5 Reasons to Make Your Own Salad Dressing, Plus My Favorite Easy + Healthy Homemade Vinaigrette Recipe
Store-bought salad dressing brands are often filled with excess sugar and sodium, inflammatory oils, preservatives and harmful additives like MSG, gums, and artificial colors and flavors. Fortunately, making your own salad dressing couldn’t be easier–this healthy homemade vinaigrette is Paleo, gluten-free, vegan and absolutely delicious! Learn how to make it here.
“Eating healthy is so hard. Eating healthy takes so much time. Eating healthy is so expensive.”
Sound familiar? I know I used to feel that way, and to be fair, those sentiments can be true, to a certain extent. But after a year of following the anti-inflammatory diet, I’ve learned that eating healthy can actually be really easy, quick and affordable.
You just have to know the right tricks. One of my favorites: making your own salad dressing.
Unfortunately, store-bought salad dressing brands are often filled with excess sugar and sodium, inflammatory oils, preservatives and harmful additives like MSG, gums, and artificial colors and flavors. They’re also expensive–usually costing upwards of $5 per bottle.
Why pay for poison when you could easily make your own? I swear, homemade salad dressing is BEYOND EASY to make (if it takes you more than 2 minutes, something isn’t right) and it’s so much better for you, and your wallet (you can make this recipe from pantry staples you likely already have on hand).
But before we get to the recipe, let’s really look at why most store-bought salad dressing brands are so bad for you.
Which salad dressing is the worst for you?
In an effort to make this a positive, inspiring post, rather than one that spends the majority of its time bashing specific brands, let me just say this: Most salad dressing brands are extremely toxic to your health. This includes brands like Wishbone, Hidden Valley, Newman’s Own, Brianna’s Home Style, Kraft and Ken’s.
All of these brands are highly processed and contain some combination of harmful ingredients, often ingredients that are genetically engineered or derived from GMOs, that have been proven to cause obesity, inflammation, significant lowering of HDL (good) cholesterol and a rise in LDL (bad) cholesterol, insulin resistance, diabetes, and even cancer.
If you think I’m exaggerating, click the brand names above and the links will take you to scientific evidence proving the harm that comes from consuming the ingredients in these salad dressings. You can also see a list of some of the worst salad dressings here.
I know, this news sucks. Here we are thinking that we’re being healthy by eating a salad, when really we’re poisoning ourselves with all of these harmful ingredients we didn’t know existed. Even when it’s an ingredient we recognize, like sugar, it’s still bad based on the sheer amount of sugar in the dressing.
Also, WHY put sugar in salad dressing? Have you ever sat down to eat a salad and thought, “You know what this spinach needs? A cookie!”… OK, maybe sometimes we wish our salads tasted more like cookies, but you get the point, right?
To expand on this idea, I’ve made a list of the top five reasons you should make your own salad dressing. Take a look:
5 Reasons You Should Make Your Own Salad Dressing
- Most Salad Dressing Brands Are Full of Sugar: As we just discussed, this is one of the most surprising ingredients in salad dressing to me. I don’t want my salad to be sweet. And especially not if it’s being sweetened with refined white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or dextrose (all of which lead to obesity by adding calories without being accompanied by important nutrients like potassium, vitamin C or fiber). And that’s before you even consider the amount of sugar being added–EWG calculates that Kraft’s Thousand Island is 19 percent sugar by weight and contains 2 teaspoons of added and natural sugar per serving. The number one ingredient in Brianna’s Home Style Blush Wine Vinaigrette is sugar, making each serving a whopping 3.5 teaspoons worth. Consider this: The World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 to 12 teaspoons of added sugar a day for adults, and children should eat even less. Do you really want to waste your sugar intake on salad dressing? It’s one thing for a salad dressing to be balanced; and if you feel like you need to sweeten things up a little bit, opt for something natural, like raw honey or maple syrup. Or even try a slightly sweet citrus, like orange juice. A pinch will do.
- Most Salad Dressing Brands Are Based in Inflammatory Oils: It’s no secret that the base of most salad dressing recipes is oil. But unfortunately, there are very few brands out there who use healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil to make their salad dressings. Instead they rely on cheap, highly refined and processed oils like soybean oil, canola oil and vegetable oil, which are highly inflammatory. These oils clog our arteries, mess with our cholesterol levels, contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes and other long-term health problems from obesity to heart disease. Pass!
- Most Salad Dressing Brands Contain Excess Sodium: A quick scan of the nutrition panel on most storebought salad dressings will show that most contain way too much sodium. Watch out especially for “light” dressings, which promise to be low-calorie and low-fat, but make up for that loss in flavor with sugar and sodium, which is added to mask the lack of freshness by enhancing the flavor, texture or palatability and extending shelf-life. In fact, most dressings contain 300 to 500 mg sodium in a two-tablespoon serving; and let’s be honest…who stops at just two tablespoons? (source) Why is this bad? Excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
- Most Creamy Salad Dressings Contain Harmful Dairy: If you love ranch, caesar, blue cheese and other creamy salad dressings, chances are you’re putting yourself at risk for consuming ingredients likely derived from antibiotic-treated animals or animals treated with hormones and/or growth promoters. This is due to the fact that many animals are fed low doses of antibiotics throughout their lifespan to speed growth and prevent diseases. Problem is, these non-essential antibiotics promote antibiotic resistance in humans, posing a serious risk to human health. Likewise, the added hormones found in conventional dairy (this includes mayonnaise, milk, cream, butter, buttermilk, etc.) may also increase the risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancer in humans and lead to higher rates of infection in animals. (source) Not to mention dairy is one of the leading allergens and can harm our digestion.
- Most Salad Dressing Brands Contain Harmful Additives: From preservatives and artificial flavors and colors to questionable gums, MSG and other allergens like gluten, dairy and soy, mainstream salad dressing brands are brimming with toxins. Honestly, there’s too many to even name here, but read some of the labels next time you’re at the grocery store and then google the dangers of that chemical…you’ll be shocked! But guess what? When you make your own salad dressings, you’re in control. Not only do you likely not cook with ingredients like EDTA, caramel color and sodium benzoate, but you can also adjust the recipe to fit any dietary restrictions you may have, and even taste preferences (i.e. less garlic, more spice, fresh herbs, etc.). It’s a win-win!
How do you make a salad dressing?
Alright, so now that you know way more than you probably ever wanted to know about the dangers of store-bought salad dressing, we can move onto the fun part: making your own!
Obviously, there are dozens of types of salad dressing, from Italian and Greek to Caesar and Ranch. But one of the quickest, easiest and healthy homemade salad dressings starts with just oil and vinegar, also known as a vinaigrette.
The basic recipe for a vinaigrette goes like this:
Oil + Acid + Seasoning (Optional: + Emulsifier)
Here’s how to ensure you’re making a healthy vinaigrette:
- Choose a healthy oil: extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil is best; organic preferred.
- Pick Your Acid: vinegar or citrus (usually lemon juice) works great
- Natural Seasoning: a little salt and pepper to taste, plus any herbs and spices you desire
Voila! Whisk together or shake in a bottle and you’re done. How easy is that?
Now, about that emulsifier. I like adding a little something to thicken the dressing just a bit; sometimes that’s organic, pastured egg yolks or a high-quality mayonnaise or yogurt. But my favorite homemade salad dressing is a vinaigrette made with mustard as the emulsifier. It’s tangy, adds a nice zip to the dressing and thickens it up ever so slightly.
You can use any mustard you like, though I tend to go for Dijon mustard. Combined with apple cider vinegar as my acid, and spiced up a bit with garlic and red pepper flakes, this recipe, in my always humble opinion, is the best salad dressing recipe ever.
I make slightly modified versions of this salad dressing almost daily in my kitchen. It goes great on beet salads, potato salad and even as marinades for chicken, pork or fish.
It’s my absolute go-to salad dressing for just about every salad, especially with peppery arugula, sweet spinach and even hearty kale. Almost every time I’ve ever made it, someone asks me for the recipe.
Even better–it’s healthy, promotes weight loss, low-calorie, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan and full of only 100 percent pure, real, whole food ingredients. No toxins here!
P.S. One of the questions I always get asked about making salad dressing at home is what container to use. The bottle shown in these photos is from World Market, but there are dozens of affordable options available for salad dressing containers. I love these swing bottles from Amazon, this OXO salad shaker, and this glass salad dressing bottle.
Or if you’re looking for to-go cups or to-go containers for salad dressing (like if you need to pack your lunch) then these silicone squeeze bottles are also awesome.
A good ole fashioned Mason Jar will also do the trick, but to be honest, I usually just make enough salad dressing for one meal and wind up mixing it in a glass bowl with a fork. Couldn’t be easier.
This begs the question: when does salad dressing go bad? Store-bought dressings tend to last way longer than homemade because of the preservatives–if you go the store-bought route, simply follow the expiration date listed on the bottle.
But if you’re making your own salad dressing and wondering how long salad dressing is good for, I’d stay on the safe side and use your bottle within one week.
I’m sure legally I’m not supposed to tell you that you can store salad dressing for months on end in your fridge, but there’s not much in this recipe that would go bad, so for me personally, I just watch it. If mold starts to grow, toss it. Smell and taste the dressing before you douse your salad in it to be sure it’s still good, too. You’ll know if it’s gone bad. Trust me.
If you try this recipe, let us know what you think! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag the recipe #rootandrevel/@rootandrevel on Instagram.
In a medium glass bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk with a fork to combine.
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust.
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.