Oil and vinegar dressing is a classic flavor enhancer found in recipes like salads, roasted vegetables, and marinades. Once you master the basics, customize your vinaigrette with different vinegars, oils, emulsifiers, and seasonings to suit your liking. It’s time to up your salad game!
Oil and vinegar dressing basics
It couldn’t be more straightforward to create the perfect vinaigrette. Use this basic formula as a guideline, then branch out from there:
- Three or four parts oil (olive oil, avocado oil, etc.)
- One part acid (vinegar, citrus juice, etc.)
- A dash of emulsifier (mustard, honey, mayo, tahini, etc.)
If you want to end up with 1 cup of dressing, you will need to combine ¼ cup vinegar with ¾ cup oil. As I mentioned, this is just a starting point, but you get the drift! Always taste and adjust the oil and vinegar dressing to your liking.
Oil and vinegar dressing components
Now that you have the basic formula down pat, it’s time to decide which vinegars, oils, and other add-ins you want to use!
Pick your favorite oil, depending on the recipe. Since it’s the primary component, make sure you thoroughly enjoy the flavor. Who doesn’t love a great extra-virgin olive oil?
You can also use avocado oil, walnut oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, or sesame oil. If you’re feeling adventurous, try infused olive oil like garlic, lemon, or basil. Just be aware it may overpower the dressing. I suggest starting with half infused olive oil and half regular olive oil, then go from there.
Similar to the oil, choose your favorite acid! Think lemon juice, lime juice, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or rice vinegar (almost any type of vinegar works well). These are just a few of my go-to choices, but anything goes!
To help with the emulsification process of the vinegar and oil, I always recommend adding an ingredient like honey, Dijon mustard, tahini, mayonnaise, or egg yolks. Adding one of these ingredients is key to helping the oil and vinegar stay blended!
Additional options include mashed avocado, miso, tomato paste, agave, and maple syrup. A little goes a long way here, but it does make a big difference!
What is emulsification?
Emulsification is a process where two liquids that don’t want to go together are forced together. Without an emulsifier, the oil would float on top of the vinegar (like in the photo above). By adding a tiny bit of emulsifier, you can force the the oil and vinegar to stay blended together!
You can keep your dressing simple or add seasonings to jazz it up! I love citrus zest, fresh or dried herbs, cracked black pepper, and sea salt.
For an added punch, use freshly minced garlic cloves or shallots. You really can’t go wrong with flavorings!
How to make an oil and vinegar dressing
Once you’ve determined which acid, vinegar, emulsifier, and flavorings you’ll be using, you need to mix them into one deliciously smooth sauce! As you’re probably well aware, oil and vinegar do not like to stay together. You have a few options for emulsifying the dressing, each with its pros and cons:
- Option 1 – Whisk: Easiest option, but separates the quickest.
- Option 2 – Jar: Also easy if you have a mason jar. Again, it will separate fairly easily.
- Option 3 – Blender: Mixes the dressing the best, giving it a smooth and creamy texture. The dressing will eventually separate, but it lasts the longest.
The mixing method is up to you, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with the blender. There is a bit more clean up involved, but it’s completely worth your salad being evenly coated with each dressing component.
Vinaigrette Flavor Ideas
The sky is the limit when it comes to the combinations you can make with this basic vinaigrette formula! Here are a few of our favorites! We’ve listed the ingredients in order of: type of acid, type of oil, emulsifier, flavor add-ins
- Balsamic Vinaigrette: balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, minced garlic
- Red Wine Vinaigrette: red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, minced shallot
- Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette: rice vinegar, sesame oil, tahini, minced ginger
- Lemon Vinaigrette: lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, mustard, fresh thyme
Keep your oil and vinegar dressing in a mason jar or an airtight container with a lid. Follow these general guidelines, depending on the type of vinaigrette you’ve made:
- Room temperature: If your dressing only has oil and vinegar in it, you can store it at room temperature for a few weeks.
- Fridge: If your vinaigrette contains ingredients like egg yolks, mayonnaise, or fresh citrus, keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
How to use oil and vinegar dressing
There are so many ways to use an oil and vinegar dressing! Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
Oil and Vinegar Dressing FAQs
If it contains emulsifiers like mayonnaise or egg yolks, it will break in the freezer. It’s best to leave it in the fridge and use it within a week. If it doesn’t contain emulsifiers, you can freeze it. Just note that the flavor and texture may be off once it thaws.
Yes, you can use vinaigrette as a marinade on tofu, vegetables, beans, and other dishes. The acidity helps tenderize food, and the oil keeps it moist during cooking.
Typically, oil and vinegar dressing is healthier than dairy-based salad dressings. Plus, olive oil is a heart-healthy ingredient. But, it’s always important to enjoy it in moderation.
- ¾ cup oil like olive oil or avocado oil
- ¼ cup acid like vinegar or citrus juice
- 2-3 Tbsp emulsifier like mustard, honey, mayo, or tahini
- Optional flavorings like citrus zest, fresh or dried herbs, cracked black pepper, salt, garlic, or shallots
- Assemble: Add your oil, vinegar, and emulsifier of choice to a container, mason jar, or blender.
- Flavor: Add seasonings like salt, pepper, citrus zest, or herbs.
- Blend: Whisk, shake, or blend the dressing until emulsified and creamy. Serve over your favorite salads, roasted vegetables, and more.