Classic French dressing, also known as vinaigrette française is simple and quick to make and adds a delightful French touch to your salads, grain bowls, and more.
The classic French salad dressing doesn't vary much from tradition. Occasionally, you might come across versions using a different vinegar or a touch of minced garlic. However, you'll typically find this timeless dressing made with readily available and minimal ingredients like in this recipe.
For the dressing I made, I used an extra virgin olive oil from Kosterina. It's a special one that my sister gifted me at Christmas. I've got to say, it's fantastic. If you're keen on top-notch olive oil, Kosterina is a brand to consider. Their olive oil is cold-pressed, made uniquely from Koroneiki olives found in Southern Greece. This gives it a distinctive taste that sets it apart.
What is French Dressing? Isn't French Dressing a Red-Orange Color?
So, here's the scoop. There is Amercian French dressing and classic French dressing. Most folks in the States think they're indulging in something genuinely French, but the truth is, they are not the same at all.
Classic French vinaigrette dressing rocks a balanced, tangy vibe with olive oil, vinegar, and a touch of Dijon mustard.
But here in the States, things take a twist. We changed it to suit the American palate with a creamy, sweeter, tomato-based concoction usually made with ketchup or tomato paste, sugar, and a bunch of spices. It's got a bold flavor and a slightly sweet kick that's pretty darn tasty, even though it's not exactly what the French had in mind.
This recipe for French dressing is the OG classic, is versatile, and complements a wide range of salad ingredients. It's a staple in French cuisine, and dare I say, it adds a touch of elegance to your meals.
You can generously drizzle this timeless French dressing over a diverse range of dishes, whether it's your favorite green salad or hearty grain bowls like the Fall Farro Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples. The balance of vinegar, rich olive oil, and shallot flavor will elevate your meal to a new level.
For quantities, see the recipe card.
- red wine vinegar (sub with white wine vinegar)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- Dijon mustard
- salt (adjust to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper
Using freshly cracked black pepper is preferable to pre-ground black pepper, so opt for the freshly cracked variety if you have it on hand.
Opt for extra virgin olive oil when making this dressing, as it imparts a robust peppery note to the blend. Even the most basic of salad dressings can be enhanced by using a top-notch olive oil.
Dijon mustard is important in French dressing. It keeps things creamy by stopping the oil and vinegar from splitting. Plus, it adds a tangy, slightly spicy kick, balancing out the vinegar's punch. And it makes the dressing smoother and thicker, so it clings perfectly to your salad. It's basically the secret sauce for a fantastic dressing!
The steps are simple, but I'm all about those visuals, so here's a little picture strip to keep you entertained. If you're craving the full instruction experience, you'll find all the details on the recipe card.
Combine vinegar and shallots.
Add Dijon mustard and slowly add the olive oil.
Season to taste.
Whisk, whisk, whisk. Ensure you whisk the Dijon mustard and other ingredients thoroughly. Mustard acts as an emulsifier and helps bind the oil and vinegar together. You'll get an arm workout, but your dressing won't separate for a few hours.
Add the oil gradually while whisking continuously. This gradual incorporation helps create a stable emulsion.
While Dijon mustard helps prevent oil and vinegar from separating in your dressing, some settling or separation will occur over time. To maintain the dressing's emulsified state, give it a quick stir or shake before using it. This helps redistribute the ingredients and ensures a consistent, creamy texture for your salad.
Ensure your ingredients, especially the olive oil, are at room temperature. Cold ingredients can lead to separation.
Adjust the amount of Dijon mustard to your taste. A bit more mustard can also help with emulsification.
- Green Salad: Drizzle the vinaigrette over a simple green salad made with fresh lettuce, mixed greens, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. Add some croutons or roasted chickpeas for crunch.
- Nicoise Salad: Create a vegan Nicoise salad by combining boiled potatoes, green beans, cherry tomatoes, olives, and capers. Toss with vinaigrette for an authentic French twist.
- Wraps: Drizzle this classic French dressing inside your favorite wraps like this Vegan Falafel Wrap.
- Grain Bowls: Use the vinaigrette to dress grain bowls with cooked quinoa or farro, roasted vegetables (like bell peppers and zucchini), and your choice of legumes or tofu for added protein.
- Roasted Vegetable Medley: Roast a medley of vegetables like in this Sheet Pan Oven Roasted Vegetables or carrots, bell peppers, and red onions together. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the warm veggies for a delightful side dish.
- Warm Potato Salad: Toss boiled baby potatoes with vinaigrette while they're still warm. Add chopped fresh herbs and some red onion for extra flavor. I suggest fresh basil...Oh là là, so good! Cue exaggerated chef's kiss with a flourish of the hand.
- Mixed Bean Salad: Combine different beans like chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans with diced bell peppers, corn, and red onion. Dress the salad with vinaigrette for a satisfying dish.
- Grilled Tofu or Tempeh: Marinate tofu or tempeh in the vinaigrette before grilling or pan-frying it for a flavorful, protein-packed main course.
- Quinoa Salad: Create a quinoa salad with diced vegetables (like cucumber, bell pepper, and cherry tomatoes) and fresh herbs. The vinaigrette adds zing to this nutritious dish.
- Cold Pasta Salad: Toss cooked and cooled pasta with vinaigrette, and add an assortment of veggies, such as broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and black olives. Finish with fresh basil.
If you love homemade salad dressings and want to incorporate variety, try these other dressings:
- Creamy Vegan Lemon Mint Salad Dressing
- Vegan Honey Mustard Dressing
- Easy Vegan Ranch Dressing
- Creamy Vegan Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe
Storing Classic French Vinaigrette
You can leave homemade classic French vinaigrette on the counter at room temperature in a well-sealed container for a short period, typically up to a day, maybe two. But as the creator of this post, it's essential I tell you to consider a few factors before leaving it out on the counter even for a day or two:
- Ingredients: The safety of leaving vinaigrette at room temperature depends on the freshness and quality of the ingredients used. If you've used fresh, high-quality ingredients and your kitchen is at a moderate temperature, it should be fine for a short time.
- Duration: It's best not to leave vinaigrette out for an extended period, especially in warm or hot conditions. Bacteria can multiply rapidly in oil-based dressings if left at room temperature for too long.
- Container: Ensure that the container is well-sealed to minimize exposure to air, which can lead to spoilage.
- Observation: If you notice any unusual changes in color, odor, or texture, discard the vinaigrette.
- Additions: If you add other vegetables and/or herbs, the potential growth for Clostridium botulinum becomes a factor.
For food safety, refrigeration is the best choice. It's advisable to keep homemade vinaigrette in the refrigerator for longer storage, where it can remain fresh for up to 1-2 weeks.
When you take your homemade vinaigrette out of the fridge, you may find that the mixture has separated, with the oil maybe solidifying and floating to the top. The cold will also mute the flavors. When this happens, allow the vinaigrette to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. Then, give it a good shake or whisk to restore the emulsion, ensuring a smooth and well-blended dressing for your salads.
For me the best ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, but it can be adjusted to suit your taste. Some prefer a 2:1 ratio for a tangier dressing, while others use a 4:1 ratio for a milder flavor. If desired add a tablespoon at a time of vinegar until you reach your desired consistency.
While Dijon mustard is a key ingredient for the traditional recipe, you can omit it if you prefer a simpler, oil and vinegar-based dressing. However, it won't have the same emulsified consistency or flavor and it will cease being a classic French vinaigrette.
Classic French vinaigrette serves as a base that can be customized with herbs (such as basil, parsley, or tarragon), minced garlic, a sweetener, or even a splash of lemon juice for added flavor.
Yes. The recipe doesn't contain any animal products and no products with gluten. Nevertheless, it's a good practice to review product labels for your peace of mind.
Yes, you can prepare classic French vinaigrette in advance. In fact, it benefits from sitting for a while to allow the flavors to meld. Simply store it in the refrigerator and give it a good mix before serving.
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- ¼ cup red wine vinegar (substitute with white wine vinegar)
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced (~ ¼ cup)
- 1 - 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (adjust to taste)
- ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Combine Vinegar and Shallot: Whisk the red wine vinegar and minced shallot in a small bowl. Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes. This allows the shallot to marinate in the vinegar, enhancing its flavor.
- Add Dijon Mustard: Whisk in the Dijon mustard after the shallot has marinated. The mustard not only adds flavor but also helps emulsify the dressing.
- Slowly Stream in Olive Oil: While continuously whisking, slowly stream in the extra-virgin olive oil. This gradual addition helps create a smooth and creamy texture. Continue whisking until the oil and vinegar are well combined and the dressing has thickened slightly.
- Season to Taste: Season the French dressing with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste it and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Store and Serve: Transfer the authentic French dressing to a jar or an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Before using, give it a good shake to re-emulsify the ingredients if they have separated.
Ultimately, the ideal ratio of oil to vinegar depends on your taste and the type of vinegar used. Feel free to adjust the proportions to suit your palate.
Freshly cracked pepper makes a difference. If you have it available, I highly recommend using it. Substitute with pre-ground pepper if necessary.
Dijon mustard is your emulsifying hero, so whisk it well to bind oil and vinegar. You can also add a little bit more to adjust for taste. Start with 1 teaspoon, then add more if necessary.
Slowly pour in the oil while whisking for a stable emulsion.
Ensure everything's at room temperature, especially the olive oil, to prevent separation.
Before using, give your dressing a quick stir or shake to recombine the ingredients.
Store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: dressings
- Method: counter top
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Vegan
- Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
- Calories: 184
- Sugar: 0.1 g
- Sodium: 178.6 mg
- Fat: 21 g
- Carbohydrates: 0.3 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: dressings, shallots, extra virgin olive oil, vinaigrette