Update: Get 11 new oil-free dressings here.
Healthy salad dressings and sauces are staples for me. They add personality to staple foods like rice, greens, and beans and can take a salad or otherwise routine meal from drab to fab!
I love creating saucy stuff (if you have LTEV you already know this)! And, I especially love using a variety of healthy salad dressings and sauces through the summer. When it’s too hot to cook, you can transform leftovers with a quick-prep sauce, or make the most of those lush summer greens with a punchy salad dressing.
Dressings and sauces have a reputation for being very heavy, calorie-rich and nutrient-poor. But, using plant-based ingredients instead of dairy and highly processed foods… different story! Dressings and sauces CAN be made flavorful and rich with wholesome, nutritious ingredients – and without any processed vegan substitutes like mayonnaise.
These 5 healthy salad dressings and sauces can be enjoyed any time of year, and will complement so many vegan meals from raw salads to steamed greens to topping baked spuds or cooked quinoa, to using as a dip with crudite or breads. Let’s go!
1. Moroccan Carrot Dip
This is more of a dip than a dressing, but can be thinned out slightly for a dressing, or used thicker for a dip or sauce. The Moroccan seasonings give a sprightly, spicy twist.
1 cup raw carrot, cut in discs or small chunks (roughly 4 – 4 1/2 oz.)
1/3 cup raw cashews
2 – 2 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
1 small clove garlic (or ½ medium clove)
½ – 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/8 tsp cinnamon (little scant)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground fennel
¼ tsp (rounded) sea salt (plus more to taste if needed)
Freshly ground black pepper (use conservatively)
½ cup water (or more to thin as needed, see note)
Using a standing blender (high-powered blender like a Blendtec works best to smooth), puree all the ingredients (starting with 2 teaspoons of the vinegar) until very smooth. Taste and add extra vinegar if you wish, and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. For a thinner dip, add more water (plus another 2 to 3 tablespoons more, if desired, to thin out a little more for use as a salad dressing). Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
Healthy Salad Dressing and Sauce Suggestions: Surprise your guests with this uniquely flavored and colored dip—try serving as a centerpiece dip for crudités or with raw dipping breads. Also try tossing it into a salad, for a more substantial lunch salad.
2. Raw-nch Dressing!
Creamy and rich, my raw version of Ranch Dressing from Let Them Eat Vegan takes any green salad from ordinary to extraordinary! Also try massaging it into hardy greens like kale. (photo credit: foodfitnesslifelove)
½ cup raw cashews
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ tsp red wine vinegar (gives more flavor, but can use more lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for a raw version)
1 tbsp raw tahini
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tsp fresh chives, chopped (optional, and can use more onion powder)
1/8 tsp garlic powder (see note)
1/8 tsp onion powder (see note)
¼ tsp Dijon mustard (omit for raw version)
1/2 tsp (scant) sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly black pepper to taste
1 tsp raw agave nectar (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup water or non-dairy milk (or more to thin as desired)
Using a blender (I use Blendtec) or an immersion blender and deep cup or jar, puree all the ingredients until very smooth (it will take a couple of minutes). If you want to thin the dressing more, add water to your preferred consistency. This dressing will thicken some after refrigeration. You can thin it out by stirring in a few teaspoons of water, or keep it thick and use it as a dip for raw veggies. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.
Flavor Tip: I prefer a faint seasoning of garlic and onion in this dressing. I use just 1⁄8 teaspoon of the onion and garlic powders to lend a hint of flavor but not overwhelm the dressing. If you like more seasoning, feel free to use more onion powder (or extra chives), and more garlic powder (or even a tiny clove of garlic). Alternatively, you can omit both powders, if you prefer.
Savvy Subs and Adds: Try 2 tablespoons of fresh dill to replace some or all of the parsley.
3. Citrus Tahini Dressing
This healthy homemade dressing is slightly thick, thanks to the inclusion of tahini. The flavors are kid friendly, and so it makes salad recipes a little more interesting for the little ones. Another one from my “Saucy and Dippy” chapter in LTEV!
3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
2 – 2 ½ tbsp agave nectar or pure maple syrup (adjust based on tartness of orange juice
1 1/2 – 2 tsp dijon mustard
½ – 1 tsp fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 very small clove garlic (optional)
½ sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Using a standing blender or an immersion blender and deep cup or jar, puree all the ingredients (starting with 2 tablespoons of the agave nectar/maple syrup, until fully smooth and creamy. Add additional sweetener to taste, if desired. Makes a little over 1/2 cup.
Kid-Friendly: When I omit the garlic and use the lesser amount of ginger, my kids really like this dressing.
Healthy Salad Dressings Suggestions: Try this on finely julienned greens. It is especially great with kale, as it helps mellow the flavor of the leaves. Chop your kale, then toss the dressing onto the leaves. Let sit for 10 or more minutes to allow the dressing to soften the greens. Add other salad fixings you might like, such as cherry tomatoes, grated carrot, chopped apple, or dried cranberries.
4. Curried-Almond Dressing
This one has been clinging to that Kale-Slaw and making it a bit of a recipe celeb, but it’s looking for some new greens partners! Like romaine, spinach, and escarole.
This plant-powered dressing will definitely cling to your greens, and can easily be used as a dip as well. It is one of my favorites, with a very subtle curry flavor in a creamy, slightly sweet base. This is also the dressing for Kale-slaw with Curried Almond Dressing, a modern makeover of traditional coleslaw.
1⁄2 cup raw almonds
2 1/2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps agave nectar or pure maple syrup
2/3 cup water (or more to thin as needed; see note)
1 very small clove garlic
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1⁄2 tsp Dijon mustard
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1⁄8 tsp curry powder, or more to taste (see note)
Using a standing blender or an immersion blender and deep cup or jar, puree all the ingredients (starting with 1⁄2 cup of the water) until very smooth. (A high-powered blender such as a Blendtec works best to smooth out the dressing; using an immersion blender or regular blender will leave a little more texture and take a little longer.) Add additional curry to taste, and additional water to thin as desired (see note). Makes about 1 generous cup.
Flavor Tip: I like using about 1⁄8 rounded teaspoon of curry powder in this dressing, for a very muted flavor. But if you love curry, feel free to use more than this, adjusting to your own taste.
Healthy Salad Dressings Serving Suggestions: If using as a dip, use just 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup of water to puree and then refrigerate it, adding extra water later, if desired, to thin (it will thicken considerably after chilling). If using as a salad dressing, you can keep it thick, or thin it more as you prefer.
5. “Magical” Oil-Free Vinaigrette
Full details and recipe here.
Bonus plant-powered eye candy: Creamy House Dressing
I’m not counting this in the five, because the recipe isn’t posted (it’s from my Plant-Powered 15 ebook). If you have the book, give this dressing a whirl! It’s been getting crazy-yummy reviews. Literally, that’s what I’ve heard: “it’s crazy yummy, I’m licking the blender“.
Also, you can score more healthy salad dressings here.
Have you tried any/many of these healthy salad dressings? What are your favorites?