A good salad is like a work of art. You need to achieve the perfect balance of flavors and textures to get it right.
But despite it’s ubiquitous presence on most Western dinner tables, many people are still puzzling over how to build a salad they truly enjoy. On top of that, convenience is king, so roasting chickpeas at home as a crouton stand-in & whipping up a homemade tzatziki isn’t always an option.
That’s where store-bought salad dressing comes in. It offers all the key components of flavor – fat, acid, salt, and sweetness – without any of the effort or additional ingredients.
However, oil is a primary ingredient, as it provides the flavor balance & thickness expected in salad dressing. For those looking to avoid oils in their diet, finding oil-free salad dressing options that satisfy the taste buds and the dietary requirements is a whole new ball game.
Nutrition expects generally recommend incorporating a small amount of unrefined oils into a balanced diet. Expeller pressed vegetable and seed oils, as well as extra virgin olive oils, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked in improved heart health.
To note, replacing butter and lard with oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids like safflower, sunflower, rapeseed, flaxseed, corn, olive, soybean, palm, and coconut oil can help reduce heart disease risk (1). However, these oils consumed in excess can pose health risks as well, and some oils are more beneficial for heart health than others.
For one, saturated fat, which is shown to increase risk for heart conditions when consumed in excess, comes primarily from dairy and meat. However, it’s also found in high amounts in some oils, including coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil (2).
What’s more, many vegetable oils are also higher in omega-6 than omega-3, and the amount of vegetable oils in a standard diet has drastically increased throughout the years due to the presence of highly processed foods. Because the imbalance in the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is associated with heart disease and inflammation, it’s best to make sure we’re keeping these levels in check (3, 2, 4).
For those looking to improve their heart health, limiting saturated fat and refined oils in the diet can be a step in the right direction.
Additionally, opting for oil-free condiments can aid those who are working on managing their weight. Oil is calorically dense, so using dressing with oil can add unwanted calories to a typically low-calorie salad.
Whether you’re looking for a convenient low-fat alternative to spice up your dinner side dish or in the process of building your on-the-go healthy lunch, the search for a salad dressing without oil can be more effort than its worth.
To save you the pain of reading through every ingredient list, we’ve compiled a list of the 9 best oil-free salad dressing options you can buy on store shelves, along with a guide on what to look for when shopping.
How to choose oil-free salad dressing
There’s a lot of salad dressing options out there, all with their own set of benefits and downside. When choosing the best oil-free salad dressing for your health, here’s are a few factors to weigh out:
- Saturated fat. Saturated fat is typically higher in dairy-based ingredients, so opting for salad dressing that’s dairy free as well as oil free can be a good choice for those who are looking for heart-healthy options. Most health professionals agree you should limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your daily calories, which is around 20 grams per day for the average person (5).
- Sodium content. Store-bought salad dressing is often high in sodium, which is linked to high blood pressure in those with pre-existing heart conditions. According to the FDA, a product must contain less than 140mg per serving to be considered “low sodium” (6).
- Added sugar. Added sugars provide energy but offer little to no other nutritional value, The American Heart Association recommends limiting them to 25 to 36 grams (6 to 9 teaspoons) per day (7). While we typically associate sugar with sweet treats, store-bought sauces and condiments are often loaded with added sugar to promote a desired flavor and consistency.
- Other nutrients. Some dressing contain plant-based ingredients, like herbs, lemon juice, fruit blends, and nuts – which can offer an extra boost of nutrients. Check the nutrition facts label for things like iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber— if there is 10% of the recommended daily value (DV) or more of any of these nutrients, you can consider it a good source.
- Level of processing. Shelf-stable salad dressing typically contains a variety of highly processed ingredients that help to extend shelf life, prevent separation, and improve flavor. While some of these are regarded as safe for consumption, a higher intake of ultra-processed foods in general is associated with negative health effects (8).
1. Uncle Dan’s Seasoning & Salad Dressing Mix Classic Ranch
This gluten-free classic ranch dressing is made with dehydrated garlic and onions. It contains only 124mg of sodium – 5% of the daily value (DV) – and zero grams of added sugars.
2. Simply Organic Italian Salad Dressing Mix
This organic Italian salad dressing is made with onion, garlic, chili pepper, and lemon peel. Also, dried herbs such as basil, oregano, and thyme are used to give Italian flavor elements. It contains only 1g of added sugar and 150mg of sodium which equals 7% of the daily value per serving.
3. Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinaigrette Dressing
Bragg’s organic vinaigrette dressing is packed with apple cider vinegar, apple juice concentrate, dried onion, and black pepper. As well as salad and veggies, you can use this vinaigrette as a marinade on your proteins. One serving contains only 20mg of sodium – the 1% of the DV – and 3g of added sugar coming from apple juice concentrate.
4. O – California White Balsamic Vinegar
This white balsamic vinegar has the fruity notes of apple, pear, and almond. It doesn’t contain any sodium which is perfect if you follow a low-sodium diet. You can add light sweet flavor using this over a salad or on grilled fish.
5. Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing Recipe Mix
This Italian dressing is made with garlic, onions, and red bell peppers. It contains 210mg of sodium which equals 9% of the daily value.
6. Maple Grove Farms Fat-Free Wasabi Dijon Salad Dressing
This fat-free dressing is made with dijon mustard, cider vinegar, wholegrain mustard, and lemon juice. You can use wasabi dijon dressing over your greens or as a seafood sauce. It contains 170mg sodium – 7% of the DV – and 8g of added sugar which equals 16% of the daily value. Also, it’s free from gluten or high fructose corn syrup.
7. Maple Grove Farms Of Vermont Salad Dressing Fat-Free Lime Basil Vinaigrette
This fat-free dressing combines zesty limes with fresh basils. It contains a low amount of sodium (150mg – 7% of the DV) and 5g of added sugars. Additionally, it’s gluten-free and made without any high fructose corn syrup.
8. Signature Select/Kitchens Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix Italian Pack
This dressing is made with Italian spices, red bell peppers, carrots, and parsley. It contains 340mg of sodium – 15% of the DV – and 1g of added sugars per serving.
9. Maple Grove Farms Salad Dressing Fat-Free Raspberry Vinaigrette
Maple Grove’s raspberry vinaigrette is filled with raspberry, pear, pineapple, and elderberry juices. It contains 200mg of sodium – 9% of the DV – and 8g of added sugar per serving. Also, it’s gluten-free and made without high fructose corn syrup.
Key takeaways for shopping for oil-free salad dressing
The best oil-free salad dressing options to boost heart health are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar, while high in beneficial nutrients.
Some oils provide healthy fats that can improve heart health. However, in cases where its best to avoid it for management of specific conditions or weight goals, oil-free salad dressing can be tricky to track down. This list of the 9 best oil-free salad dressing options will get you set up to build your perfect salad, while meeting all your dietary needs.
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