In case you didn’t know, using vegetable based salad dressings is one of the most secretive, yet simple, techniques to lower the calorie content of your dressings and enhance their nutrition and taste. In fact, I don’t understand why we don’t hear more about this great kitchen trick! The concept is simple- in place of oils to thicken and add heartiness to dressings, all you have to do is cream up a veggie in your food processor. For instance, instead of using oil in your next batch of homemade dressing, you’ll use one of the veggies below. It might take a few tries before you find out which veggie is your favorite to use, but over time, you’ll see why the trial and error is worth it. For starters, you can have more than the measly 2 tbsp. serving of most dressings that you’ll find at the store. Secondly, there’s no fat from oil in these dressings, and lastly, they taste better! They add nutrients, water and many essential benefits that will also help you get in extra servings a day of your required produce. Try some of these simple vegetable based salad dressings out and let me know which one sounds like one you’d like to try.
Let’s start with one of the most popular veggies that are technically a fruit, for our vegetable based salad dressings. Avocados make the ultimate vegan salad dressing, or just a healthy alternative to oil in any dressing recipe, vegan or not. I personally just love the taste of avocados in homemade dressings more than anything. They’re sometimes called “vegan butter” because they add density, heartiness and such a fabulous creamy texture that just can’t be beat! I just use about one avocado in each dressing recipe in place of any ½ cup of oil.
Carrots also make a fantastic veggie to use in vegetable based salad dressing recipes. Use one cup of carrots in place of any ½ cup of oil. They make for a delicious sweet taste that also adds a ton of Vitamin A, fiber, Vitamin C and they are incredibly low calorie. Their water and fiber content help to cream up any dressing, plus add a lovely glowing orange color.
Tomatoes are another great veggie/fruit to use as your dressing base. Preferably, you’ll want to de-seed your tomatoes first, or use canned. I like using canned, fire-roasted organic tomatoes, which have a lot of flavor. I use about one cup per ½ cup of oil. Tomatoes make for a great salad dressing base for salads like Italian or Mediterranean style salads. They also serve a great base in marinara sauces without the need for oil at all. I recommend using tomatoes in any dressing you like though. Experiment with their sweet, pleasurable flavor and you’ll be hooked in no time!
I'm sure you've heard of using zucchini in muffins, brownies, smoothies, and even as an alternative to lasagna noodles, or spaghetti. It’s no wonder, because they are so versatile, nutritious, and low calorie. Zucchinis have a nice, neutral taste, but they also have a remarkable creamy texture when blended. I personally love them in smoothies, and of course, in salad dressing recipes as a base. Chop a whole zucchini, about medium-sized, to use in place of oil in any dressing recipe. You can peel it if you want, or you can leave the peel on for extra fiber and a nice green color. Either way, it makes a tasty, simple dressing that is not only satisfying, but also full of Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. I recommend using it in Caesar dressing recipes in place of mayo as well.
While you may technically consider spinach a leafy green, either way, we’ll count it as a veggie here. Spinach is fabulous to use as a base for salad dressing. After all, it is the most popular green to use in green smoothies, so why not in dressing too? Spinach is used in smoothies to get that fabulous green color that creams up nicely, and it works the same way in a salad dressing recipe. You’ll need to add a little liquid to it, and I recommend using about ¼ cup water per one cup spinach. You could also opt for almond milk as a liquid. I also use about 2 cups of spinach in each salad dressing recipe that calls for ½ cup oil. Since spinach has a neutral taste, it works well in place of oil because it adds a creamy texture, but without the veggie taste. It also adds fiber, so it thickens up nicely, along with adding lots of vegan protein.
This veggie may take a little playing around with, but it is worth trying out for yourself. Celery has a nice liquid texture that also has a slightly salty taste due to the natural sodium found in it. Use about 1 cup of pureed celery per ½ cup oil per recipe. It works well in dressings like Caesar, Ranch and other mayo based recipes in place of mayo due to its creamy factor. Just be sure to add plenty of flavorings from herbs and spices so it’s not bland. When pureed, celery pours easily over your greens, which makes it a perfect veggie to use for this purpose.
Cucumber is another great water-rich veggie, that is technically a fruit, to use as a salad dressing base. Cucumber is also a great piece of produce to use in smoothies. In your dressing recipes, use about 1 cup pureed cucumber per cup of oil. It has a very light, energizing taste that also tastes slightly salty. It works great with flavors like dill, basil and parsley, along with some sea salt too. You can use it anywhere you like, and try out different recipes to see which one works best for you.
I like to combine several of these veggies in my dressing recipes for fun flavor, nutrition optimization and to make them really thick. I also like using apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and lots of herbs and spices to jazz things up a bit! After all, nobody said veggies have to be boring just because they’re healthy, or that they have to be eaten plain and steamed up along a bland piece of meat. Have some fun with your produce! Have you ever used veggies as a base for salad dressings?