How Do I Choose the Best Salad Dressing?

B. Miller
B. Miller
Escarole is often included in salads.
Escarole is often included in salads.

To choose the best salad dressing for your salads, you will want to consider the two most important factors: taste and health. Though salad dressing is largely a personal preference, some types and flavors of salad dressings pair better with certain types of salads. For instance, in a salad made up of delicate leafy greens, you will want a lighter dressing that doesn't overwhelm the leaves. Health is also a big concern with dressing; though the creamy dressings can be delicious, they are also typically loaded with saturated fat, and can undo some of the health benefits of eating a healthy salad in the first place.

Salad greens.
Salad greens.

Matching the tastes of your salad dressing to the tastes in your salad for the best possible combination is a good way to ensure that your salad is a delicious meal or side dish. First, consider the type of lettuce used in the salad; delicate mixes often work better with lighter, vinaigrette dressings whereas salads with denser. crunchier leaves can stand up better to heavier, creamy dressings. If the salad is sweeter and contains fruits, it often pairs well with a tangy dressing, such as a balsamic vinegar dressing. If the salad has a more peppery taste, pairing it with a sweeter dressing, such as a ginger dressing, can complement it well. The same holds true for pasta salad; though creamy pasta salads are perhaps the most common, some people prefer making vinegar-based pasta salad.

Creamy salad dressings are typically made with mayonnaise.
Creamy salad dressings are typically made with mayonnaise.

Health concerns are a large reason why you might choose one salad dressing over the other. Creamy salad dressings are typically made with mayonnaise and are very high in saturated fat, making an otherwise healthy salad not only calorie-dense but also pretty bad for the heart as well. This is why choosing an oil and vinegar dressing is often a better choice.

Caesar salad dressing contains egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, and other ingredients.
Caesar salad dressing contains egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, and other ingredients.

Experts typically recommend going with a low-fat salad dressing rather than a fat-free salad dressing, however. This is because some fats -- the "healthy" unsaturated fats found in things like olive oil -- actually help the body to absorb nutrients from vegetables better, and increase feelings of fullness. This can help to make salads more filling and ultimately more nutritious. Another good idea is to look for salad dressing with only a few simple ingredients, rather than a long list of preservatives and other unnecessary additions. If all else fails, it is very easy to make your own salad dressing, thereby giving you complete control over what goes into it.

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    • Escarole is often included in salads.
      Escarole is often included in salads.
    • Salad greens.
      Salad greens.
    • Creamy salad dressings are typically made with mayonnaise.
      Creamy salad dressings are typically made with mayonnaise.
    • Caesar salad dressing contains egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, and other ingredients.
      Caesar salad dressing contains egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, and other ingredients.
    • Salad dressing comes in many flavors.
      Salad dressing comes in many flavors.
    • Homemade salad dressing that contains olive oil is a healthy alternative to some store-bought versions.
      Homemade salad dressing that contains olive oil is a healthy alternative to some store-bought versions.
    • Fans of sweet salad dressings will enjoy a homemade dressing that includes honey.
      Fans of sweet salad dressings will enjoy a homemade dressing that includes honey.
    • Greek salads are usually served with an herb-infused vinaigrette.
      Greek salads are usually served with an herb-infused vinaigrette.
    • An insalata caprese that features fresh basil and juicy tomatoes should be dressed lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
      An insalata caprese that features fresh basil and juicy tomatoes should be dressed lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
    • A balsamic vinegar dressing could be a good topping for a fruit salad.
      A balsamic vinegar dressing could be a good topping for a fruit salad.