Vegan Cooking Tips

Quick Salad Dressings

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD

Purchasing prepared salad dressing is easy… but store-bought dressings are not necessarily hand-tailored to your tastes and preferences, or made in the amounts you need or prefer. If you make your own salad dressings, most will hold in the refrigerator for up to three days. In fact, some taste even better the day after they are initially prepared, allowing the flavors to blend.

For ‘made to order’ salad dressings, you can use liquid saved from drained fruit to thin vegan mayonnaise-based dressings; this will cut down on the calories from fat, while replacing some of the flavor. Oil, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and prepared mustard all make flavorful dressings for fresh or canned veggies.

Vegan mayonnaise is a good binder for salad dressings, as are vegan sour cream, unflavored yogurt, and silken tofu. To cut back on fat, mix a small amount of mayonnaise with lower-fat vegan sour cream, soy yogurt, or silken tofu. Add seasonings such as chopped parsley, onion and garlic powder, lemon juice, vinegar, or unsweetened fruit juice concentrate to replace flavor.

Vegetable juice cocktail is a good base for salad dressings. You can thicken vegetable juice cocktail and make it creamy with vegan sour cream, yogurt, or silken tofu, or use puréed vegetables (such as canned carrots) as thickeners to keep it really veggie.

Working with the flavors you enjoy and the ingredients you have on hand, here are some suggestions for creating your own salad dressings:

Indian Curried Grapefruit Dressing:

  • ¾ cup unflavored soy yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut milk
  • 4 Tablespoons grapefruit juice concentrate
  • 2 Tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Thai Peanut-Orange Dressing:

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh chilies

Retro Green Goddess Dressing:

  • ¾ cup soy sour cream or silken tofu
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon shredded nori (dried seaweed, such as used for sushi)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

Italian Sun-dried Tomato-Rosemary Vinaigrette:

  • 8 sundried tomatoes, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

Chinese Sesame-Soy Dressing:

  • ¾ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice

New England Thanksgiving Vinaigrette:

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Tablespoons cranberry sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

Healthy Chopped Veggie Vinaigrette:

  • 6 Tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped bell pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped celery
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil

Continental Shallot and Caper Dressing:

  • 6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 Tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Southwestern Chili Pepper Dressing:

  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chili (you determine the heat)
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato purée
  • ½ Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Note: Each combination above makes a bit more or less than a cup of salad dressing.