Why buy salad dressing at the supermarket when you can make your own in 5 minutes or less? Learn how to make a garlic lemon vinaigrette with variation ideas.
Alex made this garlic lemon salad dressing on one of our first dinner dates. He served it with sliced rainbow carrots. The raw garlic hits you first, followed by the bright acidity of the lemon juice. The richness of the olive oil mellows out the strength of the garlic and lemon.
It keeps you coming back for more.
Considering how simple and easy this salad dressing is to make, of course, I couldn’t keep this recipe to myself. You’ll want to add it to your list of essential recipes to whip out when you’re grasping for last-minute dinner ideas. Let’s dive in.
Check out my series of 5-minute recipes for quick meals.
Why make this garlic lemon salad dressing?
A good vinaigrette makes salads exciting to eat. It’s an easy way to introduce greens into your meals. You’ve likely got the ingredients to try this simple recipe today, even if you have a tiny fridge.
I love bringing a jar of this salad dressing when I go camping. Because it doesn’t have dairy, you don’t have to refrigerate it as you do with ranch dressing and other mayonnaise-based sauces. This dressing makes it safe to bring an appetizing salad on short camping trips. And considering how pungent pressed raw garlic is, maybe it will keep the bears away. If nothing else, it’s a convenient repellent for warding off blind dates that have gone sour.
RELATED: Ramen noodle soup is another favorite recipe I love to bring camping.
What equipment do you need
Here are the tools to help you make this recipe:
- A citrus reamer: I like a citrus reamer with a steady base and a catcher for the seeds better than a squeezer, which often feels like it’s not getting all the juice out. If you don’t want to purchase an extra tool, you can use a fork and follow my lemon juicing tips.
- A garlic press: We use this Kuhn Rikon garlic press at home. It does a great job crushing the garlic and is easy to clean up. But if you don’t have one, you can chop the garlic with a chef’s knife.
- A glass container: I like making the dressing in a small food storage container with an airtight lid because I can shake the dressing in the closed container to mix everything together. It’s also ready to store in the fridge, saving me from cleaning another bowl.
Variations on garlic vinaigrette
My garlic salad dressing recipe lays out the technique with essential ingredients. Once you know how to make it, you can add creative variations to your repertoire.
Check out these ideas for ways to modify your salad dressing so it seems like a new and fancy vinaigrette:
- Raw fresh garlic substitute: You can skip the garlic in favor of shallots. If you like garlic but find the raw stuff too pungent (especially hard neck garlic), try garlic powder.
- Olive oil substitute: You can experiment with different high-quality oils, including avocado oil, walnut oil, and pistachio oil. You may want to skip the very strongly flavored oils, like toasted sesame oil, unless you don’t mind it overpowering your salad.
- Lemon juice substitute: Consider replacing the lemon juice with vinegar, such as red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. Some kind of acid is the key. You could even experiment with mixing in a bit of lime juice or blood orange juice with the lemon juice.
- Honey: I love a touch of honey in the vinaigrette to balance the acidity. You can add 2 teaspoons of honey to round out the flavors (like in this celeriac root recipe). Or maple syrup. Make sure you mix thoroughly to combine.
- Mustard: The classic French vinaigrette uses Dijon mustard, especially whole-grain Dijon mustard. You could try ground mustard powder or your favorite specialty mustard sauce. It adds flavor and helps emulsify the dressing. Use about 1 teaspoon.
- Herbs & Aromatics: Chop your favorite herbs to create a herb vinaigrette, including finely chopped basil leaves, cilantro, thyme, and dill. You can also mince shallots or green onions to pique your taste buds.
- Spices: You can add red pepper flakes and other spices to make a fragrant, even peppery, vinaigrette.
- Fruits: If you love a sweet and tangy raspberry vinaigrette, you can skip the garlic and use crushed fresh raspberries or cherries. Top your salad with dried fruit like raisins or dried cranberries for a sweet summery touch.
You can combine several variations to make popular vinaigrettes. “Honey mustard” and “raspberry balsamic” come to mind as beloved salad dressings.
WARNING: Be careful what you combine. For a sweet and fruity vinaigrette, skip the garlic in favor of honey or maple syrup and fresh or frozen fruit.
5-minute garlic lemon salad dressing
- glass container
- Garlic Press
- Chopping Board
- Citrus Juicer
- 1 (1 ) Lemon, substitute with bottled lemon juice if you don't have fresh lemons
- 2 cloves (2 cloves) Garlic, use 1 clove if you want a milder garlic flavor
- 2 tablespoon (30 ml) Olive oil, you can experiment with different oils
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- Gather the ingredients.
- Squeeze the lemon to extract the juice. Collect about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. This gives you a 2:1 ratio of oil to acid. If you like your salad dressings more acidic, squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon juice from the lemon for a 1:1 ratio of oil to acid. Add the lemon juice to your glass jar.
- Peel your garlic cloves. Squeeze the cloves of garlic through the garlic press. Add the garlic pulp to the lemon juice.
- Add salt and pepper to your lemon juice and garlic mixture. Add enough salt and pepper to taste. You can add more later if it's underseasoned.
- Add the olive oil to your salad dressing.
- Lock the glass container's lid in place. Shake the container to mix the salad dressing until the ingredients are evenly combined. The garlic salad dressing is ready to serve.
- Enjoy your salad and veggies with the garlic salad dressing.
How to store the salad dressing
I like to use a clean glass jar or container with a tight lid. This allows me to shake the dressing ingredients vigorously to emulsify the oil and lemon juice. Then I can store the vinaigrette in the container I used to mix it and avoid cleaning another bowl.
Plus, you can pat yourself on the back for reusing a glass jar. Yay #recycling. This is my justification for the thousands of pasta sauce jars in my pantry.
How long does this salad dressing last?
You can make this garlic lemon dressing in advance. Thanks to the acid in the lemon juice, this salad dressing keeps for at least 7 to 10 days. You can make a big batch of this dressing by doubling the ingredients. Keep the dressing in your fridge to use through the week for dinner.
TIP: Remember to shake the vinaigrette before dressing your salad in case the oil has separated from the lemon juice.
What to eat with a green salad
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