Shaken dressing

The House Dressing

This is our house salad dressing recipe with a tarragon vinegar base. It's fantastic on just a few simple veggies and some greens.


The House Dressing

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When I was in college, I would have cook-offs of sorts with a good friend of mine. The only problem being that we were eating in the dining hall at the time where there was very little to actually cook. So we took our competitive spirit to the one section we had control over: Salad Dressing.

There was always a big section of vinegars and oils and mustards and honeys at the salad bar and we could mix up countless varieties every day. The challenge was always the same: Find a recipe that beat yesterday’s recipe and that you would want to eat forever.

I’ve sort of carried on this competition with myself after college. I make different salad dressings a few times a week. The problem is that sometimes they suck. One night after a particularly failed dressing, Betsy opened up her recipe box (by the way Betsy having a recipe box is like me having a McDonald’s Gift Card – not gonna use it). Anyway, she opened it up and pulled out a plain white card. “Try this tomorrow,” she said.

This was the card:

House salad dressing
Grandma’s Recipe

The recipe looks standard enough. I got some further insight from my future mother-in-law on what kind of oil to use as “oil” is just a little broad given the selection available these days.

Shaken dressing

Tarragon Vinaigrette Dressing

This is our house salad dressing recipe with a tarragon vinegar base. It’s fantastic on just a few simple veggies and some greens.
3.74 from 19 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 1 min
Total Time 6 mins
Course Salad, Side Dishes
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Servings


  • ½ Cup canola oil or other very neutral oil. Olive oil is a no-no.
  • ¼ Cup Tarragon vinegar no substitutions people. It’s in your vinegar section. Find it!
  • ¼ Cup sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon pepper freshly ground is best
  • ½ Teaspoon Tabasco I substituted Cholula and received no complaints


  • Add all your ingredients to a bowl or salad dressing container in the order I listed them above starting with the oil and vinegar.
  • Shake or whisk!


Serving: 2tbspCalories: 154kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 0.03gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.1gSodium: 298mgPotassium: 4mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 2IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 2mgIron: 0.03mg
Keyword Homemade Salad Dressing

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Snap a photo and tag @macheesmo so I can see your work.

Now that you have the recipe there isn’t really much to know. Here’s a visual for ya:

The Basics.
The Basics.

The most important ingredient, in my opinion, is the tarragon vinegar. If you can’t find it, you can’t make this dressing. Sorry. It’s lighter than a balsamic definitely and has a nice tangy flavor that goes great with veggies.

It’s not more expensive than any other vinegar and a bottle of it will last awhile.

New to me!

To make the dressing, just add all your ingredients to a bowl or salad dressing container in the order I listed them above. That means starting with the oil and vinegar!

Vinegar and oil
Vinegar and oil.

I like to give my oil and vinegar a good shake (or a good whisking) to make sure they are emulsified well before adding the other ingredients.

As far as the hot sauce goes, I’ve only used Tabasco and Cholula. You might be able to substitute others, but those are the only two I’ll vouch for!

Hot sauce added
Plus Hot sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper.

Once you shake everything together, it turns this lovely burnt orange color. It’s tastes a bit strong on it’s own, but man is it good on a salad.

Shaken dressing
Give it a shake!

Betsy and I have a small salad most nights of the week and so I keep bags of chopped veggies on hand. It makes it easy to throw together a quick salad and drizzle on some dressing.

Very basic salad.
My preferred method.

Sometimes Betsy complains that I over-dress the salad, but then I counter with a solid: “Suck it up. I just made you dinner.”

Plated salad.
Have some health!

We’ve been using this dressing, her Grandma’s recipe, for our house dressing for a little over a month now. I’ve had no desire to go back to my salad-dressing-a-day ways. This one is flavorful, but not overpowering. It’s goes well with a variety of veggies and greens. It’s incredibly easy to make and keeps for a long time in the fridge.

What more could you ask for in a dressing?

If you’re sick of storebought dressing (who isn’t) and can’t seem to find a homemade one that treats you right, give this guy a shot.

37 Responses to “The House Dressing” Leave a comment

  1. Can’t wait to try this! I am about to start the journey of losing weight. Alot of weight thanks to having three kids and alot of stress. :( Anyhow, I want to cut out as much processed foods as possible. Making my own salad dressings is one of my goals.

    For my birthday I bought the book, Raising the Salad Bar.

    She has some excellent salad and salad dressing recipes. Not sure if I found out about the book from you or another blog.

  2. Nice dressing Nick! I have a tip for you if you like:

    I used to make tarragon vinegar all the time for Bearnaise sauce. Here is how I did it:

    1) Rub tarragon between hands to warm it up. This will bruise the leaves a bit, and the oils will come out better.
    2) Put the tarragon into a heatproof container that will have a lid.
    3) Empty a small bottle of white wine vinegar into a saucepan, heat until just simmering. Turn off the heat.
    4) Pour the vinegar over the tarragon in the container, and cover.
    5) Let the mixture cool, and place into the fridge.
    6) After a day or so, strain the vinegar into the original bottle, label and date it.
    7) The vinegar will keep up to 4 months with refrigeration.

    Hope that helps you out Nick!

  3. “(by the way Betsy having a recipe box is like me having a McDonald’s Gift Card – not gonna use it)”


    My parents’ house burned to the ground about a year ago. Precious few things were salvaged. One of them, though, happened to be my mother’s recipe box. During a recent visit, she started reading to me recipes from her recipe box. Lots of Jell-O was involved. My mother has never used real garlic or olive oil. Can you imagine that?! I stopped inquiring after hearing those two items.

  4. Carolyn, you should scan your Mother’s recipes and burn them to a disc. Keep the disc in a safe deposit box or home safe. That’s what I would like to do to my Mom’s.

  5. Thank you Nick and Jason for posting the recipes. I love homemade dressings. Being able to control the ingredients, tweaking the recipe to make it your own is so much better than any store bought variety. I’m not sure if tarragon vinegar is sold in the stores where I reside, but will definitely look and If I am not successful, I’ll take great delight in making Jason’s version.

    I’m willing to bet — that this dressing would make a fabulous marinade. Can’t you just smell the grilled chicken/steak/pork chops?

    Again, thank you both.

  6. Don’t knock the recipe box Nick. Think about it, that box of Betsy’s I bet is a food history of her family. Even if you may not use it, don’t knock it.

    I’m in the process of writing a cookbook for the family – it’s going to contain generations of recipes. It’s a good way to get the family’s history down on paper through food.

  7. oooh! I love the idea of making your own tarragon vinegar for this dressing. It looks great–aside from Ken’s Light Italian, I hate bottled dressings and typically don’t buy them. I definitely don’t use them before the expiration date.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Oh, gosh! I have to laugh. We used to have crazy food competitions in the dining halls ourselves.

    We’ve taken to making 99.9% of all the salad dressings we eat, since it’s really delicious and doesn’t take much time at all. That tarragon dressing looks truly stellar… I’m a big fan of tarragon and am always looking of new places to fit it in. That vinegar would probably be one of my favs.

  9. Hey Nick, made this last night and it was great! Is going to be my “house dressing” from now on! Thanks!

  10. Nick:
    I made the dressing last night. I added a bit more hot sauce. It was a big hit!!! It was such an easy dressing and I’ll be making it again! Thanks!

  11. This dressing seems perfect for my taste and I can imagine how good it would be as a marinade for grilled chicken thighs & breasts.

  12. After begging friends to travel to the ends of the earth to get me the vinegar, I made this tonight and my husband and I love it. I’m happy to announce that he’s decided this is one of his staple dressings. I’ve never made a dressing he’s been wild about until now. This also gave me a really good excuse to finally get a salad dressing shaker! Thanks for the dressing, Nick!

  13. I'm gonna have to try this. I have my own house salad. I'm more of a creamy dressing guy than vinaigrette, which usually isn't good news for the nutrition of the salad. But mine isn't too bad. It's sour cream, whole grain mustard, and lime juice. That's it (plus s&p). Pretty simple (sometimes I throw in some cayenne to mix it up). But some salads just need a vinaigrette so I'll give this one a shot.

  14. I just made this and my husband, the king of Ranch dressing, tasted it and has since been lamenting that he poured Ranch on his greens before trying ‘my’ new dressing! You have a convert. It’s fantastic!

  15. Tried it! LOVE it! Yet, i did the unthinkable….used olive oil. I even substituted truvia for the sugar. This stuff is awesome! I’ll have to try it and stay true to the recipe. I’m sure that’s good too. Just trying to avoid sugar and soy products (canoli and vegitable oils are loaded with soy!)

    Thanks for posting.

  16. We also ALWAYS have “Grandma’s Dressing” (that’s what we call it at our house) in the fridge. Although, I’ve never used the tarragon vinegar. I’ll have to check for it next time I’m at the store.

  17. Nick, can you do a post on different kinds of hot sauces and how to use them? I’ve been blanketing my dishes in sriracha but suspect that there are sometimes better options.

  18. This was very good! I bought a bottle of tarragon vinegar because I liked the bottle and eventually, I want it to be the bottle that I use to make this kind of salad dressing! So, see…I had to find a recipe to use the tarragon vinegar. Lucky me home run on the first try! Thanks

  19. I finally made this today, after tracking down some tarragon vinegar. This tastes absolutely fantastic – I’m keeping a jar in the fridge to perk up everyday salads, and hopefully increase my daily intake of greens!

    I think I might reduce the sugar slightly on my next batch, or increase the vinegar a touch, but it’s absolutely delicious as is.

  20. Today I was looking for salad dressing recipes that used tarragon vinegar and found your site.
    I will come back and check it out when I have more time. I found the dressing recipe here, just what I was looking for (and more). I did want to take a moment to tell you I got my first laugh of the day (about you having a McDonald’s gift card). Also, btw, you have some great comments from your viewers, says me.
    Thank you recipe and laugh. I’ll be back.

  21. Years ago, 80’s, there was a creamy garlic tarragon vinegar dressing called “house dressing” at Soangetaha Country Club in Galesburg IL. The chef left this world with the recipe and I hope he’s making it for all the folks in heaven because it was great. We would buy it to take home . I’ll use your recipe as a base to try to recreate the flavor I remember so well.

  22. I first had this dressing at a luncheon several years ago. I loved it and was eager to make it, but could not find Tarragon vinegar in my local stores. I finally found it ( after a phone call to Heinz customer service ) and couldn’t be happier. This is the best dressing for vegetable and fruit salads!

  23. Why can’t you use Olive oil? I am on an elimination diet and can only have olive oil!

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