I almost never have bottled salad dressing in my refrigerator. Homemade dressing is so easy to make with ingredients that I usually have on hand and I’ve always assumed that homemade dressing was also more flavorful and less expensive than store bought. However, if I’ve learned anything from writing this blog, it is to always question my assumptions, so I decided to test out three different kinds of Italian dressing to see how they compared. I bought Kraft Zesty Italian dressing, a packet of Good Seasons powdered Zesty Italian dressing mix and then made a batch of my favorite homemade Italian Dressing. To test the dressings, I poured them each into a small bowl and we dipped lettuce leaves into each one to taste them. The results were not quite what I expected. Before I get to the results, here is my recipe for homemade Zesty Italian dressing and it could not be easier!
Lemon Parmesan Italian Dressing
Lemon juice and mustard are not typical Italian dressing ingredients, but they are the flavors that add “zestiness” to this dressing. For a more traditional Italian dressing, just omit the mustard and replace the lemon juice with about 2 Tablespoons of vinegar.
Makes about 2/3 cup
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon mustard (I use whole grain but Dijon works well too)
2 Tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a miniature food processor or a blender and blend until the dressing is smooth and milky looking. The dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week, but the olive oil will solidify in the fridge, so give it time to return to room temperature before using.
After dipping countless lettuce leaves into the three dressings, my fellow taster and I came to the same conclusions: the homemade dressing has the most flavor and best consistency, the bottled dressing was very flavorful, but a little too sharp tasting, and the dressing from a mix tasted watery and bland. I really expected the dressing from a mix to beat out the flavor of the bottled variety, but it basically tasted like straight vinegar and water with very little flavor. I found the bottled dressing to have a bit of a slimy consistency, but it did have a nice, full flavor. The homemade dressing, however, was noticeably more flavorful than either of the others and had a pleasant, creamy texture rather than being oily or slimy.
Given the results of the taste test, I was surprised to find that the dressing made from a mix was almost 3 times as expensive as the other two dressings. The packet of powdered mix alone, without any of the other ingredients, cost more than the entire recipe of homemade dressing! The mix dressing may be a little easier to prepare than homemade, but it really only saves you a minute or two.
Bottom Line: Homemade Italian dressing was the most flavorful of the three varieties as well as having the best consistency and one of the lowest prices. Homemade dressing is definitely worth a few extra minutes of work!
I would also like to do comparisons of Ranch and Thousand Island dressing in future posts, but I don’t have recipes for those because we rarely eat them. So, please e-mail me any of your good recipes for homemade dressing (at firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to test them out for future comparisons.