5 Healthy Salad Dressings and Sauces You Will LOVE (vegan, gluten-free, oil-free)

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 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, se plant-powered 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 – as you will see today!

These 5 dressings and sauces that will take you through summer, to get the most enjoyment of your garden-fresh greens and tomatoes and cukes and zukes! You will love them any time of year though. They can complement so many dishes and round out the flavors and pleasure-factor of 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

Moroccan Carrot Dip from Let Them Eat Vegan

PRINT  (photo credit: Nicole Axworthy)

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)

1 tbsp olive oil (completely optional, omit for oil-free)

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.

Serving 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!

Raw-nch Dressing from Let Them Eat Vegan

PRINT (photo credit: foodfitnesslifelove)

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. (To make it entirely raw, omit the Dijon mustard and replace the red wine vinegar with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.)

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.

Ingredients 411: 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

Citrus Tahini Dressing from Let Them Eat Vegan

 PRINT (photo credit: Nicole Axworthy)

This healthy homemade dressing is slightly thick, thanks to the inclusion of tahini. The oil is optional, and the dressing tastes full bodied and flavorful with or without! The flavors are kid friendly, and so it makes eating salad 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

1 tbsp hemp, walnut, or olive oil (completely optional, omit for oil-free)

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.

Serving 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! Fans of WHOLE, you can see contributor Howard Jacobson demo this dressing.

Kale-Slaw with Creamy Curried Almond Dressing by Dreena Burton - #vegan #soyfree #glutenfree

PRINT (photo credit: TahiniToo)

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)

kaleslawhannah

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.

Notes: Adult-Minded: 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.

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

Magical Oil-Free Vinaigrette

PRINT

This oil-free dressing uses applesauce to emulsify the ingredients and produce a surprisingly thick vinaigrette that is virtually fat-free!  Try it as is first, and then play with some of the seasonings to your own preferences.

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp mild miso (ex: brown rice miso)

3/4 – 1 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 tsp cumin

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or more to sweeten to taste if desired)

1/4 tsp (rounded) sea salt (or more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Using an immersion blender and deep cup (if using a blender, you may need to double the batch for enough blending volume), combine all ingredients, whizzing through until very smooth.  Taste, and if you’d like a little sweeter add another teaspoon or so of maple syrup.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as well.  If you’d like a thinner dressing, simply add a couple of teaspoons of water and blend through again.

Bonus plant-powered eye candy: Creamy House Dressing

Creamy House Dressing - from the Plant-Powered 15 by Dreena Burton

photo credit: Nicole Axworthy

I’m not counting this in the five, because the recipe isn’t posted. The recipe is part of my Plant-Powered 15 ebook, however. 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“. There is also a Green Goddess Dressing in there worthy of some blending action! (All of the recipes in the PP15 ebook are whole-foods and oil-free.)

Quick P.S.: I am scaling back online work the next couple of weeks to take a break. I won’t be blogging for another few weeks, and I’ll be much quieter on FB and twitter. Should be returning to my regular activity in August. Enjoy these dressings! 

Have you tried any/many of these dressings? What are your favorites? How do YOU enjoy them? 

56 Responses to 5 Healthy Salad Dressings and Sauces You Will LOVE (vegan, gluten-free, oil-free)

  1. Courtney says:

    I just made my second batch of the citrus Tahini and wow!! This is life changingly delicious! Thank you!

    • Heather says:

      Hi;
      I agree with Courtney gosh is that Tahini Citrus dressing nice !! Just made it. Im looking forward to trying the others.

  2. James says:

    Great Oil Free recipe!Thanks for sharing!

  3. David says:

    Great recipes. Kids loved them, thanks for sharing!

  4. nancy says:

    Hi there…

    How long do these dressings keep?

    • Dreena says:

      Hi Nancy, the nut-based dressings keep about 4-5 days. The more acidic dressings, like the balsamic-applesauce one, that will keep about a week or two.

  5. Anni says:

    What a fabulous collection. Thank you so much! I’ve been looking for some good, DIY homemade dressing recipes!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this …..I’m a beginner! I have just been diagnosed with gallstones. I have two choices take it out or change my eating habits. I will be trying these recipes this week. Your pics make everything look AMAZING!!!!!!!!!

  7. Jessica says:

    My blender wasn’t quite strong enough to get the carrot dip smooth, but that didn’t stop me from saying, “thank you Jesus” aloud when I tasted it. Delicious.

  8. Teresa says:

    These recipes are just what I was looking for! I have tried all of them and my favorite one changes with my mood, so I can’t pick. I was looking for a way of slashing the oils in my vegan diet, and I have lost 15 lbs in the past 2 months by using these dressings. All veggies taste better, even for a butter/EVOO addict like me. I have since tried a bottled dressing and it tastes horrible. These are very easy to prepare and they compliment the veggies instead of covering the taste. Thank you so much!

  9. Mary Jane says:

    The Citrus Tahini is INCREDIBLE!

    Stop reading and make this dressing now. Seriously.

    Similar to the Creamy Ginger dressings served with the salads at a Hibachi grill.

    Excellent! Can’t wait to try the rest!

  10. John says:

    I must be missing something. I don’t see how you get 2/3 cup from the ingredient list for the Citrus Tahini dressing. I just made it and got barely a quarter cup. Help? It tastes amazing by the way!

  11. Alexa says:

    Raw-nch looks yum, but I’m allergic to sesame seeds. You recommend skipping tahini, or replacing it with something else (like peanut or almond butter)?
    “Hummus” with peanut butter works well, but I’m not sure what to do with tahini in more liquid things- skip, or replace? With what?
    Nearby shop has unsweeted almond butter, this has similar texture. And is damn lovely.
    Btw, instead of PB&J try almond butter&fresh kiwi or nectarine! Yuuuuum.

  12. Roxy D says:

    These recipes are a wonderful assortment and easy for the beginner like me. I have been eating my kale and avacado salads with the bottled dressings until I can do it no more. Husband and I are avid shoppers for new grocery items where we just procured our first large bottle of Tahini. We only use local made maple syrup and find many of these recipes fit well into the lifestyle we are growing used to. It would be great to see the house dressing it at all possible. Your photos make everything look fresh and yummy.

    • Dreena says:

      Thanks Roxy, glad these appeal to you. Once you start making homemade dressings, it’s *really* hard to go back to store-bought – flavor is so much different (and ingredients far healthier)!

      • Mary Jane says:

        Agree fully! I didn’t even know what I was missing, but now that I do, I won’t be able to go back.

        The flavor is incredible and I like knowing exactly what into each dressing.

        THANK YOU!

  13. Amanda says:

    ooh finding this website feels like stepping into dressing & dip heaven! & to say that I cannot wait to get started on these recipes would be an understatement – your a lifesaver I have a very hard time trying to eat veggies & have been trying to find SOMETHING to help me to “get them down”!I am SO hooked on salt & now I can’t even season them with that! – sigh – especially now that I am trying to start following Dr Fuhmans teachings [to try & get my high blood pressure down - between 180's - 220 most of the time - scary ] I can not thank you enough for these delish’ looking & sounding recipes, heaps of hug’s

  14. Kelli says:

    Thanks so much for sharing these! The Creamy House Dressing from PP15 is a staple around here, and we can’t wait to try these new ones, too. My daughter is eyeing the Raw-nch, so I guess we’ll start there! :)
    Kelli recently posted..Got Sleep?My Profile

  15. Oh my goodness these all look so good I don’t know which one to try first! When I first started eating a plant based diet I had no idea that salad dressing could be tasty without oil but I have since learned other wise.

    I am delighted to have found your blog and all the wonderful healthy recipes.

  16. Emily says:

    How long will these dressings keep?

  17. Terri says:

    I don’t see anyone asking about calories, but could you give me an approximation of how many calories/fat in a serving (2 T). I like to use a fair amount of dressing but not if it’s really high in fat or calories. Thank you!

    • Dreena says:

      Hi Terri, I don’t compute the nutritional analysis for my recipes. Mostly because I try to focus on eating whole foods and with that not reduce it to grams of fat, number of calories, etc. i understand that this info might be important to you, though. There are some programs you can use to input the ingredients and calculate the info you are looking for – one is nutritiondata.self.com
      Hope that helps! -D.

  18. Robin says:

    Well, you had me at Curried Almond, which is already a fave in my house, as are many other wonderful recipes from LTEV… Now we love the Citrus Tahini, and the rockin Magical Vinaigrette… And, may I add that the Green Goddess from PP15 is wonderful at this time of year with fresh basil, parsley and rosemary from the garden – we were scooping it up last night with fresh zucchini rounds from our local CSA… Yum. Who can resist veggies when they’re being bossed by these delicious and healthful dressings/dips? Thank you, Dreena! Oh, and one PS… We double (or triple) all of these when we make them because they’re wonderful to grab and go for lunch all week!

  19. Natalie says:

    Wow! All of these look awesome! I think I just found my favourite new website!

  20. Your oil-free vinaigrette is my absolute favorite. I make it at least twice a month! The almond curry dressing is also amazing. Thank you so much for sharing these healthy options!
    Natalie Bowman recently posted..Double Apricot Oatmeal with Fresh Green FigsMy Profile

  21. Laurie says:

    My family has gone crazy for the Creamy Curried Almond Dressing and we use it on salads, rice and veggie bowls, pasta and for dipping raw veggies or hunks of bread! You are a dippy genius!! :)

  22. Sandi says:

    I am new to this way of eating and am thrilled to et this variety of dressings. Thanks so much for your generosity. I so appreciate it. Do have your Let Them Eat Vegan book and loving it.

  23. Alisa says:

    Amazing recipes Dreena! Just pinned them all – Moroccan Carrot Dip is actually one I was working on!
    Alisa recently posted..Smoky Joe’s Vegan Blueberry SmoothieMy Profile

  24. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful post. How wonderful of you to share these lovely dressings. Added a few to my recipe file and will have fun experimenting with them.
    Peace and Raw Health,
    Elizabeth
    Elizabeth recently posted..Vegan Milkshake and a WeddingMy Profile

  25. Rebecca Stucki says:

    I will make these some day, really I will, but I have been stuck for three years on your Back-to-Basics Balsamic Vinaigrette from ED&BV – THE most delicious dressing I’ve ever had! But I guess I should branch out….

    • Dreena says:

      awww! That’s super to hear Rebecca, nothing wrong with knowing what you love. :) (You might just find a new love with one or two of these though!)

  26. Marty says:

    Thank you! I can’t wait to try these!

  27. Lisa says:

    Love you, Dreena! These will get me out of my same salad rut.

  28. Jane Plass says:

    The citrus tahini and curried almond dressings are regulars for me. So good!
    Jane Plass recently posted..Trends in Indexing: E-Books and MoreMy Profile

  29. Kelly says:

    Do you have any dressing recipes that aren’t so high in salicylates or phytates?

    • Dreena says:

      Kelly, I’m not sure if this is a serious question…

      • Dee says:

        It’s serious; hope this helps.
        PHYTATE FOLLIES: TIES THAT BIND

        Phytates found in beans, grains and other seeds are anti-nutrients that block proper absorption of iron, zinc, calcium and other minerals. They are a leading cause of poor growth, anemia, immune system incompetence and other health woes in Third World countries where plant-based diets are the norm, and are increasingly a problem in First World countries where plant-based and vegan diets are widely considered chic and healthy.

        http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/plants-bite-back

        …People with salicylate intolerance, however, are unable to handle more than a certain amount of salicylates at a time. The amount varies from person to person. Salicylates also have a cumulative effect in the body and build up over time. Thus some people may feel great when they first start a raw vegan diet with lots of juicing, only to later develop salicylate intolerance.

        …Fruits high in salicylates include all dried fruits and most berries, including the blueberries we’re all told to eat because they are a “superfood.” Cherries, oranges, pineapples, plums, grapes, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapefruit and most varieties of apples pose problems for salicylate sufferers. Indeed the only fruits low in salicylates are banana, lime, pear, golden delicious apples and papayas. Vegetables high in salicylates include cooked tomatoes, chili peppers, water chestnut, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, cucumber, eggplant, spinach, sweet potato and zucchini. Moderate levels are found in asparagus, beets, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms.

  30. Beth says:

    Yay! I am trying to do more oil-free and these ideas are all wonderful for dressings — loving the oil-free options : )
    Beth recently posted..NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest 2013My Profile

    • Dreena says:

      Terrific! These have full-bodied flavors, think you’ll love them! Looks like you had a great time at Summerfest – I did a couple of talks there last year, missed all the energy this year!

  31. Martha says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!

  32. Ricki says:

    I also have learned to make my own dressings and haven’t had a bottled on in years! I love the look and sound of every one of these recipes, Dreena!
    Ricki recently posted..Six Degrees of Alisa and Hallie–and No Bake Chocolate Chunk (or Chip) Cookies!My Profile

  33. Kristina says:

    I began making my own dressings years ago, and have not looked back since! it is very easy to whisk up a dressing in a large bowl, then add the greens and everything else to it. I will definitely be trying some of these, they all sound fantastic!
    Kristina recently posted..garlic recipe collectionMy Profile

    • Dreena says:

      Thanks so much Kristina – and yes, like night and day the difference between homemade and storebought, truly no comparison.

  34. Emma says:

    Great selection Dreena. You’re so right too on the nutrient-comparison between unhealthy traditional sauces and dressings and your vegan versions packed with good stuff!
    I actually made a variation on your kale salad with curried almond dressing just a couple of days ago, using dates instead of maple, and it was phenomenal. I’ve been dipping carrot sticks into the leftovers :)
    I’m especially looking forward to trying the citrus-tahini dressing.
    Emma recently posted..Cheesy Tofu Scramble + Chipotle Sweet Potato TacosMy Profile

    • Dreena says:

      ooooh! I love the sound of that switch-up Emma, probably made the dressing thicker too – thanks for sharing that, and also thx for the cheer. :)

      • Basya says:

        I just made the citrus-tahini dressing with dates instead of the sweetener.

        I doubt it changed the taste very much — this was delicious. As in … licking the blender delicious. As in … going to the fridge and taking spoonfuls delicious.

        And I don’t like tahini or anything with much tahini in it. Or sesame anything (even halva).

        Or should I say, I didn’t like tahini or anything with much tahini in it :-)

        Remarkably good.

        I don’t know if because of the dates or if it is anyway really thick, but this came out with the consistency of a spread, not a dressing or even a dip. Had to add water.

        Also, as someone posted above, it made much less than 2/3 cup. Didn’t measure, but less than 1/2 cup. Could we have done something wrong?

        THANK YOU!!!

        • Dreena says:

          Glad you loved it, Basya! Yes, the dates would have definitely made the dressing thicker. If you make it that way next time, add a little more water to thin it out. And, yes, that yield was off – now adjusted. Thanks.

      • Basya says:

        I just made the citrus-tahini dressing with dates instead of the sweetener.

        I doubt it changed the taste very much — this was delicious. As in … licking the blender delicious. As in … going to the fridge and taking spoonfuls delicious.

        And I don’t like tahini or anything with much tahini in it. Or sesame anything (even halva).

        Or should I say, I didn’t like tahini or anything with much tahini in it :-)

        Remarkably good.

        I don’t know if because of the dates or if it is anyway really thick, but this came out with the consistency of a spread, not a dressing or even a dip. Had to add water.

        Also, as someone posted above, it made much less than 2/3 cup. Didn’t measure, but less than 1/2 cup. Could we have done something wrong? ( I did make it without the oil.

        The moroccan carrot dip is also very delicious.

        THANK YOU!!!

  35. What a great parting gift – especially love the oil-free inspiration! Have a great vacay! XO

  36. Cancan says:

    My kids are loving the chia banana muffins from Let them eat Vegan. I had to make the second batch within few days. I have three kids and pack lunches for camp. Great healthy lunch for them and a treat for my tea time.

    • Dreena says:

      Really pleased to hear that Canca… thanks so much for sharing. :) They are def great for school/camps, etc, b/c no allergenic ingredients like nuts. thx again!

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