As with many people, salads are an important part of my low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet. While there are many commercial salad dressing that only contain 2 – 4 carbohydrates per tablespoon, these extra carbs can add up really fast. The type of salad dressing most often recommended by proponents of the LCHF lifestyle are oil and vinegar dressings known as vinaigrettes. In most cases, these vinaigrettes contain no carbohydrates so you can use as much or as little as you want on your salad. The added benefit is that because of their high fat content, they help your body to feel sated thereby making you feel fuller and less hungry.
Vinaigrettes as mentioned are a combination of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices that are mixed together to form a temporary emulsion. Because the emulsion is temporary, and the oil and vinegar will separate, therefore it is best if the vinaigrette is placed in a bottle or container that can be shaken each time before use to mix the oil and vinegar together again. In this article I will teach you how to make a basic vinaigrette to use as a base so that you can add any number of herbs, seasonings and or flavorings to suit your own personal tastes. In addition to vinaigrettes there are a variety of creamed dressings (avocado, blue cheese, and creamy garlic) that use the oil and vinegar base with additions of heavy cream and other components that are then pureed or blended together to form a creamy style vinaigrette.
Basic Oil and Vinegar Base Dressing (Yield: 1 cup)
Oil and vinegar (vinaigrette) is the salad dressing most often recommended by those following a LCHF, Paleo, or Keto eating regimen because it is carbohydrate free and you can use as much as you want. Making a basic vinaigrette is also one of the first salad dressings that everyone learns to make in culinary school. A basic vinaigrette is a vinegar and oil based dressing made with a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar (3:1). There are some chefs that prefer a 4:1 or even a 5:1 ratio of oil to vinegar, my suggestion would be to start with a 3:1 and experiment later. Keep in mind that less oil will make the dressing more tart, while more oil makes the dressing taste milder, but has a heavier oil taste.
¾ cup vegetable or olive oil
¼ cup wine or apple cider vinegar
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Combine the vinegar, salt, and white pepper in a small mixing bowl and stir until the salt is dissolved. Then using a wire whisk, slowly add the oil a few drops at a time. Gradually increase the the oil stream and continue to mix until the oil is totally incorporated and an emulsion has formed.
Total Recipe – Calories 988, protein 0 grams, fat 109 grams, carbs 4 grams
Below I have included recipes for some of the more common vinaigrettes as well as a few creamed dressings that you might find at a restaurant or on your supermarket store shelves. This is by no means a complete list as any one vinaigrette or dressing can have multiple variations. Feel free to experiment and adjust the seasonings of the dressing to suit your particular needs. Remember as long as you keep the oil to vinegar ratio at 3:1, you will have a neutral flavor palate in which to play with.
Asian Vinaigrette – Substitute rice wine vinegar for the wine vinegar, for the oil use 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons peanut oil, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Avocado Dressing – Add ¼ of an avocado to the basic recipe or Herbed vinaigrette and beat until smooth with a wire whisk or immersion blender.
Blue Cheese – Add the to the basic recipe 1 ounce crumbled blue cheese or Roquefort cheese and 1 ounce of heavy cream and beat with a wire whisk or immersion blender until throughly combined.
Balsamic Vinaigrette – In place of the wine vinegar, use 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon wine vinegar (total of 4 tablespoons or ¼ cup).
Herbed Vinaigrette – Add to the basic recipe or to the Mustard Vinaigrette ½ teaspoon dried parsley, ¼ teaspoon dried basil, ¼ teaspoon marjoram, 1 teaspoon dried chives
Italian Vinaigrette – Use olive oil in place of the vegetable oil, add ½ teaspoon minced garlic, ¾ teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley. Another option would be to use 3 – 4 teaspoons of dried Italian seasoning in place of the oregano and parsley).
Lemon Vinaigrette – In place of the wine vinegar, use 3 tablespoons wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice (total of 4 tablespoons or ¼ cup).
Mustard Vinaigrette – Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of yellow prepared or Dijon mustard to the basic recipe.
Picante Vinaigrette – Add to the basic recipe ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon paprika, and 2 teaspoons finely minced or pureed onion.
Choosing Your Oil
When it comes to choosing an oil for your vinaigrette, almost all of the nutritional values are the same as you can tell by the comparison below. I realize that I may not have listed every conceivable oil you can use in a vinaigrette, but the oils listed will compromise 99% of all the oils that most people will use to create a vinaigrette dressing. The oils listed in this article are considered all-purpose, and should have a mild, sweet flavor. While some strong flavored oils (peanut, walnut, and sesame oil) can make excellent salad dressings, they should be used sparingly and are not generally appropriate for every type of salad.
Canola, Cottonseed, Grapeseed, Safflower, and Soybean Oil – These oils are all nearly tasteless, and some would say have a bland flavor profile.
Corn Oil – Has a light golden color and is nearly tasteless, but has a slight cornmeal-type flavor profile.
Vegetable Oil – Sometimes called 'salad oil' it is the most common oil used in the restaurant for making vinaigrettes. Vegetable or salad oil is a blend of oils and is popular because of it's neutral flavor and relatively low cost.
Olive Oil – Has a unique flavor profile that is somewhat fruity and greenish in color. Because of it's strong flavor profile, olive oil is not an all-purpose oil, and should generally be used only in specialty dressings. In theory, the best olive oils are labeled 'virgin' or 'extra virgin', which means they are made from the first pressings of the olives. In practice, many companies mis-label their olive oil as 'virgin' or 'extra-virgin' when it is really not. Something to think about when you go to the store to buy olive oil, if the bottle is less than $7.00 for 16 ounces, it is probably not extra-virgin, no matter what the label says.
Chef's Note: My recommendation is too buy standard olive oil and move on. The bottom line, most of us cannot taste the difference of the quality of the olive oil when it is used in a vinaigrette as the spices and flavorings change the flavor profile.
The following is a comparison of the nutritional values of all the common oils listed in this article for the use of making vinaigrette dressings.
Canola Oil (1 Cup) – Calories 1927, protein 0 grams, fat 218 grams, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 16 grams, polyunsaturated 61 grams, monounsaturated 138 grams
Corn Oil (1 Cup) – Calories 1962, protein 0 grams, fat 218 grams, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 28 grams, polyunsaturated 119 grams, monounsaturated 60 grams
Cottonseed Oil (1 Cup) – Calories 1927, protein 0, fat 218 grams, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 56 grams, polyunsaturated 113 grams, monounsaturated 39 grams
Grapeseed Oil (1Cup) – Calories 1927, protein 0, fat 218 grams, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 21 grams, polyunsaturated 152 grams, monosaturated 35 grams
Olive Oil (1 Cup) – Calories 1910, protein 0 grams, fat 216 grams, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 30 grams, polyunsaturated 23 grams, monounsaturated 158 grams
Safflower Oil (1 Cup) – Calories 1928, protein 0 grams, fat 218 grams, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 14 grams, polyunsaturated 31 grams, monounsaturated 163 grams
Soybean Oil (1 Cup) – Calories 1663, protein 0, fat 218, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 33 grams, polyunsaturated 99 grams, monounsaturated 24 grams
Vegetable Oil (1 Cup) – Calories 1984, protein 0 grams, fat 224 grams, carbs 0
Fat Breakdown – Saturated 32 grams, polyunsaturated 74 grams, monounsaturated 112 grams
So there you have it, a quick run down on the most common varieties of oils used to make vinaigrettes. I realize that many of you are probably shocked that the lowly common vegetable (aka. salad oil) is the most common oil used to make vinaigrettes, and believe it or not, as an all-purpose oil it is the workhorse of the restaurant industry. Not all of the oil choices available to you are listed here, but the goal was to list the most common oils that many of us a familiar with. So the big question that I often hear is which oil is the best choice for making salad dressings? If you are just starting out on a LCHF diet, the simple answer is the oil with the most amount of monounsaturated fats, that has a decent amount of healthy saturated fats. With that in mind here are my top four choices.
Olive Oil (1 cup) – 30 grams saturated fat, 158 grams monounsaturated fat
Safflower Oil (1 cup) – 16 grams saturated fat, 163 grams monounsaturated fat
Canola Oil (1 Cup) – 16 grams saturated fat, 138 grams monounsaturated fat
Vegetable Oil (1 Cup) – 32 grams saturated fat, 112 grams monounsaturated fat
Remember, you have to decide what is best for you, obviously some oils have more beneficial fatty acids (omega 3, omega 6, linoleic acid, vitamin E etc…). The goal of this article is not to argue about oils made with 'genetically modified seeds', or how 'free radicals' get into your food, but about making better choices. Obviously you can look at the references for this article and you can see that the ranking of these four oils (canola, olive, safflower,and vegetable) may appear in a slightly different order, but any of these will work well for you. If all you have and or can afford is vegetable oil, then by all means use it. You can always decide to upgrade your oil choice at a later date. Using a vinaigrette made with vegetable oil may not be the best choice, but it is a better choice than using a dressing that is loaded with carbohydrates.
Choosing Your Vinegar
Just as different oils have different flavor profiles, so do vinegars. Most often in the restaurant we used a wine vinegar as a base for all of our vinaigrette dressings. At home my personal taste preference is the use of apple cider vinegar as I like the slightly fruity flavor profile of the vinegar. In this section of the article, we will be examining the slight differences in the flavors of the more commonly used vinegars to make vinaigrette dressings.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Sometimes simply called 'cider vinegar', is made from apples and has a distinctive brown color and a slightly sweet apple taste.
White Vinegar – Also known as 'distilled vinegar' is vinegar that has been distilled and purified so that it has a neutral flavor, generally white vinegar is made by fermenting and distilling corn. This is common vinegar that you find on supermarket shelves generally labeled as 5%, which means it contains 5% acetic acid.
Wine Vinegar – Is vinegar made from red or white vinegar which leads it to have a winy taste.
Sherry Vinegar – Is a special wine based vinegar that has a distinctive, somewhat bitter wine flavor.
Balsamic Vinegar – The type found in most supermarkets here in the United States is made from wine or wine vinegar and caramelized sugar, which gives it a sweet taste. I may or may not be aged in wooden barrels which contribute to it's dark brown color.
Chef's Note: True balsamic vinegar is made from white grape juice not wine, it is then aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of 10 years and as long as 50 years per Italian law. Because it is only made by small artesian producers and the ageing process is so long, it is simply to expensive to be mixed with salad dressings. It is said that the flavor is so intense that it is used as a condiment in Italy measured out in mere drops.
Obviously there are a number of other vinegars such as rice wine, malt vinegar, and a variety of specialty fruit vinegars (raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, etc...). In addition, there are a number of flavored vinegars which incorporate a variety of herbs such as garlic, tarragon, and rosemary. Having said that, when it comes to making vinaigrettes, white, apple cider, and wine vinegars are the most common.
The bottom line, making your own vinaigrette and creamy salad dressings is fast and easy, and it allows you to add some healthy fat to your diet without adding any carbohydrates. Understand that I am not the food police, I will not chastise you for your choice of the oil or the vinegar that you use in your dressings. Rather it is my goal to give you all the information that I can so that you can make the best decisions that suit your particular needs and or desired outcomes. Going back and looking at this article I may have went into overkill mode and listed more information here than was necessary, but that is the way that I research my food choices based on both cost and nutritional analysis.
I have also included a link in the references on how to make your own flavored vinegars so that you can add additional flavors to your salad dressings without adding any additional calories or carbohydrates for those who might be interested. As always, I hope that this article was informative and has shed a small amount of light on the sometimes controversial subject of making healthy salad dressings. As always, if you have found this article informative, we ask that you share it with your friends. Don't forget to send us a friend request on Facebook and or add us to your circles on Google+.