Even though there are so many commercial salad dressings available to choose from that it is hard to make a choice, lots of folks like to make their own homemade salad dressings. I, personally, have been making my own homemade version of Thousand Island dressing for years. But, it is very disappointing to make a great-tasting salad dressing and have it turn out watery.
The best ways to thicken homemade salad dressings are by adding:
- Cornstarch or other thickeners
- Seeds such as flax or chia seeds
- Solid ingredients like chopped fruit or vegetables
- Emulsifiers such as prepared mustard, toasted garlic, tahini
- Gelling agents
- Xanthan gum or guar gum.
In the following paragraphs, I will discuss each of the above ways to thicken homemade salad dressing in more detail.
1. Adding Thickeners
One of the easiest ways to thicken homemade salad dressing is by adding a thickener such as cornstarch, arrowroot, or tapioca.
To use cornstarch as a thickener involves making a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cool water, mixing it well, and adding it to the other salad dressing ingredients. Whisking the cornstarch and cool liquid together should make the slurry combine with the other ingredients more easily and completely.
Arrowroot flour is a gluten-free thickening agent that can be used to thicken gravies, sauces, soups, stews, puddings, and salad dressing. This thickener contains only one ingredient in most cases: arrowroot, which is tasteless and odorless and will not affect the flavor or smell of any dish you are preparing.
In some cases, potato starch may be added to the arrowroot, but the ingredients list on the label will indicate whether potato starch has been added to your product.
To use arrowroot as a thickener, start by making a slurry from 1 tablespoon of arrowroot and 2 tablespoons of liquid, but increase the amount of arrowroot if necessary when adding it to the other ingredients.
Tapioca flour is made from the starchy pulp of the root of the cassava plant and can be used in baking and as a thickening agent in sauces, soups, puddings, pies, and salad dressing. Tapioca flour, which is the same thing as tapioca starch, is now used in gluten-free and paleo diets.
Tapioca flour can replace cornstarch at the rate of 2:1 by replacing 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour. Tapioca flour can replace regular all-purpose flour on a 1:1 basis.
So the slurry of tapioca flour and water would be made by adding 4 tablespoons of tapioca flour to 2 tablespoons of water, whisking, and then adding the slurry to the other ingredients.
2. Adding Seeds
To use flax or chia seeds as a thickener in making homemade salad dressing, either whole or ground seeds can be used in the following way:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of flax or chia seeds with 4 tablespoons of water or vinegar.
- Whisk or blend the seeds with the liquid.
- Wait 5 minutes for it to thicken.
- Combine the thickened mixture with the other ingredients.
Using flax or chia seeds as a thickener is the healthiest option because flax and chia seeds are both considered superfoods. It is better to use ground seeds because the body cannot digest whole flax seeds, and the nutritional value would be lost if adding the whole flax seeds to your salad dressing.
Health benefits of using flax and chia seeds according to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture):
- They are both high in fiber which leads to improved digestion.
- They both contain soluble fiber that stabilizes blood sugar.
- They both contain omega-3 fatty acids that reduce the risk of heart disease.
While chia seeds are flavorless and would not affect the taste of the salad dressing, flax seeds have a distinctive nutty flavor and could change the taste of your dressing.
3. Adding Solid Ingredients
To add fruits and vegetables to your salad dressing as a thickener, simply puree the fruits and vegetables of your choice and add the puree to your homemade salad dressing.
Here are a few of the fruits and vegetables that would make good choices for your puree:
- Garlic, roasted
4. Adding Emulsifiers
There are several emulsifiers that can be used to thicken homemade salad dressing, but the majority of these will change the flavor of the dressing. That, however, could be a good thing in the case of mustard. A good honey-mustard salad dressing is always a hit. Not only can it be used as a salad dressing, but it is used primarily as a dip for meat and vegetables.
These ingredients when used as emulsifiers should be added at the rate of 1 part of the emulsifier for every 3 parts of the total other ingredients.
5. Adding Dairy
Adding any kind of thick dairy product will thicken your homemade salad dressing. They include:
- Heavy Cream
- Sour Cream
- Cream Cheese
Thicken the salad dressing with these dairy products by adding about 2 ounces of dairy for every 4 ounces of thin dressing.
6. Addin Gelling Agents
Gelling agents can also be used to thicken salad dressing. Here are two of the most common gelling agents:
A small amount of fruit pectin can be added to salad dressings made with fruit juices to produce a slightly thickened dressing. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of pectin for each cup of liquid used in the dressing.
To thicken salad dressing with gelatin, add 1/4th teaspoon of the gelatin for every cup of salad dressing to be thickened.
7. Adding a Gum
Low-fat dressings often add a small quantity of guar gum or xanthan gum to compensate for their reduced oil content. Use a gum as a thickener by following these steps:
- Make the salad dressing.
- Combine one part gum with 5 parts oil.
- Put the salad dressing into a blender and slowly add the oil containing the gum a small amount at the time while the blender is running. Do not add all of the gum mixture at one time or it will form gel clumps in the dressing rather than combining with the other ingredients.
- Check the consistency of the dressing after each addition until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Blend an additional 30 seconds.
NOTE: Using a gum as a thickener is a little tricky because by adding too much gum, the texture of the salad dressing will be ruined. The maximum amount of gum that can be used is 1/8th teaspoon for every cup of liquid.
Homemade mayonnaise is very quick and easy to make and has an amazing flavor that you will not find in any commercial product. Here is a very basic recipe that can be adjusted according to your taste by adding your choice of a few extra ingredients.
- 1 large Egg at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons fresh Lemon Juice
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup Oil of your choice (Light Olive Oil, Canola, Safflower, Sunflower)
- 2 teaspoons fresh Lime Juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Garlic, fin\ ground Cayenne Pepper
- Place 1 large room temperature egg in a blender and process for 15 seconds.
- Add fresh lemon juice and salt and process for 15 seconds.
- Remove the cap in the lid and very slowly pour oil into the egg mixture while processing.
- Taste and add additional salt, if needed, and optional ingredients of your choice.
Makes: 1 cup
Tips for Making Homemade Mayonnaise:
- Be sure to bring the egg to room temperature before making the mayonnaise; using a cold egg may result in runny mayonnaise.
- If mayonnaise is too thick, thin with just a small amount (½ to 1 tsp) of water.
- If mayonnaise is too thin, add one more egg yolk.
- Only use fresh lemon juice; bottled lemon juice will give your mayonnaise an odd flavor.
- Use only fresh eggs.
How Long Will Homemade Mayonnaise Last?
Homemade mayonnaise will last at least one week in an airtight container refrigerated, possibly longer. A canning jar makes a good container to use for storing homemade mayonnaise.
Homemade Thousand Island Salad Dressing
Homemade thousand island salad dressing is a quick and easy dressing that can be whipped up at a moment’s notice. Just combine 1 cup of your favorite mayonnaise with 1/4th cup of catsup, stir to combine, and it is ready to go.
Optional ingredients include:
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice,
- 2 tablespoons of pickle relish, dill or sweet, or
- 2 tablespoons of finely minced onion.
There are many different ways to make homemade salad dressings and many different ingredients that can be used to thicken them. Some of the ingredients can be included in the recipe for making the salad dressings so that they are thick, rich, and delicious from the start, and some of them can be added later if the dressings turn out a little too watery for your taste and they need to be repaired so they can be salvaged.
Whichever category your needs fall into when making homemade salad dressing, you are sure to find a thickener that you can use from the list provided in this article.
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For more, don’t miss What Condiments Do Not Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?
Hi, I’m Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.
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