This simple champagne vinaigrette is my favorite everyday dressing for salads. Champagne vinegar is pleasantly tart without being overly acidic. Mustard, minced shallot, and maple syrup create a balance of savory and sweet flavor. This vinaigrette is easy to make and wonderful on salads, as well as grain bowls and roasted vegetables. It’s a staple in my home!
Often, I would say something like, “put [insert name of vegan protein and grain of choice here] on top of some greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette.”
Inevitably, someone would comment and ask me for my simple vinaigrette recipe.
I was making the assumption every person had a go-to vinaigrette recipe. And while I’m sure that many people who read this blog do, experience has shown me that many more may not.
So today, I’m sharing my go-to Champagne vinaigrette with you.
I’m a big believer in keeping a jar of simple, unfussy, yet flavorful vinaigrette in the fridge.
But I’m honestly not always in the mood to pull out my blender—a necessity for pulverizing soaked nuts into a creamy dressing—when it’s time to make a salad.
And while I could probably publish a micro cookbook of tahini dressings, even I get tired of them.
The beauty of a vinaigrette is that it’s ready in minutes. And I always have the bare bones of what I need in order to make one: oil, vinegar or lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
If I have some other ingredients handy with which to make the vinaigrette more lively, so much the better.
I guess I should take a step back and say what a vinaigrette is.
Vinaigrettes are emulsions. And emulsification is what happens when two immiscible liquids, like oil and water—or a water-based acid, like vinegar—are mixed.
In the case of vinaigrette, emulsification happens through whisking. Whisking breaks the acid source into tiny droplets, which become dispersed through the oil.
Vinaigrette can be made with different types of fat and acid. Oil is probably the most common as a fat source, though I’ve also seen vinaigrettes that use duck fat or another type of fat.
For the acid, there are many vinegars to choose from. Citrus, such as lemon juice, orange juice, or lime juice, works well, too.
For the most part, vinaigrettes are very simple to make, which is one of many reasons that they’re so nice to have at home. Maximum versatility and usefulness + minimal effort—that’s good kitchen arithmetic.
In fact, while I’m sharing a champagne vinaigrette recipe today, vinaigrettes don’t really require recipes. Instead, you can conceptualize them as an ingredient ratio.
Most often, the best ingredient ratio for vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar.
This is a suggestion, not a rule. I really like acid in and on my food, so sometimes I tweak my vinaigrettes to be two parts oil and one part vinegar, or something close to that.
In addition, I recommend adding salt and freshly ground pepper to your vinaigrette.
I tend to use between a quarter and a half teaspoon fine salt for each batch of vinaigrette, and my batches usually make one half to two thirds of a cup.
I give each batch a few generous turns of black pepper—about 1/8 of a teaspoon.
Three parts oil + one part acid + salt as needed + freshly ground black pepper as needed = an adaptable formula for homemade vinaigrette.
Once you have an ingredient ratio at the ready, you’ll need to mix the vinaigrette.
I do this in one of two ways. Sometimes, I just put all of my ingredients into a mason jar, seal it tightly with its lid, and shake it like crazy.
If there’s a lot of acid in the vinaigrette, shaking alone might not be enough to really emulsify it. But most of the time, it works well.
When I’m being a little more patient, I like to whisk my vinaigrette together. This step can be done in a small mixing bowl, a mason jar, or in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup.
If you have a mini whisk for dressings, great! They’re inexpensive, and over time I’ve found that they come in handy for dressings and sauces.
If not, you can use a fork. For larger batches of vinaigrette, a regular whisk works well.
To your base formula of olive oil + acid + salt + pepper, you can add character to your vinaigrettes with all sorts of optional mix-ins.
The above really isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s just meant to give you a sense of all the many ways there are of adding flavor and personality to vinaigrettes.
Speaking of personality, another way of changing the flavor profile of your vinaigrette is to experiment with different types of oils.
Nine times out of ten, I choose extra virgin olive oil for my vinaigrettes. I appreciate its high proportion of monounsaturated fats, its antioxidant activity, and the fact that it likely has anti-inflammatory action.
I also love the taste of olive oil in my dressings: mild, yet a little fruity.
Sometimes, I prefer to use avocado oil, which is very neutral, in vinaigrettes. Avocado oil doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own, so it’s especially useful if there’s an herb or spice that I want to shine through.
Occasionally, I’ll use nut oils in my vinaigrettes. For example, roasted walnut oil creates wonderful, deep, nutty flavors, and I especially like it for fall and wintertime dressings.
The recipe that I’m sharing today is a champagne vinaigrette. And this probably raises the question of why I like using Champagne vinegar so much.
First things first: what is Champagne vinegar?
Champagne vinegar is a wine-based vinegar, just like white or red wine vinegar. It’s made with a wine base that becomes fermented, ultimately resulting in vinegar.
That wine base is made with the two primary grape varieties that are used to make Champagne: Chardonnay and pinot noir.
While Champagne vinegar is similar to white and red wine vinegar, I don’t think it tastes the same. What I love about this type of vinegar is that it’s acidic without being overly sharp. Basically, it’s a more delicate, mellow type of wine vinegar.
Vinaigrette made with Champagne vinegar is nice and tangy, yet it’s also balanced.
You can usually find Champagne vinegar in grocery stores. If not, it’s available for purchase online. I’m a fan of the Napa Valley Naturals Champagne Vinegar.
For a treat, Brightland makes a double-fermented Champagne vinegar called Parasol, which is lovely—and nice for gifting, too.
With all of that said, here are the specifics of my go-to vinaigrette.
In addition to olive oil, Champagne vinegar, salt, and pepper, I add shallots, Dijon mustard, and maple syrup to my dressing.
The minced shallot will give savoriness and complexity to your finished salad. The mustard will add some zippiness.
Maple syrup is for balance. I add a little sweetener to nearly all of my salad dressing recipes. Only a small amount is needed, but I think that a touch of sweetness to counterbalance a vinaigrette’s acidity is magic.
You can substitute minced garlic or onion for the shallot, use any mustard that you have, and omit the syrup, if you wish.
Next, you’ll add all of the ingredients except for the minced shallots to whatever container you’re using to whisk the dressing up.
Whisk or shake the dressing vigorously, until it appears almost creamy. This is a sign that it’s emulsified evenly.
Add the shallots, and then whisk the dressing up again.
Next, you’ll use the vinaigrette right away, or you can store it.
The dressing will keep in an airtight container in the fridge—I usually use a mason jar—for up to one week.
There are so many great uses for this versatile vinaigrette.
First and foremost, it’s perfect on a simple, leafy green salad. In fact, I’ll soon share my favorite green salad recipe that features the dressing.
You can also massage the Champagne vinaigrette into a big bowl of curly kale or thin collard green ribbons. It’s a great dressing for dark, leafy green salads.
Other raw vegetables that work well with the dressing are thinly sliced, shaved fennel, radicchio and other chicories, and tomatoes.
If you lean toward cooked vegetables, you can serve the vinaigrette with sautéed or roasted broccoli, lightly cooked green beans, grilled, steamed, or roasted asparagus, or simple oven roasted beets.
Basically, I don’t think you’ll have a hard time finding uses for this lovely salad dressing once you start making it.
Here’s the recipe.
From now on, if I ever casually mention “a simple vinaigrette,” you can be reasonably confident that it’s this Champagne vinaigrette I’m talking about. (Once in a while, it might be my Greek vinaigrette instead.)
I hope you’ll love it, too.