This Is How We Do It: Vinaigrette

Once again, I find myself with lots to say about a simple kitchen staple that can do so many jobs. I mention vinaigrette often; it is an essential artichoke accompaniment, a cornerstone of my beloved kale and farro bowl, and it allows you to whip up a simple salad at a moment’s notice.

I grew up on store-bought salad dressing; it’s convenient, there’s loads to choose from, and it keeps for ages. When I lived in Spain as a 16-year-old exchange student, my mind was blown when my Mama (her real name is Sena, but I still can’t bear to call her anything but Mama) pulled out an old Bonne Maman jar (you know, the one with the red and white checkered top) to make dressing para ensaladas. A bit of olive oil, some vinegar, salt, maybe mustard and/or honey, and with a quick shake of the jar we had vinaigrette!

I thought my Bonne Maman jar made me special back at home, and when I met my husband he made an embarassing confession: he puts vinaigrette on everything. A bit of olive oil, some vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard, and …

Back to business. When your fridge is full of odds and ends, go out and buy some beautiful lettuce. Chop your fixin’s, wash your lettuce, and grab some ‘ok’ olive oil to start your vinaigrette. Super flavorful oil will distract you from your lovely salad, so don’t use expensive olive oil. Your favorite vinegar (mine is champagne vinegar, or red wine vinegar) should have some character, so use something a cut above the distilled white stuff.

Ratios are your friend here. Whether you use measuring cups, tablespoons, or a glass jar, all you need to know is this: the basic ratio is three parts oil to one part vinegar. I tend to push this in the vinegar direction [husby here, I like it 2:1]. Mix these proportions of oil and vinegar, add an emulsifier (something to help the mixture stay together, like honey or mustard), some seasoning, and shake the jar like you mean it. Taste it, and add more of what you like. That’s it!

If you want to jazz up your vinaigrette, here are some suggestions:
Chopped shallot
Minced garlic (start with a tiny bit)
Maple syrup for sweetener
Chopped herbs
Pickle brine
Bacon fat for part of the oil
Fresh citrus in addition to or instead of vinegar

Basic Vinaigrette

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 10 min


  • 3 parts oil (olive, avocado, coconut)
  • 1+ part vinegar (red wine, champagne, apple cider, balsamic)
  • 1/2 tsp dijon or whole grain mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • any additional flavors you like (see list)



Combine everything in a clear container. Shake vigorously, and enjoy with your favorite salad or steamed vegetable!

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