Salad

A Simple, Customizable Yogurt Dressing—and How to Use it All Week Long

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May 15, 2017

Everyone needs a fool-proof yogurt dressing in their salad arsenal—one based on a yogurt (or skyr!) that forgoes tons of ingredients or sugar so you can make it your own. We partnered with siggi's to share a recipe you can adjust at whim and then use all week long.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of sad, sad salad dressings out in the world, from the bottled variety on the supermarket shelf (you never know what's in the store-bought stuff, right?) to the kind that comes with an overpriced salad you run out to buy during a harried work day.

I’m a believer in making your own vinaigrettes and dressings whenever possible, but creamy dressings are especially important to DIY so you can control the ingredients and get the flavor and consistency exactly right. Mayonnaise and cream-based dressings have their place, but I’m turning to yogurt-based dressings more and more. A good dressing is all about balance, and tangy yogurt brings a lightness and freshness most creamy dressings lack.

Unless you have a dairy farm hidden behind your house, you're still gonna be buying yogurt at the store. I like one with few ingredients and not a lot of sugar. (I've opted for siggi's here!)

While working on one of Food52's newest cookbooks, Mighty Salads, I discovered just how versatile yogurt dressings can be (they're simple, too; no need for a long ingredient list). Once you have a batch of it at the ready, you’ll be able to use it in different ways all week long—in mighty salads and beyond!


The Basics

Yogurt dressings fall on a spectrum, from slightly creamy vinaigrettes on one end, where a small amount of yogurt lends body (and emulsifies), to thicker, creamier dressings that use mostly yogurt with a little bit of oil to thin. When choosing where to land on the spectrum, use the weight of the salad as a guide.

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Take a raw broccoli or cauliflower salad. It practically cries out for a thick, creamy dressing, one that will slacken the crunch of the raw vegetables and coat every last nook and cranny of the florets. An arugula and fresh herb salad, on the other hand, wants to be gently draped with a light dressing; a heavy one would bury the leaves.

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Top Comment:
“Even name brands like Newman's Own use stuff I wouldn't consider putting on food, so that long list of ingredients is why I make dressing from scratch ... Same goes for other foods as well - like ice cream. I mean, cellulose gun?”
— FS
Comment

When thinking of dressing this way—nimble and with few ingredients—it’s easy to make one and then easily modify it by adding more yogurt, or more oil. This gives you an amazing amount of flexibility and control for meals throughout the week.

A good dressing is all about balance.

I’ve included a recipe for my go-to, basic, no-fail yogurt dressing, which falls right smack in the middle of the yogurt dressing spectrum. It takes all of five minutes to make, can be assembled, shaken, and stored in a jar (fewer dirty dishes, hooray!), and can be easily tweaked to meet the flavor profile of your dish. If you want to make it less creamy, add more oil. If you want to make it creamier...you’ve got this!

There are countless ways to jazz up the basic recipe. Here are just a few:

  • Herbs: I’m partial to dill for yogurt dressing, but don’t stop there. Add finely chopped tarragon, cilantro, parsley, chives, or mint, separately or in combination.
  • Chile + lime: Swap out lemon for lime, and fold in a minced chile pepper.
  • Tahini + sumac: Add a big spoonful or two of tahini and dust with sumac. Serve with everything.
  • Roasted garlic: Stir in three or four cloves of roasted garlic that you’ve smashed and smeared on a cutting board.
  • Spices: So many choices here. Want to go more of an Indian route? Mix in freshly ground cumin seed, coriander seed, and a pinch of Garam masala. In a Spanish frame of mind? Try smoked paprika and freshly ground fennel seed.

And if you’re wondering about the flavored yogurt you always have in your fridge—it has a place, too! A small amount of strawberry or raspberry yogurt would be a beautiful addition to a punchy, sweet-tart vinaigrette, where the sweetness of the fruit is kept in check by acidity. Or a spoonful of coconut yogurt stirred into a Vietnamese-inspired vinaigrette redolent of chiles, fish sauce, and fresh herbs would be most inspired.

A nice rumply lettuce takes well to zippy, light yogurt dressing. Photo by James Ransom

HOW TO USE YOGURT DRESSING ALL WEEK LONG!

Go ahead, make a double or triple batch of the basic yogurt dressing. Use a portion of it to dress your favorite salad on the first night--something like a roasted vegetable salad with lots of fresh herbs. If you’re feeling scrappy, roast extra vegetables so you can repurpose them for days.

Then, try the following ideas for dinner the rest of the week:

Grain salad: Skip vinaigrette in lieu of the basic yogurt dressing, and your favorite grain salad will feel new again. This radish and pecan grain salad is a very good choice.

The mighty cobb: Dress the cobb’s bed of greens with yogurt dressing, and pile your favorite toppings on top (or line them up in neat, tidy rows--you choose!). Need some inspiration? See this guide.

Lentils: Fold some of your dressing (thickened up, if needed, with a few tablespoons of plain yogurt) into lentils, a nod to the genius Peter Miller’s Lentils Folded into Yogurt, Spinach and Basil.

And there’s no reason that salad should have all of the fun!

Meatballs: Work in a small amount of the dressing into ground lamb, beef, or turkey before forming meatballs (see these sheet pan lamb meatballs).

Flatbread sandwich: Have leftover roasted vegetables and meatballs from earlier in the week? Smear your flatbread with yogurt dressing (adding more yogurt for a thicker spread), then tuck in those meatballs and vegetables, plus some fresh herbs or cucumber slices for freshness.

Creamy soup: Swirl in yogurt dressing to lend body and creaminess to soup—see this kadhi, or this chickpea stew with saffron, yogurt and garlic, for two ideas.

Something as simple as yogurt can change everything when it comes to cooking. In partnership with siggi's, makers of low-ingredient, traditional Icelandic yogurt (made with out much sugar, too), we're thrilled to launch a series recipes, stories, and videos dedicated to the things we eat that make us feel good. Stay tuned for more, and let us know what you'd like to see.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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4 Comments

FS May 19, 2017
It's quite easy to find out what's in that bottle of salad dressing - read the label! Even name brands like Newman's Own use stuff I wouldn't consider putting on food, so that long list of ingredients is why I make dressing from scratch ... Same goes for other foods as well - like ice cream. I mean, cellulose gun?
 
Azora Z. May 16, 2017
PS-- tahini and lime are my go to!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC May 16, 2017
Thanks Zoe! I like your style! : )
 
Azora Z. May 16, 2017
This is so awesome! I grew up eating yogurt in all sorts of savory situations and love thinking of new ways to incorporate it into my grown up routine.