12 Salad Dressings Made with 3 Ingredients (or Fewer)

published Jun 22, 2016
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

There’s a green salad on my dinner table almost every night. It’s an easy, painless way to up my veggie intake daily, and I honestly never tire of it. But there’s a reason why it doesn’t get boring: the dressing.

You see, salad dressing possibilities are nearly endless. Here alone we’re giving you 12 ideas, all built off pantry staples. Dressings really are based off the pantry — not just the cabinets, but the pantry fridge and freezer as well. All you need are a few ingredients — a base and a couple of seasonings — to whip up a dressing that will shake up your salad.

Start with a Base That Comes Straight from Your Pantry

All good dressings start with a base. Our favorites are yogurt, tahini, soft cheese, or an oil-and-vinegar base. Yogurt adds nice tang and makes for a smooth dressing. Tahini is rich and nutty, providing a luxurious mouthfeel. Soft cheese, like goat or feta, blends into a super-creamy dressing. And oil and vinegar make for a simple and satisfying vinaigrette that’s always a crowd-pleaser.

Once you’ve chosen the base, let your tastes dictate where you go. Feeling like something creamy and spicy? Whisk a little Sriracha into that yogurt. Craving a dressing that’s more vinaigrette-like while being citrusy and tart? Reach for the limes, a pint of raspberries, and that olive oil.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Tahini as Your Base

Tahini makes for a dressing that’s rich and satisfying. Its strong sesame seed flavor holds up well on heartier greens like kale, and on salads that skip the greens completely like this shredded carrot number.

1. Tahini + Roasted Garlic + Smoked Paprika + Water

Sweet, fragrant roasted garlic pairs beautifully with nutty tahini, while smoked paprika lends intrigue and balance. Start with about 2 tablespoons of tahini, 6 cloves of roasted garlic, a pinch of smoked paprika, and a generous splash of water. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt and more tahini or paprika to your liking.

2. Tahini + Orange Juice + Honey + Water

Whisk together about 2 tablespoons of tahini with a splash of orange juice, a teaspoon of honey, and a splash of water until smooth. Season with kosher salt and more tahini or honey to taste.

3. Tahini + Apple Cider Vinegar + Sesame Oil + Water

Whisk together about 2 tablespoons of tahini, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and a splash of water until smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt and more tahini or vinegar to your liking.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Soft Cheese as Your Base

Sure, you can crumble cheese onto your salad, but why not blend it into your dressing instead? That way each and every bite gets a little tangy, creamy cheese. Using cheese as a base makes for a thicker dressing, which is perfect for hearty greens or grain salads, as well as slaw.

4. Goat Cheese + Avocado + Red Pepper Flakes + Water

Avocado lends a pretty pale green hue and makes this just-spicy-enough dressing even creamier. Blend together 2 ounces of goat cheese, half an avocado, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a big splash of water. Season to taste with kosher salad and thin with more water if needed.

5. Queso Fresco + Cumin + Fresh Cilantro + Water

This dressing took a quick trip to Mexico. Mild queso fresco provides the perfect backdrop for earthy cumin and pungent cilantro. Blend 2 ounces of queso fresco, a big pinch of ground cumin, a small handful of cilantro leaves, and a large splash of water until smooth. Season with kosher salt to taste.

6. Feta + Fresh Oregano + Honey + Water

Salty, creamy feta is mellowed with fragrant oregano and sweet honey. Skip the crumbled cheese and try this on your next Greek salad, or simply drizzle it over sliced ripe tomatoes. Blend 2 ounces feta with about 1/2 teaspoon of oregano leaves, a teaspoon of honey, and a big splash of water. Season to taste with kosher salt and more honey to your liking.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Plain Whole-Milk Yogurt as Your Base

Reach for a tub of plain whole-milk yogurt if you’re looking for a tart, smooth dressing that’s equally great as a dip for crudité. Regular yogurt is best here, as it’s thin enough to be drizzled and poured, but if all you have is something thicker, like Greek, simply thin it out with a little water.

7. Yogurt + Pesto

Pesto is a powerhouse of flavor. Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, it adds depth and dimension to the yogurt without even trying. Whisk together about 1/4 cup yogurt with 2 tablespoons pesto. Season with kosher salt and add more yogurt or pesto to taste.

8. Yogurt + Dijon Mustard + Sriracha

Dijon brings extra tang, while Sriracha lends the spice and sweetness you’re looking for. Combine 1/4 cup yogurt with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and a big squirt of Sriracha. Season with kosher salt and more yogurt, mustard, or Sriracha to taste.

9. Yogurt + Curry Powder + Lemon Juice

Creamy yogurt has always been a good match for curry powder, as it tames its strong flavor. Lemon juice joins in to up the acid and keep it all balanced. Mix together about 1/4 cup yogurt, a big pinch of curry powder, and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Season to taste with kosher salt and more curry powder or lemon juice to your liking.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Oil & Vinegar as Your Base

You can never go wrong with a classic vinaigrette. Whisk an acid with oil, and it’s a pure and simple dressing for any salad — but mix up the oil and vinegar components and add something extra just for fun, and things get more exciting.

10. Mashed Anchovies + Red Wine Vinegar + Garlic

Think of this as a lighter, fuss-free version of Caesar dressing. Anchovies and garlic provide that umami kick, while tart red wine vinegar balances it out. Whisk together about 2 mashed anchovies, a big splash of red wine vinegar and 2 minced garlic cloves. Season to taste with kosher salt and more vinegar, if needed.

11. Olive Oil + Lime Juice + Smashed Fresh Raspberries

A quick-and-easy take on raspberry vinaigrette, this fruit dressing is sweet, tart, and crowd-pleasing. Combine a large splash each of olive oil and lime juice with a small handful of smashed fresh raspberries. Season to taste with kosher salt.

12. Brown Butter + Sherry Vinegar + Shallot

This dressing is the answer to an incredible warm spinach salad. But even at room temperature, this vinaigrette is buttery and satisfying. Mix together about 2 tablespoons of melted brown butter with a large splash of sherry vinegar and a tablespoon of minced shallot. Season to taste with kosher salt and more vinegar to your liking.