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How to Make a Vinaigrette – Basic Instructions and Variations

Updated on November 26, 2009

Learn a few tricks of the trade, free yourself from the tyranny of recipes and cookbooks and start to have more fun in the kitchen!

This is what it’s all about – once you know how recipes work, you’re free to move beyond them and to start creating your own masterpieces in the kitchen. This is not only a whole lot more fun, it also lets you take advantage of what’s local and what’s good (or what’s available in your day-before-the-weekly-shopping-trip fridge!) to create better tasting food.


Everyone should know how to make salad dressings and you shouldn’t ever need to crack a book to get a recipe. Vinaigrettes are dead easy and by knowing the basics you can make a thousand variations - with taste combinations limited only by your imagination.

Here’s what you need to know. A vinaigrette is:

  • 3 parts oil to 1 part acid - with salt to taste.

Whisk the ingredients together until mixed completely (emulsified) and serve.

Know this basic formula and you can make a basic but very tasty vinaigrette. 3 Tbls of olive oil with 1 Tbls of red wine vinegar with a good pinch of salt is an excellent basic salad dressing that flavors mild greens very nicely.

Vinaigrette Variations

So, now that you know the basic formula, you can start to get creative, mixing different oils (fats) with different acids and adding in different flavorings. Such as:

  • Oils – Extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, nut oils, such as walnut oil or sesame oil (usually not used for the whole amount of oil) rendered liquid bacon fat (great for spinach salad) liquid duck fat, others
  • Acids – vinegars, such as red or white wine, sherry, balsamic, apple cider, rice and others. Citrus fruit juices, such as lime, grapefruit or lemon juice - tamarind water
  • Salty – usually, it’s best to stick with salt here, but you could also use fish sauce or soya sauce, for example, to bring in other flavors along with the salty tatse.
  • Sweet – a lot of vinaigrettes also work well with a sweet counterpoint – you can add a sweet note to your vinaigrette by adding a small amount of different sugars, honey, or different syrups
  • Flavoring notes – you can really get creative with the addition of different flavor notes, such as, minced fresh herbs, garlic, roasted garlic, minced onion or shallots, citrus zest, finely chopped nuts, chili peppers, Dijon mustard, horseradish and many more flavors.

Start with a base of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, whisk this mixture together until it has emulsified and then mix and match between sweet, salty and different flavoring elements.

  1. Oils
  2. Acids
  3. Salts
  4. Sweets
  5. Flavors

You’ll have a lot of fun, you won’t need to open a cookbook, you’ll never need to buy a salad dressing again and your salads will TASTE BETTER!



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    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Sorry, rmcrayne, I' not very familiar with that stuff - if you find out I'd love to know, however!

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Thanks for the tips. Doesn't sound too intimidating. Any tips for "essential oils", now often recommended for optimal health, and stored in the refrigerator? Such as flax, hemp, primrose oils?