Let’s talk about salad dressings.  But not for salads.  For everything else.


Salad dressings – in my humble opinion – are the best cooking shortcut in the entire world.  Need a marinade?  Salad dressing.  Need a sauce for that stir-fry?  Salad dressing.  Need a topping for that baked potato?  Salad dressing.  Need to add flavor to that casserole?  Salad dressing.  Duh.


There are some really expensive salad dressings out there.  I buy the cheaper ones so I can use them liberally with cooking and not feel like I have to be careful with my pours.  Heck, this entire lunch was coated in Olive Oil & Vinegar.  It gave a boost to my quinoa, a flavor to my fried tempeh, and a kick to my steamed greens.


Just keep an eye out for ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG) (here’s why), trans fat (here’s why), and artificial colors and flavors.  These ingredients tend to lurk in the cheaper dressings. Here are my favorite ways to use salad dressings:


  • Stir-fries:  Balsamic, Red Wine, Italian
  • Roasted veggies (especially eggplant):  Ranch
  • Baked potatoes:  Italian and Ranch





  • Grace March 25, 2013, 12:09 pm

    I love salad dressings as well (one of my favorite lunches is a cold pasta or rice salad with a balsamic glaze dressing and fresh herbs), but I’m really surprised that you buy them pre-made. Salad dressings are one of the easiest things in the world to make, it only takes like 5 minutes! It’s almost embarrassingly simple to put one together, and homemade is way WAY cheaper than buying a bottle, and you don’t ever have to worry about things like too much sodium, MSG or trans-fats.

  • Sarah March 25, 2013, 12:42 pm

    There are forms of free-glutamates other than Monosodium Glutamate.


    I’ve found myself to be sensitive to some of those ingredients through trial and error. So I stick to simple dressings with all recognizable ingredients. You are right that they usually cost more (and are typically in the refrigerated produce section). Although I’ve had good luck with the giant bottle of organic Citrus-Basil vinaigrette from Costco.

    • rebecca @ blueberry smiles March 25, 2013, 3:32 pm

      thank you! I am really sensitive/allergic to MSG so this link was very helpful

  • Janie March 25, 2013, 12:47 pm

    YUM! I do this with salad dressing too!! It is SO helpful and SO SO easy! I love your ideas for pairing. I love to throw Asian sesame ginger vinaigrette on everything. It makes an awesome tempeh marinade as well!

  • Cindy March 25, 2013, 1:03 pm

    I love Newman’s Own. I love salad dressing, full stop. 🙂

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs March 25, 2013, 1:03 pm

    I’m all about multi purposing my salad dressing! I use it all the time for stir fry — yum!

  • Amelia March 25, 2013, 1:14 pm

    You have turned me on to liking certain salad dressings! I’m addicted now. My favorite is TJ’s champagne vinaigrette. OMG so good!! It is really good on salads that have strawberries/blueberries/slivered almonds/avocado/cukes/and grilled tofu.

    Also, I have been taking hummus (like Roots brand sold at WF) and thinning out a little to make salad dressings. Insane!

  • Kelsey March 25, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Agree! Only I use salsa and Tabasco for everything! If I coat my salad with it, it is salad dressing right?

  • Harsha@HealthyCooking 'N' Fitness March 25, 2013, 1:48 pm

    I love balsamic vinaigrette, Italian dressing and ranch. I have never paired roasted veggies with ranch, should give it a try. Thanks so much for the pairings.

  • Emily March 25, 2013, 2:00 pm

    Newman’s Own makes a Roasted Garlic and Parmesan (or something like that), that is so tasty, I can eat it when I run out of all my salad fixings and literally just have lettuce/greens left. I also love it to marinate steak/pork, and I love any type of Italian dressing as a chicken marinade. Yum!

    • Carly March 25, 2013, 11:10 pm

      That’s my FAVORITE salad dressing… YUM!!!!

  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action March 25, 2013, 2:02 pm

    I always make my own salad dressings- and I love experimenting with infused flavours for olive oils and balsamic vinegars. With those options you can pretty much make any type of dressing you want!

    And I love adding balsamic vinegar to all food- such a delicious addition!

  • Bonnie March 25, 2013, 2:19 pm

    I know, not the point of this post, but I’ve actually been shying away from spending money on salad dressings (it’s just oil and vinegar!) and making my own. Throw a whole bulb of garlic in the toaster for a min, chop up, throw in an old salad dressing bottle with olive oil and either balsamic or apple cider vinegar and ta-da! Instant dressing! Sometimes I add italian spices as well! 🙂

    I know you’re busy with h nowadays, but perhaps once he’s more independent you can do this and save money.

  • Dennis March 25, 2013, 2:19 pm

    I would add sugar (HFCS, corn syrup, and all other forms) as well as low grade oils (canola, soy, and miscellaneous vegetable oils), as well as processed food ingredients like xanthan gum and food starches to the list of watch outs.

    I have half a dozen different types of vinegar and a few varieties of olive oil on the shelf. It’s all I need for salads and other use.

    • Sri March 25, 2013, 3:14 pm

      I second this! The oils used in these salad dressings – even if it says “olive oil” is probably loaded with 90% of some other cheaper vegetable oil. The fat content of these miscellaneous vegetable oils and their ratio of omega 3’s to 6’s is what is most concerning.

      • Caitlin March 25, 2013, 3:17 pm

        Good point!! AND YOU can make it ahead, too!

  • Kerry March 25, 2013, 2:47 pm

    I love me a good salad dressing, but I sometimes have trouble finding them made without gluten. Be careful eating out – always make sure the dressing doesn’t have some flour added for thickener!

  • Alyssa March 25, 2013, 3:02 pm

    Just curious….maybe I am missing something obvious….but since this is a healthy living blog…wouldn’t the obvious solution to be just buy olive oil and vinegar and not worry about any added ingredients? I don’t want to be eating that crap either, so I try to make my own dressings (if you can call mixing two things “making” something) and sauces and stuff.

  • Amy Q March 25, 2013, 3:06 pm

    I only make my own salad dressing now- but this is my favorite: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/arugula-pear-salad-maple-vinaigrette-10000001132435/index.html

    Try it– you will love it and never go back to store bought! This recipe does not make much so I usually at least 4x it so I can have it on hand.

  • Tara March 25, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Trader Joe’s has a really delicious cilantro dressing that is not bad in the nutritional facts department. It’s around 3-4 bucks but a little goes a long way! Try it, it will change your life.

  • Sara @ fitcupcaker March 25, 2013, 3:59 pm

    I like to buy yogurt dressings, they are so good. Ive had a few of Newmans and they are pretty tasty too!

  • Ja @Athlete Within Ja March 25, 2013, 5:16 pm

    I’ll definitely try your favorite ways. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation. I love salad dressings. my favorite is the garlic and olive oil dressing… 🙂

  • Chloe March 25, 2013, 5:16 pm

    As a grad student I am always looking for ways to save money, and making my own salad dressings is one of them. They’re so easy, I don’t know why I don’t make a big batch for the week & use it from there but somehow I end up making small amounts for every salad I have 🙂 I do love the Goddess dressings though, they are definitely on my splurge list since they are so good but also a little spendy.

  • Kristina @Run and Assimilate March 25, 2013, 5:38 pm

    Currently I’m in love with lemon poppyseed dressing, but these are some good ideas I never thought of for salad dressing. I haven’t been too adventurous with dressing outside of salads yet.

  • Amber K March 25, 2013, 8:37 pm

    I hate buying salad dressings, but I love making my own. And they are so versatile! I usually stick to just topping salads, but there are so many uses I often forget about.

  • Emily @ Hungry Delights March 26, 2013, 1:17 am

    I really like home made salad dressings or even just a bit of evoo and balsamic vinegar. Yum!

  • Katy March 26, 2013, 9:52 am

    This feels like a weird thing to comment on, but I just had to say that I LOVE Newman’s Olive Oil & Vinegar Dressing! I feel like a brand ambassador for that stuff because I tell everyone how awesome it is. It’s one of the only dressings I could find with good ingredients and it’s delicious. Sorry, I just got really excited when I saw that 🙂

  • Ben March 26, 2013, 4:31 pm

    I agree. There are so many uses for salad dressings especially used as a substitute to many, not so friendly ingredients, in our favorite recipes. My Mom used this trick often.

Previous post:

Next post:

Healthy Tipping Point