Do I need to prove to you that salads are healthy? Most likely, you already know that a variety of fresh, raw vegetables served on a bed of greens is almost always a good idea as a healthy meal or a side dish. Why ‘almost’? Because it’s often easy to sabotage the healthfulness of your salad by drenching it in oily store-bought dressing that has a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients. I’m not even going to talk about shredded cheese, bacon bits and croutons as salad ingredients because here at Vegan Runner Eats we’re all about the healthy vegan stuff. (Why do I recommend skipping oil? See how it affects our health in this post, plus get my top 8 tips on cooking oil-free.)
So what’s the next logical step for a person who decided to ditch as much processed store-bought junk as possible? Make homemade salad dressings! The abundance of DIY salad dressing recipes on the internet will please even the pickiest eater. If you do a quick search on Pinterest for vegan salad dressing recipes, you’ll find anything from Italian and balsamic vinaigrettes to Ranch and Caesar. But if you’re anything like me (read: looking for the quickest, least labor- or ingredient-intensive recipes), you’ll quickly find a few not very pleasing tendencies in most of homemade vegan dressing recipes:
– Most recipes make too much dressing. What if you can’t use up a whole jar of this particular salad dressing flavor within a week? It’s no fun watching a lot of good ingredients go to waste.
– A lot of recipes require a good blender, especially if any nuts or seeds are involved. Even if you do have one of those, you still may have less than satisfactory results if you decide to halve the recipe – most regular-sized blenders will laugh at you if you’re trying to make 3 Tbsp of salad dressing.
– If a recipe includes nuts or seeds, it’s going to be loaded with fat. Yes, the fat from seeds and nuts is way healthier than, say, bacon grease (sorry piggies!), but add a generous amount of a fatty dressing to your salad, top it with some avocado slices and an additional handful of slivered almonds or toasted pumpkin seeds, and before you know it, you’ll have another calorie bomb on your table.
So what’s the solution for people who want a quick and healthy, oil- and fat-free homemade vegan salad dressing recipe that only yields enough for a salad RIGHT NOW, and not a whole jar that will inevitably go to waste a week later? I’ve got a few solutions just for you, and chances are, you probably have all of the ingredients in your kitchen right now!
Quick and Healthy Oil-Free Salad Dressings
The formulas below produce salad dressings that allow the flavors of your salad vegetables shine rather than cover them up and make the whole salad taste like the dressing (think balsamic vinaigrette vs ranch). The measurements are approximate, but will yield enough dressings for one large salad shared by 4 people. Feel free to adjust the proportions to your taste.
1. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar + 1 tsp Dijon mustard + ½ tsp agave/maple syrup + 2 Tbsp water. Whisk together and add to your salad before serving.
2. 2 Tbsp balsamic/apple cider vinegar + 1-2 tsp fruit preserves of your choice + 2 Tbsp water. Whisk and add to your salad.
3. 1 Tbsp rice vinegar + 1 Tbsp lime juice + 1 tsp agave syrup + dash of turmeric + dash of ground ginger (or ½ tsp fresh grated ginger) + 1 Tbsp chopped fresh scallions (green parts) (optional) + 2 Tbsp water = light Asian-inspired vinaigrette dressing. Whisk and add to your salad.
4. 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar + 1 tsp mustard + ½ tsp agave/maple syrup + dried Italian herbs of choice + 2 Tbsp water. Whisk and allow to rest for 5-10 min before adding to your salad.
5. 1 Tbsp hummus + 1 tsp lemon/lime juice + ½ to 1 tsp agave/maple syrup + 2 Tbsp water. Whisk and add to your salad before serving.
6. 1 Tbsp tahini + 1 tsp lemon/lime juice + ½ tsp agave syrup + 2 Tbsp water. Whisk and add to your salad.
7. 2-3 tbsp of your favorite salsa, added directly to your salad before serving.
8. ¼ – ½ ripe avocado, massaged into the greens of your salad before the rest of the vegetables are added, then topped with a squeeze of lemon/lime juice. Note: this works best on thicker-textured greens like kale.
9. 2 Tbsp of hummus, massaged into the greens the same way as in #8 above, then topped with a squeeze of lemon/lime juice. The same note applies as above.
10. A generous squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice all over your salad right before serving. I find that this method works best on smaller, individually served salads.
Since all of the above dressings are virtually fat-free (except for the tahini-based one, plus some types of hummus will have added fat), I can hear the righteous voices telling me that we need healthy fats in our diets to process all of the vitamins, carotenoids, etc. in the raw salad vegetables. I’m all for the natural, preferably unprocessed sources of nutrition, so before you pour any oil (a highly processed product) onto your salad in addition to the above mentioned dressings, please consider adding some avocado or raw pumpkin seeds instead. Or forgo the fatty ingredients altogether – all plants, even kale and apples, have residual amounts of fat in them. I think we can all agree that our society isn’t suffering from the lack of added fats 🙂 .
(Please note that I’m not a professional dietician, so if you want to find out more about the optimal amount of fat in your diet, you may be better off consulting a specialist.)
So here are ten foolproof go-to salad dressing formulas that I use myself all the time. In compiling this list, I have to give credit to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. and his wife Ann, Rip Esselstyn of the Engine 2 Diet, Lindsay Nixon of Happy Herbivore, and Dr. John McDougall and his wife Mary.
Question for you: What’s your favorite healthy salad dressing? What would you add to my list above? Please leave a comment below for us all to see!
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