Thick and Creamy Honey Balsamic Dressing

This homemade honey balsamic dressing uses the power of emulsification to achieve a thick, creamy result without using mayo. This sweet and tangy vinaigrette will stay creamy in the fridge for days. Best of all, it’s ready in only 5 minutes!

Creamy honey balsamic dressing in a jar with grape tomatoes and mixed greens in the background.

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Cafe Framboise, the little French cafe we like to go to for lunch downtown, serves a simple side salad with their panini sandwiches — just mixed greens, a couple grape tomatoes, and a drizzle of creamy, tangy balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It sounds simple, but having a delicious but uncomplicated salad on the side instead of chips elevates the whole lunch.

Having a bottle of honey balsamic dressing in my fridge at home allows me to replicate that perfect cafe experience for my own lunches! I’ve talked more about how to elevate your sandwiches and sides in this post about how to make your kitchen feel like your favorite cafe.

You can use this dressing as a dip for Pesto Chicken Paninis or in this Creamy Balsamic Caprese Pasta Salad (although the pasta salad does add a bit of mayo with this creamy dressing too). But mostly I like just having it around for a spontaneous side salad!

Balsamic vinaigrette is a basic, classic dressing that has so many uses and should be a staple in your fridge!

Homemade creamy honey balsamic vinaigrette pouring from a bottle onto a salad of mixed greens and grape tomatoes.

  • A BOLD, BALANCED TASTE – A combination of vinegars along with garlic, honey, dijon mustard, and herbs gives this a complex flavor profile and a great taste!
  • SUPER VERSATILE – This creamy balsamic dressing can be used for so many things! A little drizzle on a side salad, tossed into a pasta salad, served with a main course salad, drizzled over chicken, or even as a sandwich dip.
  • QUICK AND EASY – This simple vinaigrette can be made in the blender in only 5 minutes!
  • NO MAYO – Many dressings add mayonnaise to give a thick and creamy consistency; however, this one simply emulsifies the olive oil into the dressing with the help of a little dijon mustard and a blender or immersion blender.
  • STAYS CREAMY IN THE FRIDGE – This balsamic vinaigrette stays creamy in the fridge, even days later. In fact, the olive oil solidifies as it chills, thickening the dressing even further! If the dressing begins to separate after a few days in the fridge, all it takes is a little shake to recombine and you’re good to go! This dressing will not separate into distinct layers of oil and vinegar like a traditional vinaigrette.

Ingredients for Homemade Balsamic Dressing

What is balsamic dressing made of? This basic vinaigrette contains lots of flavor via vinegars and herbs, as well as not one, but THREE emulsifying agents to help your dressing stay stable and creamy!

Ingredients for homemade creamy balsamic dressing with honey, dijon mustard, garlic, and olive oil.
  • Balsamic vinegar: The key ingredient in the vinaigrette. It’s a dark, bold, slightly sweet vinegar.
  • White wine vinegar: A bit lighter and more delicate than balsamic vinegar. We add just a bit of this to lighten the dressing and add a more complex flavor profile.
  • Dijon mustard: Don’t leave this out!! Mustard is a powerful emulsifier, meaning the dressing will form a stronger suspension that lasts much longer. This dressing stays creamy in the fridge for days, thanks in part to the mustard!
  • Honey: A little sweetener cuts through the acidity of the vinegar and rounds out the flavor. Because some balsamic vinegars are sweeter than others, you may need to adjust the quantity of honey a touch depending on your vinegar brand and how sweet you want your dressing. Honey’s thick consistency helps stabilize the emulsion, making it a better sweetener for this dressing than plain sugar.
  • Freshly minced garlic: Fresh garlic makes a huge difference in the taste! Garlic is also an emulsifier.
  • Herbs and seasonings: Kosher salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme give this vinaigrette a sophisticated, balanced flavor.
  • Olive oil: Use quality extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings!
A spoon drizzling creamy balsamic dressing into a jar.

What Is an Emulsion?

So I’ve mentioned that this dressing is an emulsion, and you may be wondering what that means.

An emulsion is a uniform mixture of two normally unmixable liquids like oil and water. This happens when tiny droplets of one substance (like oil) are suspended in another substance (like vinegar) via agitation (mixing, blending, whisking, etc). You create an emulsion just by shaking a bottle of oil and vinegar, but it’s not very stable and will separate back out into distinct layers with just a little time.

Emulsifiers help form stable emulsions that don’t separate because they have both a hydrophilic (water-loving) and a hydrophobic (water-hating) component. Commonly used emulsifiers are egg yolks (as in mayonnaise) and mustard (in many salad dressings, including this recipe).

You still need the agitation component to form the initial suspension. You’ll only get that super-creamy emulsion with significant agitation, which is why we make this vinaigrette in the blender. The mustard, then, helps stabilize that emulsion so that your dressing will stay creamy.

The ratio for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3-4 parts oil; any more oil and it will have too high a fat content for the emulsion, and the emulsion will break. This recipe uses about a 1:3 ratio of vinegar to oil.

How to Make Your Own Creamy Honey Balsamic Dressing (without Mayo!)

Many creamy dressings use mayo as an ingredient: It’s sort of a shortcut route because mayonnaise is already a stable, creamy emulsion. When you add mayo, you add an emulsion instead of making your own. With this recipe, however, you create your own stable emulsion.

Drizzling olive oil into a blender of homemade balsamic dressing.

Sound complicated? It isn’t. You can make this quick and easy dressing in two simple steps, with either a standard blender or an immersion blender.

  • Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender except the olive oil.
  • While the blender is running on medium-low speed, add the olive oil in a slow, steady drizzle.

Voila! A thick, creamy honey balsamic salad dressing — without the use of mayonnaise.

Using an Immersion Blender Instead

Using an immersion blender is a little different but just as simple. You will need a tall, narrow cup, jar, or beaker not much wider than the base of the immersion blender. Mine came with one, or you can find an immersion blender cup online.

  • Once again, you combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar or blender cup except the olive oil.
  • Put the immersion blender in the jar. Turn on the blender and drizzle in the olive oil very slowly while the blender is running. You can move the immersion blender up and down a bit as you go to make sure everything is getting blended thoroughly.

And there you have it! Two easy ways to create a thick and creamy balsamic vinaigrette without mayo.

Making Your Dressing Even Thicker

If this creamy dressing isn’t as thick as you’d like, you can add additional thickening agents to make it even creamier.

  • Whisk in some mayonnaise or greek yogurt (greek yogurt will add a tangier, more sour flavor to your dressing)
  • Use cornstarch by making a thin slurry with a tablespoon of cornstarch and a couple tablespoons of water. Heat until it thickens, and then whisk into your dressing.

Storing your dressing

You can store this balsamic vinaigrette in the fridge in a jar or bottle for up to a couple weeks.

Keep in mind, the slower you drizzle in the olive oil the longer it will stay creamy and combined in the fridge! If the dressing begins to separate after a few days, just give it a few shakes to recombine and you’re good to go!

Olive oil also solidifies when cold. For a non-blended dressing, the oil will solidify in a thick layer with the liquid vinegar mixture underneath. However, for a creamy dressing made with a blender like this one, it should actually make your dressing thicker as it chills!

Please note the olive oil will liquify again as it comes back to room temperature, so add it to your salad immediately before eating for best results.

Creamy honey balsamic dressing in a jar with grape tomatoes and mixed greens in the background.

Tips & Tricks for the Best Balsamic Dressing

  • When drizzling your olive oil into the blender, the slower, the better. This will help form a more stable emulsion that won’t separate in the fridge.
  • If you can make this in advance, the dressing will thicken further in the fridge as the olive oil solidifies.
  • You can adjust the amount of honey depending on how sweet you like your dressing. Two tablespoons is enough to balance the acidity of the vinegar, but use three or more tablespoons for a sweeter dressing.

Uses for balsamic vinaigrette

There are so many possibilities for how to use this delicious honey balsamic dressing!

  • Drizzled over fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil for a simple caprese salad
  • In this delicious balsamic caprese pasta salad
  • On a simple side salad of mixed greens or arugula with a few grape tomatoes
  • On a strawberry and spinach salad (balsamic dressing is a perfect complement to berries!)
  • As a bread dip
  • As a dip for a pesto chicken panini
  • Drizzled over fresh tomatoes and basil on toast for an easy bruschetta
  • For pasta salad, roasted beet salad, or steak salad

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5 from 1 vote

Thick and Creamy Honey Balsamic Dressing (no mayo)

This honey balsamic dressing uses the power of emulsification to achieve a thick, creamy result without using mayo. This sweet and tangy vinaigrette will stay creamy in the fridge for days with just a little shake to recombine any separated ingredients. Best of all, it's ready in only 5 minutes!
Print Recipe
Course: Ingredient, Pantry staple
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1 cup
Calories: 1438kcal
Prep Time:5 mins
Total Time:5 mins

Equipment

  • Blender or immersion blender

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons honey see note
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme powdered
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a blender.
  • Run the blender on a medium or low speed. While the blender is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The slower the better!

Notes

If using an immersion blender: Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a narrow immersion blender beaker/cup. Submerge the immersion blender all the way to the bottom of the cup, turn it on, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil while it runs. You may move the blender up and down as it runs to fully blend the dressing.
For a sweeter dressing: Add another tablespoon or two of honey for a sweeter dressing. Two tablespoons is enough to balance the acidity of the vinegar, but if you want a sweet dressing you will need to add extra honey.
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Nutrition

Sodium: 2408mg | Calcium: 83mg | Vitamin C: 4mg | Vitamin A: 91IU | Sugar: 30g | Fiber: 2g | Potassium: 196mg | Calories: 1438kcal | Saturated Fat: 20g | Fat: 144g | Protein: 1g | Carbohydrates: 36g | Iron: 3mg

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