By Emily Johnson. Photos courtesy of brands.
Does the best store-bought salad dressing even exist? In the town where I grew up, there wasn't a refrigerator door that didn't have bottles of Kraft and Wish-Bone tucked away for pouring on limp pieces of iceberg lettuce. Then I became a snob: Now I think store-bought dressings are by and large gross. Why buy them when you could mix nice vinegar and oil with some salt and pepper, and maybe throw in some lemon zest and a dollop of tahini? Like many homemade things, DIY dressings are more delicious and don't include emulsifiers, added sugar, or preservatives.
Still, a store-bought salad dressing is just a condiment like any other. And condiments are nice things to have around. They're nice when you're busy. They're nice to fix bad pizza and pour over grain bowls. They're nice for hot nights when you just want to sit in front of the air conditioning unit and dip cold sliced cucumbers and carrots in a puddle of creamy sauce. So, here are our favorite store-bought dressings. They might even convince the non-believers. Hey, they convinced us.
Bragg Ginger & Sesame Salad Dressing
My colleague Adina's dad is crazy about this ginger dressing. He likes it because it's not too sweet like many store-bought varieties are. It's tangy from apple-cider vinegar and ginger, and savory and smooth from sesame seeds and olive oil. Drizzle it into stir-fries when they're almost done cooking, pour it over cold sesame noodles with lots of vegetables, or use it to top a bowl of seared salmon and rice.
Annie's Naturals Organic Shiitake Sesame
Read the reviews on Annie's website and on Amazon and you'll understand that my coworker Kat Sacks is not alone in loving this salad dressing. It has a boost of umami flavor from soy sauce, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds, and plenty of shiitake mushrooms, an unconventional but inspired dressing ingredient. Besides salads, Kat says she'd use it as a marinade, in a stir-fry, or as a dipping sauce for potstickers.
Annie's Goddess Dressing
Another win for Annie's. This goddess dressing was the only store-bought variety my colleague Anya would buy for a while. With creamy tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and a pop of parsley and chives, this dressing is earthy and herbaceous. Use this to dip crudités, as a marinade for chicken, or to accompany a Buddha bowl.
Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette
My coworker Abby says: "I am VERY partial to all Newman's Own dressings, especially the balsamic vinaigrette. I know it's so simple but it tastes 100x better than when I make it." Use this dressing on a summery melon, basil, and feta salad. Or, fire up the grill and use it on a steak salad. Or try marinating short ribs in it.
Trader Joe's Cilantro Dressing
My personal recommendation for the best store-bought salad dressing is Trader Joe's Cilantro Dressing. Full disclosure: This dressing is reduced fat, which is an outdated and horrible way to eat. Still, it's delicious due to the copious, copious amounts of cilantro and the creamy base. Eat it with tacos or on top of a homemade burrito bowl. It's also great with grilled steak and grilled vegetables. Join my letter writing campaign to convince TJ's to make a full fat version.
Need some ideas for salads now that you know the best store-bought salad dressings? Why not try making a few of these main course-worthy vegetarian salads:
This story originally appeared on Epicurious.
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