How to Make Creamy Salad Dressings Without Using Dairy

Photo: Kimi Harris .

Half of my family is dairy-intolerant, so for the most part, my family is dairy-free. It took me some time to learn how to keep the creaminess I loved without relying on dairy. Thankfully, there are plenty of natural, unprocessed foods available that make this task easier than you might think.

Roasted garlic: Roasting garlic mellows it into a sweeter version of its pungent raw state. Heat and length of time can make anything mellow, and it certainly works wonders with garlic. The wonderful thing about it — besides its stellar flavor — is that when pureed, roasted garlic is a creamy, ultra-flavorful addition to salad dressing!

Soaked cashews: Soaking and blending cashews for dairy substitutes is a favorite among many dairy-free chefs. It helps create a fairly neutral base to work with, allowing it to be used for both sweet and savory uses. Using it in salad dressings is one great way to enjoy the creaminess of blended cashews.

Coconut milk or cream: I fell in love with coconut milk quickly after becoming dairy-free. Here was the creaminess I longed for! I took me a long time to think of it, but eventually it occurred to me to add some to a salad dressing, and I was hooked! If you add just a couple tablespoons, you don’t even taste the coconut milk at all, but you get the benefits of a creamier salad dressing. Delicious!

Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise is the base of many favorite Ranch-styled salad dressings, and it makes an easy, no fuss way to add creaminess. If you are vegan or have an egg allergy, look for an egg-free mayonnaise brand.

Avocado: Blended avocado is simply beautiful in salad dressing, and is definitely one of my favorites! Its healthy fat content and texture lend a luscious texture to salad dressings that will make you forget any longings for dairy.

Sweet onions or shallots: Have you ever bought sweet onion salad dressing? It gets a lot of its creaminess from the onion itself, which is simply blended into the dressing. I’ve also found that shallots can add a lovely flavor and a creamy texture to salad dressing.

Recipes for dairy-free creamy salad dressings:

  • Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette: This dressing can be thrown together in five minutes or less and is delightful. I love the mix of contrasting flavors between the olive oil, coconut milk, balsamic vinegar, and garlic and mustard.
  • Dairy-free Ranch Dressing: This lovely salad dressing uses two creamy additions – coconut milk and mayonnaise.
  • Almost Ranch Dressing: This Ranch-like salad dressing uses coconut and cashews for a balanced flavor profile.
  • Simple Avocado Dressing: This simple dressing uses rich avocado and bright orange juice for a flavorful dairy-free dressing.
  • Sweet Onion Poppyseed Salad Dressing: This honey-sweetened, sweet onion dressing is not only dairy-free, but it’s amazing when served with a green salad topped with fruit, chicken, and nuts.
  • For a Double Garlic Salad Dressing that uses both roasted garlic and raw garlic and my favorite Mexican Avocado Salad Dressing, you can check out my cookbook, "Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons."