Delicious vegan salad dressing is easy to find at grocery stores. But the best option is to avoid bottled brands and make it yourself.
Homemade Salad Dressing Ideas
Even if you scarcely have time to cook, you should make your own salad dressing. In under 30 seconds you can create something at least as tasty as any bottled dressing. A simple but delicious dressing requires only that you mix together some oil, vinegar, and dried herbs. And even the fanciest dressings take only a few minutes to prepare.
Given how easy homemade dressing is to make, it’s shocking that so many people choose store-bought. Not only does making your own dressing save you money, you’ll invariably use much higher quality ingredients. Check the label of mass-market dressings and you’ll often find low-quality oils like soybean and even cottonseed. Worse yet, many brands contain an absurd number of artificial ingredients, stabilizers, and preservatives. As just one example, Hidden Valley’s Original Ranch dressing contains all of these substances:
- phosphoric acid
- xanthan gum
- modified food starch
- monosodium glutamate
- artificial flavors
- disodium phosphate
- sorbic acid and calcium disodium edta as preservatives
- disodium inosinate
- disodium guanylate
If you’re making yourself a healthy salad, why contaminate it with this sort of garbage, when you can prepare a tastier, cheaper, and totally vegan dressing in minutes?
What’s more, since you’re in charge of what goes into your dressing, you’ll undoubtedly come up with flavor combinations you’ll prefer to any bottled variety. So now let’s look at the two basic kinds of dressings you can make: oil-based and creamy.
The quintessential oil-based dressing is Italian. Nothing is easier to make. Just mix some olive oil with a little balsamic or red wine vinegar, and then add some dried Italian seasonings. Shake it up and you’re ready to go.
You can easily come up with non-Italian variations:
- Try a different herb or spice mix.
- Add a teaspoon or two of roasted hemp or sesame seeds, ideally partially-ground
- Replace the vinegar with lemon or lime juice.
- Add a dash of soy sauce or roasted sesame oil.
Always shake or mix your oil-based dressings prior to use, since the oil and vinegar quickly separates.
Friends don’t let friends eat dairy-based ranch dressing. There are at least three excellent vegan bases for a delicious creamy dressing:
- Tahini. Mix with lemon juice and minced garlic, and then add water to attain your desired consistency. While this is the traditional sauce for a falafel wrap, it’s also the perfect salad dressing. Sesame combined with lemon delivers a rich tanginess that will make you swear you’re tasting yogurt. Note that tahini dressing served in Greek restaurants usually does contain yogurt, but no special flavors are lost when yogurt is omitted. The tahini dressing served at most Middle-Eastern restaurants is vegan.
- Vegan mayo or unsweetened soy yogurt. Just mix in some hot sauce. This brings the fire, and you can make your dressing in as many variations as there are hot sauces. Start with sriracha sauce, and then later experiment with more exotic variations. In lieu of hot sauce I occasionally stir a little chopped Indian lime pickle into my mayo or soy yogurt.
- Tofu. Process in a blender with water. Then add salt and dried dill and you’ve got a terrific vegan ranch dressing.
Seasonings for Your Dressings
You can use a different assortment of seasonings every time you make dressings. Here are some of the best:
- garlic (minced fresh, sauteed, or roasted)
- ginger (minced)
- freshly-ground black pepper
- Italian or Mexican dried herb mix
- minced fresh or crumbled dried herbs (nearly any sort)
- wasabi paste
- roasted sesame oil
- soy sauce or tamari
- chili powder or ground cayenne pepper
- Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Note that several of the above ingredients are perishable, or become perishable once they’re added to your dressing. Since you’re not adding any nasty preservatives, it’s best to make only as much dressing as your salad requires. Be sure to refrigerate any unused dressing and use it within a few days.
Popular Store-Bought Vegan Salad Dressings
Here are some popular vegan bottled dressings:
- Annie’s Organic Goddess Dressing
- Chef Bricker’s Brick House: Sesame Ginger and Avocado Lime (other varieties aren’t vegan)
- Daiya (Homestyle Ranch, Creamy Caesar, Blue Cheeze, Hon’y Mustard, Creamy Italian)
- Follow Your Heart (Ranch, Thousand Island, Balsamic Vinaigrette, & Vegan Bleu Cheese)
- Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Plant Bomb! (Three Varieties)
Commercially-made dressings come and go all the time. Your local natural food store should carry some good vegan brands not featured here.
After choosing a dressing, don’t forget about salad toppings, which can further ramp up your salad’s flavor. Toss on some nutritional yeast, diced olives, pickled vegetables, or tamari-roasted chopped nuts or seeds.
No matter which dressing you choose, it deserves to be poured over a fantastic salad. Please see my guide to vegan salads for guidance on how to make a great one.