Two of the hallmarks of the ketogenic diet are that it's low-carb and high-fat. These two critical features mean a healthy salad with a high-quality keto salad dressing is the perfect keto food. When you're eating clean keto, you're not just focusing on macronutrients — you're also focusing on the quality of the ingredients too.
The problem with store-bought dressing is that most companies add extras to either increase shelf life or keep the ingredients emulsified while it’s sitting on the shelf at the supermarket. These additives and extras are often laden with hidden carbohydrates and added sugars that can add up quickly if you're not paying attention.
Most companies that mass produce salad dressings, sauces and condiments also use the cheapest possible ingredients, leaving you with a product full of things like canola oil (rapeseed), soya bean oil or other industrial vegetable oils that are neither clean keto-friendly nor healthy (in our opinion) for anyone to consume due their inflammatory nature.
The best keto-friendly salad dressings are sugar-free with low carbs, and they feature ingredients you can recognise. One way you can ensure you're staying on track is to make your own dressings and store them in the fridge or buy from a reputable company who focus on quality. We've created a master reference list of ingredients you can use to make your own keto salad dressings and switch them up to suit any type of salad you want to make.
Keto Salad Dressing Guidelines
Flexibility in recipes makes getting creative in the kitchen more fun. If you're the type that finds measuring cups and spoons cumbersome, these guidelines are for you. With guidelines like these, you can see, feel and taste when you've gotten it right, and you'll have the freedom to modify to match your own preferences and favourite cuisines.
Oils, Fats and Emulsifiers
Every good salad dressing starts with some sort of fat, which works out well for us since we're working within the parameters of a high-fat keto diet and we love nutrient dense fats at Hunter & Gather. Depending on the flavour profile you're going for, you may choose a light olive oil, a keto mayonnaise or something else. If you're wanting to get fancy with something like a green goddess cilantro dressing, you might even pull out your blender and use a ripe avocado as your fatty base.
Here's a master list of our favourite high-fat salad dressing ingredients:
- Avocado oil: This is a great ingredient for dressings where you don't want the fat to impart a strong flavour. It's the perfect keto alternative to sesame seed oil in an Asian-inspired dressing.
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is a suitable ingredient for a dressing that you'll only ever use on cold salad, but if you ever plan for your dressing to do double-duty as a marinade, skip the extra virgin and opt for light tasting olive oil.. Olive oil is a great oil base for dressings with a European culinary influence, such as Caesar dressing or Italian vinaigrette.
- Mayonnaise: Keto mayonnaise is the perfect base for homemade creamy dressings. Spice it up with our garlic avocado oil mayo for extra zing.
- Egg Yolk: If you're using high-quality egg, you might consider whipping a raw egg yolk into your dressing to help emulsify the ingredients and provide a depth of flavour and richness to the finished product. This fat source is usually best paired with an oil and is a great addition to a homemade Caesar salad dressing or ranch.
- MCT oil: Another great option for a dressing that will never be heated, MCT oil is a flavourless fat source filled with healthy C8 fats. It will optimise your metabolism and keep you in ketosis, burning fat for longer.
- Sour Cream: Full-fat sour cream is the best base for homemade ranch dressing. Thin it out with oil or double cream or keep it thick and use it as a dip for your raw veggies.
- Double Cream: Double cream is another fat source that pairs well with other emulsifiers like avocado oil when you're making a creamy vinaigrette like a chunky blue cheese dressing.
- Whole Avocado: If you're interested in taking your dressing skills a step further, you can break out the blender and get super creative with a whole avocado and fresh spices.
- Mustard: Mustard isn't a fat source, but it acts as an excellent emulsifier to keep your ingredients together. It even does double duty, imparting some acidic qualities to the flavour of your salad dressing. Be careful with honey mustards, as they often have more sugar than you'll want on a keto diet. Stick with dijon mustard, seed mustard and other savoury flavours but always check the ingredients for pesky added sugar or grains.
Your salad dressing needs some sort of acid to cut through the fats on the previous list. When we are talking about acid, we mean the natural kind that is found in lemon juice or vinegars and they are totally safe to use. Acid in salad dressing provides a depth of flavour and activates your salivary glands to help get your digestive juices flowing. Which acid (or combination of acids) you use will help determine the overall direction of your dressing. Here are our go-to acid ingredients:
- Apple cider vinegar: A nice bonus in using raw ACV is it assists in digestion. If you're looking for a slightly sweeter dressing, it also provides a keto-friendly sweetness without any actual sweetener. Whip ACV into any of the above fats and emulsifiers for an easy keto dressing.
- Wine vinegars: You can choose between so many in this category. There's white or red wine vinegar. Most balsamic vinegars have more sugar than you want, due to the residual sugar from the grapes used to make it, but if you like that flavour, check the label before purchasing for sugar content. You can also cut it 50/50 with red wine vinegar to get the flavor with less sugar.
- Lemon juice: One of the milder flavour options, lemon juice is a suitable acid for Caesar dressing, greek salad dressing and dressing for salads with simple, delicate ingredients. Whip it with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and a hint of dijon for a very delicious, tangy keto salad dressing.
- Lime juice: Wonderful for Latin- and Asian-inspired dressings, lime juice adds a flavourful tang to creative salads. Blend with fresh chives, fresh cilantro, avocado oil, garlic powder, onion powder, jalapeño, and a touch of white wine vinegar, and you'll have the perfect dressing for a Mexican slaw or fresh salad with Asian veggies.
Savoury, Sweet, Herby and Spicy Add-Ins
With the main ingredients covered, let's move on to the bonus flavours. Regardless of what you pick from the above lists, you'll likely want to add a touch of sea salt and black pepper to finish off your recipe, but there's even more you can do to create a perfect keto salad dressing. Consider adding a few of these seasonings and secret ingredients to take your dressing over the top.
- Parmesan cheese: Grated parmesan is a standard ingredient in Caesar salad, but it's also a lovely, savoury add-in for mustard-based dressings and vinaigrettes.
- Fresh herbs: If you're planning to blend your dressings, you can get creative with what you include as far as fresh herbs. We love blended salad dressings with whole food ingredients like fresh avocado, garlic, onion, shallot, scallions, chives, sage, cilantro, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme or basil.
- Dried spices: Powdered and dried herbs also make excellent flavour enhancers for your keto salad dressing recipes. Depending on which dried spices you use, they can complement the rest of your meal. Add cumin in for a Latin kick. Try powdered ginger and turmeric for an East Asian flavour. Other ideas include cracked red pepper flakes, curry powders or pastes, ground fennel seeds, ground coriander or even cinnamon. The possibilities are endless.
- Keto sweeteners: The sweeteners closest in flavour to sugar are the sugar alcohols. If we were to choose a keto sweetener it would be erythritol due to its lower impact on the GI system, monk fruit or inulin.
Low-Carb Salad Dressings for Your Keto Meal Plan
If you were to do the math and figure out how many different combinations are possible with the ingredient lists above, you might realise you have keto salad dressing ideas for the rest of your life. However, if whipping up salad dressings at home isn’t your thing and you would rather be doing something else, we have you covered with our range of 100% olive oil dressings. So you can enjoy all the benefits of a healthy dressing without the prep time, leaving you free to enjoy the outdoors, or pop the BBQ on.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.