Recently for lunch, I made a quick salad and a homemade dressing. Making your own salad dressing is probably easy for most people (blend oil, some kind of vinegar and add some spices) but making a healthier version can be trickier if you don’t know what to do.
Here are my rules/steps to make your own, oil-free dressing, which is low in fat and made with mostly whole foods. It treats your body with nourishment, your taste buds with delight and does NOT bog down your arteries:
- Choose a base: You need something that will serve as the base for your dressing. Look for something that will blend nicely and not be too thin or thick of a consistency.
I often use fruit. Mangoes and oranges are my favourite, but others like kiwi, pear and berries work well too. Some veggies work, like tomato or cucumber.
In addition to fruit and veggies, you can also use things like balsamic vinegar, but it is thin and strong. Balsamic vinegar can be overpowering and if used as a base, will make your dressing to thin/watery.
Another fantastic option is hummus. Ideally, you’ve made it yourself, and it has no oil. Store-bought hummus works just fine too. I almost always have store-bought hummus in the fridge because it is so handy.
- Choose a flavor: What kind of zing do you want? Add garlic, herbs, spices, or condiments to experiment with tastes you like. Sometimes, fruit will work to tone down some flavors. Dates add a little sweet taste to balance with dressing that seems a bit tart or bitter. Here are some faves of mine:
-ginger and garlic
-cilantro and garlic
-cilantro and lemon
-lemon and Mrs. Dash Original or Mrs. Dash Lemon
-soy sauce, ginger and garlic
-balsamic vinegar and garlic
-tomato, garlic, dates and chili peppers
Start to pay attention to flavors you enjoy and think about how they might fit into a salad dressing. Look online for flavor combinations that seem to work.
Other herbs/spices/condiments to try:
Mustard, dijon mustard, horseradish sauce, parsley, dill, basil, celery salt, ground pepper etc.
How did I figure out what I like? By experimenting.
I usually just open my fridge, see what’s there and then start to put together some ideas. Don’t be afraid to try things. Believe me, I’ve made some dressings that weren’t great. So what? I also made beauties I loved. You just have to try. Have some fun!
- Blend and Adjust:I combine my ingredients together and blend them. At this point, I’m checking for consistency. Is the dressing too thin? Too thick? If it is, and I’m in a rush, I might leave it. If I have time, then I’ll see what I can add to thin it out or make it thicker.
Too thin? Add a bit of tofu, hummus or a small handful of chickpeas or other legumes. Maybe a bit more fruit or veggie.
Too thick? I find this is the easiest fix. Just add a bit of water or other liquid like veggie broth or orange juice.
Blender Tip: I usually make dressing as I need it…just a small batch, so I use my Magic Bullet. I like it because it’s fast and easy to blend and clean up. However, it doesn’t blend dressing as smoothly. This means there might be some chunky parts. If I’m making dressing for a few people, for guests, or if I want to keep it in the fridge for a few days, I’ll definitely use my Vitamix. It blends dressings so smoothly, but it takes a few seconds longer to clean up.
Here’s what I did for the dressing I made a few days ago.
Let’s call it Mandarin Garlic Dressing
Base: mandarin orange
Flavor: garlic* and cilantro
*If you notice the garlic has a bit of a dark colour, it’s because I buy peeled garlic in batches. The cloves go bad in the fridge before I can use them all, so I put only what I think I’ll need over a couple of weeks in the fridge, and then I freeze the rest. When a garlic clove thaws after being frozen, it has that dark colour. The taste doesn’t seem to change.
Consistency: It was a bit thick, but I didn’t mind; it tasted so fresh and delicious.
The dressing I made may not be the prettiest you’ve seen, but frankly, I don’t care what my dressing looks like, as long as it tastes delicious!
Salad dressings provide the perfect situation for experimenting. There are only a small amount of ingredients, so if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped, then that’s ok!
Making your own dressings is one of the secrets to eating healthy salads, without adding all the fat, sugar and unpronounceable ingredients included in most store-bought dressings. The big secret is finding ways to replace that ever-expected ingredient: oil.
If you really want to cut out oil, try your own homemade dressing. Become your own food scientist by experimenting in the lab in your home: your kitchen.
Wishing you health and success on your journey,