Elimination diets can be tricky and the Whole30 program in particular is not for the faint of heart (dairy, grains and sugar are all off-limits). For this reason, it’s good to be prepared before you commit to nixing foods that you previously never thought twice about eating. Salads, for example, are always a diet-approved dish, right? Well, if you’re doing Whole30, the answer to that question has to do with not just the toppings you use but also how you dress them. For this reason, we suggest you check out our roundup of Whole30 salad dressings before you bust out the lettuce and start making lunch. Bonus: These dressings are all homemade, so you won’t have to spend an eternity poring over ingredient lists at the grocery store.
10 Whole30 Salad Dressings That Will Actually Make You Want to Eat Your Greens
But first, what is the Whole30 diet?
Given its popularity, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about Whole30 before and wondered what it’s all about. Although the Whole30 diet program sounds revolutionary—the website says it delivers “stunning, life-changing results”—the reality is that the diet looks a lot like the elimination diets that doctors have been recommending for a long time to patients suffering from digestive problems and potential food sensitivities that are otherwise hard to pinpoint. The premise is that many of the common foods in our diet cause inflammation in the body, which can contribute to a whole host of health complaints—and this is especially true for people who have undiagnosed food sensitivities.
To address this issue, the Whole30 program seeks to cleanse the body of potential culprits and give your system a reset. After 30 days of complete abstinence from certain foods, participants can slowly reintroduce them into their diet—a process that allows individuals to identify which, if any, of the foods had been causing problems for them. But many participants actually choose to adopt a new way of eating indefinitely.
So which ingredients are off the menu? Dairy (including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, kefir), grains (anything with gluten, along with rice, oats, corn and pseudo-grains like quinoa or buckwheat), legumes (like beans, soy, chickpeas and lentils), sugar and alcohol (sorry).
How can I tell if a dressing is Whole30 compliant?
Salad dressings might seem like they’d be a non-issue, but that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to the Whole30 diet. Since the Whole30 program doesn’t permit added sugar (real or artificial), a surprising number of salad dressings—store-bought and homemade—are off-limits. When selecting a salad dressing recipe or a bottle of the ready-made stuff, look out for ingredients like honey, maple syrup and sweeteners of any kind. And dressings that include soy sauce, dairy or gluten are also out. Fortunately, you still have Whole30-approved options when it comes to making your greens a little more appealing. Here are ten of our favorite Whole30 salad dressings to get you started.
1. Whole30 Creamy Italian Dressing
Italian dressing is an obvious choice when it comes to perking up a salad. However, the store bought kind is unlikely to meet the Whole30 criteria. Don’t despair, though, just DIY. Creamy, decadent and completely compliant with the Whole30 meal plan, this homemade Italian salad dressing is scrumptious enough to get you genuinely excited about a bowlful of greens. Best of all, the homemade mayo it calls for is a cinch to make—much easier than studying the labels of the store bought stuff.
2. Spicy Mango Dressing
The natural sweetness of tropical fruit is spiked with red pepper and a touch of vinegar in this dressing. The end result? A palate-pleasing combination of flavors that will make you want to eat more of whatever you drizzle it on. In other words, you can just as easily use this one for a veggie bowl you haphazardly threw together for your working lunch, and then bust it out in the evening as a protein garnish (think fish, chicken or pork) for a romantic stay-in dinner.
3. Champagne Vinaigrette
Champagne is sadly off-limits if you’re doing the Whole30 thing—champagne vinegar, however, is not. This particular type of vinegar boasts a milder and more nuanced flavor profile than some others, and that’s precisely why it works wonders in this recipe for a delicious, well-balanced vinaigrette that goes well with just about everything and comes together in the blink of an eye. Cheers.
4. Whole30 Buffalo Ranch Dressing
This creamy buffalo ranch is dairy-free and absolutely delicious. Whip up this boldly flavored dressing whenever you’re craving a more substantial sauce for your plate of greens. Not in the mood for salad? No problem—you can also serve this one as a dip alongside crudité platters, veggie fritters and finger foods of all sorts. Who doesn’t love a dressing that does double duty?
5. Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette
Balsamic vinegar is a specialty item that boasts a rich sweetness, uncommon to other vinegars. It’s also the star ingredient in balsamic vinaigrette, a salad's best friend. When whipping up this drinkable dressing, bear in mind that the better the balsamic you use then the better the finished product will be. That said, it will certainly be a whole lot better than the vinaigrette you find in the store and the (dairy-free) creaminess here is downright luxurious.
6. Chimichurri Sauce
If you’ve been known to go to town on a protein-packed salad (raises hand), then you might just find your salad dressing soulmate in this chimichurri sauce. Seriously, hear us out: It’s clean, full of personality, but never offensive, and always tastes fresh. Try this one on a salad that features steak, grilled chicken or shrimp and you’ll fall in love.
7. Mojo Vinaigrette
The strong and earthy aromatics of fresh oregano harmonize beautifully with zingy citrus, both sweet and sour. The end result is an invigorating combination of flavors that will perk up a pork chop and salad alike. Note: Much like chimichurri sauce, this recipe is particularly well-suited for meaty salads, but might prove overpowering when used on lettuce alone.
8. Lemon Garlic Tahini Sauce And Dressing
Sorry, hummus lovers, but you’re going to have to wait a month before enjoying this tasty snack again, because legumes like chickpeas are not Whole30 compliant. However, tahini—the secret ingredient that distinguishes quality hummus from salty chickpea sludge—is still fair game. This complex condiment, a paste made from sesame seeds, does a lot more than just add interest to one of our all-time favorite dips. Case in point: This silky salad dressing that pairs the nutty flavor of tahini with savory garlic to great effect.
9. Pear Dressing
This three-ingredient salad dressing couldn’t be easier to make—just add a peeled peer, lemon juice and olive oil to your blender and give it a whirl. The result is a subtly sweet and refreshingly tangy sauce that you’ll want to drizzle on salad and just about everything else. Bonus: You’ll get a serving of both fruits and veggies in one fell swoop.
10. Garlic Dressing
We use garlic in almost everything we cook, so garlic dressing is an easy sell. This recipe offers up an invigorating blend of pungent garlic, zesty citrus and spicy mustard that promises to wake up your palate and whatever is on your plate. Before you make this one though, double check the label on your mustard to make sure it doesn’t contain ingredients like cornstarch or maltodextrin, and be aware that some brands of Dijon use white wine, which is not Whole30 compliant.