Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette – The Simplest and Best Salad Dressing – Recipe

Salad greens with lemon-mustard vinaigrette

I’ve never understood why people buy salad dressing, when an infinitely more delicious, fresher, healthier homemade vinaigrette is only 30 seconds away.

I make variations of vinaigrette all the time, but today I want to share with you my absolute favorite, the one I return to at least once a week. I use lemon juice instead of vinegar, and a good amount of Dijon mustard. The result is bracing, fresh and citrusy.

The traditional ratio for vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Depending on the intensity of your vinegar, this tends to produce a rather subdued dressing. Especially with lemon juice, I tend to prefer something around a 2:1 ratio. That is what I’ve specified in the recipe below, but you should always taste it and adjust to your preferences, the salad being dressed, and what you will serve it with.

Meyer lemons will give you an even better flavor than the grocery-store standard Eurekas, and of course you should use a tasty extra-virgin olive oil.

The worst thing you can do to a potentially great salad is try and dress it with the leaves still wet from washing. The dressing runs right off, leaving a watery, unappetizing mess. I’ve owned a number of salad spinners over the years, but was never really satisfied until I got this Starfrit Salad Spinner. It holds a lot of lettuce, is solidly built, and the crank handle lets you get up to a good speed fast and get the lettuce truly dry. I like it much better than the models that rely on a push mechanism to start spinning. Highly recommended.

There are two advantages to adding a significant amount of mustard to a vinaigrette. The first is obvious: it tastes good. The second is that it acts as an emulsifier, keeping the oil suspended in the vinegar. When made this way, you can get away with combining all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and simply shaking well. It isn’t necessary to drizzle in the oil while whisking in the traditional fashion, nor do you need a blender.

Salad dressings need to be highly seasoned with salt. Your salad will be lightly dressed, so if there isn’t enough salt to make the straight dressing taste pretty strong, it will be underseasoned when applied to the greens.

You can feel free to add additional flavorings to this dressing. It will happily accept any finely minced fresh or dried herb, garlic, shallots, citrus zest or spices.

One last thought: this dressing is delicious on a big salad with lots of ingredients. But don’t forget the joy of a simple salad of only lettuces, especially if they are fresh from the garden. You can grow (or find at a farmer’s market) varieties that are far too delicate to be carried in a normal grocery store. The texture and flavor of these greens is incomparable. Treat them right by washing gently, drying thoroughly, and dressing at the very last moment. They will wilt within a very few minutes after meeting their vinaigrette.

If you enjoy this recipe, I’ve got 149 more in my cookbook!

Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette – The Simplest and Best Salad Dressing – Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 6 tablespoons, enough (probably too much) for a great big salad bowl of greens

Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette – The Simplest and Best Salad Dressing – Recipe

  • Note: Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard (e.g. Grey Poupon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (preferably Maldon (aka the world's greatest salt)!)
  • 4 tablespoons delicious extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Option 1: combine all ingredients in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds until emulsified.
  2. Option 2: Combine the lemon juice, mustard and salt in a bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuosly.
  3. Taste and adjust the salt, and add more lemon juice or olive oil to achieve a pleasing balance of acidity.


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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 in Favorites, Recipes, Salads.

37 Responses to “Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette – The Simplest and Best Salad Dressing – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    This recipe looks fantastic. I’ve been using simple lemon juice and canola oil to dress my salads since I’ve gotten away from vinegar because it’s a food of decay. As much as I love the lemon juice and oil, it’s getting just a little boring. And as a mustard lover, I think that might be just the thing to spice it up!

  2. Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    This is a simple and delicious recipe! Try it with fresh greens from the garden.

  3. Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    A nice refreshing springtime salad idea!

  4. Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    I love this salad dressing! I made it for a bunch of fresh greens that I just was gifted from a friend’s garden. Thanks.

  5. Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    Very nice, I love to make my own dressings, will have to try this one sans vinegar. I may add a touch of honey!

  6. Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 11:55 pm #

    I’ve never thought of using lemon juice in place of vinegar for a mustard dressing. I like Heidi’s suggestion of adding a but of honey, as well. Lovely.

  7. Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 1:29 am #

    I make a similar dressing, try a touch of maple syrup rather than honey!

  8. Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 5:26 am #

    Love it! So classic, so good!

  9. Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    I love this vinaigrette. Its a regular. And I wanted to let you know that A made those Dutch pancakes for me. I’m so grateful that you posted the recipe!

    They were D-I-V-I-N-E!

  10. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    May 23, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    @matt, @ellie, @hugging, @dana, @joy, @peppercorn – Thanks! I’m glad you like it. I never get tired of this dressing.

    @A&N – glad the Dutch babies worked out for you!

    @heidi, @john – good suggestions for variations, especially if you are dressing a little more robust salad.

  11. Reply
    May 25, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Classic lemon dressing..Perfect!

  12. Reply
    May 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    It’s a great classic dressing, but I do have to recommend trying stone ground mustard instead of dijon. It’s amazing, trust me!

  13. Reply
    June 3, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    dressing looks divine….will try it tonight. With that said, I found the recipe doing an internet search for cooking with mustard flowers! Can I use them and how? First time growing mustard and it got away from me.

  14. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    June 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    I don’t have any info about mustard flowers personally, but here is a good
    reference for edible flower info:

    link to whatscookingamerica.net

  15. Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    “I’ve never understood why people buy salad dressing” +1000!!
    Good, fresh mustard is great, and I love lemon juice in salads! I also add a pinch of finely grated lemon zest sometimes!

  16. Reply
    June 7, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    My hubby makes the same dressing, fresh Lemons from out tree and he puts a little paprika in it, (2) cloves of garlic (crushed),… this is the bomb, we put this on everything!

  17. Reply
    April 2, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    This was too sour. i did not find it refreshing at all. i thought it was just me, but a friend agreed. Sorry.

    • Reply
      Chris Chant
      June 14, 2014 at 4:44 am #


  18. Reply
    June 28, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Add garlic and pepper and just a dab of balsamic vineger and your golden.

  19. Reply
    August 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    pepper and garlic make it over the top I think!

  20. Reply
    November 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I cut the olive oil down to 2 tablespoons, and did add a bit more mustard and lemon juice to taste. Just as yummy with less oil!

  21. Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Thanks for this. Just learned I need to stay away from vinegar (which I LOVE) so this was a nice dressing to find.

    • Reply
      February 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      Oh good! Definitely a nice alternative. Why do you have to avoid vinegar?

  22. Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I just did some muscle testing (applied kinesiology and NAET)) and found out that it is inflammatory to my body. This along with a laundry list of other foods, such as chili peppers, jalapenos (oh no!). I have been avoiding the foods my body doesn’t like for a few days and I have to admit, I feel much better. The second part of NAET will actually stop the allergies (be it food or environmental) so that when I do eat them, they will not affect me negatively. I can’t wait for that, so I can hug my vinegar bottle again.

    Made your dressing tonight, it was just what the doctor ordered, literally.

    🙂 kelly

  23. Reply
    June 9, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    I didn’t like this dressing at all. I even would prefer just to eat the greens bare. The olive oil is incredibly over powering and the lemon so sour. You can barely taste the mustard.

  24. Reply
    September 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    This recipe is not vegan! Dijon mustard has white sugar in it which is dyed with bones from cows.

    • Reply
      September 17, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

      Not dyed so much as filtered, but feel free to replace the white sugar with one of the natural brands that doesn’t use bone char. Here’s a good one: link to amazon.com . In all cases, the recipes that I indicate are vegan or gluten-free require you to choose ingredients that meet your own precise definition and needs. Same goes for vegetarian – some vegetarians worry about rennet and some don’t.

  25. Reply
    November 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Just made it to put over wild rice salad with dried cranberries, dried cherries, green onions and toasted almonds. Delicious!

  26. Reply
    April 13, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    I love this! I added garlic to mine as I add garlic to everything and its a great addition. 🙂

  27. Reply
    July 12, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Far Queue

  28. Reply
    March 12, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    Just made this and it’s wonderful! So easy! Thank you!

  29. Reply
    April 18, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    Over the top yummy. Thank you.

  30. Reply
    May 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    It is indeed a rather sour dressing, which I personally like, but adding a squeeze of honey, a pinch of black pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder rounds it out nicely.

  31. Reply
    September 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    This was great. I used a tablespoon less of the oil. Everyone loved it. Going to bring some to work when I have salad for lunch.

  32. Reply
    August 25, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    I usually make my own dressing without recipes but I tried this because I was browsing around a dressing with lemon and no vinegar. This recipe is my new favorite for it’s simplicity and deliciousness! Especially with the summer farmer’s market offerings right now. One question. Does using Maldon Salt benefit the dressing since it all just gets shaken together? I usually only use it if I’m sprinkling it on before serving a dish. Enlighten me!


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