass jar in the refrigerator, but use it up within about a week or two. Give the jar a shake before serving to ensure the ingredients blend nicely.

Yield: 1 cup.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1/4 cup chopped onion (1 small onion)
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• 3 tbsp honey
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions: Purée the vinegar, onion, soy sauce, honey, sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a blender on high. Gradually add the olive oil. Continue puréeing until thick, about 2 minutes.

Ranch Dressing Recipe

Skip the powdered, processed version that’s loaded with preservatives, and make your own ranch dressing. Ranch dressing works well in both salads and as a dipping sauce for prepared foods or fresh veggies. We recommend it with the Squash Fritters and Vegetable Tempura from our Farmstead Chef cookbook. It’s best to make this the day before you need it to fully release the flavors.

Yield: 1 cup.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 tsp dried parsley
• 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
• 1/2 tsp garlic powder
• 1/2 tsp onion powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/8 tsp pepper
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 1/4 cup water

Directions: In a small bowl, combine parsley, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, and water. Add the spice mixture to the mayonnaise mixture and blend well.