The Vinaigrette Ratio

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Photography Credit: Donna Ruhlman

Please welcome guest author Michael Ruhlman as he demonstrates how to apply a basic ratio to making vinaigrettes. ~Elise

First things first. I am a huge fan of Elise and am honored to be here on this blog. Elise, thank you!

Some of you know I’ve just published a book called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. It’s all about proportions and how knowing proportions for fundamental techniques liberates you in the kitchen.

Here is a perfect example of a culinary ratio, one that’s fairly standard: The 3-to-1 vinaigrette, or 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar.

That we are willing to pay three or four dollars for bottled salad dressing when a delicious vinaigrette costs just pennies to make yourself, is an example of just how far away from the kitchen our processed food system has taken us.

A ratio is just a baseline. Maybe you prefer a very sharp vinaigrette with just two parts oil. If you use lime juice as you acid, you may need more than 3 parts oil. I think the standard 3-to-1, though, is just right.

In the dressings below, I use a neutral oil so that flavor of the ingredients comes through. But if you have an olive oil you love, that works great too. It’s all a matter of what flavors you want.

Replace it with a tasty nut oil, and your vinaigrette is transformed again (replace the canola with walnut oil in the first recipe here, add some chopped walnuts and a dash of honey for a superlative walnut vinaigrette).

Embrace a single ratio, and you will walk away with a thousand vinaigrettes. Here are three examples, all based on mixing two tablespoons of sherry vinegar with six tablespoons of canola oil (for a half cup total), each one building off the other.

Remember the better your sherry vinegar, the better the vinaigrette (look for those produced in Spain).

The Vinaigrette Ratio

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Method

3 Sherry Vinegar-based Vinaigrettes

Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette

This is a great all-purpose vinaigrette for salads, sliced tomatoes or other raw vegetables.

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine the vinegar, shallot, salt and pepper. Give it a stir with a whisk or fork to soften the shallot then drizzle the oil in while whisking.

Tarragon-Mustard Vinaigrette

This is a little heartier than the above, can be used to dress greens, whole vegetables and would make a lovely sauce drizzled over lean white fish.

  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp minced tarragon

Combine the vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper, and mustard. Give it a stir with a whisk or fork to soften the shallot then drizzle the oil in while whisking. Stir in the tarragon just before serving.

Gribiche Vinaigrette

Gribiche is traditionally mayonnaise based, but I like it as a vinaigrette better. It makes a wonderful sauce for roasted pork loin, or any pork preparation. Last week I used it to dress a salad of pancetta lardons and arugula. It's hearty and packed with ingredients.

  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced tarragon
  • 1 hard cooked egg, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cornichons
  • 2 teaspoons capers, roughly chopped

Combine the vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper, and mustard. Give it a stir with a whisk or fork to soften the shallot then drizzle the oil in while whisking. Stir in the tarragon, egg, cornichons and capers.

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Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman has written numerous cookbooks and works of non-fiction. His most recent cookbook is How to Sauté. He writes the blog Ruhlman.com: Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen and lives with his wife and children in Cleveland Heights, OH.

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Showing 4 of 18 Comments

  • Myla Sun

    Hi! I made a 2:1 ratio, and added dijon mustard and honey. How long will it lasts?

  • Marc Chambaud

    I am currently doing a set of videos and preparing a small cooking book for the chinese market about how to prepare a dressing and how to make various types of salad. It is very interesting as naturally I use this base for all my salad dressing(I am french so I guess this is part of my heritage). Thanks for the great info. I personally like a more sharp vinaigrette with a tomato based salad as somehow the tomato tend to reduce teh acidity sensation and if you like to sauce the dressign with bread this way it is usually delicious. with Carrot you can go extra healthy with just Shallots and lime juice. THIS IS DELICIOUS and 0% fat. to ruhlman. We usually let the dressing outside in a closed container so it does not solidify and if we put it in the fridge. we take the dressing out 15-30 min before the lunch/dinner time.

  • Emile

    Dear Michael,
    I am sorry, but this is the classical recipe for the Gribiche sauce :

    chop the yellow part of an had-boiled egg in a bowl.
    add some drop of lemon juice or vinegar. it will dissolve this yellow part and make a paste (mash it with a fork). Use only the necesary quantity of lemon juice or vinegar to dissolve, so pour it drop by drop.
    At this very point, you can add Dijon mustard, but it is not necessary.
    Drizzle the oil in while whisking.
    You can add the chopped white part of the egg, then. And eventually herbs if you like.

  • momio

    Made a tomato, fresh basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, dijon mustard, blk pepper vinaigrette. How long will this keep in my fridge?

    Probably just a few days, because of the tomato and fresh basil. ~Elise

  • ruhlman

    Amy Scott: just let olive oil dressing sit out till room temp or give them a quick zap in microwave.

    avvikande: i wouldn’t use dried herbs in a vinaigrette. the quality varies and to me they taste stale. though you can use if you wish.

    And a good red wine vinegar works just as well!

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