Sustainable Putnam

5 Dressing Tips (Plus 5 Homemade Dressing Recipes)


  1. You can make your dressings in batches

Dressings, whether creamy (mayonnaise or dairy based) or vinaigrette (oil and vinegar), are emulsions that can keep for up to one week in an airtight container in the refrigerator for the creamy (egg or dairy based) ones, and for up to two weeks for the vinaigrettes.

Although, if you are making a mayo-based dressing from a homemade mayonnaise using raw eggs, I would not keep that dressing more than two days in the refrigerator.

  1. Fats tend to solidify at colder temperatures

Your dressing’s ingredients will usually separate when stored in the refrigerator and a yellow crust will form at the top of your dressing. It hasn’t gone bad. It is normal, oils harden at cold temperature. When you need to use your dressing, just leave it on your kitchen counter until it reaches room temperature, whisk it again, and you are good to go.

  1. Store your ingredients separately

Vinegars will keep for a long time (this is why we pickle). They can be kept in any cupboard. Mustards keep for a long time too but are best kept in the refrigerator after opening.

But oils are much more delicate and can become rancid over time. Their nutritional value will also be affected if kept improperly and/or for too long. They need to be stored in a cool and dark place, preferably not where most of us keep them, myself included, that is near the stove. My advice is to buy the bottle size that corresponds to your personal use and replace it more often.

  1. Marinade your ingredients

You can let chopped onion or garlic, chili, tarragon, roasted peppers etc., marinade in vinegar or oil for half an hour or so before preparing the dressing. When it is time to make your dressing, you can choose to leave those added ingredients into the dressing or remove them from the oil or vinegar, as you prefer. For people who cannot digest raw onion or garlic, this is a nice way to get their flavor in a dressing without the trouble they cause.

  1. Season your salad accordingly

As a rule of thumb, I only season a green salad just before serving. Seasoned too early, it will wilt because of the acid contained in the dressing. I also season vegetables that have a high water content, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, at the last minute; if you season them too early they will release their water in the bowl and dilute the dressing.

For any other salad, such as steamed vegetables, raw grated root vegetables, beans, starches and grains, the longer in advance the salad is seasoned, the more the salad’s ingredients will absorb the dressing’s flavors. If you choose to do so, I always recommend to taste it just before serving to eventually rectify the balance of your dressing. For example, starches will often absorb most of the acidity in the dressing so you might want to add some more before eating. On the contrary, slaws will amplify the acidity of the dressing when seasoned early. In that case, you might need to add a little sweetness to your dressing before serving.


All recipes are courtesy of Chef Emilie Berner

  1. Walnut Balsamic Dressing 
  • ½ cup regular or roasted walnut oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp Dijon or strong mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, optional

Place all the ingredients in a blender, or whisk them in a bowl. Taste the dressing and correct seasoning if necessary.

Makes about 1 cup

This dressing goes particularly well with strong greens, such as arugula, young kale; radicchio or endives. You can also add seeds and sliced red onion to it.

  1. Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ¼ cup red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped basil leaves
  • ½ cup grapeseed or avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp iced water

Blend all ingredients, except oil and water, into a blender, then slow down the blender and drizzle the oil. At the end, incorporate the iced water to help emulsify.

Makes about 1 cup

This dressing is lovely with any Summer greens or vegetables.

  1. Spiced Dressing for slaws
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped mint
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • Optional: Zest 1 lemon, preferably organic 

Whisk all ingredients but last three in a bowl. Add chopped herbs and lemon zest when ready to dress the slaw. Adding the lemon zest earlier will render the dressing bitter.

Seasons about 1 head of cabbage and 2 cups of shredded carrots. Toasted seeds and dried fruits are a nice addition to this recipe.

  1. Carrot Ginger Dressing
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 rice vinegar
  • 2/3 cup peeled chopped carrots (about 2 large ones)
  • 2 tbsp peeled chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ tsp salt, or to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender until the dressing is completely smooth. Taste to adjust salt and acidity to your liking. If it tastes too sour, add a little extra honey.

This dressing can accommodate any kind of salad. Serves about 6

  1. Buttermilk vinaigrette
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • Optional: Chopped chives 

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Makes about 1 cup

Nice dressing for Spring tender lettuces or sliced steamed beets.

Extra ideas 

Dressings are an emulsified combination of often 2 parts fat, 1 part acid and any seasoning you fancy. But as illustrated with these recipes, a vinaigrette’s taste can vary almost infinitely according to ingredients you use. 

Ideas of flavors you can add to your dressing include: whole grain mustard, relish, spices, syrup, soy sauce, meat drippings, fresh or dried fruits.

Let your imagination guide you!