3 Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes This RD Swears By

Registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her three favorite recipes for healthy salad dressing.

What is the healthiest salad dressing?

Salad dressings are a mixed bag. They can be incredibly healthy or loaded with unwanted ingredients like sweeteners, fillers, and preservatives.

Unfortunately, the latter applies to many bottled brands. Among the wall of options available at my local market, there are just a few ready-made dressings that I will personally use or recommend.

Products that deserve my approval have high quality ingredient lists that read like a recipe I could have made at home. However, they can also be quite pricey.

Fortunately, making DIY versions in your kitchen is much easier and cheaper than you might think. (Here are some salad tricks for weight loss.)

How to make a salad dressing

I have three favorite recipes for easy salad dressing. Each offers a unique flavor profile and texture, and all three can be used in different ways.

For example, I use my mustard-like balsamic vinaigrette to marinate fresh vegetables like mushrooms, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The spiced tahini can be sprinkled with oven-roasted vegetables or potatoes, or used as a dip with raw vegetables.

Toss the avocado dressing with shredded or spiralized veggies for an easy side dish, or add a dollop to lentil or black bean soup. (Try these healthy salad ingredients, too.)

Since the ingredients are ultra-fresh, I don’t recommend making larger batches for storage. For this reason, the recipes call for smaller portions and are intended to be used right away.

However, if you’re cooking for two, you can double the ingredients, quadruple for four, and so on. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Here’s how to make them and why they not only add flavor but also a dose of health protection to your dish.

Mustard Balsamic Vinaigrette

We have known for a long time that extra virgin olive oil is healthy for the heart. But a 2019 study published in Revue Neurology suggests it also protects the brain and may help prevent late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

As for vinegar, the acetic acid, which provides the sour aroma and taste, has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, and support healthy weight management, according to a 2017 study in food chemistry.

All four ingredients in this easy dressing are also rich in antioxidants.

Thanks to Cynthia Sass

I love this dressing on a traditional garden salad. For an appetizer, mix the dressing with leafy greens, add other vegetables of your choice, and top with a scoop of lentils for plant-based protein and fiber-rich energy carbohydrates.

Tip: If you want to add another healthy source of fat to your salad, such as nuts or avocado, omit the oil in the dressing. The vinegar, mustard and spices alone will coat and season your vegetables nicely.

Serves one


1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons stone-ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning


Whisk ingredients together. Transfer to a sealable jar and shake well just before serving.

Seasoned Tahini Dressing

The main ingredient in this dressing is tahini, which is made from ground sesame seeds. A two-tablespoon serving contains five grams of protein and three grams of fiber.

It is also rich in nutrients, providing copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and thiamine in addition to antioxidants. The phytosterols in tahini have been shown to help improve blood vessel health and lower blood cholesterol, a June 2020 study found in Lipids.

tahini salad dressing

Thanks to Cynthia Sass

Tahini is a great option for those with nut allergies or sensitivities (as long as sesame seeds aren’t also an issue), and it’s a creamy plant-based alternative to dairy-based dressings.

I like to pair this dressing with spinach or lightly massaged kale, garnished with oven-roasted chickpeas.

Serves one


2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Squeeze ground cumin

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pinch of sea salt


Stir the lemon juice and maple syrup into the tahini. Slowly add the water and keep stirring to create a uniform pourable consistency. (Note: The tahini may appear thicker at first, but keep adding the water little by little, stirring until smooth.)

Fold in the garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt. Add a little more of one of the spices if needed, based on your taste and heat preference.

Avocado Herb Dressing

Avocado is truly one of the healthiest foods in the world. It is rich in antioxidants and important nutrients such as potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, heart and muscle function.

Eating avocado has also been shown to help with weight management and protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is also incredibly satisfying.

avocado salad dressing

Thanks to Cynthia Sass

While traditional guacamole also makes a fantastic salad dressing, this thinner pureed variety takes on a whole new flavor profile. The aromatic basil combined with the garlic, vinegar and lemon are light and bright, with just the right amount of mouth-watering tartness.

I like to serve this dressing with butter lettuce, garnished with white beans, garnished with some pumpkin seeds or pomegranate seeds.

Serves one


Half a ripe avocado

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon of water

3 fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Pinch of black pepper

Pinch of sea salt


Add all ingredients to a small food processor and blend until smooth.

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