Virginia Willis Blog

The World’s Best Salad Dressing

world's best salad dressing at

Attention to Detail

Salad dressing requires attention to details. For example, one of my favorite meals of the past few years was a quiet date night at Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. It was just the two of us and it was a lovely, quiet evening with good service, good wine, and good food – the trifecta of what successful dining out should be. One of the highlights was a simple butter leaf salad that was perfectly dressed in a mustard shallot vinaigrette.

“Salad?  you say, “A world class restaurant and she remembers the salad?”

Of course, all of the other dishes were amazing, but actually, sometimes the things that are the most challenging in the kitchen are those made of the least amount of ingredients. The fewer the ingredients there are in a recipe, the better each individual ingredient has to be, and the better the techniques must be executed in preparing those ingredients. The real secret to a world class restaurant is that the attention to detail is the same as with a simple salad as it is with the foie gras studded with truffles or christened with foam.

What makes a salad memorable is the quality and freshness of the lettuce, the care with which the greens were washed and dried, the temperature at which they were stored. The vinaigrette must be  well-balanced in sour, salty, bitter, and sweet. It should be  judiciously seasoned with good sea salt and freshly ground pepper. The lettuce leaves must be crisp and gently tossed with just enough sharp, shallot vinaigrette to bring the dish together.

This isn’t world class restaurant cooking — it’s just paying attention.

rice wine vinegar - the world's best salad dressing

Less is More

The greens shouldn’t be dry, nor swimming in dressing. Whether it’s a vinaigrette made by a French-trained chef or a store-bought bottle of Ranch or the World’s Best Salad Dressing, each leaf should be have a quick kiss of flavor to heighten the flavor, not overwhelm. A good salad is truly satisfying.

And, guess what? You can do this at home.

Summer in New England is high-salad season. We’re picking greens from our garden – arugula, mizuna, and red leaf.  There are also so many fresh greens at the farmer’s markets and better grocers in summer.  Treat greens like the special ingredients they are, not just a thoughtless part of your meal.


You will notice the title is not vinaigrette, but salad dressing. While I do adore a classic French vinaigrette, I must confess, I have a new love in my salad bowl. It very well quite possibly the world’s best salad dressing. I actually once heard a non-vegetable eating 9-year old boy refer to it as such. I got this mouth-watering recipe from my mama-in-law and now I am passing it along to you.

This magical combination is  comfortable, familiar, and just sexy enough because it’s homemade, and not out of a bottle. The World’s Best Salad Dressing is a bit on the sweet side due to the seasoned rice vinegar, yet tempered with a heavy hand of sharp garlic and a pungent pow of mustard powder. I love it and I hope you will, too.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

dressed salad with world's best salad dressing

World's Best Salad Dressing

Makes 1 cup


  • 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic pressed or very finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Or, place in a jar and shake to combine. Stores in a sealable container for up to 5 days.

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Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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