3 healthy salad dressing recipes that RD swears by

3 healthy salad dressing recipes that RD swears by

3 healthy salad dressing recipes that RD swears by

Cynthia Sass, Registered Dietitian and Plant-Based Diet Specialist, shares her three favorite healthy salad dressing recipes.

What is the healthiest salad dressing?

Salad dressings are a mixed bag. They can be incredibly healthy or loaded with unwanted ingredients like sweeteners, fillers, and preservatives.

Unfortunately, the latter applies to many bottle brands. Among the wall of options available at my local market, there are only a few pre-made dressings that I will personally use or recommend.

Products that deserve my approval have quality ingredient lists that read like a recipe I could have made at home. However, they can also be quite expensive.

Luckily, making do-it-yourself versions in your kitchen is a lot easier and cheaper than you might think. (Here are some salad weight loss tricks.)

How to make salad dressing

I have three favorite easy salad dressing recipes. Each offers a unique flavor profile and texture, and all three can be used in a variety of ways.

For example, I use my Mustard Balsamic Vinaigrette to marinate fresh veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The spiced tahini can be drizzled over oven-roasted vegetables or potatoes, or used as a dip with raw vegetables.

Toss the avocado dressing with shredded or spiralized veggies for an easy side dish, or add a dollop to lentil or black bean soup. (Try these healthy salad ingredients, too.)

Because the ingredients are ultra-fresh, I don’t recommend storing larger batches. Because of this, the recipes call for smaller portions and are intended for immediate consumption.

However, if you’re cooking for two, you can double the ingredients, quadruple for four, and so on. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Here’s how to prepare them and why they add not only flavor but a dose of health protection to your dish.

Mustard Balsamic Vinaigrette

We’ve known for a long time that extra virgin olive oil is heart healthy. But a 2019 study published in Revue Neurologique suggests it also protects the brain and may help prevent late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

As for vinegar, according to a 2017 study, its acetic acid, which provides the sour aroma and taste, has been shown to help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, and support healthy weight management food chemistry.

All four ingredients in this easy dressing are also high in antioxidants.

Balsamic Salad Dressing

Courtesy of Cynthia Sass

I love this dressing on a traditional garden salad. For an appetizer salad, toss the dressing with leafy greens, add other veggies of your choice, and top with a scoop of lentils for plant-based protein and high-fiber, energizing carbs.

Tip: If you want to add another healthy fat source like nuts or avocado to your salad, omit the oil in the dressing. Vinegar, mustard and herbs alone will coat and flavor your veggies nicely.

serves one


1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons stone ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning


Whisk ingredients together. Pour into a sealable glass and shake well just before serving.

Spicy Tahini Dressing

The main ingredient in this dressing is tahini, which is made from ground sesame seeds. A two-tablespoon serving contains five grams of protein and three grams of fiber.

It’s also nutrient dense, providing copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and thiamine in addition to antioxidants. The phytosterols in tahini have been shown to help improve artery health and lower blood cholesterol levels, according to a June 2020 study lipids.

Tahini Salad Dressing

Courtesy of Cynthia Sass

A great option for those with nut allergies or sensitivities (as long as sesame seeds aren’t also an issue), tahini is a creamy plant-based alternative to dairy-based dressings.

I like to pair this dressing with spinach or lightly shredded kale, topped with oven-roasted chickpeas.

serves one


2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Pinch of ground cumin

Pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of sea salt


Stir the lemon juice and maple syrup into the tahini. Slowly add the water and keep stirring until you get an even, pourable consistency. (Note: the tahini may seem thick at first, but gradually add the water and stir until smooth.)

Fold in the garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt. Add a little more of the spices if needed depending on your taste and heat preference.

Avocado Herb Dressing

Avocado is truly one of the healthiest foods on earth. It’s high in antioxidants and important nutrients like potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, heart and muscle function.

Avocado consumption has also been shown to support weight management and protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It’s also incredibly satisfying.

Avocado Salad Dressing

Courtesy of Cynthia Sass

While traditional guacamole also makes a fantastic salad dressing, this thinner pureed variation takes on a whole new flavor profile. The aromatic basil combined with garlic, vinegar and lemon is light and bright, with just the right amount of mouth-watering acidity.

I like to serve this dressing with butter lettuce topped with white beans, garnished with a few pumpkin seeds or pomegranate seeds.

serves one


Half of a ripe avocado

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon of water

3 fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Pinch of black pepper

pinch of sea salt


Place all ingredients in a small food processor and blend until smooth.

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