I can’t remember the last time I purchased a bottled salad dressing, but it was probably some kind of fat-free, low-calorie concoction with questionable ingredients. If only I’d known how it easy it was to blend your own vinaigrette, not to mention tastier and healthier.
And yet, I’ve been stuck on the same shallot vinaigrette from a fellow RD that’s been a family favorite for several years. It’s so good, I’ll definitely keep it in my rotation, but hoping to branch out, I’ve asked top chefs from San Antonio and Austin, fellow RDs, and my favorite foodies for their go-to vinaigrettes. And? Yay for having options! Really incredible options!
All light, refreshing and delicious, and all easy-to-prep with ingredients you likely have in your pantry (the key is stocking good olive oil and a variety of vinegars), the only question is: which one will you use to dress tonight’s salad?
First up, Jason Dady, chef and owner of Tre Trattoria, Umai Mi and Two Bros BBQ in San Antonio, and one of the country’s most talented and versatile chefs. Chef Dady has a gift for creating unique flavor profiles that enhance food without overwhelming it, and his go-to dressing is a great example of doing just that. He call this a “quintessential simple vinaigrette that’s clean, crispy and great with all greens, apples and goat cheese.” Also, amazing.
- 1 QT blended oil
- 16 oz champagne vinegar
- ⅓ cup Djion mustard
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves, picked from stem
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- In blender, add all ingredients and blend until emulsified. Season to taste if needed.
Maite Gomez-Rejon Trachtenberg of Artbites, teaches cooking and art history classes in some of the country’s finest museums. At home, Maite says she feels like a “mad scientist” when she uses her mortar and pestle to create her favorite go-to vinaigrette. Forget the shortcuts. “Using a mortar and pestle takes a little work but it’s well worth it,” she says.
The dressing is originally a recipe from Amanda Hesser of Food 52, though Maite adds more lemon and sometimes, more anchovy. So versatile, it goes on everything from butter lettuce and arugula to kale but also other fresh veggies, even meats and fish. “Over the summer I’ll drizzle it on heirloom tomatoes, avocado and hearts of palm. I’ve even marinated skirt steak and salmon with it and tossed it over raw beets and celery root,” she says. Sounds like it’s time to add mortar and pestle to our Christmas wish list.
- 1 anchovy, preferably from a glass jar
- 1 garlic clove
- juice from one lemon
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup olive oil
- black pepper
- In a mortar and pestle, mash the anchovy, garlic and a pinch of salt to form a paste. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to break up the anchovy paste. Beat in the mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with pepper and a little more salt if needed.
It’s such a thrill to have famed Mexican cuisine Chef Johnny Hernandez of San Antonio’s La Gloria, Fruteria, and El Machito, reveal his go-to vinaigrette, since it’s also the house dressing at The Fruteria. Using a simple combination of citrus, garlic, sugar, and salt and pepper blended with olive oil, Chef Johnny says the dressing also takes on heat really well. “I love to add dry chiles to it for more depth like chile Guajillos or chipotles.” Gracias, Chef!
- 8 oz orange Juice, fresh squeezed.
- 6 oz lime Juice, fresh squeezed
- 1 Tbsp orange zest
- 2 Tbsp sugar in the raw
- 1 garlic clove
- 9 oz olive oil, add to blender in a slow, steady stream
- salt and white pepper, to taste
- *optional: dried chiles like Guajillo or chipotle
- Place all ingredients in a blender and puree garlic.
- While blender is at slow speed add oil in a steady stream
- Salt to taste.
We are huge fans of Chef Iliana de la Vega, owner of El Naranjo, one of our favorite restaurants in Austin and one of our favorite Mexican cuisine restaurants anywhere (the mole is a must!). Chef de la Vega says her everyday greens salad dressing is simple (we love simple!), and is “based on the quality of the ingredients.” She likes to use Arbequina olive oil from Spain (I didn’t have any on hand but have added it to my shopping list). And, Chef de la Vega also likes to add avocado (that I know I have!).
- 1 part of lemon juice
- 2 parts of extra virgin Spanish olive oil preferably Arbequina
- Hawaiian red salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Variations: lime juice, sugar cane vinegar instead lemon juice
- add Dijon mustard
- use a different salt or olive oil
- Combine ingredients and blend well. Toss over salad greens
Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, is a Las Vegas based nutritionist (follow him on Twitter here) with a plant-centric and whole-food focus, and his go-to dressing is unique. There’s no olive oil; instead, Andy uses tahini, a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds that’s popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. “This is a very versatile dressing,” Andy says. “It goes great on salads, steamed vegetables (especially butternut squash, carrots, and cauliflower) and is also a great dip for warm pita bread.”
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined.
- Let stand for a few minutes and serve.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, of Real Mom Nutrition has a practical approach to feeding her family, and her go-to dressing, which she says she preps once a week to use on mixed greens, reflects that of a busy mom and professional. All the ingredients for this quick vinaigrette are in your spice drawer.
- Â½ cup white balsamic vinegar
- Â¼ teaspoon salt
- Â¼ teaspoon onion powder
- Â¼ teaspoon dried basil
- Â½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon minced jarred garlic
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Â¾ cup olive oil
- Pour vinegar into jar.
- Add salt, onion powder, basil, oregano, garlic, and sugar.
- Add olive oil and shake well.
Finally, my go-to. A shallot vinaigrette from my favorite healthy cookbook author, Ellie Krieger, RD. Featured in So Easy, this vinaigrette is so delicious, even my kids’ friends ask for the recipe. We love it over Bibb lettuce or a simple chopped radicchio. I double Ellie’s recipe – so easy and so delicious, you’ll want to do the same!
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped shallot
- 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Whisk the ingredients together and toss gently over salad greens