The Essentials of DIY Salad Dressings

It can be difficult to find inspiration to eat a lot of fresh healthy vegies and salads regularly, but pairing them with the right dressings can make all the difference. There are SO many different possibilities when it comes to making your own dressings, that we decided to offer you a few of the basics about how to make your own, to give your kitchen creativity a boost.

Salad Dressings for Everyday

At Honey in the Garden we have two delicious custom-made dressings in our range - Apple Cider and Balsamic Vinegar - that are great to have on hand for a quick and easy meal after a long day. Our salad dressings are made using cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, from olives grown and hand-picked on our property.  After collection, within 24 hours, the olives are pressed at a small local Western Australian family olive grove. We then blend with our own raw Australian honey, some vinegar and garlic.

Build up the Basics

These two styles of dressing are pantry essentials, but if you’d like a wider range of options, the first step is to stock your cupboard with the basics to make your own. You’ll need oils, vinegars, and seasonings, plus things to make your dressings in. These items can be bought a few times a year and form the basis of your dressings, then you’ll add fresh or perishable ingredients to your dressings to match the meal you’re preparing. These would be things that you buy regularly in your shopping, or ideally, already grow in your garden, such as fresh herbs, citrus fruits or cherry tomatoes.

Dust off Your Jar Stash

The best way to make salad dressings is in recycled glass jars or small bottles. Empty, washed honey jars are a good option, but most food grade jars will do the job - just wash out your jar when you finish the last of the mustard, jam, vegemite or pickles and you have a shiny new dressing jar. Jars of different sizes allow you to make different amounts of dressing and then you can store the unused portion in the fridge to use again. Keep your eye out at garage sales and 2nd hand shops too for small glass dressings bottles with a cork in the top. These were popular in the 1970s and they make for an elegant display if you serve your dressing separately at the table.

Invest in Good Oils

A good way to stock your dressing ‘kit’ within your budget is to add a different oil each week to your shopping. Most supermarkets now sell good quality Australian olive oil in bulk tins which makes it a much more economical way of buying oil and means you only need to buy it a few times a year. Most dressings can be made using either olive oil, sunflower oil, or sesame oil. Other oils such as almond, coconut, macadamia oil, pumpkin seed and more are also good, but they tend to be more expensive.

Vinegars, Juices and Sauces

While most Australian pantries have a bottle of balsamic vinegar on hand, red wine vinegar is a nice alternative if balsamic is too strong for your taste. White vinegar is usually a pantry staple, though a little too sharp to use on salads, so try the milder white wine vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is also a great fruitier alternative with loads of healthy properties!

A lot of Asian dressings use rice wine vinegar (like Vietnamese dipping sauce – nuoc cham). If you make a lot of Asian food then fish sauce and soy sauce are also must haves. No weekly shop should be without a few fresh lemons and limes in the trolley, plus orange juice is an interesting juice that can be used in dressings.

Condiments and Creamy Basics

The first and most essential item in every pantry is of course good quality raw Australian honey! Our Wildflower honey is a good multipurpose option, but any of our Honey in the Garden products can be used in all kinds of dressing combinations. Raw Australian honey adds a special something extra to vegetables, leafy green salads, fruit salads and marinades for meat. Try our Cinnamon or Vanilla Bean raw honey with yoghurt and tahini for a creamy, protein rich fruit salad dressing.

A good quality Dijon mustard is essential in the cupboard for European style salad dressings, as is a jar of whole egg mayonnaise (this type blends better in dressings than the commercial varieties and usually has less sugar in it). A lot of dressing recipes call for sour cream but low-fat Greek yoghurt or even coconut yoghurt is a great alternative and actually creates a lighter and cleaner tasting dressing.

Fresh Ingredients

Along with the vegetables and greens you use in the salad itself, you can also use a range of fresh ingredients in the dressings. Popular herbs include fresh basil, chives, dill, coriander and mint. Finely chopped cherry tomatoes, and fresh garlic or ginger are also a nice base for a dressing.

All the Sprinkles

Add a middle eastern twist and some gorgeous colour to your meals with a handful of fresh pomegranate. Toast white sesame seeds and shake up in a jar with some black sesame seeds for a handy sprinkle for salads, eggs, fish and more. Or make your own dukkha, by roughly grinding cumin, coriander, sesame seeds, and some of your favourite nuts with salt and pepper. This is particularly delicious sprinkled over poached eggs and spinach, with Persian fetta and a good lug of olive oil. Try a drizzle of chilli honey over it to finish it off.

So there are your DIY salad dressing basics for your shopping list and of course, you can just pick up one new thing each time you go shopping to boost your supplies, rather than investing in everything at once. Now, with tastebuds watering, we're off to make a salad!