Dressing recipes or store bought versions for salads, bowls, sandwiches, and dips almost always come with a whopping dose of fat and/or sugar. However, we can easily make homemade dressings quickly that are more healthy for us, more affordable for our budgets, variable in taste to fit different cuisines, customizable to meet family members taste preferences, and we don’t have to lose the precious refrigerator space with miles upon miles of jars that just end up as our own personal science experiments! In this post, we will address some common ingredients and recipes you can use to quickly make dips, sauces, and dressings for a variety of your plant-based meals.
Basic Common Ingredients
There are some items you may want to keep in your pantry and refrigerator to quickly mix up these delicious recipes, and they include:
- Vinegars: apple cider, rice wine, and balsamic are the 3 you will want to always have on hand (according to the Vinegar Institute, you do not need to refrigerate these).
- Beans: canned beans are easy to store and once pureed can be a quick creamy base for sauces and dips. For an easier option, keep hummus in your refrigerator.
- Honey, maple syrup, molasses, and date syrup: these are great to add sweetness to any dressing you make and all of them keep well. Additionally, they are great for baking.
- Mustard: both mustard seed powder and mustard condiment.
- Spices and herbs: keep these either dried in your pantry or frozen in small 1 teaspoon pureed portions (use my ice cube method of cleaning, drying, chopping or blending with a small amount of distilled water then pouring into mini ice cube trays for easy storage in your freezer).
- Kitchen Items: you can simply use a whisk and small bowl, or purchase a salad dressing mixer to make pouring it easier to control (this is recommended if you want to let your little one help serve themselves and the family as it allows much more control).
Below is a sample of common recipes I use and what they pair well with. However, I suggest you get creative! Use flavors you and your family enjoy. Remember that many of these can make great marinades for tofu, tempeh, and as additions to any bean burger you want to make and add a personal taste to. Have fun and enjoy!
- Tomato and/or bell pepper tastes: these dressings are great to use as sandwich spreads (just keep the mixture thick like hummus texture), as a spread on a pizza-like flatbread you bake up, or as a dip for chips, crackers and vegetables. They taste great as a cheese substitute in grilled quesadillas or grilled sandwiches.
- Bell Pepper Hummus: mix 1 tbsp hummus with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp canned/jarred roasted red bell peppers, and salt and pepper to taste (if not already in hummus). Blend until smooth. For a thicker sandwich spread or dip, double the hummus portion. Variation: use jarred sun-dried tomatoes instead.
- Fresh Tomato Dressing: blend 5 cherry tomatoes, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. This is wonderful on a fresh made potato or macaroni salad or a simple green salad.
- Mustard and honey tastes: these pair well with veggie dogs, veggie burgers, grilled vegetables, sandwiches (especially cucumber) and salad bowls.
- For a sandwich spread, in a small bowl whisk 2 tsp mustard with 1 tsp honey and salt and pepper to taste. This is also great for veggie dogs and burgers.
- For a salad dressing, blend or use a shaker to mix 1 tsp rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar with 1 tsp mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Spicy: in New Mexico, where we live, you look forward all year round to chile harvest which is September of each year. If you have not eaten our chiles, well, you just haven’t’ lived! Spicy dressings are great on power/salad bowls but also make really good macaroni salad dressings and flavor any bean burger very well. Moderate the spiciness level by picking a mild or moderate chile and adding it in small amounts as you taste for preference. Little ones can eat chile from a young age (as soon as you finish introducing foods to test for allergies, begin adding spices, herbs, and chilies!) and you’ll want to get them used to it young. If you ate a lot of spicy foods while pregnant, they will be accustomed to the taste and likely very accepting of it. However, capsaicin, the spicy hot compound, can cause chemical burns so start slow and monitor for tolerance.
- Green Chile Macaroni Salad: add to 2 cups of cooked and cooled macaroni 1-2 Tbsp of chopped green chile (if roasting and chopping yourself, devein and remove seeds), 1-2 Tbsp vegan mayonnaise, 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2-1 tsp onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy! Maybe pair with a mocktail?
- Bean mixes: these are wonderful to use as sandwich spreads and dips.
- For a dip, blend in a food processor 1/2 cup of white bean (navy, cannellini–our favorite–or Great Northern, with whatever other tastes you desire!
- For a dressing, mix 1/4 a cup of hummus with tamari, 2 tsp tahini, and sesame seeds. For a sweet variety, add 1 tsp honey or ginger syrup!
- In a later post we’ll talk about using bean purees as a cream substitute in pasta dishes.
- Solid and liquid mixes: I love mixing in dried fruits, seeds and nuts (in small amounts to keep the fat down) into salads. These mixtures can also add a toothy feel to bean burgers which may be more acceptable to those who really enjoy eating meat but want to make the switch to a healthier plant-based diet.
- Suggested fruits for salads are apricots, raisins, currants, and blueberries. These are all choking hazards for young children, as are nuts, so only add to Mama’s bowl please. Freeze dried versions are also good (again, they can cause a young child to choke).
- Suggested nuts and seeds: sesame (especially toasted), sunflower, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and pecans are my favorite.
There are my basic go-to dressings and sauces. I hope that you enjoy experimenting with adding flavor to your plant-based meals. There is absolutely no reason to eat plain and boring food!