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!
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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!
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!
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.
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.
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
Thick and Creamy Honey Balsamic Dressing (no mayo)
- Blender or immersion blender
- 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
- 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!