French vinaigrette

Classic French Vinaigrette for Salads

A classic French vinaigrette is a must know salad dressing for the home cook. Punchy, versatile and customisable it’s perfect for all types of salads and keeps really well in the fridge. Our French bistro-style vinaigrette keeps it simple and produces a lovely glossy dressing that perfectly coats your salad leaves.

It doesn’t just make even the most basic salad delicious, it also makes your salads a lot healthier by aiding the absorption of all the good stuff in your greens!

French vinaigrette recipe

French Bistro Salad Vinaigrette

A classic vinaigrette is ubiquitous in France and is found in family homes and Paris bistros alike. My French girlfriend’s family always makes one fresh to go on their salad for the Sunday roast chicken and it’s a weekly tradition. Go to any bistro in Paris and you’ll be sure that your side salad is coated in a thick vinaigrette spiked with Dijon mustard. Le Relais de l’Entrecote’s signature walnut salad’s dressing is notoriously mustard-hot and I love it!

It’s not only simple, it’s incredibly easy! In its most basic form there are only 3 ingredients. These aren’t ingredients that you’ll need to run out to buy each time you make one, they’re cupboard staples. Olive oil, vinegar and mustard are mixed together vigorously and emulsify to produce a deliciously silky smooth sauce.

You don’t need any special equipment either – a bowl and a whisk or even just a mason jar will do. Finally it’s very versatile if you want to add honey, lemon or even use wholegrain mustard – it’s up to you!

shallot vinaigrette recipe

Shallot Vinaigrette

Adding finely minced shallots is great way to add some more flavour to your vinaigrettes and salads. Simply add half of a finely minced shallot to your vinaigrette and mix thoroughly. It will generally last for a week in the fridge before the quality deteriorates.

Note that you should never use fresh garlic in a vinaigrette if you intend on storing it for more than 3 days in the fridge. If you do you risk getting ill from botulism which thrives in low-oxygen environments – such as being submerged in a vinaigrette.

What You’ll Need

To make a classic French vinaigrette you’ll need the following:

French vinaigrette ingredients
  • Oil: Good quality extra virgin olive oil is what you really want to make a good French vinaigrette. You can of course us regular olive oil but avoid using canola or avocado oil. There are very few health benefits compared to olive oils and there is very little flavour. A good spicy Italian, Spanish or Greek olive oil will add a lot more flavour!

  • Mustard: Keeping it French in the mustard selection is a must. The classic mustard of choice is Dijon mustard but if you want a bit more texture and less nasal heat then try wholegrain mustard. If you want to play with flavours without sacrificing shelf life then try flavoured Dijon mustards. In France it’s pretty common to find tarragon or honey Dijon mustards.

  • Vinegar: Red or white wine vinegar is preferred here but you can use cider or balsamic vinegar. It’s really down to your personal preference. Avoid using lemon or lime juice in place of vinegar as this will make the vinaigrette go bad after a few days.


Makes enough for 8 salads.

  • 170ml extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

  • 3 tsp of Dijon mustard

  • 2 tbsp of white or red wine vinegar

  • Salt & pepper, as required

  • 1/2 shallot, minced finely Optional
Vinaigrette dressing salad quiche

How to Make a French Vinaigrette

  1. To make the base vinaigrette but the extra virgin olive oil, mustard and vinegar into a bowl and mix vigorously with a whisk. The whisking emulsifies the oil with the mustard and vinegar resulting in a thick, glossy dressing. Alternatively you can place into a mason jar and shake vigorously until the mixture is thick.

  2. If you are using shallot, add them to the dressing and stir to combine.


  1. The base vinaigrette will keep in the fridge for a while – at least 1 month.
  2. If using shallots, consume within a week. Past this time, the shallots will start to go rancid and the taste will deteriorate rapidly.

Why does Vinaigrette Separate?

Vinaigrettes separate because the emulsion that you form from whisking or shaking breaks down naturally over time. By mixing the ingredients with force (i.e with a whisk) you mechnaically emulsify the liquids by forcing them together.

To fix a separated vinaigrette in a jar simply shake the container a few times and it should be back to its original thick, glossy state!

Alternatively if you want a long term solution, add 1/10 tsp of Xanthan Gum and stir until dissolved. Xanthan gum stabilises the dressing and makes it a little bit thicker – just like a store bought dressing. Xanthan gum is entirely natural and vegetarian friendly.

Why does my vinaigrette solidify?

Vinaigrettes will solidify in the fridge because oil becomes thicker as it cools. The same way that if you heat oil up it becomes a lot ‘thinner’ – i.e less viscous.

Just take your vinaigrette out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before you use it.

How long will vinaigrette keep in the refrigerator?

A base (oil, mustard and vinegar) will keep in the fridge for 2-3 months if you keep the container clean and don’t contaminate it by using spoons that have toucher other foods.

If you use shallots, herbs or citrus it’ll will last a maximum of 3-4 days in the fridge safely. Note that using fresh herbs or garlic can lead to botulism if not stored in the fridge.

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