Classic Greek vinaigrette is more than just a red wine vinaigrette with a little oregano for color. Nope, this classic gets its sass from the one-two punch of red wine vinegar and lemons. Partnered with garlic and some dried herbs from the pantry, this dressing will become the house salad dressing for your home.
Classic Greek Vinaigrette: Watch the Video
Why This Greek Vinaigrette Is So Damn Good
It brings all the flavors to everything.
It is said that Greek cooks pour olive oil, lemon juice, good-quality red wine vinegar, and garlic over pretty much everything they eat from lamb to potatoes to salads. Of course, they also have access to some of the best olive oil in the world. But if we consider the essential ingredients of Greek vinaigrette here, you can see exactly what makes Greek vinaigrette so damn good: fat in the form of olive oil, flavor from the garlic and dried oregano, plus the acidy of both fresh lemon juice and aged wine vinegar.
Greek vinaigrette is incredibly useful.
This basic mixture can be used straight-up as a salad dressing or as a marinade for fresh vegetables, roasted vegetables, and meats — especially those destined for the grill. You can use it as a sauce for cold pasta or a dip for warm bread. Add to the basic vinaigrette the creamy, emulsifying power of Greek yogurt and briny feta cheese, and you have a dream salad dressing for your everyday salads, hearty grain bowls, and classic Greek salads too.
Greek Vinaigrette Basics
The most basic formula for making a salad vinaigrette is one part vinegar or other acid mixed with three to four parts oil. For example, this dressing calls for 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar to 1/2 cup olive oil — or roughly one fluid ounce of vinegar to 4 fluid ounces of olive oil.
Since oil and vinegar make up the base for Greek vinaigrette, let's dive a little deeper into what to look for in these ingredients to make the best dressing possible.
The Best Olive Oil for Greek Vinaigrette
You may assume that the best olive oil for making a Greek recipe is an extra-virgin greek olive oil, but not so fast. Extra-virgin olive oils vary widely in their grassy and floral notes, a good thing when you want to dip or dress your summer tomatoes, but less so when you might be using this vinaigrette as a salad dressing. Of course, extra-virgin olive oil is more expensive too, especially the best-quality ones. Instead, use your everyday olive oil — usually labeled as virgin — for making this vinaigrette. Or use a 50/50 mix of a flavorful extra-virgin oil and your favorite neutral oil.
Red Wine Vinegar
As the name implies, red wine vinegar is a vinegar made by aging red wine along with a mother (or mycoderma aceti, a culture of friendly bacteria) for many months until the wine becomes vinegar. A good-quality red wine vinegar shouldn't be one-noted (just a sharp sour taste with acidity behind it) — it should be tart, sweet, and rich in color and body. Not to get all Ina on you here, but use a good-quality red wine vinegar, found at a specialty shop, or make your own.
Learn how: How To Make Your Own Vinegar
For the Best Greek Vinaigrette, Use Dried Herbs
Greece is lauded as a place where even the freshest foods taste fresher, yet I was surprised to see the number of classical Greek recipes that call for the use of dried herbs. This is an especially smart move when it comes to making Greek vinaigrette. Dried herbs are more potent and therefore require a smaller dose. Also, fresh herbs can wilt, turn black, or go bad before you use up larger batches of this vinaigrette.
Pro tip: Greek oregano is really wonderful in this vinaigrette, but if you can't get your hands on it, Turkish oregano is a worthy substitute.
How to Use Greek Vinaigrette
The basic olive olive, red wine vinegar, garlic, and oregano mixture is born to be a marinade (in fact, it is often called as such in Greek cookbooks), but not just for meat like lamb, beef, chicken, pork, and fish (so yeah, I guess those are all the meats). Toss potatoes in this liquid gold before roasting them or marinate your so-so grocery store tomatoes in the basic vinaigrette. Also, the basic mixture practically lasts forever in the fridge and improves in flavor as it sits. Make a double, triple, or quadruple batch and you can shortcut your way to better dinners with this secret weapon.
You'll see that this recipe has two optional ingredients: Greek yogurt and feta cheese. I consider these improvements on the basic Greek vinaigrette formula, but they also make this dressing a two-for-one recipe.
Adding the Greek yogurt and feta to the vinaigrette turns it from everyday essential to stunning centerpiece. Use it to dress salads and grain bowls, or to dip homemade pita and fresh vegetables into. It won't last quite as long once the yogurt is added, but it will hold its emulsification better.
How To Make Classic Greek Vinaigrette
Makes about 3/4 cup
What You Need
red wine vinegar
freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 medium lemon)
freshly ground black pepper
Greek sheep's milk feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
plain Greek yogurt (optional)
16-ounce jar with lid
Citrus reamer (optional)
Measuring cups and spoons
Combine ingredients in jar: Place all the ingredients in a pint glass jar. Add the feta and/or yogurt at this point if you want to make those variations.
Shake to emulsify: Seal the jar and shake vigorously until emulsified, about 30 seconds.
Use or store the dressing: Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week, shaking to emulsify again before use.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.