The no-oil salad solution

In my pre-whole food, plant-based (wfpb) days, I used to make some fabulous salads with bitter greens that were drenched in olive oil and parmesan and even anchovies for some extra kick. I loved those salads. When I switched to wfpb eating, I didn’t even make salads for the longest time, because I couldn’t imagine liking a salad made without oil nearly as much as I used to love them.

One of the wfpb mainstays is the 321 dressing: 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. I believe this originates with the Esselstyns, but Dr. Greger has a similar recipe. Anyway, let me save you some trouble and recommend you don’t bother. Unless you have some kind of Dijon mustard fetish, this is an overly sweet but pungent assault on the taste buds. The Esselstyns and Dr. Greger seem like lovely people, but I do question their taste in salad dressing.

Other folks will suggest drizzling balsamic vinegar or lemon juice directly on your salad. I admire people who can honestly enjoy such an austere dish, but I’m comparing this to my pre-wfpb days and those luscious oily, salty, cheesy dressings. I feel like eating a lemon juice-only dressed salad would remind me of those days when I was a kid and my mom made me stay at the table until my plate was clean. Even if my friend was knocking at the door asking for me to come out and play. I digress.

So what to do about salad dressings if oil is out? A while back I came across this guide from Dr. Fuhrman about salads, and my love of salads was restored. I suddenly realized I didn’t need to avoid fat in salads, just oil. The key is to use whole foods with healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado as a base. And a high-powered blender.  A whole food, plant-based diet does not include oils, but does include some relatively high fat foods (unless you have a specific reason to exclude them, like you are following Dr. Esselstyn’s heart diet). You can follow the formula from Dr. Fuhrman to make your own dressings, or use one of the example recipes he gives. These dressings have enough fat to satisfy yet retain all the nutrition of whole food ingredients.

One of my favourite dressings is one I adapted from a Dreena Burton recipe. This dressing works equally well to dress a salad or to top a rice, beans and veggie bowl.


Hummus Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tahini (or sesame seeds)
  • 1/2 a lemon, peel removed
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and mix until smooth. Add water as necessary until desired consistency is achieved. Yields about 2 cups.

featured image credit: unsplash

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