Every cook should be able to make a vinaigrette in his or her sleep.  Why?  It’s a versatile sauce that can be used on salad and veggies, works equally well on cold meat and fish dishes, and can even substitute for a marinade.  It’s a sauce that is quick and easy to make and stores well in the fridge for up to two weeks. Vinaigrette is also the sauce where you can let your creativity run wild with the possibility of dozens (hundreds) of variations once you understand the basics.

Basic Vinaigrette

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh herbs
  •  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, herbs, mustard, salt and pepper with the vinegar until smooth.  Continue to whisk while slowly pouring in a thin, steady stream, the olive oil.  The mixture will gradually thicken.

Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper if needed.  (Vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks)

What to stock your pantry with:



Helps to keep the emulsion from separating.  A little goes a long way.

  • Dijon
  • Stoneground

Salt & Pepper

Now is the time to breakout that fancy salt you’ve been saving…

  • Kosher salt
  • Sea salt
  • Seasoned salt (truffle salt for example)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (our favorite  — Tellicherry peppercorns)


Fresh herbs are the stars of vinaigrette.  It’s what sets a homemade vinaigrette apart from the store bought stuff!


  • Traditional balsamic or white balsamic (If you haven’t tried white balsamic you’re missing out! Think of it as the less acidic, doesn’t turn your salad muddy and dark cousin of traditional balsamic)
  • Champagne, red or white wine, sherry, cider
  • Herb infused vinegars
  • Fruit infused vinegars – raspberry, pomegranate, and mango
  • Rice vinegar – plain or sweetened
  • Distilled white vinegar best for cleaning not for vinaigrettes


Substitute a portion or all of the vinegar with juice

  • Fruit juice – pomegranate, white grape juice, guava
  • Citrus juice – lemon, lime, orange, blood orange, grapefruit, AND all citrus zest


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Substitute ¼ cup of the extra-virgin olive with walnut, hazelnut, almond or sesame


7 thoughts on “Vinaigrette

  1. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find the quality of Balsamic vinegar on sale varies enourmously. In my view, it pays to keep trying different brands until you hit a good one and then stick with it. Personally, I’ve never found one in a high street supermarket worth buying. For this reason, I generally use rice wine or cider vinegar.

    I have a Gordon Ramsay dvd in which he replaces the vinegar with lemon juice and water (to cut down the acidity). An interesting idea, but I think I’ll pass on it.

  2. Hi Mike – good point on the variable nature of balsamic vinegar. We tend to use white balsamic vinegar for that very reason. It’s got a lovely tangy flavor to it and doesn’t change from brand to brand all that much.

    When it absolutely must have to be balsamic vinegar, we look for certain things before we buy a brand:
    1) location — Balsamic vinegar must be produced in Modena, Italy
    2) color and viscosity – the lighter the color and viscosity, the shallower the flavor and character. We like to turn the bottle around, hold it up the the light and shake it up. If the vinegar is rich, dark, opaque and clings to the bottle we have a pretty good idea of its depth of flavor and complex characteristics. If the vinegar is light and watery, chance are the flavors will be tart, and tight.

    When we want a light dressing, we definitely use lemon juice and water, too!

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