Making Your Own Salad Dressing

I’ll admit it — up until about a year ago, I was not a salad person. In fact, when asked, I’d probably tell you I hated salads. The reason? Most of the salads I’d eaten over the course of my lifetime consisted of limp greens drenched in store-bought dressing loaded with artificial ingredients. Sure, there were a few high-quality salads eaten at restaurants, but I always considered those a treat that I couldn’t possibly replicate at home. Or could I?

I’m not sure what exactly spurred me to give salads another try, but one fateful day last fall, I decided to set aside my hatred and try making my own salad, dressing and all. I opened a cookbook my Dad bought me when I first moved out on my own, Food Network Kitchens’ How to Boil Water — a must-have for any home cook, no matter his or her skill level — flipped to the page with salad dressing recipes, and got to work. The recipes in the cookbook seemed decent, but a little less healthy than I preferred, so I decided to experiment by replacing some of the oil called for in a recipe with vinegar. I started out by drizzling my dressings over a bed of spinach, but I soon got creative by swapping in more exotic (to me, at least) greens like arugula and escarole. I then tried jazzing up my salads with toppings like dried cranberries, walnuts, almonds, apples and mandarin oranges. The results were more than I could have imagined when I started my salad experiment — they actually made me love salad!  

I’ve since become a salad convert, putting together my own creative salads with homemade dressing every chance I get. I never work off a formal salad recipe, but rather make whatever I’m in the mood for, always using a combination of ingredients that includes some sort of leafy green as a base, nuts, dried or fresh fruit and, of course, homemade dressing.  

When making my own dressing , I stick to a rough formula of two tablespoons of vinegar, one tablespoon of oil or another source of (healthy) fat, and one teaspoon to one tablespoon of some sort of flavoring (this formula makes enough for two salads). I season to taste with a little bit of freshly ground black pepper, whisk all of the ingredients together and enjoy!  

While I always like playing around with different combinations of ingredients, the three dressings below are my tried-and-true favorites:

All recipes developed by Ashley Mason, MS

Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Peanut Dressing

1 tablespoon natural creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions (for all three dressings)

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days. Yields enough dressing for two salads.
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Ashley Mason
Ashley Mason, MS, is a Stone Soup blogger and director of a WIC program in northeastern Massachusetts.