Food & Recipes

This Surprising Pantry Staple Is the Key to Making the Tastiest Salad Dressing


Salad dressing is what brings an ordinary bowl of greens and veggies to life. But, I often find that vinegar or citrus-based dressings can be a little too acidic for my liking. Thankfully, I stumbled across this neat trick for adding a dash of vanilla extract to salad dressing so that it gives a more balanced and less sharp taste.

I know this sounds strange, vanilla extract tends to only get added to baked goods like cookies and cakes. However, Claire Lower, food editor of Lifehacker, points out how it can boost the flavor of a sharp salad dressing: “A little vanilla softens acidity, accentuates sweetness, and just makes things taste better.”

She credits the macadamia vanilla bean vinaigrette from Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, FL for inspiring her to start adding this extract to her salad dressings. She suggests mixing 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract into one cup of dressing to start. Feel free to add an extra 1/4 teaspoon if the acidity needs to be mellowed out more (tasting as you go is always key!).

You can try this out on a store bought dressing that contains any type of vinegar or lemon juice. Or you can make your own, which is what I did by blending one cup of extra virgin olive oil, five tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, salt, and pepper together until combined. Then, I poured a few spoonfuls of the dressing over salad greens and served.

Vanilla infused salad dressing
Alexandria Brooks

When I tasted the salad, there was no trace of vanilla in the dressing. Instead, the extract masked the tart flavor from the vinegar so it wasn’t as overpowering. Plus, this allowed the fruitiness of the olive oil to really shine through and create a harmonious dressing where both ingredients complemented each other. I will definitely be adding this baking staple to my salad dressings going forward!

This is one of the many ways salad vinaigrettes can be made better thanks to everyday ingredients. It’s also a good idea to try adding an avocado for an extra creamy dressing or barbecue sauce for a sweet and sour kick!

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