The New All-Purpose Vinaigrette

updated Jun 20, 2021
The New All-Purpose Vinaigrette

An untraditional formula for a better, more flavorful vinaigrette.

Makes1 cup

Prep5 minutes

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A spoon full of vinaigrette is emerging from a mason jar.
Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The classic ratio of three parts oil to one part acid has long been touted by chefs, culinary instructors, cookbook authors, and food experts as the ultimate vinaigrette formula. But as our preference for salads has shifted towards flavorful, bright, and punchy, this old-school formula, which produces a dressing that is palatable yet dull, comes up short.

The solution is simple: Ditch the 3:1 ratio for a 1:1 ratio with equal parts oil and vinegar. The increase in acid makes a brighter, more flavorful, and infinitely better vinaigrette, ready to take leafy greens and crunchy veggies to whole new heights. To help you master it, we’ve created a choose-your-own-adventure-style recipe for making it at home, which breaks down exactly how much oil, vinegar, sweetener, and seasoning you need and provides multiple options for each.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The Best Acids for Vinaigrettes

The two most common acids used in vinaigrettes are citrus juice and vinegar. Citrus juice adds brightness and a touch of sweetness. Lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit juice are all great options and each impart a slightly different flavor, and you can mix and match juices to create a more complex flavor profile.

Vinegar, on the other hand, can take your dressing in several different directions. Using balsamic vinegar will give your vinaigrette a rich, jammy flavor profile, while red wine vinegar will result in a punchier, more fruit-forward flavor. Just about any vinegar will work, so feel free to use your favorite in this formula. We recommend avoiding distilled white vinegar, as it lacks flavor and can be too harsh, but any other vinegar is fair game.

The Best Oils for Vinaigrettes

Olive oil is the most popular choice, and its pleasant flavor works well in most salad dressings. But if you’re looking for a different flavor (or don’t have olive oil on hand), there are a handful of other oils you can use instead.

If flavor is what you’re after, try using sesame, walnut, or pistachio oil. If you’re looking for something more neutral, try using grapeseed, peanut, or sunflower oil. You can also use a combination of oils to achieve a balance of flavors. Our formula calls for 1/2 cup oil, so if you like the flavor of sesame oil but worry it’s too strong, try using 1/4 cup sesame oil cut with 1/4 cup grapeseed oil.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Adding a Hint of Sweetness

Sugar, just like salt, is a crucial component to vinaigrette — dressings can taste harsh or overpowering if not seasoned correctly. A touch of sweetness mellows the vinaigrette and helps balance the flavors. We recommend using sweeteners that are already in liquid form to make sure they completely dissolve. Honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar are all great choices, with the latter being the most neutral. Our recipe calls for two tablespoons, which won’t make the vinaigrette taste sweet, but rather help elevate the flavors and round everything out.

The New All-Purpose Vinaigrette

An untraditional formula for a better, more flavorful vinaigrette.

Prep time 5 minutes

Makes 1 cup

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium shallot or 1 clove garlic

  • 1/2 cup

    acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice

  • 1/2 cup

    oil, such as olive, grapeseed, or walnut

  • 2 tablespoons

    liquid sweetener, such as honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper


  1. Finely mince 1 medium shallot or 1 clove garlic and place into a jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1/2 cup acid, 1/2 cup oil, 2 tablespoons sweetener, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Seal the jar and shake vigorously until well-combined and the sweetener is dissolved. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Salad dressing can be stored in the same container it was made in and refrigerated up to 1 week. Shake again before using.