13 Types of Salad Dressing All Home Cooks Should Know (Because What’s French Dressing Anyway?)

Russian, ranch and everything in between

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types of salad dressing: three jars of different salad dressings next to each other
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Unless you’re a literal rabbit, a salad is nothing without a dressing to accompany it. But wait, what’s the difference between Thousand Island and Russian? And what’s in Caesar dressing anyway? From vinaigrette to ranch, these 13 types of salad dressing are essential to know if you’re a home cook. Make them or buy them, just don’t serve your lettuce without one.

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types of salad dressing: vinaigrette
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1. Vinaigrette

You can’t talk about types of salad dressing without mentioning the mother of them all: vinaigrette. The word comes from the French for vinegar, and at its simplest, it’s a mixture of three parts oil and one part vinegar. “But those two don’t mix!” you say. The key is to emulsify the two ingredients into a homogenous mixture, which can be achieved by whisking vigorously as you pour the oil very slowly into the vinegar, or by adding an ingredient that can help prevent separation (like honey, mustard, egg yolks or mayonnaise). Once you can make a basic vinaigrette, you can make endless salad toppers  by switching up the vinegar for another acid, adjusting the ratio of oil to acid and adding seasonings and aromatics.

types of salad dressing: italian dressing
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2. Italian Dressing

It’s not quite autentico, but this American salad dressing is super popular. At its core, it’s just a vinaigrette made with Italian herbs and spices, like oregano and fennel. Creamy Italian dressing adds dairy—think sour cream or buttermilk and Parmesan cheese. This salad dressing also does double duty as a topping for sandwiches and even a marinade for meats.

types of salad dressing: caesar dressing
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3. Caesar Dressing

Without its signature dressing, a Caesar salad would be nothing more than a mess of lettuce and croutons on a plate. The flavorful combination of lemon juice, olive oil, egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, garlic, Dijon mustard and Parmesan is attributed Italian restauranteur Caesar Cardini and dates back to the 1920s. Nowadays, you can find shortcut recipes that swap the raw egg for mayonnaise (but taste just like the original).

types of salad dressing: thousand island dressing

4. Thousand Island Dressing

This creamy dressing takes its name from a chain of islands where it likely originated, located along the St. Lawrence River between New York and the Canadian border. Was it invented by a chef of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel? Or by the husband-and-wife owners of The Thousand Islands Inn restaurant in Clayton, New York? The jury is out. All we know for sure is that this combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, sweet pickle relish and various other ingredients tastes remarkably like what you’d find on a burger at the ol’ Mickey D’s. (They’re not the same condiment, but they’re similar.) It’s also commonly found atop a Reuben sandwich.

types of salad dressing: russian dressing
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5. Russian Dressing

Another creamy type of salad dressing, this mayo-and-ketchup combo is like a spicy, less popular sister to Thousand Island, thanks to the addition of horseradish. The original version (which was probably invented by a man in New Hampshire, per Eater) probably contained caviar, hence the name.

types of salad dressing: blue cheese dressing
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6. Blue Cheese Dressing

Surprising no one, this thick, rich and dippable salad dressing starts with a base of mayonnaise. From there, the namesake ingredient gets added, along with garlic powder, onion powder and either sour cream or buttermilk. It’s an essential part of a wedge salad, but because of its consistency, it’s also earned a spot as the ideal dip for Buffalo wings and crudités.

types of salad dressing: honey mustard dressing
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7. Honey Mustard Dressing

The sweet, tangy combination of honey and mustard has a magical effect—you might know because you dip your chicken tenders in the stuff. Add vinegar and oil, drizzle it over lettuce and now your salad can taste just as good. This dressing is basically a vinaigrette that uses honey and mustard to both add flavor and keep the acid and oil combined.

types of salad dressing: balsamic vinaigrette
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8. Balsamic Vinaigrette

Remember how we said you can mix up a vinaigrette with any combination of acid and oil? Balsamic vinaigrette is one well-known way of doing just that. It combines intensely flavored balsamic vinegar (which is made from grapes) with oil other flavorings like honey or maple syrup. It’s good on almost any salad and can be made creamy with a touch of mayonnaise.

types of salad dressing: french dressing
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9. French Dressing

French dressing—another type of salad dressing that’s named after a place that doesn’t actually eat it—is a sweet, tomato-based dressing that’s often seasoned with paprika. A bit of trivia: From 1950 to 2022, it was strictly regulated by the FDA and required to contain vegetable oil, vinegar, lemon or lime juice, salt, sugar, tomato paste or puree and selected spices. When the FDA first issued the regulations, it was the only salad dressing that was required to include oil, acid and seasoning, and was meant to serve as the standard for future store-bought dressings. (Likely because at the time, it was the standard “vinaigrette” in the U.S.)

types of salad dressing: green goddess dressing
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10. Green Goddess Dressing

Creamy and herbaceous, this dressing gets its name from its verdant hue. It’s made with a blend of herbs like chives, tarragon and chervil, plus anchovies, lemon and a creamy component like sour cream or mayo (or both). According to America’s Test Kitchen, it was first served in 1923 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, to a theater actor staying there during his stint in a play called The Green Goddess. The play is now recognized as being racially insensitive…but the dressing stuck.

types of salad dressing: catalina dressing
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11. Catalina Dressing

Catalina dressing is like a subset of French dressing, similarly red and tomato-based, but typically less creamy and made with a simple blend of ketchup, oil, vinegar and sugar. No one quite knows its origin story, but it’s likely that it was invented by Kraft. But if you find yourself on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you’ll learn that it’s a common dipper for pizza.

types of salad dressing: ginger dressing
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12. Ginger Dressing

Spicy and slightly sweet, this American invention is an East Asian–inspired, vinaigrette-style dressing. Along with ginger, it typically contains soy sauce, some form of sweetener (like brown sugar or honey), garlic and sesame—hence why it’s often called sesame ginger dressing, too. While it’s a common offering at Japanese- and Chinese-American restaurants, its gingery kick is delicious on any bed of mixed greens, or even noodles and grains.

types of salad dressing: ranch dressing
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13. Ranch Dressing

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about our darling ranch. This creamy, crowd-pleasing condiment is actually the most popular salad dressing choice in the United States. It’s easy to see why, since the buttermilk-based, herby, garlicky concoction goes with everything from salad to wings to pizza. It also has a fascinating backstory: It was created in the ’50s by a contract plumber and construction worker, who then bought a ranch near Santa Barbara, California, named it Hidden Valley Ranch and served the dressing there. When he packaged the dry seasoning and sold it, it became a runaway hit. The rest is history.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...