How to Make a Good Vinaigrette With Cheap Oil and Vinegar

Vinaigrette has two main components: oil and acid, usually vinegar or lemon juice. There are usually other players as well: mustard, some kind of sweetener, maybe some herbs and seasonings. But oil and acid are non-negotiable. Since these two ingredients are so important, you might think that the oil should be olive oil and the acid should be aged expensive vinegar. But you would be wrong. From cheap vegetable oil and aggressive white vinegar, you can make an amazing vinaigrette.



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By themselves, none of the ingredients have much flavor. Vegetable oil gives little besides the body, while white vinegar tastes nothing like acetic acid. Both are utilitarian, but that’s okay. Making a delicious vinaigrette with these two humble pantry items is easy—you just need to up the other ingredients in your recipe.

My standard vinaigrette pattern calls for a ratio of 4 parts oil, 4 parts acid, 1 part mustard, and 1 part liquid sweetener with herbs and other seasonings to taste. This works well if you use fragrant oil and vinegar, but will look too tart and one-dimensional with two cheapnesses. To compensate, reduce the oil and acid to 2 parts each and choose a mustard and sweetener with a special flavor. By combining aromatic mustard and sweetener with an all-purpose oil and the simplest of vinegars, mustard and sweetener can shine, resulting in a cleaner flavor profile. (If you want more volume, add some herbs or spices.)

And “great taste” doesn’t necessarily mean “expensive.” Honey is excellent and cheap, as is maple syrup, as is syrup made from wine , orange peel , or brown sugar. Just avoid simple syrup made from table sugar, as it doesn’t add much flavor other than sweetness.

Likewise, mustard doesn’t have to be expensive. Your favorite Dijon will do, as will anything that has a stone grind. Both of these mustards are not only packed with flavor, but they also contain goo , which sounds disgusting, but it ‘s what keeps your dressing from separating.

Finally, while whipping has a certain romantic charm, I highly recommend that you emulsify the dressing by shaking it in a jar . It works way better than any whisk or “emulsifying bottle” I’ve ever come across and you get a good arm workout in the process.

Simple, Cheap Honey Dijon Vinaigrette


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch of salt

Add everything to the jar, close the jar and shake to emulsify. That’s all. Ready. Go eat a salad.


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