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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Emulsify Salad Dressing & Champagne Vinaigrette Recipe

Chef Johnny Gnall shares a professional tip for making the best salad dressings: Emulsify them! The oil and vinegar won’t separate—at least, not for a while.

“A velvety, fully emulsified dressing can really make a big difference when it comes to presenting a salad,” says Chef Johnny. “Its creamy texture and body cling better to the salad ingredients, making each bite that much more flavorful. Even the look is nicer: Emulsified dressings have a really lovely sheen that is nothing short of sexy.

“But most people don’t bother to create emulsified dressings at home. Perhaps there is simply a lack of familiarity with the process; or maybe people just don’t know what they’re missing.

“At any rate, there’s no need to whisk your arms to exhaustion when you make vinaigrettes. Simply grab the blender!”

Here’s the easy process from Chef Johnny, including four salad dressing recipes. Two of them—Champagne Vinaigrette and Truffle Vinaigrette—are just right for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.


This vinaigrette was not emulsified, and
has separated into two layers. Photo by
Elena Thewise | IST.



The biggest factor in getting a dressing or vinaigrette to emulsify (and stay that way) is some patience early in the process. It’s all about incorporating the oil and vinegar together gradually. Here’s an example, using champagne vinegar and champagne (or other sparkling wine) to make a glamorous champagne vinaigrette:

  • Start by combining 1/4 cup of champagne vinegar and 1/8 cup of champagne into a blender on medium speed.
  • Slowly drizzle the oil into the vinegar as it spins, creating as thin and consistent a stream as possible (use a measuring cup with a lip). Start with a couple of tablespoons at a time. The more oil you incorporate into your vinaigrette, the more stable it will become, and the more quickly you can incorporate the rest of the oil.
  • When everything is mixed, season with salt and pepper (while still spinning in the blender). The result should be a smooth, unified dressing with a nice, velvety mouthfeel. Without any stabilizers (chemicals like xanthan gum, which professional chefs often use), it will not stay emulsified forever; so for best results, you should wait until close to serving time to emulsify the dressing.
  • Use this recipe as a template for any vinaigrette. Substitute balsamic vinegar for the Champagne vinegar, use cider or wine vinegar with a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard, or the variations below.

    For more salad flourish, try these gourmet vinaigrette recipes from Chef Johnny.

  • Cherry Vinaigrette: Bring 1 cup of dried cherries to a boil in 1 cup of pomegranate juice. Steep for ten minutes, then cool. Blend cherries until smooth (use only as much juice as you need to facilitate puréeing the cherries) with 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar, then drizzle in 1-1/2 cups of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Honey Lime Vinaigrette: Add 1/4 cup lime juice and 1/8 cup honey to a blender and mix. Slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, plus chile powder or cayenne, as desired.
  • Truffle Vinaigrette: Reduce half a bottle of champagne to high viscosity (about 1/2 to 1/4 of original volume). Blend with an equal amount of champagne or white wine vinegar (altogether you should have about 2 cups of liquid in the blender). Add 1/4 cup of canned truffle peelings, then drizzle in 3 cups of “truffled” oil (1 cup of truffle oil blended with 2 cups of olive or canola oil). Season with salt, pepper and lime juice, as desired.

    The traditional vinaigrette ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar; the recipes above are written as such. But the important thing to keep in mind is that you are the only one who knows exactly how acidic and how viscous you want your dressing to be.

    More oil will mute flavors but add body and mouthfeel; more acidity can be helpful if the salad ingredients have stronger flavor (think chicories or heartier greens).

    Just pay attention to the dressing as you work and add ingredients in small increments at first. Once you become comfortable with the process, you’ll get the feel of exactly how much of each component you want.
    Find more recipes and our favorite oils and vinegars.


    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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