A salad, either very simple or elaborate, is not complete without a light coat of dressing.

Whether this is a sharp mustard vinaigrette, creamy mayonnaise or a simple sprinkling of cold pressed oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, the basis for all dressings is oil and vinegar in their many and varied forms.

You can go for a robust, peppery or fruity olive oil, a buttercup yellow, nutty rapeseed, or keep it light with a neutral tasting sunflower oil.

A bit about oils

There are many different varieties and grades of oil. The best is ‘cold pressed’ or ‘extra virgin’. This means that the oil has been extracted on the first pressing, without heat or added water to help the process along. This retains as many of the available nutrients as possible, including omega fats. Different varieties of oil have different ratios and properties. Check the bottle to see what makes the oil inside special.

Depending on the flavours in your salad and whether you have a peppery, bitter or sweet tang to your leaves will depend on the kind of oils you want to use. You can even blend a strong and mild oil together to dilute the flavour if need be.

An image of three bottles of oil with some poured into tasting dishes

Some oils to get you thinking

Olive, rapeseed, corn, hazelnut, walnut, sesame, safflower, sunflower.

If you buy ingredients like sundried tomatoes in oil, rather than throwing the oil away when the jar is finished, use the oil to give a great sundried tomato flavour to your dressing.

Additional Ingredients

These add extra depth of flavour and interest to your dressing.

Fresh, such as herbs, garlic, chilli, lemon, lime or orange zest

Dried or from a jar, Dijon & wholegrain mustard, dried chillis or herbs, onion or garlic powder, ground or crushed spices.

All Purpose Salad Dressing

An image of a bottle of salad dressing

Click on the title for a downloadable pdf

A bit about vinegar

Dressings are made with oil, plus an acid. This can be lemon, lime, yogurt, soy sauce or more commonly, vinegar.

The word ‘vinegar’ comes from the French ‘vin-aigre’ or sour wine and as with oils, they come in many different varieties and flavours.

The first batches of vinegar were probably a result of the wine making process going wrong. If grape must is fermented at too high a temperature, with the addition of oxygen, instead of wine being produced, vinegar is made instead.

An image of three bottles of vinegar infused with herbs

Some vinegars and other acids to choose from

Vinegar – White wine, red wine, cider, sherry, balsamic, rice, champagne, fruit flavoured vinegars, herb vinegars.

Other acids – juices of lemon, lime, mango, tomato, yogurt, soy sauce

The Definitive Vinaigrette Dressing

Vinaigrette or French dressing is the most widely used of all salad dressings and forms the basis of many variations.

The basic proportions are 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, with the type of oil and vinegar used determining the flavour of the dressing.

Many additional ingredients can be added to this basic recipe in larger or smaller quantities depending on the strength and flavour of the dressing required. It’s very much a matter of individual taste and requirements, so be adventurous and experiment for yourself.

The quickest and easiest way to make a vinaigrette is to put all the ingredients into a screw top jar and shake vigorously. This gives you a quantity of dressing that can be used fairly quickly. The dressing will separate out as it sits, so you’ll need to give it a shake every time you want to use it.

If you’re making a larger amount, a stick blender or liquidiser is a good tool to emulsify the mixture more thoroughly.

Click HERE for three more dressing recipes