5 Healthy Salad Dressings To Kick-Start Summer Salad Season

These 5 simple recipes prove anyone can make healthy salad dressings from the comfort of home.

img Healthy Salad Dressings

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Eating your greens is so much easier when they’ve been tossed with a delicious, healthy salad dressing. Although it can be tempting to grab your favorite bottled dressing in a pinch, chances are good that it’s filled with outrageous amounts of sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats or that you’ll go over the recommended serving size.

The following healthy salad dressing recipes contain nutritious, easy-to-find ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil, Greek yogurt, fresh garlic, and avocados to kick your salad game up a notch. Making your own healthy salad dressings at home doesn’t require any special equipment (except a blender or food processor, in some cases).

If you can follow a recipe and measure out a few basic ingredients, you’ll be concocting your own dressings and vinaigrettes in no time.

Healthy salad dressings (and salads) begin with quality ingredients.

A salad is only as good as the ingredients it’s made from, and that goes for salad dressings and vinaigrettes too.

Michele Anna Jordan, salad maven and author of Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings: 60 Sensational Recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad shares her advice on crafting the perfect simple salad:

Let’s take the simplest green salad. First, I use the best greens I possibly can, and here in Sonoma County I have so many options. I like a mix of crisp lettuces, fresh herbs (Italian parsley, sorrel, thyme) and then season them with kosher salt. Next comes good olive oil, followed by a bit of acid (vinegar or citrus). Sometimes I’ll add a secondary dressing to this, typically something like fresh grapefruit juice, ground cardamom, salt, pepper and olive oil. People who try this call it the best salad they’ve ever had, but it all begins with fabulous greens.

She also cautions against using cheap, imitation ingredients, particularly balsamic vinegar. “I should add that I am not a fan of balsamic vinegar on everything. The cheap versions (which are not the real thing) are full of sugar and I rarely like to combine savory and sweet flavors. I think for the most part, balsamic vinegar degrades a dish,” she explains.

When it comes to oils and vinegars used in salad dressings or vinaigrettes, it’s best to buy the highest quality that you can afford and then use sparingly. Look for extra-virgin oil whenever possible (this means the oil has been extracted from the first pressing) and vinegar without added sugar or caramel coloring so that their flavors truly shine through in the salad.

A Few Basic Healthy Salad Dressing Tips Before You Get Started

Store homemade salad dressing in a covered container in the fridge or freezer (like these adorable YINGGG Squeezy Portable Salad Dressing Bottles or OXO’s classic Salad Dressing Shaker and Dispenser), and always give the dressing a good shake before using. Make sure you get in the habit of tasting as you cook, as you might need to make seasoning adjustments or you might get inspired to experiment with unconventional (but still super-tasty) ingredients.

Jordan is a big fan of unexpected salad dressing ingredients: “I think fresh grapefruit juice surprises people, as do either cardamom pods and ground cardamom. I typically keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar with cardamom pods in my pantry. Lots of flavor, no calories or very few, and so very simple.”

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re making homemade salad dressings? It’s all about experimenting with ingredients to find the right balance; keep tasting the salad dressing until you find the correct ratio and the exact flavor you’re looking for.

Now that you’re ready to take on summer salad season, here are some healthier salad dressing recipes to get you started.  

5 Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes to Pair With Your Favorite Greens

Basic Oil and Vinegar Dressing

From organic microgreens to bagged iceberg lettuce, this basic oil and vinegar dressing brightens up any green salad it touches.

Made with extra-virgin olive oil, which has been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease for high-risk individuals, this dressing will keep in the fridge for several months. So feel free to double (or even triple!) the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. white sugar (optional)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Special equipment:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Blender (or a small mixing bowl and whisk if not using a blender)

Method:

  1. Add all of the red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper to a blender or small mixing bowl. Blitz or whisk to combine.
  2. Remove the feeder cap from the blender lid and slowly add the olive oil to the red wine vinegar mixture (or simply add to the salad dressing in the bowl), blending or whisking until the dressing has completely emulsified.
  3. Taste the salad dressing and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

Use this versatile lemon basil vinaigrette on bean salads, pasta salads, as a dip for steamed artichoke leaves, or in salade Niçoise. Garlic-lovers will enjoy the punchy flavor a clove of garlic (or three!) adds to this recipe, especially considering the fact that garlic has long been recognized for its anti-microbial effects on potentially harmful bacteria in the body.

This dressing will keep in the fridge for up to four days (but fair warning: The garlic grows increasingly pungent over time).

Ingredients:

  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice)
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1½ cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed
  • 1–3 cloves of garlic (use 1 clove of garlic if you plan on storing this dressing for more than a day)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Special equipment:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Blender

Method:

  1. Add the lemon juice, sherry vinegar, fresh basil leaves, garlic, salt, and pepper to the blender. Blitz until roughly combined
  2. With the blender running, remove the feeder cap and carefully pour the extra-virgin olive oil through the hole. Blend until the ingredients are completely emulsified.
  3. Taste the salad dressing and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

Creamy Ranch-Style Greek Yogurt Salad Dressing

If you’re a fan of ranch dressing but are less than thrilled by its fat content, this recipe is for you! Using plain low fat Greek yogurt in lieu of most of the mayo adds protein and calcium while still giving plenty of creamy texture to the dressing.

Despite its misleading name, buttermilk (which is partly responsible for ranch dressing’s tangy flavor) is low in fat, and if you have leftover buttermilk it can be frozen in ice cube trays and used in smoothies and other recipes calling for buttermilk.

This recipe will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Just give it a quick stir before serving over a green salad, with coleslaw, or as a vegetable dip.

Ingredients:

Special equipment:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Medium-sized mixing bowl
  • Whisk

Method:

  1. Add all of the ingredients, except for the buttermilk, to a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Slowly add the buttermilk, beginning with ⅓ of a cup, to the rest of the ingredients. Keep whisking and adding buttermilk until you reach the correct consistency (pourable but still thick and creamy). Add less buttermilk if you wish to use this recipe as a dip.

Ginger–Tamari Salad Dressing

Use this brightly flavored salad dressing on Asian-inspired slaws, lightly steamed snap peas or edamame, or on cold soba or rice noodle salads. The proven health benefits of ginger are numerous, although it’s especially known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties (particularly in cases where the use of drugs isn’t advisable, such as during pregnancy or chemotherapy treatment).

Deeply flavorful and darker in color than soy sauce, tamari is a Japanese condiment that is usually gluten-free. (Check the label to make sure.) It can be found in the Asian or international foods section of most grocery stores or you can purchase this gluten-free version online.

This salad dressing can be kept in the fridge for up to three days, but remember that the garlic taste will grow stronger the longer it sits.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. tamari
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral-tasting oil

Special equipment:

  • Measuring spoons
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Whisk

Method:

Add all of the ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.

Green Goddess–Style Salad Dressing with Avocado

The original recipe for Green Goddess salad dressing contained a rather alarming amount of mayonnaise that was mixed with anchovies, herbs, and scallions. Since then, the recipe has evolved to the point that it would probably be unrecognizable to its inventor, executive chef Philip Roemer of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel.

This version of Green Goddess dressing doesn’t contain mayonnaise but instead uses avocado and Greek yogurt for a creamy texture and rich mouthfeel. Avocados are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and normalize blood pressure in animal studies.

Use Green Goddess dressing on butter lettuce and cucumber salads, on top of grilled salmon, or as an elegant dip for crudités. This recipe is at its best when made in a food processor, and the avocado and fresh herbs turn the dressing a gorgeous shade of green.

This salad dressing is tastiest the day it was made, but it can be stored in the fridge for up to two days if necessary.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, skin removed and cut into quarters
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup fresh herbs (try using a mixture of basil, parsley, and watercress)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt

Special equipment:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Food processor
  • Silicone or wooden spatula

Method:

Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and blitz until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed.

Going green has never tasted so good! Try these healthier salad dressing recipes for yourself and let us know which one is your favorite by tagging us in your foodie photos on Instagram: @itsthehealthyway.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Linkletter
Ashley Linkletter
Contributing Writer