How to Make Perfect Homemade Vinaigrette Every Time

By: Hilary Meyer, EatingWell Recipe Contributor

This basic vinaigrette recipe is the only thing you need to love salad—and can be customized using your favorite vinegar, oil and herbs.

At the heart of every good salad is a great salad dressing. And even though grocers stock their shelves with endless varieties of the bottled stuff, chances are you have the ingredients for a killer salad dressing right in your pantry. Skipping the bottle for homemade dressing can save you calories, unnecessary added sugars and excess sodium. All you need are six basic ingredients, 5 minutes and one simple formula to whip up delicious vinaigrettes. With a little ingenuity, you'll be well on your way to ditching the store-bought dressings for good.

Related: The One Formula You Need to Make Killer Healthy Salads Every Time

Vinaigrette

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe

Active Time: 5 minutes | Total Time: 5 minutes

To make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 5 days. The oil will solidify, so bring to room temperature and whisk before using.

Makes: about 1/2 cup (about 4 servings)

1/4 cup oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 clove minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Here are the 3 simple steps to make your vinaigrette:

Step 1. Make the Oil & Vinegar Base

Pictured Recipe: Mint Vinaigrette

It's up to you what oil you choose. Any oil will work well. We like to pick oils that offer mild flavor like a good extra-virgin olive oil or nutty walnut oil. And for vinegar? Anything goes! It just comes down to personal preference. If you like a sweeter vinaigrette, try balsamic or a fruit-infused vinegar. For a savory flavor, red- or white-wine vinegar is great choice.

Step 2. Add Flavor with Herbs

Pictured Recipe: Garlic-Oregano Vinaigrette

Adding fresh herbs (or dried) gives the vinaigrette its defining characteristics. Any fresh herb, from floral basil to the mild flavor of parsley, will work well. Just keep in mind that if you're holding any part of the dressing for eating or serving later, fresh herbs will lose their vibrant green color. You can hold off adding them until right before serving, or use dried herbs. Dried herbs offer lots of flavor and won't change color, but because they are concentrated, you'll need to use less than you would if you were using fresh (1 teaspoon dried vs. 1 tablespoon fresh). Then simply add the minced garlic, salt and pepper and you're ready to combine.

Step 3. Whisk, whip or shake it up!

Pictured Recipe: Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

How you mix your vinaigrette depends on how (and when) you want to use it.

If you're using it right away ...

You can save on dishes by mixing the dressing right in the salad bowl itself. Add the oil last to the vinaigrette and whisk it in a steady light stream so it stays consistent. Add your salad ingredients and toss!

If you're taking it to work or to a dinner party ...

Simply throw the ingredients into a mason jar and give them a good shake right before you're ready to use it. The shaking part is key. You want your vinaigrette to be at least partially emulsified before you add it to your salad so the greens get coated evenly.

If you don't want to shake or whisk ...

You can whip up everything in a blender. The fast action of the blade makes the emulsification permanent so you shouldn't have to whisk or shake again. And if you're going to use a blender, then you can easily double the recipe so you can use your vinaigrette later in the week.

Vinaigrette Combos to Try

Pictured Recipe: Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette

• Extra-virgin olive oil + sherry vinegar + fresh oregano
• Peanut oil + rice vinegar + fresh cilantro
• Extra-virgin olive oil + red-wine vinegar + Italian seasoning
• Extra-virgin olive oil + balsamic vinegar + dried rosemary
• Walnut oil + cider vinegar + fresh chives

Related: Our Top 10 Vinaigrette Recipes

Watch: How to Make 3 Homemade Vinaigrettes

Related: 50+ Dressing Recipes That Will Make You Love Salad Again