If you were to ask, “what’s the easiest salad dressing to make at home,” we’d likely say balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Besides being incredibly easy to make, balsamic vinaigrette is also among the most versatile salad dressings around. But not all balsamic vinaigrettes are created equal. The ingredients you choose can really make or break a recipe.
That’s why our founder, Nina, put quality ingredients at the forefront when creating what would ultimately become our “Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette” dressing. A delicious, unmatchable combination of pleasant tang and sweet flavor, our recipe is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, low in carbs and can bring out the best in practically any salad bowl recipe.
THE BALANCING ACT
As you’ve probably already guessed, balsamic vinaigrette dressing starts with balsamic vinegar. This is a deep, brown-colored, thick and rather sweet vinegar made from freshly pressed or crushed grapes. The quality of your balsamic vinegar will determine the texture and overall flavor profile of your vinaigrette, so you don’t want to just grab any old brand off the shelf.
Below, we talk about some things you should look for when choosing balsamic vinegar, specifically for our vinaigrette dressing. With a good quality balsamic balanced by the rich, fruity flavors of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), honey and other ingredients, our recipe delivers restaurant-quality taste and a good dose of nutrition – and it’s on your salad in five minutes.
Let’s talk more about what’s in our Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing recipe and why.
The Most Essential Ingredient
As balsamic vinegar is the most essential ingredient in our recipe, we recommend choosing your brand wisely. Many contain artificial colorings and other additives, which can change the entire flavor of your finished dressing. Quality is key. But you don’t have to go after the 12-year aged balsamic vinegars that are priced by the ounce. These can be very costly. Most grocery stores stock a good amount of high-quality brands at reasonable prices.
When choosing your balsamic vinegar, look for brands that list “grape must” as a first ingredient, not just “balsamic vinegar.” Some brands may also contain wine vinegar, but the presence of “must” is a good indicator of higher quality. The must is the freshly crushed juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes used. It’s the must that gives balsamic vinegar its naturally sweet flavor and thick texture.
The must is also a valuable source of antioxidants, probiotics and other valuable nutrients that support heart health, blood pressure control and proper digestion. In addition to must, which is a good thing, be on the lookout for common additives like “caramel coloring” – a not so good thing. As lower quality balsamic vinegars don’t develop that characteristic deep, brown hue, many producers add caramel color to their blends.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil for “Good” Fat
Our recipe also calls for EVOO. With its distinctly fruity and pepper taste, it delivers sweet and savory flavors that both elevate and balance out the overall taste profile of the balsamic vinegar. In and of itself, EVOO is naturally rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which are generally referred to as “good” fats (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn more about EVOO).
As with balsamic vinegar, you want to choose a good quality EVOO. Look for cold-pressed varieties, as these undergo minimal processing without the use of heat or chemicals. They’re generally packed in dark glass bottles as opposed to plastic. The resulting EVOO has a golden-yellow appearance. It also delivers a rich pungent flavor with just enough fruitiness to complement the balsamic vinegar.
A Perfect Pairing of Honey and Dijon
Honey and Dijon-style mustard go together like peas and carrots. That’s why our balsamic vinaigrette dressing calls for generous amounts of both. The natural sweetness and mild flavor of honey perfectly offsets the sharp and tangy taste of Dijon. It’s the perfect pairing of each that brings out the best elements of both and all the other ingredients in the recipe.
While largely comprised of natural sugars, unlike refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, honey contains a unique combination of phytonutrients that function as powerful antioxidants. We suggest using 100% pure honey for our dressing, as most phytonutrients are lost when it’s overly processed.
For the Dijon, we suggest using a grainy-style variety which, as implied by the description, has a “gritty” texture. A whole-grain brand like Grey Poupon is perfect as its rich spiciness adds great bite to the blend.
Subtly Savory Seasonings for the Finish
We finish off our balsamic vinaigrette dressing recipe with a simple seasoning blend of minced garlic and dried basil. A unique combination of sweet, savory flavors and aromatic qualities, these seasonings really bring the dressing to life. While you can use jarred minced garlic as a “shortcut,” we don’t recommend doing this. Jarred versions tend to have “off” flavors, which’ll be detectable in your finished dressing.
Once you’ve chosen your balsamic vinegar and gathered all the other ingredients for the dressing the hard work is pretty much done. At this point, you’ll simply blend or mix the ingredients to your desired consistency. If using a blender or food processor, just add all your ingredients and start mixing.
With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth. That’s it!
If you don’t have a blender or a food processor, no sweat! Simply add all the ingredients to a jar with a twist off lid and just shake it up until everything’s well-mixed. You can also combine and whisk all your ingredients together in a bowl.
The Versatility of Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette
Our Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing recipe makes 6-8 flavor-packed servings (2-3 tablespoons per serving). In addition to elevating the taste and nutritional profile of practically any salad bowl, it also makes a great marinade for meats, poultry and seafood. Try it on That Salad Lady’s “Light and Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad” or “Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad.”
We recommend transferring any leftover dressing to an airtight sealed container and then storing it in the fridge. It’ll last for up to 10 days.
SHOW US YOUR WORK
That Salad Lady wants to see all your great work. If you enjoy our Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.