Custom Made Vinaigrette

Bottle of vinaigrette

Custom Made Vinaigrette

Some say if you can prepare a well balanced custom made vinaigrette, you know how to cook. Is this true? Not sure; however, there are many opinions as to just how vinaigrette should taste.

What to do? Well, the classic proportion of oil to vinegar in vinaigrette is four to one. However, two recent award-winning cookbooks favor a combination of three to one. So, knowing how to make a pleasing vinaigrette really boils down to tasting and adjusting ingredients and trusting what you discover.

Vinaigrette Oils

Custom Made Vinaigrette
Custom Made Vinaigrette

Ingredients matter. It is best to purchase your oil in small quantities. Oil will deteriorate in light and should be stored in dark or opaque bottles in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Olive oil is the favored oil for vinaigrette, but many cooks find its flavor too assertive and combine it with other, milder oils such as canola or sunflower. These oils are lighter in weight and in taste. They are ideal for delicate salads with butter lettuce or for napping on mild fish. They mix well with white wine or rice vinegar and with citrus juices.

Peanut oils and other nut oils are very fragile and should be stored in the refrigerator. Nut oils have strong flavors that you should balance with milder oils to smooth the taste. Serve with strongly flavored greens such as endive or arugula. Sesame oil has much character and can overwhelm other flavors. When melded with milder oils, these vinaigrette’s will enhance dishes as diverse as spinach or broccoli, noodles, poultry, pork or fish.


Truly successful vinaigrette calls for quality vinegar. Inferior vinegar can be too sharp and will need too much oil to balance it. Vinegar’s can range from tart to smooth. Rice vinegar is mild and almost sweet at 4 percent acidity. Red wine vinegar is clean and sharp at 7 percent. Balsamic vinegar has a middle value of 6 percent acidity. This may explain why it can be drizzled on strawberries and steak with equal success.

Potato, pasta, dried bean and lentil salads should be dressed with a more acidic vinaigrette. Often two parts oil to one part vinegar. The starchy qualities absorb flavors and will be bland without a boost of tartness.

The bulk of fat in vinaigrette comes from oil, but you can make salad dressings as fat-free and low-calorie as you like by changing the amount of oil you use. Basic vinaigrette is one-part vinegar to two to three parts oil. Traditionally, one would add mustard for flavor and body. This helps reduce the calorie and fat content. To cut fat further, try the following variations.

Substitutes for wine vinegar’s:

Wine vinegar.
Wine vinegar.
  • Orange juice.
  • Apple cider.
  • Balsamic vinegar.
  • Herb vinegar’s.

These are less acidic which means less oil is necessary for a balance of tartness.

Opt for monounsaturated oils such as grape seed and olive oil.

Go Asian. Combine the sweet, sour and salty tastes of honey, rice wine vinegar and fish sauce with a slice of chili pepper and ginger for a great salad dressing without fat.

Get flavor from herbs, citrus zest, shallots, ginger, scallions and interesting combination’s of salad greens.

Use interesting combination’s of salad greens like arugula, endive or mustard greens.

Use mango, apricot, roasted red pepper or roasted garlic purees to add texture and body to salad dressings. This allows you to reduce some of the oil.

Common favorite additions to 1-cup of custom made vinaigrette:

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons minced shallots or onion
  • One medium clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • Four to five cloves minced roasted garlic

If you feel a bit more adventurous, try the following suggestions:

  • One pureed tomato or roasted pepper. This will thicken and emulsify the dressing.
  • 1/4 cup black olives, pitted and chopped.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons citrus juice.
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons capers.

A custom made vinaigrette is a wonderful accent to your food and will bring out its best flavor. Try your hand with your very own custom made vinaigrette!

Custom Made Vinaigrette Recipe

1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 to 3/4 cup olive oil
Options: 1/3 cup herb or nut oil. Substitute for 1/3 cup oil in basic recipe or 1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons lemon, lime or orange juice. Substitute for 2 tablespoons vinegar

Optional additions:
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons chutney
1/2  to 1 teaspoon ground spice, such as cumin or paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped herbs
One medium clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced

To prepare vinaigrette by hand, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until slightly thickened. If using sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, chutney or spice, add here. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking until blended and emulsified. If using herbs, garlic, or shallot, add here.

To prepare your custom made vinaigrette with a food processor or blender. If using herbs or garlic, put into processor or blender and chop finely. Add vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Pulse to blend. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, chutney or spices if using. With motor running, slowly add oil, processing until blended and emulsified. Stir in minced shallot if using.
Pour vinaigrette into a jar, cover tightly and refrigerate up to three days. Recipe makes one cup custom made vinaigrette.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 85 calories, 3g carbohydrates, .03g protein, 9g fat, no cholesterol, and 83mg sodium.

Author: Jeni

Certified by the Professional School of Fitness and Nutrition in March, 1995; honored for exemplary grades. Practicing fitness and nutrition for over 20 years. Featured in the Feb. 1994 issue of "Shape" magazine. Featured in Collage in the spring issue of 1995 Low fat recipe's published in Taste of Home, Quick Cooking, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among others. September, 2001: Featured in "Winning The War on Cholesterol" By Rodale Publishing

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