Beyond Ranch: Three Creamy Salad Dressings

By Alison Rinehardt Mauldin •

Published in Vegetables
Salad with yoghurt dressing

Remember when Americans were known for putting ketchup on everything? Now it’s ranch dressing. I like ranch dressing as much as the next person. Okay, maybe not quite as much as some people. I think it’s nice with crudités and can be delicious when drizzled judiciously over a fresh salad. Even with french fries if I feel like a gut-buster. But Americans have been thinking up new and creative ways to serve the fatty condiment with a fervor that leans closer to obsession. In my opinion, if you can’t enjoy your meal without dunking it into a bowl of ranch dressing, you are eating sub-par food.

Slate once did a terrific write up of the history of ranch dressing. Interestingly enough, Hidden Valley Ranch was a real place, not just a whimsical-sounding name made up by a Big-Food conglomerate. You could book your wedding there! And no wedding at Hidden Valley Ranch would be complete without a ranch dressing fountain. *Shudder*

Despite how you feel about shelf-stable bottled ranch dressing, homemade creamy salad dressings can be undeniably delicious. Lately I’ve been exploring three healthy ways to make creamy dressings without all the saturated fat of mayonnaise. If you have one I’ve missed please tell me about it in the comments!

Avocado Vinaigrette

This is a recipe you definitely want in your arsenal: it’s creamy, full of healthy fats, has a lovely color, and can be flavored with practically any herb or spice. As with almost any dressing or vinaigrette recipe, it’s less of a recipe and more of a ratio that you can play around with.

Avocado Vinaigrette

I used a very simple recipe from Back To Her Roots. The recipe uses one whole avocado, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. You could dress up this dressing by substituting rice vinegar for the white wine vinegar, grapeseed oil for the olive oil, plus a little sesame oil and a dash of sriracha. Or you could add cumin and red pepper flakes for a more southwestern vibe.

  • One ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • In a food processor, blender, or in the blending container of an immersion blender, combine the avocado, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until smooth and creamy.
  • To adjust the the thickness, add one tablespoon of water at a time until it’s the consistency you want.
  • If you prefer less tart, reduce the vinegar (1/3 cup) and lemon (1/2 lemon), but don’t cut it out completely.

Hummus Vinaigrette

I have been known to eat scoops of hummus with salad, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover this dressing. Let me tell you all the reasons this is a great recipe:

  • It’s easy: all you have to do is buy a container of hummus, which is already seasoned and flavored.
  • It’s healthy! After all, it’s mostly protein.
  • It tastes darn good. You get the nuttiness of the hummus but with more kick from the vinegar.

Hummus Vinaigrette

For this recipe I turned to Food and Wine. Sadly, I did not make the accompanying fried chicken and couscous, but I’m filing it away for later. Seriously though, this couldn’t be easier: whisk together the hummus, some olive oil, white wine vinegar, and chopped herbs. I used much less parsley than the recipe suggested, and avoided the blender so my results aren’t tinted green like the Food and Wine photograph. But it’s definitely good. I tossed it with a slaw of green and red cabbage, carrots, spring onions, and almonds.

Cabbage slaw with hummus vinaigrette

  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • flat leaf parsley, chopped, to taste (1/2 cup to 1+1/2 cup)
  • In a bowl whisk together the hummus, vinegar, and parsley until smooth.
  • To adjust the thickness, add water one tablespoon at a time until you reacher the desired consistency.
  • You can also to this in a blender or food processor.

Herbed Yoghurt Dressing

Yoghurt is probably the most obvious substitution for mayonnaise in a creamy dressing. The recipe I used, from Brokeass Gourmet, calls for plain yoghurt. I, however, have some weird textural issues with yoghurt and prefer the thicker Greek version. If you wanted you could thin it down with a little buttermilk. Or you could stir in some buttermilk powder to mimic the Ranch Effect. I found this delicious as is, even though I played it fast and loose with the garlic and will tone it down next time.

Salad and yoghurt dressing 2

  • One cup plain or Greek yoghurt, whole milk or low fat
  • One handful of fresh basil leaves
  • One handful of fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
  • Two green onions, a handful of chives, or a few sprigs of dill (optional)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and papper to taste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor until the garlic and herbs are diced finely.
  • Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated.

Yoghurt-herb dressing

Could you dip your pizza in this? Probably. But why would you want to ruin a perfectly good dressing with all that pizza?

Thanks for reading!

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