Delicious vegan salad dressing is easy to find at groceries and even easier to make at home. The best option is to make it yourself, since homemade dressing costs less and tastes better.
Homemade Salad Dressing Ideas
Even if you have barely any time to cook, you should make your own salad dressing. In literally 30 seconds you can make something at least as good as any bottled dressing. A simple but delicious dressing requires only that you mix together some oil, vinegar, and dried herbs. Even the fanciest dressings take only a few minutes to prepare.
Given how easy it is to make a dressing, it’s shocking that so many people choose store-bought. Not only is it a lot cheaper to make your own dressing, you’ll invariably use much higher quality ingredients. Check the label of many mass-market brands and you’ll often find low-quality oils like soybean and even cottonseed. Worse yet, many brands contain an absurd number of artificial ingredients, stabilizers, and preservatives. As just one example, Hidden Valley’s Original Ranch dressing contains all of these substances:
- phosphoric acid
- xanthan gum
- modified food starch
- monosodium glutamate
- artificial flavors
- disodium phosphate
- sorbic acid and calcium disodium edta as preservatives
- disodium inosinate
- disodium guanylate
If you’re making yourself a healthy salad, why ruin it with this sort of garbage, when you can prepare a tastier and cheaper dressing in minutes?
What’s more, since you’re in charge of what goes into your dressing, you can quickly come upon some flavor combinations you’ll prefer to any bottled variety. So now let’s look at the two basic kinds of dressings you can make: oil-based and creamy.
The quintessential oil dressing is Italian. Nothing is easier to make. Just mix some olive oil with a little balsamic or red wine vinegar, and then add some dried Italian seasonings.
You can easily come up with non-Italian variations:
- Try a different herb or spice mix.
- Add a teaspoon or two of roasted hemp or sesame seeds, ideally partially-ground
- Replace the vinegar with lemon or lime juice.
- Add a dash of soy sauce or roasted sesame oil.
Friends don’t let friends eat dairy-based ranch dressing. There are at least three excellent vegan bases for a delicious creamy dressing:
- Tahini. Mix with lemon juice and minced garlic, and then add water to reach desired consistency. While this is the default sauce for a falafel sandwich, it’s also perfect as a salad dressing. The natural tanginess of sesame combined with lemon will make you swear tahini dressing contains yogurt. Note that tahini dressing served in Greek restaurants does in fact contain yogurt, but no special flavors are lost when yogurt is omitted. Most Middle Eastern cuisine does not use yogurt in its tahini dressing.
- Vegan mayo or unsweetened soy yogurt. Just mix in some hot sauce. This brings the fire, and can be made in as many variations as there are hot sauces. Start with sriracha sauce, and work your way to more exotic variations.
- Tofu. Process in a blender with water. Add some salt and dried dill and you’ve got a terrific vegan ranch dressing.
Seasonings for Your Dressings
If you love variation, you can use a different assortment of seasonings every time you make dressings. Here are some of the best:
- garlic (minced fresh, sauteed, or roasted)
- ginger (minced)
- freshly-ground black pepper
- Italian or Mexican dried herb mix
- minced fresh herbs (nearly any sort)
- wasabi paste
- chili powder or ground cayenne pepper
- Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Note that several of the above ingredients are perishable, or become perishable once they’re added to your dressing. Since you’re not adding any nasty preservatives, it’s best to make only as much dressing as your salad requires. Be sure to refrigerate any unused dressing and use it within a few days.
Popular Store-Bought Vegan Salad Dressings
There are a number of vegan bottled dressings that are made from wholesome ingredients:
- Daiya (Homestyle Ranch, Creamy Caesar, Blue Cheeze, Hon’y Mustard, Creamy Italian)
- Follow Your Heart (Ranch, Thousand Island, Balsamic Vinaigrette, & Vegan Bleu Cheese)
- Annie’s Organic Goddess Dressing
- Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette
Regardless of whether you’re using homemade or store-bought dressing, a variety of toppings can further round out your salad. You can add additional flavor to your salads by tossing on some nutritional yeast, diced olives, pickled vegetables, or tamari-roasted chopped nuts or seeds.