The Salad Dressing Challenge

Learn about ratios, ingredients, measurements, and techniques, then put that knowledge to good use creating your own original salad dressing!

(Have a slow computer connection? Here is a link to a PDF version of The Salad Dressing Challenge.)


A ratio is a proportion of one thing to another thing. A 3-to-1 ratio (written as 3:1) of fat to acid makes for a perfectly smooth, thick emulsion. It doesn’t have to be exact — some people prefer a 2:1 fat to acid ratio. Experiment and find your favorite ratio. Then get really creative with your “mix-ins” (additional ingredients)!

  • Some examples of fats: olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, mayonnaise, veganaise, sesame oil.
  • Some examples of acids: balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, soy sauce/tamari.
  • Some examples of mix-ins: minced garlic, shallots, ginger, fresh or dried herbs, mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper. The only limit is your imagination.



Be sure you are holding the bowl firmly with one hand while you whisk with the other. But if you need to slowly drizzle in your fat/oil with one hand while whisking with the other, nest the bowl in a clean kitchen towel to hold it in place.


Is your younger sibling in need of something to keep them busy? Have them shake up your salad dressing ingredients in a jar… just make sure you put the lid on really tightly first!


  • You can use what you already have in your kitchen! Way to save your family money. 🙂
  • You can customize it to be the exact way you like it!
  • You can control what’s in it — no artificial or unpronounceable ingredients, not too much salt, and no *gasp* high fructose corn syrup!
  • It’s fun!


Strawberry balsamicButtermilk ranch… So many dressings! What’s YOUR favorite FoodPrints salad dressing?

Our FoodPrints intern Ms. Rebekah adores the Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing.

SWWFS FoodPrints teacher Ms. Vincent can’t get enough of the sweet balsamic in ABC Salad!

Ludlow-Taylor FoodPrints teacher Ms. Hannah’s favorite homemade dressing combo:

  • 1 clove garlic grated or 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar


Here’s a simple vinaigrette from Serious Eats:


1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard*
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon water
¾ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine shallot, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and water in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a tightly sealing jar, seal, and shake vigorously until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 cup. Vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

*Dijon mustard helps emulsify the oil and vinegar/water while shallots add mild sweetness.

LEARN A NEW WORD (or two!)

Emulsion: a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible (unmixable or unblendable).

1 cup = 16 Tablespoons

How many Tablespoons of oil are needed for the Serious Eats simple vinaigrette? ____
How about for Ms. Hannah’s dressing? ____
So now you know about ratios, measurements, fats, and acids. Let’s put that knowledge to use…

Use what you have to create an original salad dressing! Here’s how:

  1. Gather potential ingredients in your home.
  2. Sort them into fats, acids, and add-ins.
  3. Gather your cooking equipment:
    Cutting board, knife
    Whisk + bowl OR jar + lid — (you can use a fork if you don’t have a whisk)
    Measuring cups and spoons
  4. Measure and mix up your dressing — have a friend take a photo while you’re at it!
  5. Taste it, and adjust as needed, then enjoy on your favorite salad.
  6. Name your original dressing.
  7. Send in your recipe. Please include your name, age, school, ingredients, and amounts. A photo or two would be a bonus. Submit your entry to
  8. Post a photo of your dressing on Instagram & tag us @foodprintsdc #saladdressingchallenge