The benefits of healthy homemade salad dressing, with a recipe for Garlicky-Sage Dressing.
Homemade salad dressing has totally rocked my world.
Its the icing on my cake….err, salad.
And let me tell ya. I am a TOTAL salad fan girl.
But before I go any further, let’s get something established: the TRUE definition of salad. I see a couple of mindsets around salad, that just kill me.
The first one is: ” Yay, salad! [said sarcastically] Okay let’s see. I’ve got the lettuce…now I”ll just drizzle a little dressing on top (not enough to actually make it taste good, though, because, you know…all that OIL). Now to shove this big pile of lettuce in my mouth, because it’s sooo good for me…”
The second one is: “Oh yay, I LOVE salad! I mean who doesn’t love a big ol’ bowl of ranch dressing and cheese with a little lettuce on top?”
I hate to break it to you, but NEITHER of these is a salad. Salad, is a mountain of colorful veggies, drizzled with deliciousness (that is, homemade dressing), with extra goodies piled on top.
But I get it. For a while, romaine was about the only raw vegetable you could get me to eat. And unless it was covered in cheddar cheese and ranch, FORGET about it.
Honestly, the only reason I ate salad was because…well, parents tend to try to get you to do things that are healthy. 😉 Many years (and bowls of salad) later, I find myself CRAVING a good salad. To keep cravings to a minimum, I simply eat salad every day. Easy peasy.
Now, I’ve already talked about why to add more leafy greens into your diet, so I won’t go there. But I will say this: If you’re serious about nourishing your body, get some salad in there!
Personally, I don’t just love salad because it’s healthy. I love it because it’s so tasty! But I owe my love for salad, in part, to my discovery of homemade salad dressing. It also helps that I found out oil is not inherently bad for you (or your skin), so I can go ahead and drizzle a delicious amount on there.
Sooo, 5 reasons why I’m totally hooked on homemade salad dressing:
- Its healthy (I mean, who wants to ruin a perfectly healthy salad by dousing it with a bottle of preservatives, sugar, and inflammatory oils?)
- It’s delicious (why else would I be raving about it?)
- Its super easy (I can’t believe all the time I wasted, eating store-bought dressing)
- It’s inexpensive (Whisking a few ingredients together yourself, is a lot cheaper than paying someone else to.)
- Its probiotic, surprise, surprise! (more on this later)
Before I get to a delicious recipe that will seriously take just 5 minutes, lets go over a couple of core ingredients needed to make your own dressing. After all, the whole point of homemade salad dressing, is that its healthier AND delicious, right? So you want to make sure to start with high quality, healthy ingredients.
The Good: Extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil is the best option, in my opinion, with amazing flavor to boot. There’s also avocado and macadamia nut oil (though these are much pricier). When choosing your oil, it’s best if stored in a dark glass bottle.
The Bad: As a general rule, just stay away from the highly processed oils, and anything called “vegetable oil”. Examples: canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil
You can always check out Mark Sisson’s Definitive Guide to Oils for more information on choosing the right oil.
There’s a wide variety of vinegars out there, and they all lend a different flavor. You can use fresh lemon or lime juice in place of the vinegar, or use half vinegar and half lemon juice. So many options! When choosing vinegars, make sure you’re getting a pure vinegar. Some contain caramel color, sulfites (preservatives that can trigger mild allergic reaction), and other nasty ingredients. So read the label! There’s a bit of controversy over whether distilled white vinegar is gluten-free. And even if it’s not made from wheat, another popular ingredient is corn (which is mostly GMO and heavily “pesticided”). Obviously, the distillation process affects these, but I’m not sure to what extent. So, just be aware that this may not be the best choice of vinegar. If using Apple Cider Vinegar (definitely my favorite!), look for one that is unpasteurized, and still contains what’s called the “mother”; that way you’ll get extra health benefits from your salad dressing. 🙂
And here’s where it gets real…the PROBIOTIC benefit! I was seriously so excited when I discovered that you can use the brine leftover from any lacto-fermented vegetables, in place of vinegar! Whaaat? Not only does it save you a lot of money, but you can now enjoy all the benefits of fermented foods on your salad, long after you’ve finished off the last of your fermented radishes. So there it is. Make your salad dressing probiotic, simply by using up leftovers. My favorite vinegars are: balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and lacto-fermented radish brine.
Now that we have THAT settled, you’re in for a real treat.
With my mini herb garden last summer, I was able to experience the wonders of FRESH sage. Which brings me to my current favorite salad dressing of all time…Garlicky-Sage Vinaigrette! Get a few sage leaves, and get whiskin’!
Now, you know you want to get all creative with your salad icing, so here’s a quick template to get you started!
DIY Healthy Salad Dressing Template
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 garlic clove (halved), optional
- sea salt to taste
- herbs and spices to taste
- Extras (optional) – fresh pureed berries, Dijon mustard, stevia extract, etc.
Add more vinegar for more tangy-ness, or switch it out completely, for lemon juice. Do whatever floats your salad boat.
Healthy Homemade Salad Dressing Tips
- As a rule, I prefer to keep my sweetener usage to actual sweets and treats. I figure, why waste my sugar intake (healthy sweetener or not) on salad? But if you choose to make a sweet n’ tangy dressing, or simply want to add more complexity to the flavor of your salad, raw honey and stevia extract are really good options. Favorite alert! Pomegranate vinaigrette on a spinach salad, with soaked and dehydrated walnuts, and fresh orange slices.
- Fresh herbs give it such flavor! And the longer they sit in the oil and vinegar, the more flavor you get.
- Even when not using fresh herbs, the longer your dressing sits, the better. I prefer my vinaigrette a few days old.
- If you want intense flavor, quicker (or want the dressing to keep longer), use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder instead of a whole garlic clove, and dried herbs rather than fresh
- You can emulsify the dressing by mixing all ingredients except the oil, then slowly drizzling it in as you desperately whisk. 😉 Or use a blender that allows you to pour into it, as it blends. This will keep the oil and vinegar from separating. Though, I actually do neither. To save time and dishes, I just whisk together, then shake before using.
- When it comes to storing your dressing, refrigeration is always best. If you let it come to room temperature before serving, it will pour easier, and you won’t have to worry about emulsifying the oil, because you can shake it all up again. However, I usually leave mine at room temperature, since we go through it so fast (1 or 2 weeks), and I’ve never had a problem (even with fresh garlic and herbs). Use your own judgment.
What’s your favorite salad dressing? Have you tried your hand at homemade dressing before?
By the way, to my email subscribers: Look for a bonus salad dressing recipe, coming your way this weekend! And if you’re already not on my email list, you can sign up below: