Skip store-bought dressing and make this classic balsamic vinaigrette in minutes! The combination of tangy balsamic vinegar, olive oil, shallots and a touch of dijon mustard creates a flavorful dressing to make any salad more exciting.
Balsamic vinaigrette is a popular dressing offered at most restaurants when ordering a salad. Although have you ever tried to create your own? The recipe is incredibly easy to make at home.
The key to making a flavorful and stable dressing is understanding how to make an emulsion. How much and when you add an ingredient makes all the difference, it can make or break the dressing.
A delicious tasting balsamic vinaigrette only requires a few staple ingredients; high-quality olive oil (I prefer extra-virgin), good quality balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, shallots, and salt & pepper. These essential elements combine to make a pungent vinaigrette with a smooth texture.
I do have a secret ingredient that I sometimes add to make this dressing stay unified for longer. A touch of mayonnaise is an emulsifying agent that makes the emulsion stable for an extended period. Just 1 teaspoon in 1 cup of vinaigrette will create a beautifully uniform dressing that does not separate for a few days. This process is optional, but extra insurance if you’re making the vinaigrette in advance for the week, so the dressing does not break and separate.
To make a vinaigrette that stays stable and doesn’t break within minutes, before drizzling on the greens make sure to combine the ingredients in the right order. This is an oil in water emulsion (o/w), where the oil is broken into droplets when vigorously whisked into the vinegar.
The balsamic vinegar should first be combined with the mustard, shallots, salt & pepper, and mayonnaise if using. These ensure that the seasonings are evenly mixed and the emulsifying agents (mustard and mayonnaise) has the chance to coat the oil droplets as they are being added to help stabilize the emulsion.
The oil must be slowly drizzled into the vinegar mixture, briskly and continuously mixing to break it into smaller droplets. The vinegar will get thicker in texture and lighter in color if the time is taken to make the emulsion correctly.
Some recipes call for adding all of the ingredients together in a mason jar and shaking vigorously until the salad dressing appears combined. I never do this because the emulsion will eventually break. It’s harder to make tiny droplets when there is no shear to tear them apart.
Too much oil added all at once has a tough time dispersing. I will even whisk a dressing in a small bowl before serving if made previously to ensure there is no visible separation. A broken salad dressing makes the greens taste too oily or tangy.
Go ahead, drizzle this tasty balsamic vinaigrette on a fresh salad with crunchy vegetables and ripe tomatoes for a healthy dish. This homemade dressing will turn any dull bed of lettuce into a much more festive and flavorful meal!
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Add an emulsifying agent for stable dressings
Two emulsifying agents are used to ensure that this emulsion lasts for hours and even days; mustard and mayonnaise. This duo of ingredients imparts a bold, pungent flavor while adding creaminess without being heavy. Egg yolks in the mayonnaise contain lecithin, a strong emulsifier that can readily attract both water and oil, creating a more stable emulsion. The mustard has a complex polysaccharide emulsifying element that also assists with stabilization.
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Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon mayonnaise, optional
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk together balsamic vinegar, shallots, mustard, mayonnaise if using, salt and black pepper.
- Slowing drizzle in olive oil, vigorously whisking until fully incorporated and thickened into a smooth vinaigrette.
- Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.
- Recipe Yield: 1 cup
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon (15 ml)
- Store balsamic vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Whisk before serving.
- Mayonnaise can be omitted from the recipe. However, it helps to keep the dressing emulsified longer.
- MAKE IT VEGAN: Substitute the mayonnaise with vegan mayonnaise or omit.
- MAKE IT PALEO OR WHOLE30: Make sure that the mayonnaise is made with olive oil (most store-bought is made with soybean or canola oil), or omit. Check on dijon mustard to ensure it is approved.
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