Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

4.70 from 36 votes
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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.

Glass jar with balsamic vinaigrette dressing on a table with salad in background

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.

Pre-portioned salad dressing ingredients on a wooden table

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.

Pouring balsamic vinegar into a mixing bowl with mustard and shallots

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.

Hands holding and whisking a bowl of salad dressing

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.

Pouring balsamic vinaigrette out of a glass jar onto a green salad

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!

More salad recipes

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.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

A combination of tangy balsamic vinegar, olive oil, shallots and a touch of dijon mustard creates a flavorful dressing to make any salad more exciting.
4.70 from 36 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Course Condiment, Salad
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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 Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 16 servings
Calories 90kcal (5%)Carbohydrates 1gProtein 0.03gFat 10g (15%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 0.1mgSodium 61mg (3%)Potassium 4mgFiber 0.03gSugar 1g (1%)Calcium 0.3mg

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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8 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Kitri says

    Yummy… I used this dressing on bbq lamb shanks and vegtables then sliced it all really thin on top of the salad greens. Those who wanted more dressing could have more. I sent everyone home with a hand written recipe card and a little jar of dressing! My sister’s said I am setting the bar too high but they have no idea how easy it was. Next week I am going use chicken kabobs with vegetables and fruit over rice…. this is the perfect flavor for summer, even the garlic bread was begging to wipe the plate!!!

  2. Andrea says

    Hi, I’m new to your site and look forward to exploring it more. This post is super interesting and informative, especially because I just usually pour a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar on my greens individually and then add salt and pepper to taste and mix it all up. I just eyeball everything – it’s super quick and easy and has served me well, but sounds like I’m missing out! I’m looking forward to trying this. Thanks!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Welcome, Andrea! I’m so happy to hear that you find the article interesting, I hope you give it a try. Please reach out anytime with any questions you may have 🙂

  3. Judy says

    Hi Jessica,

    I have been using a homemade dressing very close to your recipe and look forward to trying yours. I know it will be delicious. Thank you.

    Judy