How to dress a salad

The goal of this post is to provide readers with step-by-step instructions for how to dress a salad at home. How to dress a salad can be said in many ways, but the overall goal is: dressing and assembling the ingredients for a healthy and delicious meal. To dress a salad, you need to prepare the dressing and apply it to your dish. To achieve the goal, I will walk you through some basic steps, and eventually, we will reach the ultimate salad dressing method.

How to dress a salad

The importance of dressing depends on many factors, including how often you eat salads at a restaurant. My conclusions are as follows: You should only eat a single kind of salad at a time and have it dressed innovatively. The innovative way is what we will be exploring today.

The post may contain affiliate links. For more information, check my disclosure.

Table of Contents

What Is Salad Dressing?

Salad dressing is the condiment that complements a salad. It may be used to provide flavor, enhance another flavor, balance the flavors of a dish, or simply be used for decoration. There are many different types of salad dressings available on the market today, and there are even homemade dressings available as well.

This article will provide information about how to make salad dressings at home to have more control over the ingredients in them and know what you are putting into your body. You will also find information on making basic vinegar and other common ones that you may want to try when making your dressing at home.

What Is The Best Salad Dressing?

It’s a question that many have asked, but few have found an answer. The dressing is just one thing that people either love or don’t want anything to do with it.

How to dress a salad

When it comes to dressing, the most important thing is what you prefer and what works for you. With so many different kinds and recipes out there, there isn’t one that stands above all the others as being superior. The key to choosing the perfect dressing for your needs is finding one that complements your other ingredients while still allowing you to enjoy them in their pure form without becoming too overpowered by the flavor of the dressing itself.

How To Dress A Salad: 5 Easy Steps

  • Step 1. Prepare ingredients for salad: Get everything ready to make your salad – let’s start with greens and add additional components. Decide what to put on your salad based on your health goals and flavor preferences.
  • Step 2. Get the oil ready. Place some oil in a bowl. I like to use olive oil, although other oils can be used for more specific tastes.
  • Step 3. Add balsamic vinegar. This vinegar will add hints of sweetness, acidity, and maturity. It also compliments the olive oil flavors quite well. Make sure you add enough balsamic to taste it (enough so that you say ‘Ahhhh’ after tasting).
  • Step 4. Dress the greens. To properly dress the greens, you should mix the balsamic vinegar with olive oil. Again, make sure you take your time and get an even coating on each leaf. You may need to use your hands or spoon to do this – there is nothing wrong with that!
  • Step 5. Put it on a plate and serve. Put your salad on a plate, let it ‘rest’ for at least 20 seconds (you can skip this step if you are in a rush), smell the delicious aroma that will be released, and then enjoy!

How To Dress A Salad With Oil And Vinegar

If you know how to dress a salad with oil and vinegar, you’ll be able to shake up any salad with flavor. Mixing oil and vinegar is a simple way to add depth of flavor to your dish without adding too much. While it’s difficult to give exact measurements for oily vinaigrettes, as the vegetable concentration of a salad varies, it should generally be about three parts olive oil to one part vinegar.

It’s always important that the ratio is fairly close not to overwhelm your salad with either one.

How To Salt A Salad

Salt is more than just a condiment. It’s an essential ingredient in many foods, and it can be used for cooking or even to cleanse your body.

Many people do not know that there are specific methods for adding salt into dishes. By doing this and other forms of salts, you can add more flavor to your dish or food, for that matter. There are different ways of adding salts, such as using sea salt flakes, coarse kosher, or pickling salt.

If you want to add salt to a dish, you should add the salt right before it finishes cooking so that the food can absorb the full flavor. If you use kosher salt or sea salt flakes, it is best to dissolve them in a bit of water first. Then, measure how much you need and add that into the cooking food instead of just dumping in a handful at once.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The 3 Types Of Salad Dressing?

Salad dressing is designed to enhance the flavor of a salad. It can be either a vinaigrette, oil-and-vinegar-based, blended dressing, or one made from mayonnaise and other ingredients. The choices for salad dressings vary depending on taste and preference. However, there are three significant types of salad dressing: oil-and-vinegar, blended dressing, and mayonnaise.

What Is The Best Time To Eat Salad?

Salad is a dish that can be eaten at any time. It comprises vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients mixed with a dressing usually containing mayonnaise, vinegar, or oil. It is typically consumed alone as a side dish or as an entree.

Can You Lose Belly Fat By Eating Salad?

No. The only way to lose belly fat is to go on a calorie-restricted diet. You can shed pounds from your midsection by eating less and exercising more or just cutting calories without exercising at all.

Calories in Salad Dressing and Their Health Benefits

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How to dress a salad

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The purpose of a salad dressing is to enhance the flavor of the ingredients within. It is not meant to drown the salad or overpower it. Many times, salad dressing is overused and can increase the calories of a meal significantly. The key to using salad dressing is to pick the right kind and to keep your portions controlled.

There are two basic types of dressings: those that are oil based (vinaigrettes) and those that are creamy based, typically made with mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk.

Dressings can be flavored using a variety of ingredients, including different types of vinegar, herbs, shallots, onions, spices, mustard, and sugar.

The calories and fat content will vary greatly in store-bought salad dressings. Aim to keep your portion to about one serving or two tablespoons of salad dressing. This particular salad dressing, balsamic vinaigrette, is lower in calories than other varieties.

The following nutrition information is provided for 2 tablespoons (30g) of balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.  

  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 9g
  • Sodium: 280mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 1g
  • Protein: 0g

Note that it is higher in sodium. When shopping for salad dressing, look for those with the lowest amount of sodium. High sodium intake is related to strokes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.   Aim for about 250mg or less of sodium per serving.

Healthiest Salad Dressing Options

Typically the healthiest salad dressings are those that are oil-based, because they are made with heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, nut oils, and canola oil. However, because the standard ratio to making a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar, even the healthiest salad dressings are high in calories. Therefore, it is important to keep your serving to one portion.

When possible, make your own dressing so that you can control the fat, calories, and sodium. If you are making your dressing at home you can reduce the sodium content significantly by flavoring it with lemon, a small amount of orange juice, or some apple cider vinegar. You can also add garlic, garlic powder, scallions, shallots, ginger, and spices like oregano, Italian blend, or rosemary to add flavor and reduce the oil content so that the calories are lower. If salty is your preference, consider using potassium chloride, which has the same salt taste without the sodium.

When making your own dressing, be sure to whisk it just before use to make sure the ingredients are emulsified together. If you are simply dressing one portion of salad, aim to keep your oil to a teaspoon or two and mix it with your favorite type of vinegar. A few options:

  • Sugar-Free Thousand Island Dressing
  • Greek Lemon-Garlic Salad Dressing
  • Diabetes-Friendly Salad Dressing

You can also reduce the calories spent on dressing by purchasing dressings that have spritzer tops.   Or dip your salad into your portion of dressing instead of pouring the dressing over your salad to lower your calorie intake.

Of the store-bought salad dressings, some of the lower calorie ones that are oil-based are those that are labeled light. Typically, these types of dressing will have water as the first ingredient. They include light balsamic and light Italian. Always read the labels, though, because these types of dressing may have more sodium and sugar. You may be better off choosing a full-fat version and reducing your portion.

Other best choices include balsamic vinaigrette, Italian, red wine vinaigrette, apple cider vinaigrette, and herbed vinaigrette.

Unhealthiest Salad Dressing Options

The unhealthiest salad dressings are those that are made with added sugar, sour cream, and mayonnaise. These types of dressing are rich in calories, added sugar, and/or saturated fat. They can easily be overconsumed and can often sabotage a healthy meal.

A few of the unhealthiest salad dressings include creamy Caesar, creamy Italian, ranch, and Russian dressing. For example, two tablespoons of store-bought creamy Caesar dressing contains 190 calories and 20 grams of fat,   as compared to 90 calories and 9 grams of fat in the same serving of balsamic vinaigrette.

What to Look for When Purchasing a Salad Dressing

Look for salad dressing that has no more than about 100 calories (preferably less) in a single two tablespoon serving. This is roughly the same amount of calories in two teaspoons of oil.

In addition, purchase salad dressings that are oil-based. Look at the ingredient list and choose those that are made with oil, such as vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil. If the ingredients have added fats such as cream, the dressing is probably very high in calories without additional nutritional value.

It isn’t necessary to purchase no-sugar-added dressing. While this type of dressing may have the least amount of calories and carbohydrate, it is often replaced with artificial sugar and artificial flavorings and doesn’t offer the heart-healthy fats used to make other types of oil-based dressing. We need some fat in order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, heart-healthy fats such as olive oil can aid in satiety and have favorable effects on cholesterol. Instead, to reduce calorie consumption, reduce the quantity of the vinaigrette you use to dress your salad.

It is also not necessary to purchase non-fat or lower fat dressing, as these types of dressing typically have more sugar and sodium—the makers are trying to replace the flavor lost from the fat and make up for it somewhere else.

Healthy Ways to Use Salad Dressing

Use salad dressing sparingly to marinate chicken, turkey, or pork. Or dress your salad lightly with an oil-based dressing, dip vegetables into a small serving or substitute oil-based dressing for mayonnaise, butter, and creamy sauces on whole grain sandwiches and salads like tuna or chicken. You can save on calories and saturated fat this way.

Be mindful of your portion size. If you need more flavor, add extra vinegar, such as apple cider, balsamic, or white wine.

Give weeknight salads a makeover with dozens of new dressings from Food Network Magazine.

Related To:

How to dress a salad

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Photo by: Justin Walker ©2012 Justin Walker

Justin Walker , 2012 Justin Walker

1. Classic Vinaigrette: Whisk 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil.

2. Shallot–White Wine: Make Classic Vinaigrette (No. 1), replacing the red wine vinegar with white wine vinegar; add 1 minced shallot.

3. Roasted Garlic: Slice the top off 1 head garlic; drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and roast at 400 degrees F until tender, 35 minutes. Cool, then squeeze out the cloves. Make Classic Vinaigrette (No. 1) in a blender, adding the roasted garlic and 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan.

4. Bistro Bacon: Make Classic Vinaigrette (No. 1); add 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese, 3 slices crumbled cooked bacon and 2 tablespoons chopped chives.

5. Mediterranean: Make Classic Vinaigrette (No. 1); mash in 1/2 cup crumbled feta, then whisk in 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 diced plum tomato.

6. Dijon: Whisk 3 tablespoons each dijon mustard and champagne vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil.

7. Spicy Honey-Mustard: Whisk 2 teaspoons each honey and dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon each lime zest and kosher salt. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup each olive oil and vegetable oil, then add 2 teaspoons chopped thyme and 1/2 minced jalapeno.

How to dress a salad

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How to dress a salad

This month, Tasting Table celebrates all things salad. Keep your cool with us.

If there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there’s certainly more than one way to dress a salad—but some work better than others. We’ve narrowed the possibilities down to two general methods, based on the viscosity of your chosen dressing. Whether you’re using balsamic or blue cheese, follow these tips for the best-dressed salad in town.

For thin, light dressings, like Italian or balsamic vinaigrette, it’s best to start with the dressing and work your way up. Line the bowl with dressing or pour a small amount right into the bottom of the dish. Then layer in all your salad ingredients, starting with the sturdiest (i.e., greens or grains) and leaving the most delicate for the top. Gently toss from the bottom up, giving everything a quick, even coating without bruising fragile add-ins, like pear or avocado.

How to dress a saladFor light vinaigrettes, line the bowl with dressing and toss from the bottom up.

Other salads call for more viscous, thicker dressings, like blue cheese, Caesar or ranch. For these, you’ll want to dress your base greens before adding in toppings—you don’t want to drown small ingredients, like chopped nuts or fresh herbs. Though any greens will do, sturdier greens, such as endive, romaine, iceberg and kale hold up best in the face of creamy condiments. Put them in a bowl, add the dressing and mix it up well to coat the leaves. Then add in the rest of your ingredients, give everything a quick toss (you do want some flavor) and transfer it over to your salad bowl or plate.

In both cases, be sure to add a pinch of salt, which will help soften tougher greens and bring out the flavor of your ingredients. You’ll also want to make sure your greens are dry, as oily dressings will slide right off wet lettuces. And remember, even if you’re a die-hard dressing lover, err on the conservative side—it’s a lot simpler to add a splash of dressing than it is to remove one.

How to dress a salad

A perfect green salad strikes just the right balance of textures, flavors, and colors. If you’re the kind of cook who finds formulas reassuring, this basic salad formula takes all the guesswork out of making a perfect salad.

Use Two (or at Most, Three) Types of Lettuce

How to dress a salad

The main ingredient in a green salad is the lettuce. But just as lettuce by itself is not enough for a salad, using only one kind of lettuce in a salad can be dull. Consider a dull salad a missed opportunity.

A salad generally comes at the beginning of a meal, so it should wake up your taste buds and stimulate your appetite. Make it vibrant and enervating. One way of achieving that is to use different varieties of lettuce to highlight contrasting flavors, textures, and colors.

The most common types of lettuce for salads include iceberg, green leaf, red leaf, and romaine. A good rule of thumb for a salad is to feature any two of these. Try one leafy variety and another that’s a bit more crunchy.

Romaine is especially versatile since it’s leafy at one end and crunchy at the other. Bibb (sometimes also called butter or Boston), arugula, frisée, and even fresh spinach are excellent choices for second (or third) lettuces.

You can certainly add a handful of bagged salad greens for contrast. Even though most prepackaged salad greens are prewashed, it’s still a good idea to check for bugs.

Cut the Lettuce Into Bite-Sized Pieces

How to dress a salad

Another part of the lettuce equation is how to prepare the greens. Your lettuce should be cut into bite-sized pieces. (The same goes for the other ingredients in a salad) There is no reason not to use a knife and cut the greens. The clean edges of chopped lettuce look nice and it’s much easier to get uniform sized pieces using a knife rather than tearing.

Consider Tomatoes

How to dress a salad

Consider the season and type of tomatoes. Classic hothouse tomatoes are a fine choice, but they’re heavy and watery and can weigh a salad down with extra liquid. Cherry tomatoes are much better; slice them in half before adding them. Trying to get a fork into a whole cherry tomato is just aggravating. A serrated knife happens to be the perfect tool for slicing tomatoes.

Balance the Ingredients

How to dress a salad

Don’t fall victim to “salad bar syndrome,” where you load it up with too many ingredients. A good salad strikes the perfect balance of textures, flavors, and colors. But it’s tough to balance something with 17 separate ingredients in it.

To keep it manageable, in addition to the lettuce and tomatoes, a green salad should include one or maybe two additional vegetables. Sliced red onion is a great choice since it contributes to color, crunch, and pungency. A second one could be sliced bell peppers, shredded cabbage, shredded carrot, or sliced cucumbers. Also, strive for a blend of colors as well as flavors and textures. Instead of green bell peppers, try orange or yellow ones.

Finally, instead of chopping your salad veggies into little pieces, slice them into bite-sized strips or shred them. Diced veggies invariably settle to the bottom of the bowl when you toss the salad, but strips and shreds are more likely to remain distributed throughout.

Keep It Cool and Crisp

How to dress a salad

It’s important that your lettuce be crisp. Crispness has to do with freshness, of course, but how you store your lettuce will determine how long it stays crisp.

Keep it in the fridge, in a colander, or salad spinner basket (you can also use the spinner to dry the greens after you wash them) with some damp paper towels over the top. Salad greens need air circulation. Sealing them up in plastic bags will actually cause them to wilt faster.

Wet salad greens are another no-no. If your lettuce is dripping wet, your salad dressing will just slide right off the leaves and pool at the bottom of the bowl. A green salad should be served chilled. Warm greens are wilted greens. And one of the quickest ways to warm your greens is to serve them on a warm plate.

Try chilling your salad plates. It’s easy! Just refrigerate them for about 30 minutes, and they’ll be nice and cool when you’re ready to serve. Your salad and your guests will thank you.

Serving (and Dressing) the Salad

How to dress a salad

Hold off on dressing the salad until right before you serve it, otherwise it’ll get soggy. You just want to lightly coat each piece of lettuce. Spoon the dressing over the salad and gently toss. Add more dressing if necessary and toss again until everything is lightly coated. For best results, use a vinaigrette dressing like this cumin-lime vinaigrette salad dressing, because mayo-based dressings like blue cheese or ranch will weigh down the salad too much (although persuading a blue cheese or ranch fan of this is a hard battle).

Finally, if you’re a crouton person, add them at the very end, after the salad has been dressed, and after each salad is plated. That way they start off on top and won’t get soggy.

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Salad Dressing

More on this topic:
Who said tossed salad was boring? Trust me, try this and you’ll be calling that person a liar. A total liar! It’s the best darned tossed salad ever. Oh yeah. Our Salad Dressing topic is brought to you by Stonyfield Organic. Gotta love that healthy tasty yogurt!

How to dress a salad

The word on the street is that a well-emulsified salad dressing has the right balance for every mouthful, sticks to lettuce best and is superior in all ways. I’m not going to debate that point but I will say this, when I serve a big bowl of my directly-dressed tossed salad at a dinner party, it all gets eaten up. Every time. That’s kinda rare for salad. The only other time that happens is if I serve my homemade Caesar salad. Other than those two, at the end of the night I usually find myself stuffing most of a bowlful of soggy greens down the garbage disposal.

So whether an emulsified dressing is technically better or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that everyone loves this directly dressed tossed salad.

What do I mean by directly dressed? It’s kind of like when in a restaurant you’re given a bottle of oil and one of vinegar and you shake them onto your salad. Except, I promise, this is way way better than that. There is going to be tons of flavor going on here and you’re going to really love it. Let’s do it!

How to Make the Best Tossed Salad, Right in the Bowl

Step#1

Cut a clove of garlic in half and then rub the cut side all over the inside of a medium bowl. Don’t skip this step thinking that it doesn’t do anything. You’re going to be seriously amazed by how much garlic flavor ends up in your salad.

How to dress a salad

Step#2

Add greens to the bowl. For this, I like a basic spring mix. But any soft mild greens will do. Fill the bowl right up, a good 4 cups of greens.

How to dress a salad

Step#3

Add some soft herbs to the bowl. I like adding some dill usually. But chives, basil and flat leaf parsley are also great choices. Tear it by hand into small-ish pieces. How much you add is up to you but I usually do about a quarter cup of torn pieces.
How to dress a salad

Step#4

Add olive oil. You’ll need about 2 tablespoons.

How to dress a salad

Step#5

And lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon. You can use wine vinegar (red or white) but I just don’t think it’s as good here.

How to dress a salad

Step#6

Add salt. Coarse salt. It has to be coarse salt. I use coarse kosher salt but coarse sea salt would be great too. Regular table salt will end up kind of grainy and overly salty on the leaves. You’ll need about 1/2 teaspoon of nice coarse salt.

How to dress a salad

Step#7

Add black pepper. Coarse black pepper. Just like with the salt, you don’t want fine grains. You’ll want to add about 1/4 teaspoon of coarse pepper, just a couple of grinds will do it.

How to dress a salad

Step#8

Toss gently. I like to use some basic tongs for this.

How to dress a salad

Step#9

I find that the salad shrinks a bit from the addition of the liquids and tossing. So I add in another handful or two of greens and toss again. Then taste it. Adjust anything you want more of. If there’s too much of something, you can add more greens to counter it.

How to dress a salad

Step#10

And there it is. All ready to eat. I mean it. You’re not going to believe how good this is.

How to dress a salad

Here are the instructions in printable form for you.

How to Dress a Salad

How to dress a salad

Who said tossed salad was boring? Trust me, try this and you’ll be calling that person a liar. A total liar! It’s the best darned tossed salad ever. Oh yeah. Our Salad Dressing topic is brought to you by Stonyfield Organic.

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 3 cups spring mix
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper, ground

Instructions

  1. Rub garlic on salad bowl.
  2. Add in spring mix.
  3. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @thecookful on Instagram and hashtag it #thecookful

How to dress a salad

Anyone can make a decent salad, but it takes some skill and know-how to create a masterpiece in green. It’s important, first, to brush up on the basics: Are you sufficiently drying your greens? Are your toppers crushing the delicate leaves? Once you’ve finished your refresher course, though, there’s one big, often-overlooked piece of advice you’ve got to remember: You’ve got to pair the right dressing with the right greens.

Think this isn’t a big deal? Think again. Just imagine tender spring mix leaves doused with creamy-crumbly blue cheese. They’d be smothered beyond recognition! And what about arugula with a peppercorn-heavy vinaigrette? Your salad would be tragically spicy. This is important stuff, so we called in the pros: Senior food editor Dawn Perry and assistant food editor Claire Saffitz in the Bon Appétit test kitchen gave us the rundown on what dressing is a perfect match for just about every salad your heart could desire.

Peppery arugula leaves are best when tempered with a little sweetness—try adding honey or maple to your vinaigrette. And keep in mind that arugula wilts quickly and aggressively, so avoid heavy dressings (skip the cream and Dijon mustard), and use a light hand when tossing everything together. Your best bet for a dressing? Simple salt, pepper, vinegar or lemon juice, and olive oil with just a touch of honey.

Similar to arugula in texture and tenderness, tender head lettuces also requires a featherlight touch. Unlike arugula, though, the leaves aren’t bitter, and don’t need any additional sweetness. Just salt, pepper, vinegar/lemon, and olive oil are sufficient.

Endive’s intensely bitter, and it’s also hefty, with thick leaves. If there was ever an opportunity to embrace sweetness and fat in a dressing, this is it: Endive can seriously hold its own against a creamy blue cheese dressing.

Also bitter, but much rougher and frillier than endive, this chicory is screaming for both fat and salt. A warm bacon vinaigrette is the classic choice—and one we particularly like. Emulsifying your dressing with an egg yolk (or just breaking a poached egg on top of the greens) wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, either.

Grain salads need a good dressing just as much as your favorite garden salad. These chewy, filling dishes can stand up to creamier dressings that make good use of buttermilk, tahini, or mild, soft cheese. “Basically, anything goes here except ranch,” says Perry. The aggressive, peppery flavor of ranch will mask the unique flavor of the grains. Be liberal with your use of herbs, and dress the grains just after cooking, while they’re still warm—the dressing will be absorbed and incorporated better.

Iceberg has great crunch but not a ton of flavor, so it’s up to your dressing to make things sing. We say yes to the classic blue cheese-and-bacon wedge salad, but would definitely not be mad if you whip up an ugly-but-crazy-tasty caramelized-onion dressing. To make a caramelized-onion dressing, think dip (sour cream, a little mayonnaise, some lemon for acidity, caramelized onions with fresh scallion or chive), and thin it with water until it’s pourable. Ranch is A-OK, too, and in fact, the only time we advocate not using a creamy dressing with iceberg is when it’s chopped up finely and dressed Italian pizza joint-style, with plenty of oregano and peperoncini.

Kale’s hefty. It’s important to slice it thinly so you don’t suffer from jaw fatigue before the salad’s half-eaten. Incorporating a good amount of acid to your dressing—think plenty of lemon juice—will further break down the cellular structure of the leaves, making them easier to eat and digest. Don’t drown the greens, though; nobody likes a soggy salad. Here’s more on how to make the perfect kale salad.

This chicory is bitter, like endive, but a little more tender. It can handle a dressing with Dijon or an egg yolk, but fares best without a heavy dumping of cream or mayonnaise. Don’t forget the sweetener.

“The world is your oyster with Romaine,” says Perry. It’s crunchy like iceberg, so creamy dressings are a go, but it also fares nicely with a simple vinaigrette. Feel free to experiment.

Be wary of the wilt with spinach salads—these leaves succumb to very acidic and creamy dressings quickly. Sturdy, mature leaves can handle a little creaminess or heat (again, we’re fans of that warm bacon dressing), but baby spinach needs no more than olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.

These tender leaves are pillow-soft. Keep things simple with the most basic vinaigrette possible, letting the sweetness of the lettuce shine through.

Chard is thin but tough. To help tenderize the leaves, tear them into bite-size pieces and dress them with something sweet and acidic, like this tomato vinaigrette. Its flavor runs toward earthy (especially the stems), so think light and bright when dressing.

Watercress looks delicate but its flavor is bossy—peppery and fresh, with some bite. Embrace fat, sweetness, and a medium-level creaminess (hello, buttermilk).

How to dress a salad

A good dressing connects all the flavors of a fresh salad, and making homemade salad dressing can be deliciously effortless. Oil, vinegar, and fresh spices create the simplest dressing, but there are a few more tips and ingredients to enhance your favorite leafy greens. Be sure to check out some of our favorite salad dressing recipes at the bottom of this article.

If you have any questions about making salad dressing, or have a recipe to share, email us at [email protected], or leave a comment below.

How to Make a Vinaigrette

Anyone who appreciates a fresh salad can make their own vinaigrette. The standard recipe for any vinaigrette dressing calls for 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Salt, freshly cracked pepper, spices, and sweeteners can all be added to taste and without measurement. (Although it is helpful to take notes when creating your own recipe.) Simply combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. You can add your leafy ingredients right to the mixing bowl and dress it there, saving you from washing an extra dish.

If you’re making a large batch of dressing, try using a food processor or blender. Blend all ingredients together except for the oil. Slowly add your preferred oil at the end while the machine is running. This helps give the dressing a smooth consistency.

Almost any type of oil and vinegar can be used. Some of the more popular oils for salad dressings are extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, and walnut oil. Some popular vinegars to use are white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, tarragon vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and champagne vinegar.

Mustard is another popular vinaigrette ingredient. Both dry mustard powder and prepared mustard can be added to the mixing bowl. Vinegar and oil don’t like to stay mixed, but mustard’s emulsifying properties help coat your leafy greens in a deliciously glossy dressing. Start with a half teaspoon of mustard for every cup of liquid in a dressing recipe.

Sweeteners for a salad dressing can be as simple as cane sugar. For a little more depth, try adding honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, molasses, or fruit juice to your recipe.

Citronette vs. Vinaigrette

To make a citronette, simply follow the same preparation as a standard vinaigrette, but use fresh citrus juice instead of vinegar. You can use just about any citrus fruit juice you like, but this style of dressing is most commonly made with lemon. In general, more acidic citrus fruits will make for a more balanced dressing.

Creamy Dressings

So many of our favorite dressings are creamy—blue cheese, Caesar, and ranch-style dressing just to name a few. These recipes are commonly made with a base of buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, eggs, or oil.

Our dips and dressings blends make crafting creamy dressings simple and easy. All you have to do is whisk a tablespoon of salad dressing spice mix into a cup of sour cream, yogurt, or mayonnaise. You can add milk, water, vinegar, or lemon juice to thin the sauce to your desired consistency. Be sure to explore our selection of dips and dressings blends for more inspiration.

Adding Spices to Salad Dressings

The real fun begins when you add herbs and spices. These are the defining flavors and aromatics that give a dressing its unique character. You can take the standard recipe formulas above and add a few pinches of your favorite herbs and spices to make it your own.

Experiment first by adding popular herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, parsley, and tarragon. Next, consider some bolder spices like garlic, shallot, cayenne pepper, Aleppo pepper flakes, black pepper, celery seed, and caraway seed. For more ideas on flavoring your homemade salad dressings, explore our collection of spices for salads.