Make your own healthy salad dressings at home

Make your own healthy salad dressings at home

There are so many reasons to make your own salad dressing at home, says Nancy Waldeck, a chef at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

“You can create the flavors that you and your family love, it’s easy to make and it’s so versatile,” she says. “It can be used as a dressing, a marinade or a dip for veggies. You can also save a lot of money when you make it yourself, and it’s an easy way to have a culinary ‘win at the table.”

Are homemade salad dressings healthier than store-bought?

Homemade salad dressing can be healthier than store-bought because you control the ingredients and can avoid less-healthy oils, added sugar and excess salt.

“If you look at your purchased salad dressings, it’s likely that one of the prominent ingredients is soybean oil,” says Waldeck. “This oil is inexpensive for companies to use in prepared foods, and we get lots of it in many of the foods we may eat daily. We need more oils that are good for us, like olive and avocado oil. You’ll also see added sugars in many forms, whether it says the word ‘sugar’ or it has ingredients with the letters ‘-ose’ at the end of the word [like fructose].”

She also recommends checking the salt content of store-bought dressings since many are high in sodium.

The best ingredients for homemade salad dressings

If you’d like to make your own salad dressings and marinades, Waldeck recommends stocking your pantry and refrigerator with a few key ingredients.


  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Vinegars (like balsamic, white wine, red wine and apple cider vinegar)

  • Dijon mustard

  • Sea salt

  • A pepper grinder

  • Seasoning blends (like Italian seasoning)

  • Smoked paprika


  • Lemons

  • Olive oil or avocado oil mayonnaise

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt

  • Light buttermilk

How long do homemade salad dressings last?

“If you are making a dressing without herbs in it, like the lemon Dijon vinaigrette [below], they will keep for four or five days in the fridge,” says Waldeck. “Use dressings with herbs and other ingredients within two or three days.”

She recommends to always store your dressing in the fridge.

“When you’re ready to use it, give it a good shake when you start prepping your salad,” she says. “Then it will be ready when you are.” 

How to use homemade salad dressings

“I love using dressing as a marinade for veggies, fish or poultry for the grill,” says Waldeck. “And if it’s a creamy dressing like homemade ranch [below], there’s nothing better for dipping carrot and celery sticks for a quick snack. And don’t forget that salad dressings go great on summer fruit salads as well.”

Homemade salad dressing recipes

Lemon Dijon vinaigrette


  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon each, sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place the ingredients in a jar and shake.

Maple syrup vinaigrette


  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Add all the ingredients to a jar and shake well. It can also be drizzled over a fresh fruit salad.

Homemade ranch dressing


  • 1 head garlic

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3/4 cup light buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • ¼ cup light olive oil mayo

  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives or minced green onions, green parts only

  • Sea salt and black pepper

Step one

Cut half an inch off the top of the head of garlic. Place the garlic in aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake until soft, at 350 degrees for about one hour. Set aside to cool.

Step two

When the garlic is cool, squeeze the garlic out of the head into the bowl of a food processor. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, mayo, parsley and chives, and puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Check out more recipes and nutrition tips from Cancer Wellness experts.


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