This balsamic vinaigrette recipe deserves a moment in the spotlight. When you’re improvising a seasonal salad, no matter how simple or elaborate, balsamic vinaigrette is always an excellent choice. It’s a classic for a reason, and I love the lightly figgy flavor that balsamic vinegar imparts.
This balsamic dressing strikes a delicate balance between tangy and sweet. It’s just right.
This homemade balsamic vinaigrette calls for basic pantry ingredients, yet tastes far superior to any store-bought dressing. This is true for all homemade salad dressings, even when they’re made exclusively with pantry ingredients like this one.
I can’t entirely explain why freshly-combined basic ingredients taste so much better than pre-made dressing from the same pantry shelf, but the difference is undeniable. It’ll smack you right over the head.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Tips
To make the best homemade balsamic vinaigrette, you need to nail a few simple elements.
1) Quality ingredients go a long way.
For this recipe, you’ll need olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a splash of maple syrup or honey, Dijon mustard, and fresh garlic. The nice thing about homemade salad dressing is that you’re in complete control of the ingredients, and your store-bought ingredients are probably superior to pre-made options already. You don’t need to use the world’s most expensive balsamic vinegar to make a delicious dressing!
2) The order in which you mix the ingredients matters (somewhat).
First whisk together everything but the oil until combined, then drizzle in the oil while whisking. This method helps emulsify the ingredients so the dressing stays well-blended for longer. The Dijon mustard offers flavor and also helps stabilize the final result. This method isn’t foolproof—all dressings separate with time, and all benefit from another whisk just before using—but it does help.
3) Adjust to taste.
There is more variation amongst balsamic vinegars than most other vinegars. Start with the quantities listed in the recipe below. Taste, and if the dressing doesn’t taste quite right, use my guidance in the last instruction to tweak the flavor as necessary.
4) Refrigerate for up to 10 days.
While this dressing could safely last longer than ten days (always use your best judgment), it has the best flavor within the first week to ten days.
Know that real olive oil often solidifies a bit in the fridge—that’s perfectly normal and not a sign of decay. To liquify, simply let it rest at room temperature for five to ten minutes or microwave very briefly (about twenty seconds). Whisk until blended.
Bonus: My balsamic vinaigrette hack…
When I’m in a hurry for a single serving of salad, I actually cheat and skip the mixing! I simply use a drizzle of olive oil, followed by a drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze, finished with a sprinkle of flaky salt. That’s it. You can see this trick in my Super Simple Arugula Salad.
Watch How to Make Balsamic Vinaigrette
How to Serve Balsamic Vinaigrette
Balsamic vinaigrette is a go-to dressing throughout all seasons. It’s a great match for the darker varieties of leafy greens, from mild spring mix all the way to arugula and kale. Balsamic vinaigrette plays nicely with boldly flavored and naturally sweet produce, from fresh strawberries to roasted butternut squash. It goes well with just about any salad-friendly nut or cheese.
In summary, balsamic vinaigrette is highly versatile. Here’s a short list of flavors that go particularly well with this type of dressing:
- Cheese: Blue cheese, cheddar, feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan
- Fruit: Apples, all berries, cherries, peaches, pomegranate
- Greens: Arugula, kale, spinach, spring mix and other tender green lettuces
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, pecans, walnuts, pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds
- Onions: Red onion and shallot
- Vegetables: Roasted winter squash like butternut, cucumber, radish, tomatoes
More Recipes Featuring Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Balsamic Butternut, Kale and Cranberry Panzanella
- Berry Spinach Salad with Spicy Maple Sunflower Seeds
- Cherry Couscous & Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Colorful Strawberry Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Roasted Delicata Squash, Pomegranate and Arugula Salad
- Simple Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Dipping Sauce
Please let me know how your balsamic dressing turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you. If you find yourself on a vinaigrette kick, be sure to check out my Classic Vinaigrette with several variations.
Favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: ¾ cup 1x
- Category: Salad dressing
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegan
Balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect dressing for almost every salad. This balsamic vinaigrette recipe is easy to make and strikes the perfect balance between tangy and sweet. Recipe yields just over ¾ cup.
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine everything but the oil (the vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, garlic, salt and several twists of black pepper).
- Stir the mixture well with a small whisk or a fork until the ingredients are completely mixed together. While whisking, drizzle in the oil until it’s thoroughly combined.
- Taste, and adjust as necessary. If the mixture is too acidic, thin it out with a bit more olive oil or balance the flavors with a little more maple syrup or honey. If the mixture is a little blah, add another pinch or two of salt. If it doesn’t have enough zing, add vinegar by the teaspoon.
- Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for future use. Homemade vinaigrette keeps well for 7 to 10 days. If your vinaigrette solidifies somewhat in the fridge, don’t worry about it—real olive oil tends to do that. Simply let it rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes or microwave very briefly (about 20 seconds) to liquify the olive oil again. Whisk to blend and serve.