A Simple Formula for Salad Dressing

I recently looked across my collection of my favorite dressing and sauce recipes and realized in a moment of profound insight that they all are variations on the same basic salad dressing formula.

So, I created this template to help you stop buying bottled dressings and embrace this simple, elegant formula. Get creative, use what you have around, and become a dressing master. Let’s crush any mental barriers you have about making your own dressings from scratch.

My dressing aesthetic tends towards creamy (ranch, tahini, etc) but I can also get into a nice delicate vinaigrette. Whatever your preferences, in this post you’ll find everything you need to know to up-level your salad dressing game. 

“That we are willing to pay three or four dollars for bottled salad dressing when a delicious vinaigrette costs just pennies to make yourself, is an example of just how far away from the kitchen our processed food system has taken us. Embrace a single ratio, and you will walk away with a thousand vinaigrettes.”

~ Michael Ruhlman 

Salad Dressing Formula:

✨ 3 Parts Fat/Oil + 1 Part Acidic Ingredient

Yep, it’s that simple!

I challenge you to find a combination of fat/oil and an acidic ingredient below that DOESN’T work well as a dressing. I’ve found it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Be creative and use what you have to invent endless dressing possibilities. 

Fats/Oils (3 Parts)

  • Oil olive, canola, avocado, sesame etc.
  • Nut or seed butter tahini, peanut butter, etc.
  • Mayo I use vegan mayo
  • Hummus
  • Yogurt
  • Avocado
  • Soaked cashews for blended dressings

Acidic Ingredient (1 Part)

  • Vinegar balsamic, sherry, red wine, white wine, rice, etc
  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice

Optional Flavor Add-Ins

The fat/oil and the acidic ingredient make a perfectly nice dressing on their own but flavors are fun too!

  • Miso
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Orange
  • Fresh herbs cilantro, basil, chives, parsley
  • Dried seasonings cumin, garlic powder
  • Chili paste
  • Soy sauce
  • Canned chipotle pepper
  • Mustard
  • Honey
  • Turmeric

Magic Salad Dressing Ratio:

  • Combine the fat/oil and the acidic ingredient in a 3 to 1 ratio. 3 times more oil than acid.

Tips for Mixing Dressings

  • The most effective way of combining oil and the vinegar is in a blender. I love to use little blender cups like a nutribullet for dressings. The blender cups have lids so dressings can be stored right in their blending containers! Blending also helps the flavor gets evenly incorporated with chunky ingredients like garlic, ginger, or fresh herbs.
My Favorite
NutriBullet Blender Cup

I don't know if I could live without my nutribullet, I use it every single day for smoothies, dressings, and sauces. I love the easy cleanup and single serving sizes.

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  • You can also add the ingredients to a glass jar or bottle and shake to combine, or stir in a cup with a fork. 
  • For best results, all your ingredients should be at room temperature when you begin. The cooler the oil, the more difficult it is to emulsify it.
  • Once you’ve mixed things up, it’s nice to let the flavors meld for a while, especially when you go beyond the basic formula and introduce flavorings.

Sauce & Dressing Flavor Inspiration Gallery

What are your favorite dressing flavor combinations? Leave a comment below!

5 Comments

  1. Dana

    Katie! What a fantastic post! Thank you!

  2. Jana

    So helpful!! Thanks!

  3. Sonja

    This is awesome! 2 thumbs up :-D. Exactly the info I’ve needed as I don’t want to buy the stuff anymore. Thank you Katie

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you💖

  5. Anonymous

    Mmmm mmmm can’t wait to try many of these!

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