The Best Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe
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Keep a jar of this basic, versatile, perfectly balanced balsamic vinaigrette in your fridge at all times. Readily accessible salad dressing makes eating lots of greens easy and enjoyable.
Why we love this recipe
We have a couple of go-to salad dressings, and there’s a jar of at least one of them in the fridge pretty much all the time. When we’re in a lemony mood (and especially for kale and other strong-tasting greens), we love to use our magic blender dressing // creamy lemon vinaigrette.
And when we want a classic salad dressing that complements a wide variety of greens and salad styles, we opt for our much-beloved balsamic vinaigrette.
We love that you can shake this up in a little jam jar and store it in the fridge. We love that it tastes a little bit nuanced even though it’s made with simple ingredients that are easy to keep on hand. We love that you can use it on the most delicate of lettuces and the punchiest of dark leafy greens. We love that it helps us eat more salad.
Balsamic vinaigrette ingredients
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- A minced shallot
- Balsamic vinegar. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy or expensive.
- Red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Dijon mustard
- Extra-virgin olive oil
How to make the best balsamic vinaigrette
Here’s all you need to do to keep a great jar of dressing on hand at all times. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.
- Find a lidded jar to dedicate to your dressing. You can use a recycled jam jar that holds at least 12 ounces, or a pint-sized mason jar.
- Mince a medium-sized shallot and add it to the jar.
- Pour in the two vinegars. The balsamic provides sweetness and an earthy depth of flavor, while the red wine vinegar adds a pleasant acidity and a floral note.
- Let the shallot marinate in the vinegar for a couple minutes. It doesn’t take long at all for the vinegar to mellow the bite of the shallot.
- Add the salt, sugar, pepper, mustard, and oil.
- Screw the lid onto the jar and shake it up until the dressing is emulsified. That’s it!
Tips and substitutions
- For both the balsamic and red wine vinegars, a midpriced option is perfectly fine. This dressing will taste great even when you don’t break the bank on fancy ingredients. Save the fancy balsamic for drizzling.
- You can experiment with different vinegars in this dressing. White balsamic and white wine or champagne vinegar make a nice combination. We also like half sherry vinegar and half red wine vinegar, half red wine vinegar half apple cider vinegar, half red wine or cider vinegar and half freshly squeezed lemon juice. Experiment as much as you like with this basic, winning formula and find your own favorites.
- Instead of the sugar, you can sub in honey, maple syrup, agave, or another sweetener of your choice if you like, but we prefer the versatility and simplicity of a pinch of regular granulated sugar. You can also leave it out entirely if you’d prefer.
- Extra-virgin olive oil is a must here for great flavor, but it doesn’t need to be your very best. Just like with the vinegars, a nice midpriced option will do just fine. Save the expensive, unfiltered bottles for drizzling.
- If you like a very tangy dressing, you can use a little less oil without making any other changes. Don’t use more oil, though, or the dressing will have a hard time emulsifying.
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- A few generous grinds black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Place the shallot, balsamic vinegar, and red wine vinegar into the jar and stir to ensure shallot is covered with vinegar. Let the shallot marinate for a few minutes (two to five is enough) to let the vinegar work its magic and take the bite out of the shallots.
- Add the salt, sugar, pepper, mustard, and olive oil to the jar.
- Close the lid and shake well until dressing is completely emulsified.
- The dressing is ready to use right away and will keep well in a nice cold fridge for a week or two. If it solidifies in the fridge (as olive oil can do at colder temperatures), bring to room temperature before using. (You can pop the lidless jar into the microwave for about 10 seconds and give it a stir to hasten the process if you like.)
- Instead of sugar, you can use honey, maple syrup, agave, or another sweetener of your choice. These will change the flavor profile, and we prefer the simplicity of a pinch of sugar — but it's up to you. You can also leave the sugar out entirely if you like. We find it rounds out the flavor enough to be worth it.
- For both the balsamic and the red wine vinegar, you can use a midpriced option. You don't need anything super-fancy to make this dressing taste great. You can also swap in other vinegars if you like. White balsamic pairs well with champagne or white wine vinegar. Or use half red wine vinegar and half lemon juice. Play around with the basic formula as much as you like to create your favorite combinations.
- You can also adjust the ratio of oil to vinegar. 2:1 is standard and yields a nice, balanced dressing. But if you like things tangier, you can decrease the oil a bit without changing anything else. Adding a higher percentage of oil would break the emulsion, so I don't recommend doing that.
- Emulsifying means, essentially, getting the vinegar (which is water-based) and the oil to stay blended together even though they're not really supposed to. Vigorous shaking emulsifies this dressing, and the mustard helps it stay that way for a while. Give it a good shake before using.