Someone once told me, a salad without dressing is rabbit food. In many senses, this is true. People have been eating their leafy greens with dressings for thousands of years. Salad dressing not only adds an extra depth of flavor but it helps bring all of the flavors of the salad together. Incorrect use of salad dressing (or not using any at all) is usually the primary reason why people say that salads are boring and tasteless. Salad dressings were commonly only served in restaurants until the turn of the 19th century when the establishments started getting requests from customers if they could bring salad dressing to enjoy their own salads at home. These simple requests started the birth of an industry that is now worth over $3 billion annually.
Salad Dressing Trivia
- Ranch dressing was invented in 1949, in a ranch, by a plumber turned rancher.
- Ranch dressing is the most popular type of salad dressing in the United States.
- Caesar salad has nothing to do with Julius Caesar or the Romans, the name actually comes from the name of the Tijuana restaurant where it was invented, Caesar’s Bar and Grill.
- Because of salads, lettuce is the second most popular fresh vegetable in the United States after potatoes.
- The first salad to be depicted in a painting was made by one of the most famous artists in the world, Leonardo da Vinci.
Salad Dressing Buying Guide
No, not all salad dressings are alike. If you can’t tell the difference between a ranch dressing and a Caesar dressing then don’t be scared, we’ll help you navigate the salad dressing section and we’ll have you picking dressings like an expert in no time.
- Ranch Dressing – Let’s start off with the most popular dressing of the bunch. Ranch dressing is made with buttermilk, mayonnaise, garlic, salt, onions, and, of course, pepper. This is usually the go-to salad dressing for many people as it offers a familiar taste that’s usually within the comfort zone of many. Ranch dressing is not only popular as a salad dressing but it is also commonly used as a dip for many snacks.
- Thousand Island Dressing – This is the “pink” sauce that is commonly called “secret sauce” or “special sauce” by many fast food places on their sandwiches. Of course, aside from being used on sandwiches, this is also a great salad dressing. The basic building blocks of a thousand island dressing is mayonnaise, olive oil, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Chopped pickles and nuts are oftentimes incorporated into the thousand island dressing to give it a textural component and an added kick.
- French Dressing – This is often confused with thousand island dressing due to their similarities in ingredients and colors. The main difference between French dressing and thousand island dressing that the main component for this dressing is Ketchup while thousand island’s main component is mayonnaise. French dressing is more acidic and is perfect for those who prefer a tangy taste to their salads. The main components for French dressing are ketchup, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, onions, and vegetable oil.
- Honey Mustard Dressing – This salad dressing is exactly what it sounds like, a honey and mustard dressing. This dressing combines the sweetness of honey and the tartness of mustard to create a mainly sweet dressing that’s great on both vegetables and as a dip for savory fried food.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette – This is a basic vinaigrette that’s the starting point of most people when they start to venture out of the tried and true mayo-based salad dressings. This is basically olive oil and balsamic vinegar that is mixed together and seasoned with salt and pepper. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of balsamic vinaigrette variants out there using different fruits and condiments to give a different flavor dimension to the dressing.
- Italian Dressing – This is a vinaigrette based salad dressing that’s made from water, vinegar, chopped bell peppers, different herbs, and spices. This is a light dressing that’s sweet and tangy and is very popular with those who are on diets. Contrary to its name, Italian dressing isn’t commonly served in Italy.
- Blue Cheese Dressing – If there was one dressing that could be truly called luxurious and rich, it would be blue cheese dressing. This salad dressing is made with blue cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream, and mayonnaise. This salad dressing has slowly lost popularity with the salad crowd due to its richness, but due to the same reason, it has gained popularity with the snack crowd, making it the dip and dressing of choice when it comes to buffalo wings and chips.
Now, this is in no way an exhaustive list of all the salad dressings out there, but it should be a great start if you want to experiment with different salad dressings.
Salad Dressing Production & Farming in Texas
Just drop by any farmers’ market in Texas and you can see an almost unlimited range of producers making different kinds of vinaigrettes and salad dressings. Salad dressings have become a big deal in Texas with a lot of producers featuring locally grown ingredients in an effort to produce salad dressings that are not only tasty but good for you and for the environment.
Another advantage of buying locally made salad dressings the non-use of many preservatives that can be found in commercially bottled salad dressings. The flavor profiles of locally made dressings are also tailored to the local tastes since they’re made specifically for Texans and not as a generic taste that will appeal to as wide a market as possible.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
If you’ve ever wondered why homemade salad dressings don’t last as long as those displayed on store shelves that can stay on there for six months to a year then the answer is simple, preservatives. Not on that, but there are also other additives to make them look attractive and stay perfectly looking for months on end.
- Calcium Disodium EDTA – This is added to protect the flavor of the dressing.
- Modified Food Starches – Added as an emulsifier and to keep the dressing from separating.
- Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Caramel Color – Colorings to made the salad dressing more eye-catchy on the shelves.
- Sodium Benzoate – A preservative that’s added to prevent bacterial growth and to keep the product from spoiling.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – Nothing else needs to be said about this ingredient.
- Water – Now you would be asking why is water a concern for salad dressings. The answer is quite simple. Most salad dressings don’t use water as an ingredient. Water is added to dissolve other flavoring ingredients that are added to improve the taste and lower the cost overall instead of just using top-quality ingredients.
One of the reasons why all of these chemicals and additives are used in commercially produced salad dressings is to keep costs down and to keep the products on shelves as long as possible.
Salad dressings can come in single-serve packets (not very common), plastic bottles, and glass bottles, depending on the preference of the producer.
Enjoying Salad Dressings
Salad dressings, depending on the type are great on… you guessed it… salads! But not only that, the richer salad dressings like ranch and blue cheese, are also great as dips for veggie sticks, buffalo wings, chips, and other finger foods.
For commercially produced salad dressings, follow the manufacturer’s directions for storage that’s printed on the packaging. For homemade dressings and artisan salad dressings, it can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
A word of advice though, once the dressing has started to change color then it’s time to dump it.
Make your Own Texas-Style Vinaigrette:
Here’s a quick recipe for Texas-style vinaigrette that works great with Texas caviar and leafy salads.
Olive oil, ½ cup
Fresh lime juice, ¼ cup
Chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons
Hot sauce, 1 tablespoon
Minced garlic clove, 1 piece
Chili powder, ½ teaspoon
Cumin Powder, ½ teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk together all of the ingredients until incorporated. Transfer to a glass jar and let rest for a few minutes to allow all of the flavors to meld together.
Before using, give the vinaigrette a quick shake or stir.