The 5 Healthiest Salad Dressings

You may not have tried some of these simple, nutrient-rich options on your greens.

Salads are versatile. You can experiment with different combinations of greens, toppings, and dressings. The latter is key since salad dressing can boost your salad's flavor and health benefits. Certain types of salad dressing may lack that extra nutrition and contain a large amount of sodium, calories, and saturated fat for a small portion.

Here are some recommendations for the best ways to dress your salad, including a few less conventional options you may not have tried yet.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a true superfood. Research has found that EVOO may reduce inflammation and protect against heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. What's more, some evidence suggests that EVOO may support weight loss and lower blood pressure.

Finding a bottled dressing made with EVOO is a little tricky. Despite the labels, many are mixed with corn and soybean. Those oils have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which can be inflammatory if the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is out of sync.

For salads, try one tablespoon each of EVOO and balsamic vinegar mixed with one teaspoon of stone-ground mustard and dried Italian herbs. Add a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a quarter teaspoon of minced garlic to add a "bite" to the dressing. Garlic is a prebiotic, which supports gut health.


If you've been to a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurant, you have probably seen tahini on the menu as a dip or drizzled over falafel.

Despite its creamy look, tahini is traditionally made from ground sesame seeds, making it dairy-free. A two-tablespoon portion of whole, dried sesame seeds contains 3.18 grams of protein and 2.12 grams of fiber.

Sesame oils, like tahini, are high in omega-6 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat. Omega-6 fatty acids can positively affect health when eaten in balance with omega-3 fatty acids.

Sesame seeds are low in sodium and provide nutrients like:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Folate

Tahini makes the perfect base for a salad dressing, especially seasoned. Try two tablespoons of tahini thinned with half to one tablespoon of water, depending on your desired texture. Then, mix with one teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a half teaspoon of minced garlic, and a dash of cayenne pepper.

You can find jarred tahini at nearly any market in the condiment aisle or near other nut or seed butter. Always look for brands that use sesame seeds as the only ingredients. 

Avocado-Based Dressing

Mixing avocado into your salad is another option for adding several nutrients. Avocado is monosaturated that has anti-aging, disease-fighting antioxidants.

Avocados pack nearly 20 different vitamins and minerals, some of which include:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate

Avocados pack fiber. Some evidence suggests that the fiber in avocados curbs your appetite by keeping you full for long periods. Therefore, avocados are a good option for losing and maintaining body weight. Avocados may up the absorption of antioxidants, slash LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, increase HDL, or "good," cholesterol, and regulate blood pressure.

You can use avocado as a dressing base like this tangy, creamy avocado dressing. In a small food processor, combine the following ingredients:

  • Half of a ripe avocado 
  • One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • One-half teaspoon of minced garlic
  • Three fresh basil leaves
  • One-eighth teaspoon of black pepper
  • One-sixteenth teaspoon of sea salt


Hummus is another creamy dressing option that's dairy-free and full of nutrients. There's no one standard way to make hummus. The typical recipe includes chickpeas, EVOO or tahini (or both), lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Hummus will coat your greens and veggies and truly up the health benefits of your salad. One study published in 2016 found that people who regularly consume chickpeas or hummus have high intakes of several key nutrients, like:

  • Fiber
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Vitamins A, E, and C

Add chickpeas, EVOO, tahini, garlic, and lemon to a blender or mini-food processor to make your hummus. Then, top your salad with your pureed mix. 

Pre-made versions are available at grocery stores if you don't have time to make your hummus.


Most people don't think of pesto as a salad dressing. Still, pesto is a perfect option when made with EVOO and other healthy ingredients. 

Pesto will give you all of the benefits of EVOO, plus additional antioxidants from the basil and nuts. A two-tablespoon serving provides nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Place your salad greens and veggies in a sealable container with a small dollop of pesto, close it up, and shake it. Top the mixture with your lean protein of choice and a serving of carbohydrates, like quinoa, sweet potato, or fresh fruit.

A Quick Review

When it comes to salads, you can build them in many different ways. Try one of these healthy dressings to top your next salad. Some tasty options include EVOO, tahini, avocado-based dressing, hummus, and pesto. 

Consider making your salad dressing if you want to control the ingredients and experiment with new flavor combinations. You can always purchase store-bought versions if you are short on time. Check the ingredients and nutrition to see if they align with your health goals.

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  7. Department of Agriculture. Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties.

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  10. Department of Agriculture. Sauce, pesto, ready-to-serve, shelf stable.

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