Salad Dressing

A Secret Weapon for Super-Quick Salad Dressing

September 27, 2018

We've partnered with Agave In The Raw to share recipes, tips, and stories that highlight delicious, and even unexpected, ways to use naturally sweet agave nectar.

Salads are one category of cooking where I can really get down with simplicity. Throw some farm-fresh greens in a bowl, toss in whatever fruits or vegetables are on hand, maybe add some cheese and something crunchy, and I’ll be a happy camper. (Truthfully? I’m good even just with the greens!) But while I love to keep things simple and easy, there is one step of the process I’m not willing to cut corners on: I always make homemade dressing. Thankfully in this case, “homemade” and “simple” are not mutually exclusive.

Easygoing greens and homemade dressing—check and check! Photo by Julia Gartland

I grew up eating salads drenched in the store-bought stuff, and no shade towards my busy mom (I get it!), but I never truly loved salads until I started making my own.

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I’ve got a couple of go-to salad dressing templates, most of which involve some degree of chopping and emulsifying. But the real beauty of making your own is the customization. You can tailor-make your dressing for your salad, using the juice of other things you might already be throwing in (like tomatoes, peaches, or in the winter, citrus) or trying out different combinations of herbs, acids, and oils. The six salad dressings here are a great place to draw some inspiration before you start whipping together your own creation.

Naturally sweet and liquid (so you don't need to melt anything), Agave In The Raw is our latest salad dressing essential. Photo by Julia Gartland

You can also customize your salad according to your mood, going as complex or uncomplicated as you want. Good olive oil and vinegar or lemon with some flaky salt all thrown right into the salad bowl is a winning, and super-simple combination you’re probably familiar with. But depending on what type of vinegar you use, this straight-forward combo can trend a bit tart or one-note. For that reason, I’ve added agave (a liquid sweetener made from the agave plant) to my salad condiment roster and never looked back.

Throw a little drizzle of agave nectar in the bowl, along with oil and acid, and take your just-thrown-together dressing to new heights; the agave's natural sweetness balances out the acid and accentuates the earthy notes of early fall’s fruits and veggies, with no whisking or melting required.

It’s also an awesome ingredient to experiment with for those slightly-more-effort dressings that do involve some emulsifying—agave’s natural liquid state means it incorporates much more easily than sugar or even honey, while having a relatively neutral flavor. (Read: goes with everything.) Not sure where to start? Try it out in a cilantro sauce inspired by Mexican flavors, or put it to work in a spicy, Thai-inspired dressing. Or take it some place totally different—there's not really a way to go wrong.

Pressed from the core of Mexico’s blue agave plant, our partner Agave In The Raw is a delicious, organic sweetening option. With a rich, velvety texture, it's great for all kinds of things, from salads to cocktails and beyond.

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Cory Baldwin

Written by: Cory Baldwin

Food52's director of partner content Cory Baldwin has been an editor at food, travel, and fashion publications including Saveur, Departures and Racked.