Considering Taste And Texture
If you are omitting oil from an existing recipe that calls for it, you need to consider the acidity or balance of the remaining ingredients. In many salad dressings, and other sauces, it may make the recipe too acidic. Or, if oil was a significant component and you substituted water, plant-based milk, or aquafaba, there might not be a lot of flavor. Here are some tips to get you started:
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Alena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. Sheâs received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.
Sweet And Savory Almond Butter Dressing
The combination of naturally sweet almond butter combined with savory tamari and tangy lime makes for an almost drinkable dressing. But save it for your salad because its even better mixed with greens! Almonds create a creamy consistency and mouthfeel without the oil due to their healthy monounsaturated fat content. The bonus is that you also get the protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that come with enjoying the whole almonds versus only the oil.
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Spicy Avocado Citrus Dressing
This dressing combines sweet, spicy, herby, and creamy into a very flavorful package. Drizzle it over a salad, slather it on grilled veggies, or use it as a dip. It particularly excels with Mexican-inspired flavors. It’s everything you love about guacamole, but in a citrusy salad dressing form!
- Ripe avocado
- 1 tsp cumin
- 0.5 tsp salt
Combine all of the ingredients except the avocado in a blender or food processor and blend until combined. Add the avocado and blend another 5-10 seconds. This will make about a cup of dressing.
Sid And Lisas Creamy Balsamic
Probably the most common salad dressing out there, and typically vegan, the balsamic is a go-to of mine at restaurants. But what if you could make a healthier version at home?
Health Made Simple co-creator Sid Garza-Hillman and his wife Lisa created their own oil-free version, replacing the oil with cashews to keep the fats up and add an extra creaminess.
How to Use It:
This goes well with just about any standard salad, but really pops with your traditional Italian flavors. But really, you cant go wrong to have it on hand for whatever ends up on your salad plate.
- 1 cup cashews
- 1 1/2 cup water
Blend all ingredients until creamy. Add additional salt/pepper to taste.
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Pro Tips & Substitutions
- These ingredients can be switched out with other variations if desired. For instance, though the recipe calls for balsamic vinegar, other vinegar such as pomegranate, red wine, as well as others can be substituted.
- The same goes for the mustard. I personally like Dijon in this dressing, but brown spicy, yellow, and others would likely be delicious too.
- If maple syrup isnt a favorite for you, try agave, brown rice syrup, or another sweetener of your choice.
- Another 3-ingredient oil-free salad dressing that I love is this 5-Minute Tangy Vinegar Dressing that is actually from my favorite Thai restaurant where they use it as a dipping sauce for their fresh garden spring rolls.
Fresh Flavorful Vegan Salad Dressing Recipes
Looking for a vegan salad dressing recipe with no added oil? Weve got you covered. Bursting with flavor from fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices, here are 14 delicious plant-based salad dressings, including classics like ranch, balsamic, Dijon, and lots more. Theyre a snap to make and taste amazing. Prefer something ready-made? Try one of our gourmet low-fat dressings.
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Vegan Green Goddess Dressing
Before I went dairy-free, one of my all-time favorite dressings was Newman’s Own Green Goddess. It was herby, it was creamy, it was tangy and it was SO yum! Butit has sour cream, expeller pressed canola oil, and sugar, all of which I don’t like to eat anymore.
So I developed my own version of green goddess dressing using vegan coconut yogurt, fresh herbs, and maple syrup. I have to say it tastes even better than Newman’s Own.
Vegan Green Goddess goes well with:
Creamy Jalapeo Lime Dressing
Raise your hand if you love the versatility of beans. White beans give this healthy dressing some texture, as well as protein and fiber. The healthy fat in the avocado not only gives it creaminess but will also help the dressing stick to your greens a bit better. Swap a bell pepper in place of jalapeno if you want to skip the spice its still delicious!
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Lime And Mint Yogurt Dressing
This bright, flavorful dressing is bursting with summery flair, but is also creamy and indulgent. It gets it creaminess from yogurt and can easily be made vegan. Mimmi likes to use it on a big, summery salad like the one above it pairs especially well with watermelon! It also makes for a great drizzle on grilled veggies. Change it up by using different fresh herbs or citrus.
- 0.5 c thick, unflavored, unsweetened yogurt of choice
- Zest of a lime
Combine all the ingredients and stir well. This makes about a cup of dressing.
Natural Flavors Artificial Flavorings And Food Colorings
And if you think that natural flavors are bad, wait until you see the laundry list of harms caused by the artificial flavorings and colorings that are allowed in the US food supply by the FDA. Some can cause cancer. And they appear to contribute to adrenal and kidney issues, as well as allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems in children.
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Everyday Tahini Salad Dressing
Tahini is one of my go-to ingredients. I drizzle it on everything, use it in energy balls, make cookies with it and it’s definitely the base of my go-to salad dressing. Our first staple vegan salad dressing is my fave: my everyday tahini! It’s the one I make most often, the one I find goes with everything and you will always find it in my fridge!
Everyday Tahini Dressing goes well with:
What Do You Avoid On A Plant
When choosing to eat a plant-based diet, youll want to focus mainly on fresh foods. In a grocery store, that means primarily shopping the outer aisles. If possible, choose organic foods as much as possible to avoid exposure to GMOs and pesticides.
For more information on pesticides in produce and guidance on the most important foods to buy organic, see our article here.
However, the main foods you should avoid on a plant-based diet are:
- Most or all animal products
- Refined sugars
- Highly processed vegetable oils
- White flour
Youll also want to pay special attention to nutrition labels. By reading labels, you can avoid ultra-processed and harmful ingredients. Packaged foods should have as few ingredients as possible. As a general rule, if you cant pronounce an ingredient, or dont know what it is, put the food back.
Many packaged foods are full of health claims like all-natural or non-GMO. But most of these phrases are branding tactics meant to mislead consumers into thinking a product is healthy. This is called greenwashing. To learn more about greenwashing and what seals and certifications you can actually trust, read our article here.
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A Good Salad Starts With The Dressing
A few years ago I wrote a post about my familys Sauce System how we often start with whatever sauce sounds the most appealing, and build our meals around that.
Today, I want to share a similar technique for building salads, only with healthy, homemade, oil-free dressings instead of sauces.
The technique goes, if you learn a few simple dressing recipes, then you can shape nearly anything in your kitchen into a delicious salad of your choosing.
But before we get to the recipes, lets talk about why Im going oil free with these seven staple recipes.
Creamy Vegan Caesar Dressing
This fully vegan caesar dressing recipe will allow you to enjoy traditional caesar salad without the added calories of oil and mayo. Youll love the taste of it with veggies and crispy croutons.
What really makes it creamy is the cashews. You can omit those if youre going for low calories, as cashews can be high in calories.
Here are the ingredients:
- Maple syrup
- Salt and pepper to season
Add all the ingredients to a blender except for capers, lemon zest, and seasoning. Take out the mixture in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix it well and refrigerate. If too thick, you can add more water.
This will stay fresh and zesty for five days, so you can use it throughout the weekdays for your lunch caesar salads.
No Meat Athlete.
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Fill Your Plate With Plants
Approximately 54% of calories in the standard American diet come from processed foods, while another 34% come from animal products. While research has shown just how detrimental these foods are to your health, federal nutrition guidelines have yet to catch up. It wasnt until 2011 that the USDA replaced their meat food group with a generic protein one. And while their MyPlate guidelines are certainly an improvement over past recommendations, its still not exactly the optimal balance of nutrition.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine created the Power Plate, which provides another take on what a healthy plate really looks like. Spoiler alert: Its full of plants! The Power Plate recommends meals consisting of a balance between fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Check it out here.
The Chipotle Or Buffalo Ranch Variation
I just looked it up and no joke Hidden Valley sells 12 variations of their ranch dressing.
Thats the beauty of a creamy ranch! Throw in a few spices and it completely transforms the experience.
Chipotle and Buffalo ranch are two of my favorite variations, both of which make it into the regular with my family.
How to Use It:
These variations are great for throwing on a Mexican-style salad or used as dipping sauces.
Use the same ranch recipe from #2 above, only add in additional flavors:
- In the blender, add
- After blending, stir in 1-3 tsp of Franks Red Hot sauce. Amount will vary depending on your taste.
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The Verdict On Salad Dressings
Dressings add flavor and moisture to salads. But store-bought brands and restaurant salad dressings may not always be very healthy. Even homemade dressings may contain a lot of oil, which has its own set of issues. If youre unsure of what to put on a salad, try out oil alternatives at home. And experiment with some of these oil free salad dressings. And ultimately, keep eating salads full of veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and other whole plant foods.
Healthy Oil Free Salad Dressing Recipes
Check out our delicious oil-free salad dressings below. And have fun dressing your salad in ways that are both delicious and healthy. Theres no reason to deprive yourself of filling, interesting, and super-healthy salads. Or to skimp on the flavor and mouthfeel of creamy, tangy, spicy, smooth, sweet, or umami dressings. The world is your salad go dress it!
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Homemade Salad Dressing Ideas
Even if you have barely any time to cook, you should make your own salad dressing. In literally 30 seconds you can make something at least as good as any bottled dressing. A simple but delicious dressing requires only that you mix together some oil, vinegar, and dried herbs. Even the fanciest dressings take only a few minutes to prepare.
Given how easy it is to make a dressing, its shocking that so many people choose store-bought. Not only is it a lot cheaper to make your own dressing, youll invariably use much higher quality ingredients. Check the label of many mass-market brands and youll often find low-quality oils like soybean and even cottonseed. Worse yet, many brands contain an absurd number of artificial ingredients, stabilizers, and preservatives. As just one example, Hidden Valleys Original Ranch dressing contains all of these substances:
- phosphoric acid
- sorbic acid and calcium disodium edta as preservatives
- disodium inosinate
- disodium guanylate
If youre making yourself a healthy salad, why ruin it with this sort of garbage, when you can prepare a tastier and cheaper dressing in minutes?
Whats more, since youre in charge of what goes into your dressing, you can quickly come upon some flavor combinations youll prefer to any bottled variety. So now lets look at the two basic kinds of dressings you can make: oil-based and creamy.
Spicy Lemon Olive Oil Salad Dressing
Like I said, Matt and I are always making salads for dinner. Trouble is, we don’t agree on the texture of dressings. I like creamy salad dressing, he likes more of a classic oil-based vinaigrette.
However, this spicy lemon vinaigrette is one recipe we both agree on. It’s Matt’s specialty and I love it! It’s spicy, tangy, bright and adds the perfect coating to a crunchy salad!
Spicy Lemon Olive Oil goes well with:
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Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
I posted this in Instagram and you all went crazy for it, so here’s a more detailed description!
This is a creamy, dreamy, herby dressing that gets its wonderful texture from avocado! It’s a versatile dressing that is wonderful drizzled on absolutely anything from salad to grilled veggies to grilled protein . Switch it up by using different citrus or different herbs to match what flavor profile you’re working with.
- One ripe avocado
- Generous pinch of sea salt
- Splash of water as needed to thin out the dressing
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add a bit of water as needed to reach your desired consistency you may want a thinner consistency for a salad dressing and a thicker one for a sauce. This will make about a cup and a half of dressing.
What About Homemade Salad Dressing
I hope you arent getting the idea that all salad dressings are bad. Or that you have to eat your lettuce and carrots like rabbits do, completely undressed. In addition to some clean brands and varieties of organic commercial dressings, theres always homemade. Not only can you control all the ingredients, but theyre much cheaper than store-bought, and fresher, too.
But even though youre probably not adding your own red dye #40 or MSG, a lot of homemade dressings still use oil as one of the first two ingredients. After all, the simplest dressing of all is called oil and vinegar. And it turns out, that might not be the healthiest option either.
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Easy Vegan Salad Dressing Ideas
Use these 6 vegan salad dressing ideas to make a delicious and easy homemade dressing that will punch up any salad, from greens to grains. Oil-free, nut-free, spicy and mild options.
It’s no secret that I love salad. Whether it’s a light green salad like Vegan Nicoise Salad or a hearty grain-based number like 10-Minute Spicy Moroccan Quinoa Salad. You just can’t go wrong with a big bowl of colorful, crunchy veggies tossed in dressing.
Speaking of dressing, one of my favorite ways to instantly upgrade a homemade salad is with a new salad dressing. Sometimes it’s a simple vinaigrette with olive oil. Other times, it’s a creamy and decadent tahini-based dressing. But no matter what, the salad dressing has to be packed with flavor and good-for-you ingredients. That’s why I’m sharing my six favorite vegan salad dressing recipes. There’s a dressing on this list for very appetite, vegan or not.
These are the salad dressing you’ll want to make on repeat all summer long:
- Everyday Tahini
- Vegan Green Goddess
- Spicy Thai Almond Butter
We’ve got oil-free options, nut-free options, mild ones, spicy ones, colorful ones, and lots in between! I also gave you specific recipes to try with each recipe so you have a solid jumping-off point!