Yes, you can toss a few greens, a soft-boiled egg, and some crisper drawer odds 'n ends into a bowl without much instruction or consideration, but what you pour over that—whether a bright and herbaceous basil vinaigrette, or a smoky aioli—requires a little more thought. As a result, when we follow a salad recipe, often what we're really doing is following the dressing recipe, then tossing it with whatever greens we have on hand.
Here are 6 of our favorite dressings in one place, so you can mix and match and toss with whatever you please:
Part pesto, part vinaigrette, this dressing is reinforced with white beans—which makes it thick enough to schmear over the crusty brown bread you pair with your salad.
What it's delicious with: Peppery greens like arugula, soft-boiled eggs, bread
How to Make It: To make dressing, stick 1 cup torn basil leaves, 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of a small lemon, 1/2 cup cooked white beans, 2 large cloves garlic, and salt to taste in a food processor or blender and blend until it's smooth and dressing-y. For a thinner situation—or if you’re using a milder green in the salad—add a small spoonful of water to the mix.
A dressing that makes use of day-old bread (yes, stale bread is worth more than just a batch of croutons) and has enough sweetness to cut through bitter greens—but enough vinegar to keep things interesting.
What it's delicious with: Radicchio, napa cabbage, endive
How to Make It: Pulse 1 small clove garlic, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 cup sour dough bread, torn into small pieces, and 2 tablespoons of water in a blender to combine; let sit 5 minutes to soften the bread. With the motor running, gradually add 1/3 cup olive oil; blend until smooth (the bread will blend into the dressing, thickening and flavoring it, while retaining some texture), about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
When you want a salad that's all about the dressing—one that drips over and coats your leaves in a layer of spoon-lickingly good sauce—then this is the dressing for you. It's not for the faint of heart.
What it's delicious with: Endive, any sturdy-leafed green like chard or kale, bacon pieces
How to Make It: In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons sour cream. Stir in 1 teaspoon minced shallot, 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup buttermilk that's been shaken vigorously. Next, whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (until dressing reaches desired thickness) and a splash of sherry vinegar. Finally, fold in 2 tablespoons each minced parsley and chives, 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, and black pepper to taste. Cover bowl and set dressing in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes, but preferably overnight. Recipe makes approximately 1 cup.
Subtly bright, this dressing has just enough lime to add a sour bite to fruit-forward salads or mild lettuces.
What it's delicious with: Apples, grapefruit and other citrus, butter lettuce
How to Make It: To prepare dressing, combine 2 limes, peeled and piths removed, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar in the pitcher of a blender. Pulse to break down limes, scrape the sides, then turn blender to low. Slowly drizzle in 1/3 cup olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add a pinch or two of sea salt, as needed.
Intensely fish sauce-y, this dressing is extremely salty and tangy. "Subtle" is not a word in its vocabulary.
What it's delicious with: Rice bowls and fried rice, radishes, tofu
How to Make It: To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup lime juice, 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk, and 1 tablespoon palm sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Add the zest of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemongrass, 1/2 a seeded and minced serrano pepper, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint. Stir to combine.
The peanut butter brings a creamy, nutty, and almost sweet component to this dressing, while the umami from the miso balances everything out.
What it's delicious with: Udon noodles, kale,
How to Make It: In a medium mixing bowl, place 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1 heaping tablespoon white miso, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 to 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, 2 teaspoons chopped ginger, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons honey, and 3 to 5 dashes sesame oil. Add water in 1/8-cup increments and stir until you reach a smooth, sauce-like consistency. It should be loose, but not watery, so add the water slowly. Taste for seasoning.
What are your favorite salad dressing recipes? Tell us in the comments below!