The Vinaigrette Ratio

How ToSalad DressingVinaigrette

Michael Ruhlman on how to make 3 variations of a classic vinaigrette salad dressing following a 3 to 1 oil to vinegar ratio.

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!

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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 extra virgin olive oil. If you want, you could use a more neutral oil. 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 olive oil 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 olive 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

  • Prep time: 5 minutes


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 extra virgin olive 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 extra virgin olive 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 extra virgin olive 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 Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen and lives with his wife and children in Cleveland Heights, OH.

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21 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. JB

    Love the simplicity. Makes great food accessible to everyone not just the trained chefs.


  2. Lydia

    Solved a big headache. Thanks


  3. Carolyn Scantlebury

    Thanks it’s been a long time since I made vinaigrette this made it so easy to personalize and make it my own.


  4. Myla Sun

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

    Show Replies (1)
  5. 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.

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The Vinaigrette Ratio