Salad dressing 101

When it comes to sprucing up a dish we generally turn to sauces but for delicate, leafy salads we like to call on these dressings. Dressings come in three basic varieties: vinaigrettes, cream dressings based on yoghurt or mayo and cooked dressings, often thickened with egg. To ensure that you never need fret about a naked salad, here’s a selection of salad dressing recipes.

salad dressing recipes

8 salad dressing golden rules

1. A vinaigrette generally has more acid and will tend to separate when left to stand. As soon as you start using equal quantities of mustard, acid and sugar, then the dressing will emulsify, becoming slightly thicker and will then stay mixed when left in the fridge.

2. A good rule of thumb to remember for any vinaigrette is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil.

3. Use a good olive oil whenever possible as it forms the base of many dressings. The olive oil’s inherent flavour will go a long way to enhancing your overall salad dressing.

4. You can substitute or use a combination of red wine, tarragon, white and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice for the acidic base. Similarly, you can use a combination of different oils to suit your palate.

5. Sugar works well to take the slight edge off the acidity but you’ll get more flavour if you play around with honey, maple syrup, some apple or orange juice or even jams as sugar substitutes.

6. Once you master the basic vinaigrette, you can experiment by adding different ingredients from fresh herbs to grated parmesan to Worcestershire sauce and even a dollop of basil pesto.

7.  You may be very proud of your home-made salad dressing but try to resist drowning your salad in it. Allow the subtle flavours to enhance as opposed to taking over all the flavours in the salad. Here the rule is add just enough to coat your salad. You shouldn’t have a soup leftover when all the greens are gone.

8. Finally, to toss or not to toss your salad? We say never toss a salad as all the good bits, like the tomatoes, olives and the feta, fall to the bottom. But people do tend to feel very strongly about their preferred approach so find what works best for you.

10 salad dressing recipes

1. Classic vinaigrette

½ cup olive oil
3–4 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt, pepper and sugar, to taste

Combine the mustard and vinegar in a glass or stainless steel bowl and whisk them together briefly. Add the oil to your mustard and vinegar mixture, then add seasoning and mix for about 10 seconds or until fully combined. Allow to stand for 30 minutes for flavours to develop. Give the dressing another shake before serving.

For a vinaigrette with a twist add chilli, chopped mint and a squeeze of orange juice.

This is the most versatile of salad dressings. Give it a try on this super-charged salad.

2. Wholegrain mustard and honey dressing

1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice and zest
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Place the egg yolk into a large bowl. Add both mustards, garlic, honey and vinegar and whisk vigorously. Gradually whisk in the oil until emulsified. Whisk in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

3. Zesty, minted yoghurt dressing

1 cup plain yoghurt
⅓ cup chopped mint
¼ cup avocado oil or canola oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice and zest
1 garlic clove, pressed
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Whisk the ingredients together in small bowl. Season dressing to taste.

4. Caesar dressing

125ml homemade mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 drained anchovy fillets

Place the mayonnaise, garlic and anchovy fillets in the bowl of a food processor and blend until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over your classic Caesar salad.

5. Syrupy balsamic dressing

½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Heat the vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 6–8 minutes, stirring occasionally or until reduced and slightly syrupy. Remove, cover and set aside to cool. This dressing works well on beetroot and goats cheese saladwatermelon, sesame seed and feta salad and strawberry, peanut brittle and avo salad.

6. A Waldorf dressing

1⁄2 cup crème fraîche
1⁄2 cup plain yoghurt
3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 drop of Truffle oil or walnut oil
2 Tbsp fresh chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To make the dressing, combine the crème fraîche, yoghurt, lemon juice, truffle oil and chopped chives in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly but gently. Remember not to add too much Truffle oil. Due to its very strong essence, it could over-power the dish.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep chilled in the fridge.

Try it in this tasty Waldorf salad recipe.


7. Niçoise dressing

60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Chilli, chopped (optional)

Whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, parsley and chilli together in a jug until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Sound good? Here’s the accompanying Niçoise salad recipe with freshly seared tuna.

8. Chicken salad dressing

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 long red chilli, deseeded, chopped

Combine the oil, lemon juice, parsley and chilli in a small bowl. Mix well and you’re done. We use the Mastrad Universal Mixer for a quick blend.

salad dressing recipes

9. Thai dressing

3 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
⅓ cup fish sauce
¼ cup grated palm sugar
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup coriander, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar. Secure the lid and shake well until combined and the sugar has dissolved. It will keep refrigerated for about one week.

This dressing works well with a zingy Thai beef salad.

10. Strawberry and tomato dressing

8 bella or cherry tomatoes, halved
150ml olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard or tarragon mustard
Juice of ½ a lemon
6 strawberries (optional – replace with 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar)
Pinch of sugar

Place the cherry tomatoes for the salad dressing on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and season well. Place in the oven for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are bursting from their skins. Delicious.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then place in a blender with the olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, strawberries and sugar. Blend well and chill before using.

Try this dressing with our melon and avocado salad.

salad dressing recipes

And with that we hope you are never wanting for a salad dressing recipe again, friends. Have a favourite? We’d love to hear from you.