Eating healthy, home-cooked meals is a challenge in and of itself—especially after a long day at work followed by a workout. And, if you’re anything like me, it’s nearly impossible to say no to hitting up sweetgreen or Whole Foods for a quick, easy meal after class. However, buying lunch or dinner every single day is not always the healthiest option and can take a toll on your wallet. Making salads—and everything that goes into them—at home is a healthier, budget-friendly alternative.
If you’re worried about getting bored of using the same ingredients regularly, try making salad dressings from scratch. “Packaged salad dressings from the supermarket can have a laundry list of ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, and be loaded with saturated fat, sodium and other filler ingredients,” says Abigail Kinnear RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in New York. “If you’re using this to dress your salad a few times a week, that can lead to unnecessary intake of these undesirable nutrients.”
The good news is, you don’t have to be a master chef or even have a fully stocked spice rack to make any of these homemade salad dressings. Many of these recipes call for the same ingredients and can be “eye-balled” instead of measured out.
Here are four easy salad dressings you can make at home. Once you’ve got the hang of them, try mixing and matching your favorite key ingredients to create your own homemade salad dressing. Because what fun is DIY and cooking without adding your own personal touch?
Basic balsamic vinaigrette
Balsamic vinaigrette dressing is a delicious, multipurpose seasoning. It goes great with a Caprese salad, a chopped cucumber, tomato and onion salad and can even work as a marinade for steak and/or chicken.
Recipe: To make a balsamic vinaigrette at home, you’ll need balsamic vinegar (1/2 cup), olive oil (1/4 cup), maple syrup (1 teaspoon), Dijon (1 teaspoon), salt (1/2 teaspoon) and, if you’d like, a dash of fresh or dried herbs.
Combine the above ingredients into either a blender or NutriBullet and blend until you achieve a dressing-like consistency. You can also use a mason jar or other closed container to collect your ingredients in and shake it to combine them—just make don’t forget to close the container before you shake!
Ranch dressing is basically a necessity for any meal, especially if you’re from the Midwest. But sadly, it’s not the most nutritious option. If you can’t image life without ranch, but can’t just can’t get behind its high fat and sodium count, DIY your own version with two simple ingredients: Greek yogurt and ranch seasoning.
Recipe: To make your own “healthy” ranch, all you’ll need is a tub of plain Greek yogurt and a packet of ranch seasoning. You can find these in the seasoning or dressing aisles. (You can make your own seasoning with herbs and spices, but I prefer the half homemade way.) Measure out about two cups of plain Greek yogurt and add one packet of ranch seasoning, mixing until it’s fully combined.
Try your homemade ranch dressing with veggies, crackers, pizza (if you’re into that) or on top of a salad.
Tangy sweet vinaigrette
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing, good-on-any-salad dressing, look no further. This salad dressing is a little bit sweet, a little bit tangy and seriously goes with anything—a green salad, a Cobb salad, a strawberry and goat cheese salad, by itself (just kidding)—and it’s so easy to make. You don’t even need measuring cups or spoons.
Recipe: To start, choose a container that will hold as much dressing as you need for your salad (I usually go with a smaller 1.1 ounce Tupperware container and pack it in my lunch bag). You’ll want to fill just about half of the container with olive oil. Then, add about the same amount of white wine or white balsamic vinegar. From there, add a dash of white sugar and a tiny bit of warm water. Close your container, shake it up and dress your salad.
Apple cider vinaigrette
Nothing goes better with a tasty apple, pear, bacon and blue cheese salad topped with chicken and/or nuts than an apple cider vinaigrette. Like the balsamic vinaigrette, this is a versatile dressing and can go with truly whatever salad you prefer, and it makes a great marinade for chicken and even fish.
Recipe: To make this, you’ll need apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup), olive oil (1/2 cup), honey Dijon mustard (2 teaspoons), minced garlic (1 tablespoon), salt (1 teaspoon) and pepper to taste. Whisk the ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl—or if you prefer, use the mason jar method.