How To Make Vinaigrette

15 05 2008

Mise en place for vinaigrette

I am often asked for my vinaigrette recipe.  I try to explain that it’s really very simple, and has a tendency to change every time I make it, but people like recipes, so I’ll do my best to transcribe it.  Pictured above are all the necessary ingredients.  I start by mincing a shallot (half a shallot if it’s a big one) and putting it in a small bowl.  Then I add sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little mustard.  The trick with the mustard is that it acts as an emulsifier, and helps to make a nice, creamy vinaigrette.  I pour a little vinegar over this and whisk to combine.  Next I begin drizzling in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly.  It helps to have a bowl with a little grip on the bottom (a dish towel wrapped around the bottom of the bowl will also help to anchor it).  Usually, the dressing will begin to emulsify and become slightly opaque.  At this point I do a taste test and determine whether there is enough salt, pepper, etc.  That’s pretty much it.

For more details and a recipe with actual amounts, continue reading…


For those of you who don’t already know, these are shallots.  If you don’t keep these on hand in the pantry, you should.  Their mild onion flavor is perfect for vinaigrettes, pan sauces, and stir-fries.  They keep well in a cool dark place, so it’s no problem to have a small stockpile in the cupboard.

This recipe reflects the typical ratio for vinaigrettes: three parts oil to one part vinegar.  You may end up using a little more or a little less depending on the acidity of your vinegar and your own personal taste.  Personally, I eyeball the whole thing, but I’ll admit that this take a little practice.

Basic Vinaigrette

(Makes enough to dress 2 large salads or 4 smaller ones)


1 small shallot, finely diced

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (maybe 1/8 tsp.each)

¼ tsp. mustard

2 Tbsp. (1 oz.) vinegar of your choice (see note)

6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) oil of your choice (see note)


  1. Combine all ingredients except oil in a bowl. 
  2. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly.  It should thicken slightly and become opaque. 
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Toss with salad greens and serve.
  5. Store any unused portion in a jar in the fridge.  It may congeal in the cold, but will be fine once it returns to room temperature.




For the mustard, I usually use Dijon or Colman’s powdered.  You can use more if you like the flavor.  If you’re really averse to it, you can leave it out, but it will be more difficult to get the dressing to emulsify.


You can use almost any type of vinegar you like.  The ones I use most often are sherry, apple cider, and balsamic, and these will compliment a wide variety of salad toppings. 


The oil should be a fairly neutral one, such as an everyday extra virgin olive oil (no need to use the expensive stuff) or grapeseed oil.  Sometimes it’s nice to throw in a few drops of a more distinctly flavored oil, such as hazelnut or sesame, for variety.


Obviously, this recipe has infinite variations.  It can be sweetened with a little honey or sugar.  You can add other flavor elements, such as ginger, garlic, or fresh herbs.  Fruit purées or miso paste make interesting additions as well (although maybe not at the same time).  Basically, once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can let your imagination run wild!





7 responses

15 05 2008

I make mine pretty similarly and it changes frequently! The shallot really makes it yummy. If you’re very brave, you could try with a clove of garlic instead – but you have to love garlic. Sometimes I use Maggi sauce instead of vinegar (D.’s recipe – the one I put on my blog) which is good too.

15 05 2008

I’ve done that before, more out of necessity than anything (I was out of shallots and had a sort of impromptu dinner party). It came out quite tasty, and was a nice complement to the creamy goat cheese on top of the salad. I’ll have to try that Maggi variation sometime.

15 05 2008

Ooh, I love goat cheese on salads! It mixes so well with the dressing. Feta is good too. One of my favorite salads is tomato/avocado/feta with vinaigrette dressing and a good baguette on the side.

16 05 2008

That would be good on tacos, too!

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