Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Low-Calorie Salad Dressings

We eat a lot of salads at Chez Maggie and Jeff’s. We both love a crisp, cold salad brimming with colorful veggies and like to dress our salads with flavorful, but low-cal dressings. Most bottled diet dressings don’t make the cut taste wise; they’re either too vinegary or have that weird fake sugar after taste. And the ingredient list looks like it belongs in a science lab not in your mouth!

That’s not to say that we don’t use bottled dressings because we do (my favorite being Newman’s Own Lighten Up Sun Dried Tomato dressing), but a couple of times a month we’ll whip up some homemade low-cal dressing to mix it up a bit.

Here's three of our favorite light recipes: a classic balsamic Dijon, creamy green goddess and a tasty tomato vinaigrette, They’re flavorful, satisfying and last a week or more in the refrigerator. Making your own dressing is more work than buying a bottle at the grocery store, but they’re worth the effort. Not only are these dressings healthier, they’re less expensive, which is a nice bonus (and incentive).
Trio of Low-Calorie Salad Dressings

The Balsamic Dijon Dressing is adapted from Canyon Ranch Cooks, which contains recipes from the famous spa and heath resort. This dressing has a bold, rich flavor and only 35 calories for 2 tbls. The green goddess recipe comes from Cooking Light. The dressing is slightly more caloric with 20 calories a tbls. but it’s absolutely delicious and worth a few more calories (especially compared to most dressings that start at 100 calories a tbls.). This goes really well on Cooking Light’s Cobb salad, which I’ve included a link to here. Jeff found the tomato-vinaigrette dressing in Jacques Pépin’s Simple and Healthy Cooking. It’s super low in calories with only 10 per tlbs. and it is bursting with flavor. This recipe was our first attempt to make low-cal dressings and ever since we’ve been hooked on homemade.

Tomato-Vinaigrette Dressing
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbls. cold water
1 ripe large tomato halved and seeded (or 8 oz. canned, drained )
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
3 tbls. balsamic vinegar
3 tbls. red wine vinegar
2 tbls. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. papriaka
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. Tabasco sauce

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat. In a cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Whisk into the broth to thicken it slightly. Bring the mixture to a boil, then set aside to cool.

Cut the tomato into 1-inch chunks and place them a food processor. Add the scallions, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, mustard, paprika, salt, garlic, pepper and hot sauce. Process until smooth. Add the thickened broth and process again until incorporated. Store, tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. Shake well before using.
(This makes a lot of dressing so we often cut the recipe in half.)

Balsamic Dijon Dressing
2 tbls. olive oil
6 tbls. balsamic vinegar
1 ½ cups vegetable stock
2 tbls. shallots, chopped
2 tbls. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. whole grain mustard
½ tsp. garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp. soy sauce
Pinch black pepper
1 tbls. rice vinegar
1 tbls. water

Combine all ingredients except cornstarch and water in a medium saucepan and mix well with a whisk.

Bring sauce to a boil. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with water to make a thin paste. Add to sauce mixture and cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Green Goddess Dressing
½ cup plain fat-free yogurt
¼ cup reduced-fat mayo
2 tbls. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 tbls. green onions, chopped
1 tbls. chives, chopped
3 tbls. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. anchovy paste
1 tsp tarragon, chopped (or ¼ tsp. dried)
¼ tsp. pepper (preferably white)
¼ tsp. salt
1 garlic glove, minced

Place all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Cover tightly and chill for up to 1 week. (This does not make a ton of dressing, enough for 4 servings.)

Viva Le Salad!


  1. Hi Cuz -- I'm LOVING your blog. . . and what a great idea to do "low cal" this month. I'd love to get my top button to button!! I'll be trying the balsamic dressing tonight (minus the shallot, because I don't have one -- but I'm sure it will still be delicious) Off to the kitchen, Cousin Mary

  2. In the instructions for the balsamiv vinaigrette, you mention cornstarch but it's not listed in the ingredients. How much?