Salad Dressing 101

Image of salad on a marble background with avocado, oil, and salt

Do you or your family buy salad dressing at the store? Did you know it’s easy to make delicious healthy dressings at home and save money? Learn how to make your own dressing, using ingredients that you probably have laying around your house, with our step-by-step downloadable guide!

  1. The Magic Ratio
  2. Step by Step: DIY Salad Dressing
  3. Mixing Your Dressing
  4. Storing Your Dressing
  5. Guidelines Not Rules
  6. Recipes

The Magic Ratio

The easiest salad dressing to make is known as a vinaigrette. It is simply an oil (like olive oil) mixed with an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice).

The magic ratio is 3:1, which means you mix 3 parts oil, with 1 part acid. Keep in mind that part of the fun of making your own dressing is making it just the way you like it, so use this ratio is just a guideline and feel free to try out different ratios to see what your family likes best.

What does “part” mean?

3 PARTS (oil) 1 PART (acid)
3 tablespoons1 tablespoon
6 tablespoons2 tablespoons
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons)about 3 tablespoons
1 cup1/3 cup

1 part can be any type of measurement tool you want.

The easiest example is using a tablespoon. 3 parts = 3 tablespoons, 1 part = 1 tablespoon. Check out the table to help you do the math so that you can make the perfect amount of dressing you need.

Step-By-Step: DIY Salad Dressing

Building on the magic ratio of 3:1, you can add more flavours and other ingredients to spice up your dressing!

Follow our step-by-step guide to making DIY salad dressing at home!

step by step build your own salad dressing graphic

Step 1: Oil or Fat (3 parts)

Olive oil is a common oil used in dressings, but you can use any type of oil or fat you would like! Different types of oil will give different flavours (try sesame, or peanut oils for a bolder flavour).

You can also use ingredients like avocado, yogurt, pureed or mashed silken tofu, and nut or seed butters instead of oil to give the dressing a creamy texture. If you use one of these ingredients remember that you may need to thin out the dressing with a small amount of water once the other ingredients are mixed in so that you can get the right consistency (Add water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix after each addition). 

Step 2: Acid (1 part)

Adding acidic ingredients to your dressing adds tartness. Acids can be citrus juices (like lemon, lime, or grapefruit) or vinegars. There are many different types of vinegars that all give different flavours. Balsamic and apple cider vinegars are popular choices to keep on hand because they work well in many different types of dressings.

Step 3: Flavours (1/2 part or to taste)

Now it’s time to add more flavour. Things like grated ginger and garlic add a big flavour boost, but feel free to get creative with ingredients like hot sauce, mustard, or pureed fruit!

Step 4: Seasoning and Sweetness (to taste)

Seasoning your dressing adds a final touch of flavour. You can simply add salt and pepper, or get creative by adding other spices or herbs (dried or fresh) that you have in your spice drawer. Try spices like chili powder or herbs like parsley or basil. You can also add some sweetness with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.

Mixing Your Dressing

Now that you have your dressing ingredients, it’s time to mix it up! You’ll find that when you add oil and acids together, the oil will naturally sit on top of the acid. To make salad dressing, the key is to mix those ingredients together REALLY well. Adding ingredients like mustard, hot sauce, or maple syrup can help the vinegar and oil blend together smoothly.

In the Meant2Prevent kitchen, our favourite way to mix dressing is in a mason jar or container with a tight fitting lid. This way all you have to do is shake the jar to mix everything together. If you don’t have a jar, you can also use a fork, whisk, or hand blender to blend the dressing in a small bowl. 

Fun Tip: This is a great step to have kids participate in! Put on some tunes and have them “shake shake shake”.

Storing Your Dressing

Leftover dressing can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container or jar for 3 to 5 days. The oil may separate in the fridge and become solid, so let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to warm up before you use it again. Shake well to re-mix! 

Dressings made with nut or seed butters may also thicken in the fridge. Add more water (1 tablespoon at a time) and shake to mix.

Guidelines Not Rules

Remember, the basic ratio of 3:1 is a guideline. If you like  sour dressing, add more acid (lemon or vinegar) and less oil (try a 2:1 ratio). You can also adjust each ingredient in the dressing to suit your family’s taste.


Try out these salad recipes for some tasty dressings to get you started, or use them to inspire you to whip up a creation of your own!


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