There’s maybe nothing worse than a lackluster lunch or dinner salad. At its most basic, it’s just a big bowl of greens, and there’s so many ways that could go awry. Wilting or wet lettuce, incongruous fruits and veggies, too-big croutons fighting with too-small nuts or beans… with all that to contend with, you might be tempted to give in and just spend the $15 on your local take-out salad place. You can even do everything right (beautiful produce, everything chopped perfectly, flavors on point), and still have a salad that’s kind of a bummer. One of our top ways to guarantee this NEVER happens on our watch is to have an arsenal of homemade salad dressings in our back pocket. Salad dressing has the magic ability to tie a salad together, bringing all the ingredients together in harmony. Check out our 15 homemade salad dressings for ideas—we bet you’ll ditch the bottle once you see how easy it is to make your own.
When it comes to dressing a salad, there are a few things to consider. First of all, are you the type of person who’s really only eating a salad as a vehicle for creamy ranch or blue cheese dressing? Or are you more a fan of classic options like red wine vinaigrette or Italian dressing, basic upgrades to a touch of vinegar and olive to simply lubricate your greens? Maybe you’re the creative type, trying out new flavors at every opportunity, like in our tzatziki, miso ginger dressing, or pickle vinaigrette. Whatever type of salad lover you are, we’ve got some advice for you. Firstly, when you’re tasting your dressing to see if it has enough salt, pepper, or vinegar, don’t just taste it on a spoon. Instead, dip a salad green into the dressing, and try it all together. Often dressing will taste over seasoned on its own, but perfectly seasoned on a bite of lettuce. Secondly, don’t just pour an entire bottle’s worth into your bowl. We usually end up needing a TON less dressing than we were expecting, so start low and slow. If you’re not eating your salad right away, don’t dress it at all. Instead, bring a separate container of dressing, and dress your salad right before enjoying it to avoid wilting greens. Third, like many things in a kitchen, the right tools can really make or break your success. We love a salad spinner for making sure our greens get clean, a salad chopper to get that made-by-someone-else vibe, and the perfect pair of tongs for tossing everything together (check out #35 on our fave kitchen gadgets list). And finally, these recipes don’t have to just be for salad greens. Try them on everything from pasta salads to rice bowls, to marinades for chicken or seafood. After all, you made it—take advantage and put your dressing on everything!