Nutrition / Recipes

How to Make Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Salad Dressings

Yes, even ranch dressing.

Salads are a great part of a healthy diet, but they can quickly go wrong when they’re tossed in heavy dressings. Many classic salad dressings—especially those purchased in a grocery store—are loaded with unnecessary ingredients. But the dressing is an essential part of a salad, so you shouldn’t have to give it up altogether. Instead, you can make your own versions of your favorite salad dressings. It may be hard to imagine a healthier Caesar dressing, but there are plenty of options when it comes to lighter, more nutritious popular salad dressings.

Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing can make any vegetable taste better, but it tends to be heavy because it’s often made with buttermilk or mayo. If you like your salad dressing creamy, you can make ranch dressing at home without all the dairy, thanks to this recipe from Mascha Davis, M.P.H., R.D. It uses a dairy-free yogurt to get that creaminess you crave, and it has the classic garlic-and-herb flavor you love.

Ingredients

½ cup plain almond or cashew yogurt
1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
¼ teaspoon onion powder
A few sprigs fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
⅛ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1-2 tablespoons water, to thin out the dressing

Directions

  1. Stir ingredients together in a bowl until smooth.

Vegan Caesar Dressing

Adapted from Kale Me Maybe

This vegan Caesar is thick, creamy, and free of both dairy and anchovies. It gets its texture from cashews, which need to be soaked overnight for optimal creaminess. Mix this dressing with romaine, or try it with kale or even pasta.

Ingredients

½ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth.

Green Goddess Dressing

by Kale Me Maybe

A good green goddess dressing is herby and flavorful, but it’s not exactly the most health-conscious when it’s made with mayonnaise and sour cream. This vegan green goddess uses cashews and avocado instead of dairy to bring you a salad dressing that’s filled with healthy fats and other nutrients.

Ingredients

½ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 ripe avocado
½ cup fresh basil leaves
4 stalks green onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic
Juice of 2 large lemons
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth.

Thousand Island Dressing

Thousand Island is one of those classic American salad dressings, but it doesn’t exactly scream health. Typically made with mayonnaise and sauces such as ketchup, it can quickly become a sugar-laden condiment. This recipe from Kimberly Gomer, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., director of nutrition for Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, uses Greek yogurt and fat-free sour cream rather than mayonnaise and includes low-sugar, low-sodium ketchup for the same flavor without all the salt and sugar.

Ingredients

¾ cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
½ cup fat-free sour cream
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ cup low-sugar, low-sodium ketchup
½ teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Store in refrigerator for about 4 days, depending on the expiration dates of your dairy ingredients.

Honey Mustard Dressing

When it comes to salad dressings, a simple honey mustard can be super tasty. But if you’re relying on the store-bought kind, it’s often filled with unwanted ingredients. This recipe from Rebecca Tolan of Bec Eating Veggies sticks to the basics for a nutritious dressing that uses clean and healthy ingredients without compromising flavor.

Ingredients

¼ cup organic Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons organic honey
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (with or without added honey)
1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
¼ cup avocado oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until the honey has dissolved.

Spicy Cilantro Dressing

A good taco salad tastes even better with a flavorful cilantro dressing, but you don’t want to ignore your health by loading up on a heavy, cream-filled version. This spicy cilantro dressing from chef and holistic health coach Marielisa Villaseñor is zesty and flavorful but still light. Avocado and Greek yogurt add creaminess, so this is perfect for those Mexican-inspired dishes with this dressing.

Ingredients

½ bunch cilantro (approx. 1 cup)
½ cup plain unsweetened yogurt
¼ cup avocado oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon salt
½ jalapeño

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth.

Enjoy your salads with full confidence that they’re made of whole, healthy ingredients from lettuce to dressing.

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