Poppy seed dressing has a balance of sweet and tangy that I find completely irresistible. It's great on a Spinach and Strawberry Salad, makes a fun spin in a coleslaw, and also does wonders as a marinade for chicken. It's the Jack-of-all-trades of the salad dressing world.
This dressing is also surprisingly easy to make yourself. For years, it was so automatic to just pick up a bottle at the store that it never occurred to me that I could make it myself. Now that I have, I'm more smitten than ever.
This dressing relies on a balance of ingredients, namely white wine vinegar, sugar, and some finely shredded shallot or onion. You might be tempted to leave out the sugar, but this is one time where I'd urge you to leave it in. Lose that sweet element, and like a three-legged stool, the whole thing tips over.
You can, however, replace some or all of the sugar with honey. This changes the flavor of the dressing, of course, but it's a fun riff. You can also play with the mustard — ground or prepared, regular brown or anything fancy you might have in the fridge. If you want a creamier dressing, add a little mayo — you don't need much, but it's heavenly.
Poppy Seed Salad Dressing
Makes 1 cup
white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons
mayonnaise, optional for a creamier dressing
olive oil, grapeseed oil, or a mix (See Recipe Note)
Whisk the white wine vinegar and sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved (it's okay if there is still some undissolved sugar). Peel the shallot and grate it on a microplane or the smallest holes on a box grater directly into the bowl. Add the poppy seeds, salt, and ground mustard, and whisk to combine.
Whisking the dressing steadily, pour the olive oil into the dressing in a slow stream. Continue whisking until completely combined.
Transfer to a covered container and store in the fridge for several weeks. The dressing will separate as it sits; shake to recombine before using.
Oil for the dressing: Olive oil will make a stronger-tasting dressing while grapeseed oil or another neutral-tasting vegetable oil will make a milder dressing. Personally, I like an equal mix of both.