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A go-to balsamic vinaigrette recipe, a classic salad dressing recipe to make from scratch in seconds — just add pantry ingredients including olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard to a glass jar and shake it up!
We have a handful of favorite homemade salad dressings that we turn to over and over. A classic balsamic vinaigrette is in the top five, for sure.
This vinaigrette tastes perfectly balanced and comes together instantly. And the best part is that you don’t have to fuss with a food processor or blender to make it.
It took a bit of testing to come up with the best-ever balsamic vinaigrette that has the perfect ratio of acidity, sweetness, salt and fat.
Early in my cooking career in restaurant kitchens, I became somewhat of an expert at making salad dressings. I worked the garde manger station (the section of the kitchen that prepares salads and cold dishes) and one of my daily tasks was making salad dressings, mayonnaise and other sauces by the gallon — not to mention tossing SO MANY salads to order.
I learned that the secret to tasty salad dressings is all about balancing the ingredients to find the “sweet spot.” You’ll know you’ve hit it when your tastes buds say WOW that’s good!
About the ingredients
Gather a few pantry staples to make this delicious homemade dressing recipe. It beats any store-bought vinaigrette by a mile.
- Balsamic vinegar: Unlike other vinegars, this sweet Italian elixir isn’t made from wine. It’s actually a cooked, concentrated juice from the white Trebbiano grapes, aged in wood barrels. It’s worth stocking a good, affordable aged balsamic in your pantry. It’s my recommendation for this vinaigrette. You’ll notice immediately that it has a thicker, more syrupy texture than unaged balsamic. Be sure not to get anything labeled balsamic “glaze” which is a type of artificially sweetened syrup.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Use your best everyday olive oil, or a half-and-half mixture of extra virgin and a neutral oil like avocado oil.
- Fresh garlic: Nothing compares to the flavor of fresh garlic. You only need a small amount (about one clove) because it goes a long way. This vinaigrette isn’t machine blended or processed, so I prefer to grate the garlic on a rasp grater so it melds quickly.
- Dijon mustard: Mustard adds tanginess and also acts as the emulsifier to bind the oil and vinegar. Dijon is really the secret to keep any smooth salad dressing from separating.
- Honey: Use a mild, liquid honey or pure maple syrup to add touch of sweetness to the dressing without tasting cloying. Start with 1 tablespoon, adding more by the teaspoon to taste, if you like.
- Salt: Kosher salt or fine sea salt.
- Black pepper: Freshly ground black peppercorns taste best.
You won’t need a whisk or a bowl to make the vinaigrette, just a clean glass jar that has a lid. Note: If you want to make a larger batch (more than 2 cups) of dressing, it’s best to blend in a food processor or blender.
How to use balsamic vinaigrette
- Of course, balsamic vinaigrette is great for everyday salads. It’s best on sturdy greens like romaine, and perfect on radicchio salad with blue cheese and walnuts, winter salads, with veggie salads with roasted beets, and red onions.
- Balsamic vinaigrette pairs well with fruits, too (be sure to leave out the garlic). Try it with a strawberry salad, or sliced peaches with goat cheese.
- Use the dressing as a marinade for chicken or veggies, or in a pasta salad.
2-Minute Mason Jar Balsamic Vinaigrette
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup, to taste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, smooth or grainy
- ½ teaspoon grated or very finely chopped fresh garlic, about 1 small clove
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Yield: 1 cup vinaigrette
- Combine the olive oil, vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup, Dijon, salt and pepper in a glass jar.
- Secure the lid. Shake well to combine, about 30 seconds. The dressing should look smooth and emulsified. Taste the vinaigrette and add more honey, salt and pepper to taste, if you like.
- Shake the vinaigrette a few times to blend before using.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- The recipe can be doubled or tripled — be sure to use a larger capacity jar, 16-24 ounces.
- The dressing keeps up to 5 days, refrigerated — if kept much longer, the garlic begins to ferment and will taste “off” or stale. If you want the vinaigrette to last longer in the fridge, mix it up without the garlic, and add fresh garlic when ready to serve your salad.