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Dressings 101

April 5, 2011

Since I had leftovers for dinner and had nothing very exciting happen today, I decided to talk about something I work with almost everyday.


If you don’t know already, I’m a supervisor of the cold side of the line in a restaurant.  Cold side includes [but not limited to], dressings and vinaigrettes, sauces, condiments, salads, cold meats, antipasti, cheeses, dips and spreads, etc.

So with that, here is,

Dressings 101.

Here I will show you my basic method of preparation as well as my essential ingredients needed to create a delicious dressing.

Once you master the basics, you can make any flavor you want!

**Note in this post, I’m mainly talking about vinaigrettes, not creamy, dairy based dressings.**

Let’s get started.

For me, every dressing starts with four ingredients that create a good structure.

1. Sweetener: It depends what sort of dressing I’m making, but I use either sugar or honey as my sweetener.  It’s essential to have a little sweetness to balance out the acidity of the vinegar.

2.  Mustard: I feel that a good mustard helps emulsify the dressing.  Plus it gives it a little “tang”.  I like to use either a good whole grain mustard or dijon mustard.

3. Olive Oil:  Absolute staple in a dressing.  I prefer a good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Since you won’t be cooking with the olive oil, you want it to be the best that it can be.  I personally am a huge fan of Greek olive oils.

4. Vinegar: You absolutely need a vinegar when making a dressing.  There are so many types out there that the possibilities are endless!  In the picture above, it’s a red wine vinegar.


Now that you have the basics, let’s move on.

Again, depending on what kind of dressing I am making, I will sometimes add either shallots.

Or garlic.

Or both!

I chop them into a fine mince and add them to the mix.


Now these next two ingredients are a kitchen staple.

Salt and Pepper.

They are just essential ingredients in cooking, period.

In my kitchen at home, I use a fine grain sea salt and fresh crack black pepper.


Let’s recap so far, shall we?

My basic ingredients to create a dressing are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, vinegar, a sweetener, mustard, salt/pepper, garlic or shallots.

You guys still with me?


Now that you have all your ingredients, let’s combine them.

I like to mix the dressing two different ways:

When making larger batches of dressings or when I really want to emulsify it, I use my immersion blender.

Everyone should own one of these.  They are so, so handy in the kitchen!

This one cost me $29 in Sur La Table.  I use this thing at work everyday, so I don’t need a fancy, schmancy, expensive one.


Now when I’m at home and just making a small batch of dressing, I find it easiest to just use a mason jar.

All you have to do is put all of your ingredients inside, screw on the top tight, and shake, shake, shake!!

Yet another reason why I LOVE mason jars.


Now that you know how to make a basic dressing, let’s complicate it a little. 🙂

Sometimes a basic dressing can seem a little boring.

Don’t worry, there are lots of things you can do to elevate your dressing and make it even more flavorful!

First thing, Dried herbs and spices.

Dried herbs and spices are such an easy way to add a little flavor to your dressings.

Just be careful not to add too much!

Of course you can always add fresh herbs too, like cilantro, basil or parsley.


Now, if you want your dressing to have a little “kick”, then you need this stuff.


I love this stuff.  Not only does it add great spice and flavor, it also give it a nice color too!


With the spring season upon us and the upcoming summer season, a little bit of citrus goes a long way!

I like to use the zest and juices.  It makes for such a light and refreshing dressing that everybody will love.


Like I said before, these are just the basics of creating a well balanced dressing.  The flavor combinations are endless.

Feel like a Thai inspired dressing? Add a little coconut milk or curry.  Need a Latin inspiration?  Go with some chipotles, lime juice and cilantro.

See what I mean?

Just have fun with it.  It all depends on YOUR palette and what YOU want to taste.


I hope you all enjoyed the post!  More importantly, I hope you guys learned something new!

It was kind of fun doing a post like this, and wouldn’t mind doing more stuff like this in the future.

Would love to hear feedback on it too!! It means a lot.

Hope you all have a great night 🙂


6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 9:34 pm

    Vanessa, teaching the basics is a valuable thing for beginning cooks. I cannot stand the taste of bottled salad dressings from the grocery store and have been making mine from scratch for years. Recently, I made a classic French vinaigrette and added the meat of a whole avocado. I had to thin it with water, it was so creamy and thick. It was a great dressing for our salad. It would have been great as a dip, too. It’s fun experimenting. 🙂

    • April 5, 2011 11:01 pm

      I definitely agree. It’s so key to learn the basic techniques of cooking. Once you grasp the technique, the possibilities are endless 🙂 I agree with the store bought dressings. I like to make them from scratch that way I can make them how I want. Love the addition of avocado in dressings!! Sounds so good!

  2. April 5, 2011 9:40 pm

    I love making salad dressings!!

    i think it would be great to hear more about your tasty cooking!!

  3. floyd arnold permalink
    April 6, 2011 4:35 pm

    great job…keep it up!

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