This homemade Italian dressing is my go-to weeknight salad dressing. It’s fresh, flavorful, easy to make, and tastes much better than anything you can buy in the store. If you only ever learn to make one salad dressing, it should be this simple Italian vinaigrette.
Contrary to its name, Italian salad dressing is not an Italian creation. While the seasonings used in this recipe are distinctly Italian, the recipe is an American invention.
The main reason Italians don’t buy any bottled dressing is that there is only one popular salad dressing – a simple mix of oil, vinegar, and salt. Now, oil and vinegar don’t actually mix… and that is probably another reason why there is no “Italian dressing” in a bottle.
In Italy, oil and vinegar are applied separately. Vinegar and salt go on first because salt dissolves in vinegar and doesn’t dissolve in oil. Then, after a quick toss, olive oil is added on, just enough to lightly coat the greens and enhance their flavor.
While oil, vinegar, and salt might do the trick, if you’d like something a bit fancier, this homemade salad dressing is a great place to start!
Tips for Making Italian Dressing
A classic vinaigrette – perhaps the most common type of dressing – is a blend of fat and acid, with herbs added for additional flavor.
- Olive oil: the primary purpose of oil in a salad dressing is to add richness and round out the various flavors. While certain oils lend richness without added personality, other oils can impart incredible flavors. I love using extra virgin olive oil for its fruity and herby flavor. However, if you prefer mild-flavored oils, use regular or extra light olive oil.
- White wine vinegar and lemon juice: acid breaks through the richness of the oil, helping to highlight the flavors of the salad components. I used a combination of white wine vinegar and lemon juice, but you can use either. Red wine vinegar can also be utilized as a substitute.
- Honey: a little bit of sweetener helps balance the acidity of the vinegar and lemon. Honey is the classic sweetener, but maple syrup works too.
- Dijon mustard: one common addition to many salad dressings is Dijon, which keeps the oil and acid suspended so the dressing doesn’t separate. I add just enough to help emulsify the salad dressing but not enough to give it a strong mustard flavor.
- Italian herbs: it wouldn’t be Italian salad dressing without Italian herbs, such as basil, oregano, and parsley. While fresh herbs are wonderful, dried herbs pack more flavor and stay fresh longer. Salad dressings with fresh herbs must be used within a day or two.
- Salt: like acid, salt helps season the salad and guides the taste buds to decipher each part of the composition.
How to Make Italian Dressing
Making homemade salad dressing doesn’t get any easier:
- Whisk. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup, fresh herbs, and salt to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. While whisking, drizzle the oil in very slowly. Continue whisking until the oil is incorporated. If the dressing is emulsified, the oil and acid should stay mixed together for a while.
- Season. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed, adding more salt for saltiness, lemon juice for acidity, mustard for tang, and maple syrup for sweetness.
How to Use Italian Dressing
Once you have the Italian dressing ready, you can use it on various salads, including this Mediterranean quinoa salad (coming soon!), or swap it in for the dressing in this garden salad or this beet citrus salad.
Green salads are, without a doubt, the most common use for Italian dressing. However, you can also drizzle the blend over sliced cucumbers or tomatoes, mix it into pasta salads, marinate mushroom caps in it, or use it as a bread dip.
How to Store Homemade Salad Dressing
- Refrigerating: transfer the salad dressing to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 5 days. The dressing will separate while it sits, so shake it vigorously before using.
Did you make this recipe? I would love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a review and rating below.
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) honey
- 1 tsp. (5 g) Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. (0.7 g) dried basil
- 1 tsp. (1 g) dried oregano
- 1 tsp. (0.5 g) dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp. (2.9 g) sea salt
- Whisk. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, mustard, basil, oregano, parsley, and salt to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. While whisking, drizzle the oil in very slowly. Continue whisking until the oil is incorporated. If the dressing is emulsified, the oil and acid should stay mixed together for a while.
- Season. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed, adding more salt for saltiness, lemon juice for acidity, honey for sweetness, and mustard for tang.
- Store. Leftover dressing keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The dressing will separate while it sits, so shake it vigorously before using.