For the Love of Ranch, Stop Buying Salad Dressing and Make Your Own384
with Michael Kimball
Test Kitchen Chef
Let’s be real. Green salads aren’t always thrilling to the senses. But we gotta get our chlorophyll somehow so we coin some carrots, dice a tomato, and bust out the beloved bottle of ranch to turn a literal pile of leaves into a much better tasting pile of leaves.
The difference is in the dressing.
You probably have a couple bottles in your fridge right now. How long have they been in there? No one knows. Are you ever going to finish that bottle of Italian dressing? No one knows that either, but what I do know is that making your own salad dressing will not only free up some valuable real estate in your fridge, it will also give you the opportunity to control what you put into your body. And in case you were wondering, there are five levels of salad dressing making mastery. Which sounds most like you?
Does the lettuce on my taco count as salad? (No.)
Calls all salad dressings ranch. Greatest strength: understands that “ranch” is great on things besides salad. Is often observed pouring liberally over potatoes, chicken, pizza, and directly into mouth.
Uses a salad spinner. Probably knows what an emulsifier is. Looks at the labels of store-bought dressings and thinks, “I wish there was a better way”.
Knows the “better way”. Can whip up a salad dressing from scratch with ingredients on hand. Also knows when to get a little help and always has a pack of Red Bell Ranch, Green Goddess, or Bleu Cheese in their cupboard for zero(ish) effort homemade dressings that sources (me) say often lead to increased vegetable consumption. Receives daily compliments on glowing, radiant skin from friends, coworkers, and grocery clerks... Probably because they eat so much salad.
Can make salad dressing with their mind.
Whatever level you currently identify with (perhaps all of them, depending on the day) I have a couple tips to help you level up your greens game.
Tips on How to Make Homemade Salad Dressing
Know your key players:
- An emulsifier (binding agent)
A solid ratio for a vinaigrette to have in your brain is 9:3:1.
9 parts oil, 3 parts acid, and 1 part emulsifier. The amount of salt you add totally depends on taste and if any of your other ingredients contain salt. I often go a little lighter on the oil and heavier on the sweet, sour, and salty ingredients, but it’s a good starting point.
I know we both already know what an emulsifier is, but let’s review anyways. Emulsifiers are able to bind to both oil and water, creating a homogenous mixture that is much less likely to separate. Mustard, mayo, egg yolk, and honey are the most common/best.
Taste your dressing and adjust. Need some zing? Add a squeeze of citrus or some capers. Need a little somethin’ somethin’? Add anchovies or a splash of Worcestershire. The best part about making your own dressings is that they are endlessly customizable. You can make them just how you like them.
Think beyond dressings with the textures and flavors you can add to spruce up your less-than-charming chard. Crunchy croissant croutons, tender toasted pine nuts, puckersome pickled red onions, tangy pickled mustard seeds, or smokey sweet grilled corn would do it.
For more inspiration, check out our library of nearly 100 salad and salad dressing recipes. Submit your own salad related recipes here and tag us on Instagram with evidence that you have ascended to level 5. Or just like a nice picture of some kale. Dressed, of course.