Classic Vinaigrette (aka Salad Dressing)

salad, salad dressing, vinaigrette

Classic VinaigretteSalad dressing is somewhat of a hot button for many of us. We either have a little fear of it and keep hitting the bottle (bottled dressing, of course), which is often pretty gross, or we get stuck in a one-dressing rut.

First of all, vinaigrette is just French for oil and vinegar. Okay, no, that’s not quite true, but it certainly is partly true and this is helpful in making things much less scary. This basic classic vinaigrette recipe lets you make a classic vinaigrette in two minutes. My family likes their dressing pretty vinegary. If you don’t, use less vinegar. And try adding the minced shallot at least once; I really think (along with the Dijon mustard) it’s what makes a vinaigrette a vinaigrette.

Here’s my favorite very basic vinaigrette tip: Use two different vinegars in your dressing. This creates a very nice kind of layering of flavors and just takes it to a slightly higher level, all for the extra 20 seconds it takes to open a second bottle of vinegar. Some favorite combos: red wine and sherry vinegars; balsamic and red wine vinegars; white wine and unseasoned rice vinegars.

Vinaigrettes are a really nice way to have some fun in the kitchen with your kids that doesn’t involved baking. Mine are endlessly experimenting in the vinaigrette department—it’s like a chemistry project that you can eat.

Finally, vinaigrette is so forgiving. Too oily? Add more vinegar. Too tart? Add more oil. Too bland? Add more salt, or maybe a bit of mustard. Too salty? Add more oil, and maybe some vinegar. When you get your perfect balance you’ll just have a bigger stash of vinaigrette to tuck in the fridge.

Classic Vinaigrette (aka Salad Dressing)


  • 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup vinegar(s) of your choice, such as red wine, white wine, balsamic, unseasoned rice, and cider
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt, or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the olive oil, vinegar(s), shallot, if using, mustard, and salt in a container with a lid, cover it. You can continue with Step 2 or go directly to Step 3.

2. See the Fork in the Road suggestions below for seasoning the dressing.

3. Shake the vinaigrette to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more mustard and/or salt if necessary and pepper to taste. Use about 1 teaspoon of dressing per cup of salad.

Make Ahead

You can store it in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week. Let the vinaigrette sit out for 10 to 15 minutes to come to room temperature and give it a good shake to mix it again before using.

Fork in the Road

Put half of the basic vinaigrette in a separate container and add any of the following to the rest of the vinaigrette, alone, or in combination.

1 1⁄2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, or 1⁄4 teaspoon finely minced garlic, with, or instead of, the optional shallot • 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon dried herbs, or 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs—either a single herb or a combination; basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley are some good choices • 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon minced sun-dried tomatoes • 11⁄2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon minced black olives • 1 to 11⁄2 tablespoons crumbled or grated cheese, such as goat cheese, feta, blue cheese, or Parmesan

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