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8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

Hi there.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked my newsletter subscribers what cooking information they really wanted, what they wanted to learn and what type of recipes they are interested in. Wow, people love to give their opinions about food and cooking.  I took their responses to heart and made a list.  I checked it twice and shared a lesson on last Friday’s newsletter.  (Sign up if you want to put in your two cents.) I’m sharing this first lesson of the year with you.

Folks who have attended my cooking classes over the years know that I am adamant about making home-made vinaigrette. I have not bought a bottle of dressing in the grocery store in years.

First, what is a vinaigrette? It’s one of the mother sauces (yes, technically, it’s a sauce), generally used to dress salad greens and other cold vegetables. Specifically, it’s a temporary emulsion, meaning it will separate if the ingredients are not whisked or shaken.

Why are the French and chefs such fans of making home-made vinaigrette?  I’ll tell you why . . .

 Here are 8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home:

  • It tastes better
  • It’s easy
  • It’s fast
  • It doesn’t contain added sugar
  • You can control the amount of salt
  • It’s cheaper
  • You have more variety with fewer ingredients
  • It doesn’t take up space in your refrigerator (and get messy on the shelf)

What equipment do you need to make vinaigrette? Not much.  Just 2 things:

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

  • a small stainless or glass bowl
  • a small whisk
How about ingredients?  At the very least, 4 essential ingredients:
  • acid ( no, not anything that would harm you)
  • fat
  • salt
  • pepper
So let’s talk about the acid. An acid is a natural ingredient that is sour, such as vinegar, wine, and citrus juices. The acid is what gives the vinaigrette pop, zip, spark. Without acidity your vinaigrette is flat and boring.

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

Next is the fat, in the form of oil, preferably really good extra virgin olive oil.  Canola oil is neutral and won’t impart much taste and olive oil just doesn’t have enough taste. Oil gives the vinaigrette a nice “mouth feel” and of course flavor.

TIP:  I keep my canola, olive oil, and extra virgin olive oils in plastic squeeze bottles for easy access and measuring.

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

Salt, preferably kosher or sea salt, is what gives vinaigrette (and any sauce) a spark. Without it, vinaigrette will taste flat.

Pepper gives vinaigrette a little spice, a little kick.

TIP: keep your salt and pepper out on the counter for easy use.

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

Pretty simple, huh?  Yes, it is. What are the extras that take vinaigrette to the next level?

  • Dijon mustard
  • shallots
  • herbs
  • spices

Why the extras?

Shallots, herbs and spices add flavor.  What you add and how much is personal preference. Dijon mustard also adds flavor, but it has a second purpose: mustard acts as an emulsifier, a bonding agent, holding the acid and the fat together.

Maille (pronounced my) is my favorite.

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

Shallots, a cross between onion and garlic, are classic in a vinaigrette.  If you don’t have any on hand, try finely chopped red onion.

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

How to make a vinaigrette? Here is the classic technique (enough vinaigrette for 2 salads):

  • in a small bowl, place 1 tablespoon of finely diced shallot
  • add 1 tablespoon acid of choice
  • add 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 1 or 2 grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Give a quick stir and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes.

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

Drizzle into the bowl 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (or other oil of choice) and vigorously whisk to combine; taste the vinaigrette and season with more salt if necessary. It’s helpful to place a dish towel under bowl to keep it still while you whisk.

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

8 Reasons Why You Should Make Vinaigrette at Home

TIP: use a piece of salad green as “tasting spoon”; just dip the leaf in the vinaigrette to check seasoning.  If it tastes flat, add more acidity or salt.

That’s it.  Easy, simple and delicious. Done in 30 seconds.

Did you notice how much acid and how much oil?  1 tablespoon acid to 3 tablespoons oil, a ratio of 1:3.  That’s the standard. If you like a little more acidity, you can increase the acid to 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Now, how do you create variety in a vinaigrette?

  • substitute coarse ground mustard or honey mustard or another flavored mustard for the Dijon
  • vary the acid ~ this the easiest option ~ pick from one of the following: red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, blood orange vinegar, and of course, balsamic vinegar or white balsamic vinegar.  The choices in vinegars in today’s market are huge, so we should take advantage of the offerings.
  • instead of vinegar, use a citrus, such as lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit, or white or red wine or a combination of vinegar and citrus. Nothing “pops” a vinaigrette like a squeeze of lemon.
  • use a different oil: sesame, grapeseed, walnut, hazelnut
  • fresh, chopped herbs: thyme, oregano, basil, dill, tarragon
  • spices, such as a red pepper flakes, Tabasco, Sriracha, horseradish
  • minced garlic or ginger or cheese, such as hard or grated cheeses, such as Parmesan, Pecorino, Assiago or crumbled cheeses, such as feta, goat or Gorgonzola

How long will vinaigrette last in the refrigerator? First, let me say that I like to make just enough for the number of servings I need.  If you do have extra vinaigrette, put it in an airtight jar.  It should last for several days.  Shake to re-emulsify the ingredients.

I hope this little lesson showed you why you should make vinaigrette part of your culinary “toolbox”.  Once you get used to making your own, you can say good-bye to the bottles in the fridge; think of the space you will free up, the money you will save, the lower calories, and the better tasting salads you will be serving.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

ONE MORE TIP: If your vinaigrette is too thick, drizzle a few drops of warm water into it and whisk until you get the consistency you want.

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4 Comments

  1. Carol,
    Over the years I have tried to make a vinaigrette like the ones we’ve eaten in France. Mine just never taste as good as the French ones even when I used ingredients brought home from France… extra virgin olive oil, etc…

    I’ll follow you directions and give it another try. Thanks for all the great tips with variations.

    Judith

    1. Judith, Make sure you have the oil to acid ratio 3:1 and season with salt until it tastes right to you. Definitely add the Dijon. I’ve been using this method for years and I don’t even have to measure my oil and vinegar any more. Practice makes delicious!

  2. Most “you should be making this at home posts” normally make me want to buy the product in stores even more because it seems like so much work to make it at home. But I think I could actually do this! And I love vinaigrettes!

    Thanks so much for joining us on The Alder Collective! Pinning, and we hope to see you again this week!

    1. Kayla, after you get used to making your own vinaigrettes at home and discover how easy and versatile, not to mention less expensive and tasty, you’ll never go back. Let me know how it goes.

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