Vinaigrette Recipe – Salad dressings No. 1

Vinaigrette salad dressing, shaken to emulsify the ingredients
Writer and permaculture enthusiast Emma Cooper & her husband Pete came to us for a very enjoyable visit last year. We had lunch which included roast chicken, roasted pumpkin sourdough bread and a foraged salad.

Emma asked me afterwards for the method for making the dressing. It’s taken me a while, but here’s the recipe for the basic vinaigrette I made.

If there’52 week salad challenge banners interest, I’ll blog some more salad dressing recipes for the 52 Week Salad Challenge I’m taking part in.

The aim is to have home-grown or foraged salad every week of the year.

A good choice of dressings help to make the most of the harvest.

The word comes from the French for ‘sour-wine’ – ‘vin-aigre’. The essence of the dressing is the vinegar or citrus juice flavours the leaves. You combine the vinegarwith oil to help it ‘stick’ to the salad ingredients.

If you’re interested to know how to make this, read on…

First a bit of theory. Skip this if you just want to get to the recipe.

The idea behind the vinaigrette is that the vinegar (or citrus juice) helps to flavour the salad ingredients in a way that complements and enhances their flavour. The vinegar itself will not ‘stick’ to the salad easily by itself. However, the oil can only do this if the salad ingredients are dry (oil and water don’t mix easily). So what you do to make a vinaigrette  is make a water in oil emulsion.

You shake the ‘water’ (vinegar or citrus juice) to make it into small droplets that will not coalesce for a while. If you add mustard, garlic or herbs the emulsion is easier to form and will last longer.

The picture at the top is a bottle of vinaigrette I’ve made and shaken well to emulsify the ingredients. The one below is how it settles out into layers of the various ingredients.

Vinaigrette salad dressing, before being shaken to emulsify the ingredients

Vinaigrette Recipe

The basic ingredients are oil and vinegar or a citrus juice. It’s obvious that the flavour and quality of the ingredients you use directly affect the taste of the finished article.

Some people prefer not to use a highly flavoured extra-virgin olive oil because they feel the flavour overwhelms. So many people use a lightly flavoured sunflower or rape seed oil which is more neutral. Experiment by tasting a teaspoon of the oils or making up a little oil & vinegar to see. In the end, trial & testing with different salads is a real help.

In the books and online, there’s a number of different ratios of vinegar to oil that you will see. My own preference is to start with 1 to 3 and then adjust ingredients as necessary.

Other seasonings and flavouring ingredients can also be included such as:

  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Garlic
  • Anchovies
  • Mustard

You can choose the vinegar or citrus juice to match the ingredients in the salad or the ingredients in the dish the salad might go with. I particularly like to use tarragon infused white wine vinegar in dressing for salads to go with fish and chicken.

Here’s a basic method to make a nice dressing for a big mixed summer salad.

It makes more than enough for the salad, so keep some in a jar in the fridge so you’ll always have some to hand. I make up 500ml at a time as you can see from the pictures.


2 tbsp vinegar (wine or cider, not malt)
6 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely grated or crushed and mashed to a paste with some of the salt
1 tsp Dijon (or other) mustard
Sea salt & black pepper to taste

In the bottle pictured, I used basic olive oil and my home-made apple cider vinegar. The recipe for the vinegar is in this post.


Combine all the ingredients in a screw top jar. Put the lid on tight and shake vigorously until the dressing emulsifies. Have a taste and make corrections if you feel you need to and shake again.

Dressing your salad

As I said, for your dressings to ‘stick’ to your ingredients, the ingredients need to be well dried.

Here’s how to do this well.

Drain your ingredients well if you’ve washed them. Pat them dry in a tea towel or give a good spin in a salad spinner. If you don’t have a spinner and want to improvise, pop the ingredients in a tea towel. Pull the corners of the towel up to make a little pouch and swing it back and forward sharply. You’ll do the same as in a spinner. Obviously, it’s best to do this outside or in the bath.

Pop you ingredients in a bowl, platter or plate. Spoon or carefully tip out a little of the dressing and give the ingredients a gentle mix using your hands or salad servers. You are aiming to just coat the ingredients, not to drown them. If the coating is not quite uniform, add a little more until it is just right.

If you have some favourite variations, let me know what they are in the comments.



, , , , , ,




18 responses to “Vinaigrette Recipe – Salad dressings No. 1”

  1. C Lyons Avatar
    C Lyons

    Your lifestyle is so inspiring…and your recipe makes a fabulous vinaigrette! Is there a ‘Vinaigrette – Salad dressing #2’?

    1. Carl Avatar

      That’s very kind of you to say 🙂 I should really get on and do #2, watch this space 😉

  2. […] love this vinegar used in vinaigrettes, mayonnaise , partnered with all kinds of green beans, fish and […]

  3. […] if, like me, your vinaigrettes can be a bit hit and miss you will find a great vinaigrette recipe here on Carl Legge’s excellent website. In fact, you’ll find lots of lovely recipes there, […]

  4. Maureen Avatar

    You’re my dressing hero!

    1. Carl Avatar

      Aww, thanks Maureen 🙂

  5. Karen Avatar

    A very nice looking vinaigrette recipe Carl! They are such personal creations, with each housewife in France claiming to have to have the best recipe……mine (recipe) fluctuates according to the season, and I am heavily into “robust” dressings right now with nut oils and nut vinegars, my favourite being walnut oil. I also make a dressing in the autumn with “verjus” that I make at home from the vines we have – I have a little verjus press and I so get carried away with adding it to all my cooking!! LOVELY photos too, great DofF….

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Karen

      I love the nut oils, may come on to them in future postings 🙂

      Very interested in the verjus press. We’re growing vines here albeit still early days. Do you have a link for a verjus press, would love to give that a go.

      Thanks for the kind words re the photography. I have a neat little 50mm, F1.8 lens with some macro rings that does really well for me. Lots still to learn, especially how to use Adobe Lightroom 🙂

  6. Monica Avatar

    This reads very much like my staple balsamic, but I love the sound of using a lighter vinegar in it, especially to bring out the flavour of fresh herbs… and maybe some capers? Hmm.

    1. VP Avatar

      Ooh capers would be great! I’m thinking my nasturtium ‘capers’ would do the job too 🙂

      1. Carl Avatar

        Hey that’s a good idea Michelle. I must give last year’s a try for taste 🙂

  7. Laura Avatar

    This is a great basic vinaigrette Carl, I make a similar one for general salads, but I find that a balsamic-based vinaigrette, with it’s rich velvety browness, goes particularly well with spicy rocket leaves or a tomato salad …

    Ingredients …
    1 measure balsamic vinegar (I use the best I can afford)
    3 measures olive oil (I often use the left-over olive oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes)
    1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste with a little salt
    Sea salt & black pepper to taste

    Method – as per Carl’s … bung it all together and shake, taste and amend if neccessary.

    Enjoy! 🙂

    Edit – Laura sent me this addemdum on Facebook:

    “Also, I often blend different oils to get a lighter or richer vinaigrette (forgot to mention this in my comment … doh!). I usually use a mix of olive and a veg oil, which gives a slight fruitness of the olive oil, but not overpowering. :)”

    1. Monica Avatar

      Great minds think alike, Laura. 😉 What’s your balsamic of choice?

  8. Gloria Avatar

    Yes please! More dressings. For me they are what make a salad worthwhile and making them puts me off eating salad, so I need the encouragement. For some reason I find this simple task a chore.

    1. Carl Avatar

      Thanks Gloria

      I will do some more for sure, the post has got a very good reaction for which I’m grateful. One of the reasons I make a big batch and pop it in the fridge is to avoid the faff later if I’m tired or in a hurry. It’s well worth doing 🙂

  9. Dee Sewell Avatar

    Lovely indepth artical Carl. Now wishing I’d used some of my so my tarragon from last year’s crop this way – maybe this year!

    1. Carl Avatar

      Thanks Dee, the tarragon vinegar a real favourite with me. It’s great mixed in with runner beans with a little olive oil & seasoning 🙂 The tarragon will be up soon in the polytunnel

  10. VP Avatar

    Fantastic Carl, thank you. I know we discussed whether dressing recipes counted a while back and I said of course they do. It’s great to see you didn’t forget 🙂

    My preference is to use extra virgin olive oil – I adore its fruitiness. I must check out you apple cider vinegar recipe too – sounds like one for the glut time later this year 🙂