Salad doesn’t have to be boring. Whether you love leafy greens, or prefer a lettuce-less mix, the best part of any salad is undeniably the dressing (cheese and croutons tie for second place). And if you’re not making your own salad dressing, it’s time to start.
“Oil, acid, Dijon mustard and sugar are the key components to a delicious salad dressing,” says Chatelaine food editor Irene Ngo. Oil and an acid (vinegar or citrus) make up a large component of the dressing, while Dijon helps to emulsify it. Add a little hit of pepper, and then some sugar to balance out the sourness of the acid.
Don’t be afraid to freestyle, because it’s super hard to mess up a dressing. Once you mix your ingredients together, taste ’em and adjust by adding a little more of this or that to create the perfect blend.
So how can you take your dressing game to the next level if you’re tired of the same old vinaigrette? These three condiments (also common fridge and pantry staples) will become secret ingredients that you’ll turn to again and again.
From apricot to rhubarb, jam is the perfect sweet ingredient in a quick weeknight dressing. The easiest way to incorporate this fruity spread in a salad dressing is to make a jam jar dressing. (When you’re nearly out of jam, mix up your dressing right in the jar.) Use the three parts oil, one part acid rule, then add in your Dijon (to taste) and
shake it up. Of course, you don’t need to wait until you’re nearly out to make this tangy dressing. Next time you’re whisking together a vinaigrette, just mix in a spoonful of jam. And any type will work. “Imagine if you ate salads five days a week,” says Ngo. “You could have different dressings every time if you switch up the sweetener component. A sampler pack of jams would be good to have in your fridge for this reason,” she explains.
Miso, or fermented soybean paste, packs a seriously salty umami punch. Try using miso along with your favourite oil, rice vinegar (remember the 3:1 ratio) and a sweetener (honey or maple syrup would be particularly delish). Since miso has such a distinctive and strong flavour, Ngo says this vinaigrette can also double as a marinade for pork or tofu. And if you don’t feel like freestyling, follow the steps in this easy citrus and miso dressing recipe.
Tahini is having a moment, and rightfully so. A dollop of this sesame paste works perfectly in all sorts of sweet and savoury dishes, including in salad dressing. It acts an emulsifier and adds a creamy, nutty flavour to your basic vinaigrette. Try this easy lemon-tahini dressing and pour it over greens or even roast vegetables (like eggplant) at dinnertime.
Originally published June 2018; Updated May 2019.