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.
If you add some pomegranate juice to this it will be fantastic.
That’s a nice idea, thanks Shirley!
I appreciate your review.
This is REALLY good! Advice: Honey over maple syrup. Pressed garlic over minced. Use the best extra-virgin olive oil you can afford. Give it a day for the flavors to meld.
Pamela Jean McIvor
I made this dressing and used 1 tblsp of black vinegar with 2 of balsamic it was excellent
I’m delighted you tried it and loved it already! I appreciate your review.
Your dressings always turn out amazing! I’m making your Caesar dressing again this evening! Fun fact for your readers: real Balsamic Vinegar has only100% grape must as the ingredient. Others are a mix of vinegars and grape must. The taste of REAL balsamic is incredible- but fair warning it’s quite expensive :) Happy Holidays to you and your family!
I’m just curious… Do you suggest using a thick, aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe (or any balsamic vinaigrette for that matter) or a younger, thinner balsamic vinegar? They are SO different!
Hi Hollie! That’s a good question. They are very different, but either will work well in this recipe given the suggestions to adjust the dressing to taste in step three. I personally used a runny balsamic for the dressing, and save the thicker aged balsamic for drizzling over other dishes. Hope you enjoy this one!
Undoubtedly the best balsamic vinaigrette I have ever had and I use it a lot! And the bonus, super easy to make. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Linda! I appreciate your review.
I have made it several times. I love it!
I love to hear that, Karen! Thank you for your review.
I LOVE this recipe! Balsamic dressing is one of my favorites! Add some pecans and blue cheese to your salad, too, and you’ll be in heaven. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Jan!
Delicious! I have used this dressing(with maple syrup, not honey) all week so far on my lunch time salad of red lettuce, avocado, roasted pepitas and Mandarin orange. A nice change of pace from Kate’s tahini dressing or oil/vinegar dressing.
I’m excited you enjoyed it, Maggie!
This is a great and yummy vinaigrette! Thanks Kate. The chopped garlic really adds a nice touch. Thanks for all the tips you give, because I don’t always know how to tweak vinaigrettes, but your suggestions are very helpful. It’s even great to use as a sauce in sandwiches or wraps.
Just made your balsamic dressing! It’s great! I would cut down the maple syrup to maybe a half tbsp but other than that …. Thank you
You’re welcome, Terri! Thank you for your review.
Made this dressing and loved it – so did my guest! This is my new balsamic staple.
Great to hear, Mary!
I was watching Ina Garten and she made sauteed brussel sprouts. The recipe called for finishing with balsamic and I used your dressing instead. Instant fav!
Perfection! Truly, this is the best balsamic dressing I have ever had! I can’t believe how amazing it tastes, but even more amazing, how it stays thick and emulsified! Thank you, Kate! I love your site and your recipes!
Great to hear, Julie! Thank you for sharing.
Made this tonight. Excellent! It is a keeper. Thanks…
You’re welcome, Carol! I’m glad you loved it.
I made this with the maple syrup. It was delicious and exactly what I was looking for as I am trying to stay away from the sugar/corn syrup dressings from the store
I thought the flavors on this with the maple syrup were amazing, but I liked it better with about a 1/4 cup olive oil, instead of 1/2. Delish!
I use this with a lettuce combo, plus apples, cranberries and toasted almonds. Yum. It’s been really popular at potlucks.
Thank you for sharing, Pamela!