A good salad dressing is essential for a good salad. Buying ready made salad dressings in the supermarket can be expensive and many of them come with a long list of highly processed ingredients. Homemade salad dressings are far tastier and you know exactly what's in them. So if you want to ditch the bottled salad dressings here are my top five hacks for making your own at home, plus three of my current 'go-to' recipes.
1. Stock up on cupboard staples including extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, nut butter, cashew nuts. These are cupboard essentials which when combined with fresh ingredients such as herbs, garlic, ginger and lemon and lime juice make delicious dressings. You don't have to go out and buy all these ingredients in one go. Hopefully you will already have some in your kitchen cupboard and you can get the others over time.
2. Get familiar with the basic formula for homemade dressings. A good dressing is typically made from a combination of three element: (a) oils/fats, (b) acids and (c) seasonings/flavourings. For oils and fats, look to olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, sesame oil, tahini, nut butters, egg yolks. For acids, think vinegars such as apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and lime juice. The choice of flavourings and seasonings are endless; try miso, tamari, mustard, sea salt, black pepper, ginger, chilli, fresh herbs and spices.
3. If in doubt keep it simple and a vinaigrette is hard to look past for ease and flavour. For a vinaigrette, a good rule of thumb to follow is to mix three parts oil to one part vinegar and season. There are lots of options for adding interest and depth to vinaigrettes; add chopped fresh herbs for a flavour burst, use honey or maple syrup for sweetness, add chopped chilli for heat and use spices such as cinnamon and smoked paprika for intensity.
4. To achieve a creamy dressing, use ripe avocado, soaked cashew nuts blended, natural yoghurt or creme fraiche. Cashew nuts are high in fat and when soaked and drained blend into a creamy consistency. For a plant based dressing use these or ripe avocados. For a diary based dressing, use natural yoghurt or creme fraiche. These dressings can be seasoned and flavoured in the same way as a vinaigrette.
5. When it comes to dressing your salad, always dress lightly so that the salad leaves and vegetables are lightly coated with the dressing and serve the remaining dressing in a little bowl on the side so diners can help themselves. In salad terms, the only thing worse than salad leaves drowning in an overpowering dressing, is running out of dressing when you have lots of lovely vegetables left to eat. Dressing lightly while providing extra dressing on the side addresses both these situations.
Recipe Time !!
To get you started, I am sharing with you three of my current 'go-to' salad dressings. The first recipe is for a Herby Vinaigrette which is the perfect dressing for a leafy green salad or a tomato and red onion salad. Chose your favourite herb and finely chop it before adding it to your vinaigrette; I'm currently crushing on fresh oregano.
The second dressing is for a Creamy Lime Dressing, perfect for a Mexican style salad. I love it dolloped over roast sweet potato, spinach leaves, tomatoes and avocado. The creaminess is achieved by blending soaked cashew nuts along with the other ingredients. Cashew nuts are quite a fatty nut, so they take the place of olive oil in this recipe.
The third recipe, I'm sharing with you today is for a Chilli & Cashew Dressing, perfect for serving in an Asian type salad. Grate red cabbage, carrots, courgette and mix with broccoli florets. Drizzle half this dressing over your vegetables and serve the remainder on the side. Top with toasted sesame seeds and cashew nuts for a hot and spicy way of eating lots of delicious and healthy raw vegetables.
Option 1: Herby Viniagrette
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch sea salt
Small bunch of fresh herbs, finely chopped
Add all the ingredients to a jar, close the lid tightly and shake well to combine.
Option 2: Creamy Lime Dressing
1 cup cashews, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, drained, rinsed
The juice of 3 limes
1/2 cup of water
2 cloves of garlic
Pinch of sea salt
Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Option 3: Chilli & Cashew Dressing
2 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp cashew nut butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 red chilli
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
To make the dressing, add all of the dressing ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a small bowl for serving. If you don't have a food processor or blender, just chop the chilli very finely and add it and the other ingredients to a bowl and whisk well to combine.