Salads are a common food eaten by everyone, not just plant-based eaters and can be much more than just “rabbit food” as they’re often referred to. Salads can be filled with hearty proteins, fibrous vegetables, and even denser nuts and seeds, along with energizing and refreshing fruits. Or, go with some grounding grains to pair with those leafy greens, and some fun condiments or spices if you enjoy them. Salads (like porridge, smoothies, stir-fries, and soups) are a great vehicle for using whatever ingredients you like depending on your food needs and your body’s needs for the time being.
When prepared healthfully, they can also be a great way to take care of your heart, digestive system, and your weight. Rich in phytochemicals, a whole food plant-based salad can provide the body with limitless benefits. But one part that seems to hold people up from in making salads healthy is the dressing. No ranch? What about honey mustard or some Thousand Island? Oh, and what about an oil-based dressing?
While some options like olive oil and flax oil may be healthier than commercial salad dressings, oil-free and dairy-free options can provide just as much flavor without all the refined sources of fats and dense calories from oil that don’t come with fiber and as many vitamins and minerals as their whole food counterparts. And dairy-based dressings can contribute excess animal saturated fats that promote cholesterol, while commercial sugar-free or fat-free salad dressings often come with a host of chemical, refined sugary, or artificial sweetener ingredients.
So, let’s just keep things simple, shall we?
Here are five oil-free and dairy-free ways to make a salad dressing that will have you shocked at how delicious they are to be so simple, healthy, and low in unnecessary processed fats:
*Each of these will make enough for two (1/4 cup) servings. Make extra and keep in a jar throughout the week in the fridge for more servings.*
1. Mustard Vinaigrette
Source: Healthy Quinoa Salad
One of the most popular and most delicious ways to make a healthy salad dressing is to go with mustard as an ingredient. Use plain mustard, not honey mustard which has excess sugar, and sticks with yellow or stone-ground instead. Many organic brands also come in delicious flavors and are made with apple cider vinegar instead of distilled for even more benefits.
Combine 1/3 cup your choice yellow or stone-ground mustard with 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon your choice sweetener (such as agave, liquid stevia, coconut syrup, maple syrup, or brown rice syrup), 1 teaspoon black pepper and 2 tablespoons water. Blend in a small blender and drizzle onto your salad.
This dressing is low in sugar per serving, fat-free, and apple cider vinegar promotes healthy blood sugar and detoxification while black pepper and mustard boost metabolism and also provide high amounts of antioxidants.
2. Healing Miso Vinaigrette
Source: Miso Sesame Kale Bowl-ed Over
Miso is one of the most healing fermented foods that exist. There are several variations of miso and each differs in flavor depending on the ingredients on which it is made. All miso contains fermented soybeans which makes it highly digestible and full of raw probiotics and enzymes. Most all misos are also made with either fermented barley, fermented brown rice, or another type of fermented rice. Some (such as Hacho miso) contain only fermented soybeans. Miso makes a wonderful salad dressing ingredient that provides flavor with no fat or sugar and comes with healing benefits. It’s also great in soup, which it’s commonly used in.
Combine 1 teaspoon miso with 1/3 cup water, 2 whole olives, 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar, a pinch of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon brown rice syrup or liquid stevia, and a tablespoon of dulse flakes (or another flaked seaweed such as kelp or wakame). Blend and enjoy.
This dressing is full of natural vitamins and minerals from the dulse, beneficial probiotics and enzymes, is very low in calories but will help balance sugar cravings due to the dulse, miso, and vinegar used in this recipe. Unlike dairy dressings, this recipe also offers cleansing benefits that are hard to find in most salad dressing recipes.
3. Herbed Creamy Mock Ranch Dressing
Source: Cobb Salad
Though this dressing is a stand-in for ranch, it contains no fake ingredients whatsoever. Instead, creamy tahini made from sesame seeds is used, along with a touch of unsweetened, oil-free almond milk (you can also make your own), and some healthy herbs and spices. This dressing is simple, flavorful, and offers quite the bite that will likely make it a favorite in no time! Tahini is even packed with calcium and iron, so it also offers some extra nutritional punch as well.
To make the dressing:
Combine 3 tablespoons raw organic tahini (you can also use regularly roasted if you can’t find raw), 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk (choose a carrageenan-free, GMO-free brand when possible), a pinch of black pepper if desired, 1-2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning, a tiny pinch of fresh ginger, and a pinch of pink sea salt if desired. Blend and enjoy.
This dressing will keep you full, balance the nervous system thanks to the calcium in tahini and the herbs. It will also help your body absorb the nutrients from the vegetables and greens in your salad due to the healthy fats in tahini. Much like a garlic ranch, this dressing is a much better alternative for your heart and waistline than dairy-based dressings.
4. Lemony Garlic Creamy Mustard Dressing
Source: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
Lemons are one of the best ingredients to use when making a low-cal, nutrient-dense dressing. They are rich in a tangy, refreshing flavor and also offer many health benefits, especially to the liver. This dressing also adds a full flavor profile from the garlic and creamy cashew butter used. You can also use tahini or even almond butter in place of cashew butter, or for a low-fat version, stick with some simple almond or soy milk instead.
To make the dressing:
Combine the juice from 2 lemons with 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic or 1/4 teaspoon fresh garlic, 1 teaspoon diced onions, 2 tablespoons raw cashew butter (or tahini, almond butter or almond or soy milk), a pinch of black pepper, 2 teaspoons mustard, 1 teaspoon of dried parsley, and 1/4 cup water. Blend, drizzle and serve.
Lemons are a powerhouse of Vitamin C, detoxifying enzymes, and offer an alkaline ash in the blood once digested to combat inflammation. Raw cashew butter is a rich source of iron, magnesium, and Vitamin B6, and parsley is a natural source of Vitamin C and is a natural diuretic. Onions and garlic also offer detoxifying benefits for the liver and blood, and also offer a nice bite while promoting detoxification and high immunity.
Try this dressing with: Super Healthy Kale Salad or in Protein-Packed Salad with Quinoa, Chickpeas, Lime and Cilantro (omit the oil and lime juice to substitute the dressing).
5. Sweet Lemon Curry
Source: Curried Kale Quinoa Salad
This dressing is truly something special. Give it a try when you want something flavor-packed that hits all your taste buds. This dressings adds a nutritional punch from the curry used which is rich in antioxidants, not to mention a spicy, yet still balanced, flavor. You can use any liquid sweetener you like or even dried fruit in place of the sweetener called for.
To make the dressing:
Combine 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, the juice from 2 lemons, 1/2 teaspoon curry, a tiny pinch of cayenne and black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup or liquid stevia (or you may use 1 pureed date or a pureed dried fig). *If you use a piece of dried fruit as your sweetener, you may want to let it soak in the water used 30 minutes to soften before making this (or keep soaked dried fruit in the fridge overnight). For a creamier flavor, add 2 tablespoons either tahini, almond butter or cashew butter in addition to the other ingredients called for. Blend, drizzle, and serve.
Curry contains antioxidants that promote a healthy immune system and healthy blood flow. Many of the ingredients in curry, such as turmeric and garlic, have also been shown to have anti-cancer benefits. If using tahini or cashew butter, the Vitamin C will increase the uptake of the iron in tahini and cashew butter and also offer extra immunity benefits.
You can also use any of these dressings as a healthy sauce for roasted vegetables, a rice bowl, or even just a bowl of greens and grains. Get creative and see what you enjoy the most, and remember that a salad doesn’t have to contain glugs of oil or milk-based dressings to be delicious. Simple, staple ingredients will satisfy the same and are much healthier too.
You can also use mashed avocado as a healthy salad dressing alternative, or feel free to combine it with any of the dressings above or play around with the ingredients to see what works for you. Also, see 5 Ingredients That Make an Amazing Vegan Salad Dressing for more ideas. Do you have a favorite salad dressing recipe to share?
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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