~ This quick and easy Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe is a snap to whip up, with just 5 common pantry staples! The addition of real maple syrup creates a delicious, complex flavor. But, thanks to our healthier recipe, it’s NOT loaded with fat and calories! Try it as a salad dressing, or drizzled over roasted veggies, grilled meats, and more! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Make Ahead • Vegetarian • Gluten Free •
I have a confession.
I’ve become somewhat of a snob. Specifically, a vinaigrette snob. (Ok … ok … I’m also somewhat of a coffee snob, too. But that’s a story for a different day. Let’s stick with vinaigrettes …)
It didn’t always used to be this way. Used to be, I just didn’t know any better.
I’d grab myself some Wish-Bone or maybe Ken’s Steakhouse as I dashed through the salad dressing aisle – pretty much anything that was at least low-fat or (better yet!) organic.
And I figured that was about as good as salad dressing could get. I mean, I’d grown up with bottled dressings like Kraft Thousand Island (my dad’s favorite), and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized there was a better way.
A healthier way. And actually, a more delicious way, too! Like, more delicious x 1,000. Not even in the same ballpark.
It all began with this balsamic dressing.
Why We Love This Vinaigrette So Much (And Our Readers Do, Too!)
I created this vinaigrette recipe for our Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears and Candied Pecans around Thanksgiving back in 2014. That salad is still crazy popular, year after year at the holidays (and honestly, even during most of the rest of the year, too).
And I really think a big part of its superstar status is all thanks to this dressing.
It’s deeply flavorful, not thin and oily and wimpy. Beautifully balanced with:
- the rich, tart notes of balsamic vinegar
- the spicy tang of Dijon mustard
- and the slight sweetness of a little real maple syrup
It perfectly pulls together the flavors of that “Thanksgiving Salad,” but I quickly realized that I was absolutely craving this balsamic vinaigrette recipe for other salads, too! I’ve used it on our:
Nobody in my family is very excited about store-bought vinaigrettes anymore. Now, we all know better. We’re spoiled!
And we’re so happy to eat salad … and more salad … when we’ve got this vinaigrette to drizzle on top. (Hint: truly delicious salad dressing is a big key to getting your family to eat MORE, healthy salads!)
Oh – and speaking of healthy – let’s talk about another thing that makes this dressing special: it’s so much better for you!
How to Make Balsamic Vinaigrette Healthier
The key to creating a healthier vinaigrette recipe is simply to change the proportions of oil to vinegar! To make an outstanding vinaigrette, you actually don’t need the typical amount of oil used in most recipes.
The “classic” proportions for a vinaigrette recipe are 3-1 (3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar). So, to make about 1 cup of salad dressing, you’d typically use about 3/4 cup of oil to 1/4 cup of vinegar.
Any idea how much fat and calories are in that 3/4 cup of oil? (Are you sitting down for this??)
Extra virgin olive oil (which is a common oil used in vinaigrette recipes) has about 1,400 calories and 168 grams of fat in 3/4 cup.
Ummmm … WOW.
Don’t believe me? Pull a bottle of EVOO out of your pantry, grab a calculator and check my math if you want … but no kidding … those calories and fat add up fast!
Sure, you’re not gonna guzzle a whole cup of vinaigrette in one sitting, but even a couple of tablespoons of a dressing in those proportions will have close to 200 calories and more than 20 grams of fat. And that’s before you sprinkle wonderful things like nuts or goat cheese on your salad, too … that’s just in a modest 2 tablespoons of oil-loaded dressing!
Somehow a healthy, swimsuit-friendly salad doesn’t really seem to be happening there, does it?!?
Besides, I don’t know about you, but when I think about all the things I love in a really great salad, oil isn’t one of them. I’d rather save the calories and fat for the nuts or cheese!
So, I’ve developed my own proportions for making vinaigrette recipes that use a fraction of the typical oil. It maximizes the flavorful ingredients (like balsamic vinegar and maple syrup) that you actually want to taste along with the rest of your salad, anyway!
You’ll notice that, instead of the usual 3:1 ratio (again, that’s 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar), this balsamic vinaigrette recipe uses a very different 1:2 ratio of only 1 part oil to 2 parts vinegar.
Yes – very different! And trust me – very delicious! (And very much more swimsuit-friendly, too!)
Tips for Making This Salad Dressing
• Be sure to use smooth Dijon mustard, not the coarse, “country style” Dijon mustard that has visible specks of whole mustard seeds in it.
• Also, as noted on the recipe card, if you need to be absolutely certain that this vinaigrette recipe is entirely gluten-free, check the labeling on the mustard you buy. Most Dijon mustard is gluten free, but a few brands you come across may have ingredients that contain gluten. So, if a gluten free diet is critical for you, be sure to check the label.
• Definitely use pure, real maple syrup in this recipe. Don’t grab a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup instead of the real thing!
• This balsamic-vinaigrette will keep well in the fridge for at least a week. I usually store it in a pretty glass cruet or salad dressing bottle.
• If needed, re-whisk your vinaigrette quickly before using.
How to Serve Your Amazing, New-Favorite Balsamic Dressing Recipe
You think the answer is obvious, don’t you?
You serve salad dressing on … salad.
But I’m just gonna whisper a little idea to you here:
If you find yourself staring at some boring, plain ol’ grilled chicken, or maybe a pile of veggies that need a splash of pizzazz … well, I don’t think I even have to tell you what to do now, do I?
Grab that cruet of Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette, which you now have on standby in the fridge at all times (because, trust me, you’ll be addicted, too!). Drizzle it over top and … BOOM! You’ve got yourself some pizzazz!
- In fact, that’s more or less what we did in creating the drizzle for our Sheet Pan Chicken and Potatoes. Works like a charm!
- And, just the other night, we served this over simple grilled chicken with seared peppers and onions. Awesome!
- Or, try it over things like:
- You could even swap out the Honey-Dijon Drizzle in our recipe for Roasted Root Vegetables, and try this Balsamic Vinaigrette instead!
However you serve it, whatever you drizzle it over … there’s just one important warning. Use this at your own peril, because it will probably turn you into a lifelong vinaigrette snob … just like me. You’ve been warned! 😉
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard (see gluten free note if needed)
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together until dressing is emulsified and salt is dissolved.
Make-ahead tips: This Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing keeps well for up to several days, so you can make it ahead for specific salad recipes, or make a batch to have ready for dressing various salads all week long. Wrap/cover it, and refrigerate until needed. Re-whisk, if needed, before serving.
Gluten free mustard: While many (but not all) mustards are inherently gluten free, if you're watching your gluten intake, be sure to look for a brand that is specifically labeled as gluten free.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 servings Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 83Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 76mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 0gSugar: 9gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.