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Choosing Homemade Salad Dressing

I eat a huge salad pretty much every single day. But you will never find me using a store bought salad dressing. The only thing I put on my salad is a homemade salad dressing or a sprinkling of a homemade salad “booster” drizzled with a very high quality, unrefined oil (more on what the salad “booster” is in a bit).
If you are familiar with Clean Cuisine or have read our Clean Cuisine book, you know that salads, vegetables and greens play a foundational role in any anti-inflammatory nutrition program. And since Clean Cuisine is also purposely rich in flavor-enhancing anti-inflammatory and phytonutrient-rich herbs and spices and because we definitely do not advocate a “fat free” or “low fat” way of eating, dressing our daily salad with a rich and decadent homemade salad dressing (or “booster”) is definitely part of our daily routine.

Overcoming the Fat Free Fiasco

Thanks to what started as a diet fad back in the 80’s and 90’s has turned into a full-blown national nutritional disaster that has left so many people totally in the dark about dietary fats. Most people do not have a good handle on the science showing that the types of dietary fat you consume (rather than the percentage of your daily calorie intake that comes from fat) plays a tremendous role in regulating inflammation within your body as well as keeping you looking and feeling healthy.
Fats play a significant role in satiety and the types of fat you eat can either “turn on” or “turn off” fat-burning genes within your body; so certain types of fat can definitely help you stay lean. Adding fat to your foods, especially to salads, will also help you boost the bioavailability of key vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Not only does fat help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients found in foods like tomatoes and carrots, it is also one of the most important conveyers of flavor that exist. In other words, if you eat a fat-free salad it probably won’t taste very good and you probably won’t be too excited about eating it every day either! The truth is, fat is a GOOD thing, assuming you are getting clean, unrefined and nutrient-rich sources.


Clean Cuisine Homemade Salad “Boosters”

But, when talking about salad dressing it is important to point out that pouring excessive amounts of oily dressing—especially if the oil you are using is refined and devoid of nutrients!!–– on top of your salad in the name of good taste isn’t exactly the best way to boost health. Keep in mind, the healthiest (and most slimming) fats are always in their “whole” and unprocessed form, such as raw nuts, raw seeds, olives and avocados. This means if you had to choose between eating an olive or olive oil, the healthiest choice would be the raw naked olive. 
The “whole” olive will include fiber and an abundance of anti-inflammatory plant-based phytonutrients that won’t be found in just the olive’s oil. The whole raw olive will also have more nutrients than the oil, especially because most oils are not processed properly. Poor oil processing is particularly rampant with the omega-6 rich vegetable oils that are ubiquitous in bottled salad dressings and almost always refined, unless you can find a bottled dressing that is made in small batches and sold refrigerated.
For this reason, our Clean Cuisine Homemade Salad Dressing recipes, such as the Hemp Seed Caesar Salad Dressing or Tahini Salad Dressing, often incorporate “whole fats” in the form of avocado, raw nuts, raw nut butters, raw seeds, raw seed butters, etc. We have also created what we call salad “boosters” made entirely from blended “whole fats”, fresh herbs, dried fruits and spices. Our Salad ” boosters” boost the flavor and the nutrition of your salads by providing healthful fat in the most unprocessed. purest and healthiest form
Note: Learn more about how to make a Clean Cuisine “Salad Booster” recipe using “whole fats.

ball canning jars for salad dressing

Ball Canning Jars make the best storage solution for dressings and salad boosters.


Clean Cuisine Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes are Made with Unrefined Oils

But don’t get me wrong, we still make homemade salad dressing recipes with oil too. We are, however, VERY choosey about which oils we use. Selecting the highest quality oil is crucial for both the taste of your food and your health. Low-quality refined oil is one of the most harmful foods that can be consumed, and unfortunately, it is ubiquitous in the packaged and convenience food world…and in restaurants too. Once you are exposed to the pure, fresh flavor or unrefined oils, your palate soon comes to realize that refined oils do not taste good. Not one bit.

The thing is, high-quality/ unrefined oils are not as easy to come by as you might think; they are pretty much never found in pro­cessed foods, and they are even difficult to locate in higher-quality natural and organic packaged food products. For example, because unrefined oils do not have a long shelf life, they are not used in bottled salad dressings that you find sitting on the grocery store shelves, which is a big reason why I never buy store-bought salad dressing. Top-quality unrefined oils are also considerably more expensive than lesser-quality oils—just another reason food manufacturers and most restaurants don’t use them. Everybody gets what they pay for when it comes to oil.

When making your homemade salad dressing recipes, you want to look for oils that are expeller pressed, protected from heat and unrefined. You spe­cifically want to avoid refined oils that have been processed with chemi­cals and solvents, exposed to high heat (refined oils are often heated up to 470ºF, which damages them significantly), or deodorized.

The best-quality cold-pressed oils are expeller pressed in a heat-controlled environment to keep tem­peratures below 120ºF. It’s important to note that although Europe has rigorous standards in place for the terminology of cold pressing (fully unrefined oil extracted at temperatures below 122ºF), the phrase cold pressed has been used erroneously in the United States for a number of years and is often employed as a marketing technique. You really have to do a bit of homework on the oil brands you choose and not just grab one from the shelf because the company has invested in a splashy marketing campaign or pretty packaging.


Annie’s Natural Salad Dressing Example

Take a look at the Annie’s Naturals salad dressing ingredients for their “Organic Goddess” salad dressing in the photo below….

Annies Natural's Salad Dressing

 Annie’s Natural Salad Dressing Ingredients: Expeller pressed vegetable oil (canola, soy and/ or sunflower), water, tahini, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce (water, soybean, salt, wheat, alcohol), lemon juice concentrate, sea salt, garlic, toasted sesame seeds, parsley, chives and xantham gum.

Although you might think from the marketing and packaging that Annie’s Naturals is a healthy choice, the reality is this product is primarily just a bottle of refined, low-quality oil.

Reading the back of this bottled salad dressing label is a good example of why I make my own homemade salad dressing. Not only is homemade salad dressing incredibly easy to make, the taste simply cannot compare to any bottled dressing that has been squatting for months on a supermarket shelf.







2 Reasons I Won’t Eat Store Bought Salad Dressing

The two main reasons I don’t like the oils used in pretty much every mass-produced bottled salad dressing that exists is because:


#1: They have almost always been refined.

And as mentioned earlier, refined oils have had the nutrients & antioxidants processed out of them (a good comparison would be how enriched flour has been processed from a whole grain and stripped of it’s fiber & nutrients). Refined oils extend shelf life but they don’t do a single thing for YOUR health! They are basically empty calories. Also, just because a label says that a vegetable oil is “expeller pressed” does not mean it is unrefined —if a vegetable oil is unrefined AND expeller pressed it would say “unrefined, expeller pressed” in the list of ingredients.

#2: High in Omega-6 fats

Processed / refined vegetable oils have become ubiquitous in the packaged food world & because they have a high omega-6 fat content relative to omega-3 fat, they are play a significant factor in increasing inflammation.


Best All-Purpose Oil for Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes

Although I love to make omega-3 rich salad dressings from unrefined, expeller-pressed omega-3 rich oils such as flaxseed or walnut oil, the problem is these oils have a high tendency to go rancid if not protected from heat, light and air. In other words, if you want to make a homemade salad dressing recipe that will keep for the entire week, your best bet is to use a more stable oil that is predominantly rich in monunsaturated fat, such as good old extra virgin olive oil.

By definition, “extra virgin” olive oil is supposed to be a very high-quality, unrefined, nutrient-rich oil that has not been exposed to high heat, chemicals or solvents. However, there are some shady issues surrounding olive oil these days. Be sure to check out the Olive Oil Times website for more information on choosing the very best extra virgin olive oil.


Bad Oil Alert: 2 Red Flag Indicators to Look for On Packaged Food Products

The first thing you want to avoid in any packaged food is any oil listed as “vegetable oil” (which includes ones such as corn oil, pure vegetable oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and cottonseed oil). These are all pro-inflammatory omega-6 rich oils and pretty much the only way to make them shelf-stable for extended periods of time is to highly refined them.

The second thing to look for when reading the ingredients label in any packaged food is a list of a hodgepodge of oils. Products listing a combination of oils with the words “and/ or” on their label should raise a red flag for sure. For example, look at the Annie’s Naturals Salad Dressing Ingredients once more and notice how the very first ingredient is listed like this below:

  • Expeller pressed vegetable oil (canola, soy and/ or sunflower)

You want to avoid any product that acknowledges right there on the label that they are not 100% certain of exactly what ingredients their product contains!


5 Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes to Try!

But truly, nothing is easier (or tastier!) than making fresh, homemade salad dressing. We have a number of different salad dressing recipes on Clean Cuisine, but the following five are some of my favorites:


Ivy Larson

In 2010, Clean Cuisine was launched because Ivy Larson wanted to share her anti-inflammatory lifestyle and delicious recipes using ingredients in their most natural and nutrient-rich state. In 2020, Ivy passed the website to Aimee and Madison. Since then, they have been adding new recipes and nutrition posts while updating old recipes and articles. Thanks for visiting Clean Cuisine!

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Thursday 5th of January 2017


Thank you so much for this article. I'm loving your website. I am also embarking on a clean eating/anti inflammatory diet in an effort to improve my health and you have helped me so much. Just wanted to say thanks!!

Ivy Larson

Thursday 5th of January 2017

Awww, thank you so very much for taking the time to comment Tina. I can't tell you how happy I am to know my info helps you. Please do keep me posted on your clean eating journey (I know it is not easy at first, but it DOES get easier with time!!) And thank you again for reaching out. xoxo

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