Best Oils for a Salad Dressing

A salad is one of the most versatile preparations, allowing you to mix whatever vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats you want. Still, a salad can only be deemed complete with a dressing that complements and fully enhances its fresh ingredients. For the perfect dressing, you’ll need the perfect salad oil, bestowing that delightful shine while maintaining the crispness of your salad.

While olive oil is a classic choice, it’s not your only option to add to your salads. If you’re not into store-bought dressings, discovering the best salad oils can be your first step to creating your unique dressings.

Salad Oils

What Makes an Oil Good To Be Used as Salad Dressing

Unrefined oils are considered the best to be used as salad dressings. They are typically extracted using the cold-pressed method, which means there is no heat involved. It allows these oils to retain their natural flavors and nutrients, making them valuable additions to salads.

This cold-pressed extraction method is also responsible for unrefined oils having lower smoke points, generally between 250°F and 350 °F, making them unsuitable for high-heat cooking. In fact, the culinary use of many salad oils, like unrefined walnut and pumpkin seed oils, is limited to salad dressings.

The Best Types of Salad Oils

Here is a list of salad oils that chefs and home cooks usually prefer.

NameTaste and flavorHow to useSalad pairing ideas
Olive OilRobust and fruity with a peppery kickUsed on its own or mixed with vinegar, herbs, and spicesTomatoes, leafy greens, olives, and feta cheese
Avocado OilRich and buttery with a nutty undertoneUsed on its own or mixed with citrus, garlic, and herbsAvocado, citrus fruits, and leafy greens
Walnut OilIntensely nutty and earthyOften mixed with balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, or honey for flavorApples, pears, blue cheese, and greens like arugula, kale, and chard
Pumpkin OilEarthy and nutty with a toasty flavorTypically mixed with vinegar, mustard, or honey for balancePumpkin seeds, roasted vegetables, tomatoes, spinach
Peanut OilMildly nutty, offering a subtle richness to  saladsUsed on its own or often combined with soy sauce, ginger, or garlicFresh  vegetables like cabbage and carrots; often used in Thai-inspired salads
Sesame OilNutty and toasty, with a distinct oriental flairUsually used in small amounts as it has a strong flavor, mixed with soy sauce, vinegar, or gingerNoodles, cucumber, cabbage, and other salad greens
Hazelnut OilNutty and sweet, with a delightful freshnessUsed on its own or mixed with balsamic vinegar, honey, or Dijon mustardBerries, goat cheese, mixed greens
Canola OilNeutral and mild, it serves as a versatile baseCan be used on its own but often combined with vinegar, mustard, or herbsSuitable for a wide variety of salads
Corn OilMild with a hint of cornUsed on its own or mixed with herbs and  other salad dressingsGrilled vegetables, beans, corn
Safflower OilNeutral and light, it serves as a versatile baseOften used on its own but can be mixed with herbs, citrus, or vinegarAll-purpose – works well with most salads
Sunflower OilMild and lightUsed on its own or mixed with vinegar, mustard, or herbsRadishes, peppers, mixed greens
Flaxseed OilEarthy, nutty, and boldBest used in combination with vinegar, mustard, or citrus juicesBerries, leafy greens, quinoa, roasted vegetables
Hemp Seed OilNutty and slightly grassyUsed on its own or mixed with vinegar, mustard, or herbsCucumber, tomatoes, avocado
Cottonseed OilMild and neutralUsed on its own or mixed with various dressings and herbsCan work  as an all-purpose salad oil
Grapeseed OilLight and slightly nuttyUsed on its own or mixed with vinegar, mustard, or herbsLight salads with various salad greens and citrus dressings
Soybean OilMild and neutral, it serves as a versatile baseUsed on its own or mixed with various dressings, soy sauce, or herbsPairs well with various salad ingredients

Note: Since health is also an important consideration, all the options mentioned in the list contain over 80% monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (the ‘good fats’).