Vegetable Based Dressings


Some time back, a friend of mine told me that his girlfriend’s sister doesn’t eat salad dressing. Like, never. Not even a drop.  There’s not a single dressing she likes, or a single kind of salad she’ll choose to dress. Not even oil and vinegar. The weird thing is, this young woman isn’t a particularly health conscious or picky eater in any other way: she eats totally without discrimination. But when it comes to dressing, she opts out.

This story bewilders me, mostly because I cannot imagine life without salad dressing. While it’s true that I’ll throw regular old flax oil and lemon juice on my salads about 75% of the time, I put a lot of effort into making a bunch of dressings whenever possible. I use them not only to dress salads, but to dip raw sushi rolls in, to snack on with veggie crudites, to adorn wraps or sandwiches, to pour over steamed veggies and grains, and to dress up spiralized veggie noodles. There are so many uses for a good salad dressing, so many uses that go far beyond salad itself. And of course, a terrific dressing can, as we know, be the difference between a salad that’s a winner and a salad that’s a dud.

Most salad dressings are composed of a mix (usually in a 1:2 ratio, but sometimes a 3:4 or a 2:3) of a fat and an acid. The fat is usually oil, and the acid usually vinegar, but of course this doesn’t have to be true. The fat base can be nuts or nut butter, the acid lemon or fruit juice. There are tons of ways to experiment, and tons of dressings to enjoy.

My favorite dressings are oil based, for the most part. And this is good, because I’m always happy for a chance to use my favorite healthy oils, like flax, hemp, and cold-pressed olive. The former two are rich in Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. If you invest in a special blend, like Udo’s 3-6-9, you’ll also be getting the DHA acids that can be tough for vegans to obtain otherwise. And you know by now that I’m a firm believer in the power of healthy fats in general.

This said, some of my clients are either specifically trying to lose weight. And these clients are a little more conscientious of fat and density than others, so I’m always looking for ways to help lighten up their meals without depriving them of good taste. And this is where my veggie dressings come in.

That’s right: vegetables can make a terrific base for salad dressing! If you use a veggie that’s easily blended, like zucchini, cucumber, or a steamed root vegetable, you can add terrific taste with only a fraction of the oil. If you’re a purist, you can add no oil at all, and thicken with a touch of flax seed or chia seed. And voila: perfect dressing that’s also low in fat and easy to digest.

Today, I want to offer you four vegetable based salad dressings that are also delicious and satisfying. All have proven popular with clients and stricter raw foodie friends who, unlike yours truly, are a little shy about oils. And all are regular faves in my kitchen–especially the zucchini dressing, which I’ve blogged about before. All dressings yield 1 1/2 cups. Enjoy!


Butternut Squash Dressing

1 heaping cup cooked butternut squash
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp nama shoyu
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1 heaping tbsp agave nectar

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender till smooth. This one is especially delicious served over dark leafy greens, or when paired with pumpkin seeds!


Tomato Curry Dressing


This recipe was inpsired almost exactly by a recipe from my friend Ingrid. I changed the paprika to curry and loved the resulting flavor! The dressing is very delicate, so I recommend serving it with mild greens that will let you enjoy it’s flavor, but its sweetness also pairs nicely with the bitterness of arugula. (Or, as pictured, on top of a hasty work week salad!)

2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes
¼ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 pitted dates
1 small clove garlic (optional!!)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon curry powder

Blend all ingredients on high. This is a great way to use summer tomatoes, though they’re so perfect it seems sad to eat them any other way than sliced and sprinkled with salt!


Beet dressing


2 cups cooked beets, chopped
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp flax oil

Blend all ingredients on high. This dressing is sweet tart and surprisingly creamy. I love it over romaine salad with carrots and cucumbers!


Zucchini Dressing


This is one of my all time favorite dressings. I nearly always prepare a double batch on weekends and use it up throughout the week, in various ways. You’ll be shocked that it’s as low in oil as it is, and the flax seed goes a long way to thickening it naturally. A serious Choosing Raw fave!!!

For the dressing:

1 large zucchini, chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or flax oil
1 tbsp organic mustard (optional)
3 pitted dates
3 tbsp nama shoyu or tamari
3 tbsp ground flax seed
¼ cup water
½ tsp coriander

Blend all dressing ingredients on high till smooth and creamy. Mix salad ingredients and top with the dressing as desired.

This post is just yet more proof that veggies are versatile beyond our wildest imagining. Is there ever any end to what we can do with them? I also hope it proves that there’s a lot more to dressing than oil and vinegar. So take those leftover and extra veggies out of your fridge, and start experimenting! Let me know what you come up with.

Finally, do you want to win the ultimate bloggie gift? It’s a free blog makeover from Zestycook, and you can enter to win here! Good luck!!!


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Categories: Dressings

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  1. Thanks for the post. I was looking for a dressing that encompassed only vegetables as main ingredient and saw your article. Do you have more? If not, can you refer me to a source? (Please and thank you.)

  2. Hi Gena,

    I’ve been looking for salad dressing ideas with out all the mayo or oil. These recipes look great, I can’t wait to try them.

    Thanks for sharing these great ideas.

  3. Nice dressings! I was searching for a new zucchini based dressing and came across yours for some nice inspiration. I made some changes of course but was glad that I could have an excuse to bring out my organic dijon mustard and Tamari which hardly get used lately since going more raw fruitarian 80/10/10 in what I eat.

    I avoid nutritional yeast so used the usual ingredients to sort of give cheesiness, garlic cloves and powder, onion powder, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, and lemon/apple cider vinegar helps as well.

    I also changed some other stuff, 2 tablespoons of homemade tahini (no oil or flax), 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice as I’m out of lemons at the moment :(. 2tbsp of Tamari, I used less mustard like about a teaspoon or more or I think. Out of dates so used raw honey.

    I’m out of tahini so I’m going to make again with 1tbsp flax and 1 tbsp hemp seeds.

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  6. So I definitely use these recipes ALL THE TIME!! They are great and I love them!! I just made the tomato one for the first time and I liked it but I thought it could use a little more curry (maybe that’s just me) and I also added 1 TBSP. of nutritional yeast which was great.


  7. I just ate the tomato curry dressing! At first I felt like it was an odd combination – NOT AT ALL! It was amazing. Thanks for the great recipe 🙂

  8. I made the Beet Dressing tonight … added a little bit of water to help it blend up. SERIOUSLY delicious and creamy! I had it on romaine lettuce with sunflower seeds and some avocado. MAN was this amazing! I only made a 1/2 recipe because I had 1 cup of beets … plenty of dressing – can’t wait to have it again tomorrow! Next I’m going to make the zucchini dressing. : ) Thanks again!

  9. I am trying to make the commitment to stop purchasing dressings from the store and make my own not only to understand exactly what is in my food, but because I’m having a hard time finding vegan dressings that I enjoy. I just made the Tomato Curry dressing and WOW is it good! I could eat it with a spoon. This post along with your “How to Build a Meal Sized Salad” post are now my go to pages when thinking up packed lunch ideas for my long days at Teachers College. Next I’ll have to make Zucchini Dressing!

  10. I just re-read this post per a link Christine left and i NEED To make that b-nut dressing. Just sayin’.

    There’s one in ED & BV (although i don’t “love” the book b/c it uses too much spelt, soy, and cooked food for me) but she uses cumin and cinnamon in a dressing that’s really awesome but your version looks better 🙂

  11. WOW! Finally tried the zuke dressing…amazing! Just got my blendtec blender a few days ago and totally opened up a whole new world for me =) Love this dressing! See myself having it often. Wondering how it would be with some ginger and coconut oil…. Thanx for all of your fabulous recipes.

  12. I’m enjoying my first salad using your zucchini dressing as we speak. Totally my new favorite. I think I’ll go for the beet dressing next. I’ve noticed that you don’t have any fruity dressings (well obviously not in this vegetable based dressing post, but also elsewhere), perhaps this is because of the sugar? I would LOVE to see a CR-friendly raspberry dressing, or blueberry.

    • Hey! It’s not because of the sugar, but rather because I’m not really a fruit or berry fan. But I can try!

  13. True story:

    I was at work. Customer buys goji berries. We start talking about adding goji berries in salads. She starts talking about salad dressings. I start talking about using honey in salad dressings instead of sugar. We somehow end up talking about healthifying our salad dressings. I tell her about vegetable-based dressings. She looks like I just showed her a revelation. I go into our staff room and print out 2 copies of this entire post and hand one to her. The other one is in my kitchen pantry.

    You. Are. Amazing.

  14. I don’t know why I waited so long to try this. The zucchini dressing is out of this world, I just made it and am inhaling my salad now. For those who care it is soooo diet friendly as well. I ran the stats. I can’t thank you enough. This is the second time you have changed my life (banana softserve was the first- which by the way is out of this world if you add 2-3 frozen cherries in there as well).

  15. Update: tomato curry dressing! holy yum! but my blending stick broke when I added a sort of stale date in, so my happiness is greatly diminished 🙁 For the record, it tastes great half-blended!

  16. Your dressings are so pretty! My latest dressing take is to just mix miso paste with lemon juice. It can be on the tart side (which is what I like!), but is still waaaaaay less fatty than oils.

  17. I made the zucchini dressing with some left over spiralized zucchini and I had, and oh my god- best dressing ever!!! I even made my husband a salad and told him I made Green Goddess Dressing from scratch (he is scared of my raw food) and he loved it! Fabulous ideas! Also, I now have tons of left over carrots and celery.. neither of which I love but I use in small amounts in recipes. Any ideas? Thanks!

  18. Thanks for these recipes, they look fantastic! This is just what I needed because I love nuts and when I eat them during the day I need to avoid extra fats in other places otherwise I would be happy eating nuts, nut dressings and nut based desserts all day… which is fat overdose. I LOVE beets and can’t wait to try it. Do you mind if I post a link to your blog on my blog with the recipe?

  19. I used to always have salad dressing on salads. But it was always the full-fat, not-good-for-you stuff. Then I lost a lot of weight and have become scared of dressings! When we go out, I’ll order my salad dressing on the side and dip into it a little, or I’ll get salsa on my salad. Same thing when I make my own salads – salsa or hummus. Or both.

    I’ve always wanted to make my own dressings, but figure they’d be a lot of work, but now that I’ve been reading up on it, it doesn’t look that hard!

    That butternut squash one looks amazing!


  20. This is so awesome, I can’t wait to try them all! My top two veggie dressing that I make are a cucumber-dill dressing (cukes, dill, salt, walnuts and water in the Vita Mix) and a Ginger-Carrot one like in Japanese restaurants.

  21. I like the idea of these vegetable based dressings. I generally am not a big fan of most of the prepared dressings I can find at the store, but both the butternut squash one and the beet one intrigue me. Talk about giving your salads a punch of colour and flavour! I think a carrot dressing would be excellent as well.

  22. I’m a newbie to eating a plant based diet and I have learned so much from your blog!!! Thought I was the only one who could not handle beans. Keep the recipes coming and thank you for all of your knowledge!

  23. I love making salad dressings and dips of all kinds. I’m such a dip lover, really and truly! My favorite salad dressing is tahini and spicy stone ground mustard thinned out with olive oil. Delicious!

    I’m going to have to try that beet dressing, that gorgeous color is just too beautiful to pass up. And I adore the sweet, earthy flavor of beets and I imagine it would pair so well with a spinach salad. Thanks, Gena!

  24. Love it! I made a veggie dressing from the Thrive diet once…a very long time ago. Although, now that I think about it maybe it had oil in it? I usually just dress my salads with vinegar though, I don’t really like olive oil.

  25. I definitely have a greater appreciation for fresh dressings ever since I got way raw-curious. And now that I have the handy little Tribest, it’s completely no sweat to just whip up a fresh dressing on the spot whenever I feel like it! Yesterday I chucked a bunch of stuff in haphazardly and ended up with a version of the sesame-ginger pate I made for you that I like much better! Plus it came out thinner so it works as an actual dressing. I would definitely make this version again, so, naturally, this is the one recipe I didn’t write down.

  26. thank you so much for posting this info, gena! i’m a little hesitant when it comes to purchasing salad dressings because, for the most part, i feel like i’m eating chemicals, even when i buy the natural or organic brands. i’m really looking forward to trying these flavours! thanks <3

  27. I just wrote a post about a creamy beet sauce that I made yesterday. It’ll be posted tomorrow! I’ll be making the zucchini dressing ASAP. Like tonight. Anything with nooch is right up my alley!

  28. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered how good salads can taste with a quality dressing. Now I just need to try my hand at making my own (rather than Annie’s!). Thanks for the recipes!

  29. I am also an anti-salad dressing person! In fact it does not stop there, I have also never enjoyed most condiments. I admit to a rare craving for ketchup once in a while.

    I refer to salad dressings as goo, they are weird, tangy, smell bad and ruin the taste of my salads! I have now gotten to a point where I can handle a small drizzle of oil and a spray or two of liquid aminos but that is as far as it goes. I often look at dressing recipes thinking I might find one that I will like. But they all just gross me out!

    So thanks for the dressing recipes! I really do look at them and think maybe this one I will like, then I read down the list and remain happy that I am eating an undressed salad!

  30. Yes Yes Yes! Thank you for this post. I’ve just started reading your blog, but love it so far. I’ve done tomato and roasted bell pepper dressings in the past, and even strawberry or blackberry ones, but I really needed some new ideas. Thanks again.

  31. Yes Yes Yes! Thank you for this post. I’ve just started reading your blog, but love it so far. I’ve done tomato and roasted bell pepper dressings in the past, and even strawberry or blackberry ones, but I really needed some new ideas. Thanks again.

  32. My hubby to be will not eat salad dressing either… never ever!! 🙂 I always thought it was weird! He just prefers something juicy in his salad like an orange!

    Those dressings sound fantastic though!! YUM!

  33. I don’t generally dress my salads. I need to be in the mood – then it’s just oil and lemon juice or lime usually. Maybe soy sauce and mustard if I’m desiring something salty.


    I’m in love. I was actually just looking for salad dressings to spruce up my large salads so that I can finally spread the love of veggies to my friends when I bring my dishes to potlucks. I can eat salads plain, but when feeding the non-veg masses, one needs a little bit of a kick. And I really dislike dousing my leafies in oils. Nuts are also particularly hard to digest for me. So again, you’re a genius. ALSO what I just realized is that your name almost matches the title that you hold in my mind: Gena-Genius. (ok I’m lame I know, I know) You’re brilliant! Thanks. (Scurries off to blender…)

  35. What a fun way to get more veggies in your diet! I love, love, love salad dressing and do not understand folks who don’t. And I love me some healthy fats too. But I get plenty of healthy fats everyday in almost every meal, so it wouldn’t hurt me to cut back on oil in salad dressing. I’ll have to try these! The b-nut squash and zucchini dressing look especially delicious.

  36. What a brilliant way to get more veggies onto your veggies! 😉 I love a good dressing but also sometimes opt out just because I’m too bored w/ the old simple oil and lemon juice or vinegar. But THESE–these I MUST try! Thanks for all the options! 🙂

  37. I can’t wait to try these when my mason jar Tribest blender gets here! I am SO on board with the zucchini dressing, but I’m wary of the nutritional yeast since I’m avoiding yeast-feeding foods. Is there a substitute, can I leave it out, or should I just not worry about it?

  38. Yay for salad dressings!! I love salad, but really prefer it with dressing, unless there’s a creamy component, like avocado, already included. Both the zucchini and tomato curry sound fantastic. So glad I’ve got a salad ready for tomorrow’s lunch and now I’m armed with great dressing ideas!

  39. Wonderful ideas! I too don’t like oil-based dressing, but these veggie dressings sound great! I definitely see myself creating a carrot, ginger version. 🙂

  40. Wow, thanks for the great recipes!! I am so boring, I always stick to olive oil with lemon or vinegar. Now I can spice it up a bit! 🙂

  41. Wow, we get 4 recipes?? *Saved* 😀
    I used to be huge on commercially-prepared salad dressings but now, not so much. My favorite dressings are salsa and hummus thinned out a little with some water!

  42. The beet dressing looks SO pretty, I love eating colorful I gotta search around for some beets 😉

  43. Yeah I am not alone — I am just like your friend’s boyfriend’s sister! I have never been a fan of dressings. Especially store bought. I have grown to tolerate dressings this past year because I have been making my own but growing up I often ate salads sans dressing and got plenty of weird looks from friends and family. I can’t wait to try these dressings — the beet one looks great!

  44. i can’t wait to make that tomato dressing this summer! yum. i am definitely a boring olive oil+agave girl, but i know i’m missing out!

    and i agree that there is no limit to what we can do with vegetables – it’s part of what makes eating them so much fun.

  45. Hey Gena ~ Thanks for this post! I have been using drizzles of various infused olive oils on my salads, but this will add some variety. I must find nutritional yeast too, it seems!

  46. Oh Gena this is music to my ears this post…I am always trying to reinvent and recreate dressings and end up usually with 1-2 that I never stray from..but this is inspiring b/c although I am not into certain ingredients, it gets me thinking oh, but i could take this or that and then pair it with xyz…wheels are turning! Squash and beets and zukes blended..with other things…perfect!

    As usual, love that nothing’s made w/ garlic or onions!

    And I gave you a little shoutout at the bottom of my post today 🙂

  47. Gorgeous pictures! I use a variation of the zucchini dressing that I got from the cookbook Raw Food Revolution and I absolutely love it. It makes me feel a lot more virtuous knowing I am also getting so many nutrients in my dressing!

  48. Yum, those dressings look so pretty as well as delicious! Good timing with the post- only yesterday I was thinking that I need to try out some new salad dressings. It’s a sign… 🙂

  49. Gena, these are brilliant!! I definitely loved the zucchini dressing listed in the cleanse we did, but honestly I’ve forgotten to make it since. I must rectify this. Aaaand I have a whole mess of beets up in the fridge needing to be used immediately. I think I’ve found a source. Thanks for the inspiration, as usual!!

  50. That butternut squash dressing looks divine. While I like zucchini and beets, butternut squash is one of my favorites and I used to actually put squash soup (basically a more liquid version of seasoned squash puree) on my salads. My mom thought I was weird, but I thought it was amazing! Thank you for proving me right!

    Oh, I’m going to be in NYC from Friday to Tuesday and while I’m not fully vegan yet, I’m armed with your “favorites” list. I can’t wait 🙂

  51. wow, Gena! these are making my mouth water! you are a genius – I am progressively increasing the amount of raw foods in my diet, so for lunch its usually a hugeee delish salad, I was wondering if I have to use a vitamix to make these dressings? thanks!

  52. I am not a big dressing fan, but these look so delicious! It not on salads, I will definitely try these in wraps soon!

  53. I can’t tell you how excited this post made me! Thank you so much for the inspiration. I am a lemon juice girl myself, but perhaps now I might just get creative! I have a question, actually my husband asks. Is it safe to eat large amounts of Nutritional yeast? My kids love it and pour it on EVERYTHING! How much is to much in your opinion?

  54. These sound great! I’m always looking for easy salad dressing recipes. For me flavorful dressings can be the difference between craving a salad and dreading one. Thanks for the ideas.

  55. I usually don’t like salad dressing either, but these look great! I love the colors of the beet and squash dressings, and I’ll definitely have to check out the zucchini one, too.

  56. This is a super useful post because while I love dousing my salads in salsa or hummus or both, sometimes they are a little thicker than I would like. Thanks for the ideas…I am especially excited about the Tomato Curry Dressing!

  57. Hey Gena! This is a great post, i like using oils on my salads lately but i certainly digest veggie dressings better! I’m always looking for fun new dressings that use less oil, when i am not too lazy to make them that is!