How to Make a Basic Vinaigrette


A classic vinaigrette may be simple, but there's nothing basic about it. This dressing may contain as few as three kitchen staples or include a complex mixture of herbs and seasonings. Either way, a vinaigrette done right brings tang, saltiness and depth to an ordinary bowl of lettuce or a plain chicken breast. Once you've learned to make a vinaigrette, you can improvise for any purpose without need for a recipe. The key to mastering the art of making a vinaigrette is knowing the proper ratios and how to adjust ingredients to suit your tastes.

Things You'll Need

  • Shallots, onion, scallions, garlic or ginger
  • Mustard, honey, tomato paste or mayonnaise
  • Vinegar or citrus juice
  • Whisk
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mince shallots, onion, scallions, garlic or ginger, or a combination of these ingredients, very finely. Make the pieces as small as you can so that you don't later bite into large, raw chunks. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

  • Add an emulsifier to the bowl. Use mustard, honey, tomato paste or even mayonnaise; these ingredients help the oil and acid blend so the vinaigrette won't separate later. Adjust the amounts based on your tastes and the strength of your emulsifier; for instance, you may only need 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of sweet honey or spicy mustard per 1 cup of vinaigrette, but you can use as much as 1 tablespoon of a mild emulsifier such as tomato paste.

  • Pour acid into the bowl. Use balsamic, cider, rice or wine vinegar, or add lemon, lime or orange juice. Vinaigrette recipes commonly use a ratio of 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, or about 1/4 cup of acid per cup of vinaigrette. Whisk together all the ingredients in the bowl.

  • Drizzle in oil very slowly, whisking the mixture constantly. Use olive oil or a flavorful nut oil. Continue whisking until you've added all the oil and the mixture is opaque, shiny and slightly thick.

  • Dip a spoon or a piece of lettuce into the vinaigrette and taste it. Add more of any ingredient until you're pleased with the balance; it should be tart and creamy but not overpoweringly acidic or oily.

  • Add salt and pepper, one pinch at a time of each. Stir and taste the vinaigrette after each addition until you're satisfied with the taste.

  • Store vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use it within three or four days.

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  • Photo Credit Ragne Kabanova/Hemera/Getty Images
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