Vinaigrette Basics [video lesson]

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Do you have so many bottles of vinaigrette in your fridge that when you open the door it sounds like wind chimes? Vinaigrette is one of the first things that any home cook should master for a couple of reasons. One, it’s expensive to buy and tends to be loaded with ingredients. I did a survey of eight popular brands of “Italian-style” vinaigrette. They averaged 17 ingredients. The basic recipe below has six.

Most people think of vinaigrette as something only to use on green salads. A vinaigrette can also be used as a marinade, splashed on roasted or steamed vegetables or as a light sauce for chicken or seafood.

Basic Vinaigrette Ratio

1 part acid + 3 parts oil = fabulous stuff

“Acids:” Any kind of vinegar, citrus juices (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.)
“Oils:” Fruit & vegetable oils (olive, corn, avocado, etc.), nut oils (hazelnut, walnut, peanut)

Basic Method

In a bowl, add the acid, whisk in the oil. Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Congratulations, you’ve made vinaigrette.

Sample Recipe: French Dijon Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive olive
1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Two pinches salt
A few grinds fresh coarse pepper

Put the vinegar, mustard and shallots in a small bowl and whisk in the oil. Add the herbs, salt and pepper. Whisk again until incorporated. Taste. Or, you can put all the ingredients into a jar and just shake it vigorously.

Too tart for your taste? Add a bit of olive oil. Not tart enough? Add a couple drops of vinegar. Needs more salt? Add some. Continue until it tastes good to you.

Endless Variations

But you want a fancy designer gourmet vinaigrette? Raspberry? Blueberry? Then add the berry to the bowl and whisk. Asian vinaigrette? Use some things from the Asian flavor profile: ginger, garlic, miso, sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce. An Italian Vinaigrette? Basil, garlic, tomato, white beans. Get some ideas from our “Cheat Sheet” to Profiles

Be creative. Acid and oil don’t like to stay mixed, so if you want, add an emulsifier, like egg yolk, mayonnaise or mustard before adding the oil, drop by drop, while you whisk. Always taste the vinaigrette with a leaf or two of the greens it will be dressing, so you know what it will actually be like on the plate. Some lettuces can suck up the acid tang, others amplify, so taste before serving.

Some examples to get you started:

Updated July 4, 2016.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” and “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.” All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. Ann Bergstrom says:

    This is my favorite kind of recipe. Once the technique is understood, you can open it up to your interpretation, your mood, or just what’s in the pantry.

    • Thanks! I’ve come to find those are my favorite recipes to write. So many things in cooking are like jazz – you learn the technique, and then you can just keep riffing off it.

  2. Mahalia says:

    When someone writes an post he/she maintains
    the thought of a user in his/her brain that how a user can
    be aware of it. So that’s why this site is so amazing. Thanks!

  3. How timely and appropriate! I just went the the Annual Mustard Festival on Saturday (8-3-2013) in Middleton Wisconsin. Using the end-of-the-jar mustard tip and turning it into a vinaigrette is so cool. Bottled dressings are so convenient but it is SOOOO easy to make your own, much healthier, and the real taste can’t be beat. Thank you for sharing this video.

  4. Christine H says:

    Thanks for the primer on viniagrette! This is one of my “must learns” that somehow always has seemed so daunting. I’ve hated buying dressing from the store, but never felt good about what/how to make it…this will help tremendously. Thanks!


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