Salad dressing is what brings an ordinary bowl of greens and veggies to life. But, I often find that vinegar or citrus-based dressings can be a little too acidic for my liking. Thankfully, I stumbled across this neat trick for adding a dash of vanilla extract to salad dressing so that it gives a more balanced and less sharp taste.
I know this sounds strange. Typically, vanilla extract is only added to baked goods like cookies and cakes. However, Claire Lower, food editor at Lifehacker, points out that it can boost the flavor of a sharp salad dressing: “A little vanilla softens acidity, accentuates sweetness, and just makes things taste better.”
She credits the macadamia vanilla bean vinaigrette from Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, FL with inspiring her to start adding vanilla extract to her salad dressings. She suggests mixing 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract into one cup of dressing to start. Feel free to add an extra 1/4 teaspoon if the acidity needs to be mellowed out more. (Tasting as you go is key.)
You can try this out on a store bought dressing that contains any type of vinegar or lemon juice. Or you can make your own, which is what I did by blending one cup extra virgin olive oil, five tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and salt and pepper until combined. Then, I poured a few spoonfuls of the dressing over salad greens and served.
When I tasted the salad, there was no trace of vanilla in the dressing. Instead, the extract masked the tart flavor from the vinegar so it wasn’t as overpowering. Plus, this allowed the fruitiness of the olive oil to really shine through and create a harmonious dressing where both ingredients complemented each other. I will definitely be adding this baking staple to my salad dressings.
This is one of the many ways salad vinaigrettes can be made better thanks to everyday ingredients. It’s also a good idea to try adding an avocado for an extra creamy dressing or barbecue sauce for a sweet and sour kick!