Basic Vinaigrette

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This basic recipe for vinaigrette will unleash a world of flavor combinations that you choose on your own.

Basic Vinaigrette | Good Cheap Eats

When I turned 16, I got a job at a grocery store. On my first day, my dad gave me some coaching: arrive early, stay late, do exactly what they tell you to do.

So, obedient, overachieving daughter that I was, I did just that. The manager didn’t realize that I had worked 20 minutes over schedule. He asked me to do something, and I did it. I don’t remember which one of us brought it up, but eventually, I got to go home. I had no clue that you clocked yourself out.

He looked at me, this short thin guy with a mustache named John, and said, stroking his mustache, of course, “There’s one last thing you need to do. You know the salad dressings? Well, the oil and vinegar separate during the night. So, before you go, I need you to go down the salad dressing aisle and shake all the bottles.”

And you know what? Foodie though I was — someone who knew that you had to reshake before serving — I went down the salad dressing aisle and started shaking each and every bottle. After about five or six bottles, a customer clued me in: they were pranking the new girl.

I walked back to the deserted front of the store — it was 9:30 pm by this time — shaking my head. John and the few checkers in the checkstands were busting up laughing.

So, there you have it. One of my most embarrassing moments.

You won’t catch me in the salad dressing aisle these days. I know how to make it myself! And you can, too.

Salad dressing, particularly vinaigrette, is super easy to make yourself. There’s a general basic formula that you need to know and then you can tweak and change ingredients to your heart’s content. With this recipe, you can make an untold number of vinaigrette varieties. Experiment and find your favorites!

making basic vinaigrette

Making vinaigrette yourself.

Mixing up a vinaigrette takes just a few minutes. I typically don’t measure. I just grab a small mason jar, pour in vinegar or citrus juice, add some herbs, spices, jam, garlic and/or mustard, shake well, add the oil, shake again. Voila!

Making it cheaper.

An 8-ounce bottle of good quality, bottled dressing typically costs $3 or more. The same amount of homemade breaks down so much more economically.

  • olive or sunflower oil $0.80
  • vinegar $0.25
  • generous allowance for scant herbs, spices, condiments $0.25

Total for 8-ounces of homemade dressing = $1.30 or less than half of the commercial product.

An added bonus is that you can control the ingredients in your dressing. Bottled dressing is most commonly doused with corn syrup. Corn syrup?!

Make your own and make it good.

Basic Vinaigrette Good Cheap Eats


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Basic Vinaigrette | Good Cheap Eats
Basic Vinaigrette
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dressing, vinaigrette, vinaigrette dressing
Servings: 8 1/8 cup
Calories: 124 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1/4 cup vinegar or citrus juice or a combination
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional mix-ins choose a few: 1 tablespoon jam, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon or dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon garlic, 1/4 teaspoon favorite dried herbs such as basil, oregano, Italian herbs, herbes de provence, tarragon
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sunflower or olive oil
  1. In a Mason jar, pour the vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add the mix-ins of your choice. Cap the jar and shake until well combined.
  2. Add the oil and cap again. Shake.
  3. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

Nutritional values are approximate and are based on 1/8 of the recipe. Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 4 days.

Nutrition Facts
Basic Vinaigrette
Amount Per Serving
Calories 124 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Sodium 146mg6%
Potassium 21mg1%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 139IU3%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Do you make your own salad dressing?

diy-convenience-150This is part of the DIY Convenience Foods series.

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About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Claire says

    LOL, that story gave me such a great laugh this A.M. oh, my!!!! Thank the Lord he gives I s moments like that in our lives!! 🙂

    I’m sure we each have a story similar to share. LOL

    Making homemade dressing just makes sense. I love a greek dressing, but i need to try a new one. Loving your series!!!!!!

  2. I love homemade salad dressing. While I do make vinaigrette from scratch I do admit to using mixes. Still much cheaper than buying a bottle. Penzey’s Spices sells a wonderful buttermilk ranch and Italian mix. I believe a bag of mix is about 4 bucks and it makes at least 20 bottles of dressing.

    I eat salad every night so more dressing ideas are always good for me!

    • Ellen says

      I second their buttermilk ranch mix. I use it for recipes that call for a packet of Hidden Valley ranch. No preservatives… just spices. It’s great!

  3. I just made balsamic vinaigrette last night. My family liked it. Thanks for this basic recipe! I’ll have to try some new combinations.

  4. Sandi says

    I do make my own vinaigrette but I don’t think I’ve ever measured it out. I’ve certainly never considered putting jam into it. That is an interesting idea. I generally prefer the more vinegary kind rather than a sweet dressing, but I might try it sometime just for kicks. I usually add all the other mix-in ideas, though. The kid doesn’t like vinegar much, and he’s a definite Ranch dressing person. I’ve never tried actually making that myself, although I know I really should. I have done my own bleu cheese dressing – the other dressing I enjoy when not using vinaigrette – but decided it was easier to just purchase a bottle of that when it was on sale.

  5. Susan says

    How long does homemade dressing last (if refrigerated)? Do you need to make it every time you make a salad?

    • A week if you’re using vinegar, about 3 to 4 days if using citrus juice. I usually make a big batch to last the week, but some weeks I make a small amount for whatever salad I’m making.

  6. TSandy says

    I make my own raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. I was spending a small fortune on bottled raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. It’s easy to make and the reduced raspberry sauce will keep a month in my refrigerator. Then I make up a new batch of dressing each week. During the summer raspberry sales I freeze the raspberries to use throughout the year. My favorite salad is over a spinach and strawberry salad with slivered almonds.

  7. Sally says

    There used to be a blog with a recipe for a simple green salad with 3-2-1 dressing: 3 parts oil, 2 parts vinegar (or citrus juice) and 1 part honey with salt and pepper to taste. I’ve also added about a teaspoon of Dijon, or a teaspoon of soy sauce (it adds umami). Some favorite versions: lime juice instead of vinegar, 1 part each red wine vinegar and lemon juice, and, especially good with salads containing apples, cider vinegar and maple syrup with Dijon.

  8. Julie says

    When on Whole30 which vinegar did you use for this?

    • I’m pretty sure all vinegars are allowed, it’s the mustards or jams that you add that you’ll need to check the labels. Most Dijon mustards have white wine, but there are a few that do not. Use naturally-sweetened jams.

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