The classic vinaigrette ratio of oil to vinegar makes a perfectly balanced dressing for your favorite salad. Included is a traditional red wine vinaigrette with just six ingredients, that mixes up in 5 minutes. Once you know the correct ratio you can make endless variations on a vinaigrette.
The Correct Ratio for a Traditional Vinaigrette
The most common question I get for salad dressings is what is the right ratio of oil to vinegar? Luckily there is a pretty straightforward answer.
The rule of thumb for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. French culinary school taught me this general rule which creates a slightly acidic dressing that works well on salads. This means if you start with 1/3 cup of vinegar, you would use 1 cup of oil.
HOWEVER, I have never been the type of chef who sticks closely to the rules! I realize that everyone’s tastes and preferences are different so it’s ok to break this rule. Do you prefer your dressing more sour or acidic? It’s okay to add more vinegar. Do you prefer your vinaigrettes less acidic? No problem, reduce the amount of vinegar or add a little more oil.
There are more ways to adjust the flavor balance of a vinaigrette which I’ll describe below.
Classic Vinaigrette Ingredients
Vinegar – My preference for a classic vinaigrette is red wine vinegar. White wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar are workable alternatives.
Extra virgin olive oil is the best for a vinaigrette. It adds a slightly bitter flavor to the dressing which balances nicely with the salt and sour vinegar. This California Olive Ranch EV olive oil is my favorite.
Finely chopped shallot is a classic vinaigrette ingredient. It adds a pop of savory, oniony flavor.
A small amount of Dijon mustard helps to emulsify (hold the oil and vinegar together) and adds some salty and acidic flavor to the vinaigrette.
Sweetener – Just a teaspoon or two of sweetener helps to tame the bitterness of the oil and shallot. It also helps to balance the sour of the vinegar. I use agave because it incorporates easily, but plain sugar will work too.
Finally salt balances all the other flavor and makes this vinaigrette pop!
How to Adjust the Flavor
I suggest mixing up the dressing as described in the recipe card below. Then taste. If the flavor is not quite to your preference, here’s how to make adjustments:
- Do you prefer it more sour? Add more vinegar one tablespoon at a time.
- Is it too sour? Add two tablespoons oil and another half teaspoon of sweetener.
- Is it too bitter? A couple of pinches of salt is a great way to tame bitterness. If it is still too bitter add a half teaspoon of sweetener as well.
- Is it a little blah or lacking something you can’t quite identify? A few pinches of salt will definitely bring out all of the flavors in the vinaigrette. A teaspoon or two of vinegar or sweetener will also help to amp up the flavor.
This basic vinaigrette recipe can be tweaked just a little bit to add a new spin. Here are a few ideas:
- Fresh herbs are a great way to add more flavor. Finely hopped dill, cilantro or parsley will hold up nicely in the dressing.
- I’m a huge fan of oregano, but it is better used in the dry version for a dressing. Add one quarter teaspoon dried oregano.
- Turn this vinaigrette into a lemon vinaigrette. Instead of 1/3 cup of vinegar, use 2 tablespoons vinegar with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
The Correct Ratio for a Classic Vinaigrette
- 2 tsp minced shallot
- 1½ tsp agave or other sweetener agave syrup substitute
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅓ c red wine vinegar (white wine, white balsamic or apple cider vinegars will work too)
- 1 c extra virgin olive oil
- Place the shallot, sweetener, mustard, salt and vinegar into a medium sized mixing bowl. Beat thoroughly with a whisk until it is bubbly.
- While whisking, gradually drizzle in about ¼ c of the oil. Whisk until it is incorporated.
- Repeat step 2, whisking in ¼ c of the oil at a time until all of the oil is in.
- Taste. It is okay to adjust the flavors to YOUR preference. Here's how:Do you prefer it more sour/acidic? Add more vinegar 1 Tbsp at a time.Is it too sour? Add 1-2 Tbsp oil, ½ tsp sweetener and a pinch of salt.Is it to bitter? Add more salt, 2 pinches at a time and more sweetener ¼ tsp at a time. Does it need something you can't quite identify? Add 2 tsp vinegar and/or 2-3 pinches salt and/or ½ tsp sweetener.
- Transfer the dressing to a bottle or jar. Shake well before using.
- This dressing can remain at room temperature for about 5 days,