This page contains affiliate links. For more information please read my Disclosure Policy.
After last week’s post How to Make Vinaigrette: A Complete Guide, I thought it would be a great idea to deliver some easy but delicious examples of those tips put into action. So today I’m giving you a recipe for one of my new favorite homemade dressings, a Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette. This is a really easy dressing to make, and it keeps for a week in your fridge, so it’s a clear winner in my book. I think you’ll like this one.
The Ingredients: Basil and Balsamic
Balsamic vinegar is easily one of my all time favorites. The sweet-tart flavor in the vinegar alone is delicious drizzled, reduced, as a glaze, and of course in a vinaigrette. But as I started thinking about my favorite dishes to pair with balsamic, one in particular came to mind: The Caprese Salad. I’m a big, big fan of fresh mozzarella cheese, and mmm a fresh tomato, it can’t get much better. But there’s a hang up for me, that darn fresh basil. Traditionally a caprese salad is served with large chunks of torn basil, and drizzled with balsamic and olive oil. While my husband could probably munch on those whole fresh leaves all day, that big herbaceous bite has always been a bit overwhelming to my palate.
The solution came in the form of this Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette. By chopping the basil and adding it to a creamy vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, you get just enough that fresh herby basil with every bite.
The ingredients for this can’t get much simpler. All that’s needed is a good Balsamic vinegar, canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and of course, fresh basil. I do recommend investing in a good Italian balsamic. A little goes a long way, it will last you a while, and the flavor is really really good. I also truly recommend fresh herbs for this. Dried basil has a different flavor, and generally I don’t find it pleasant when added uncooked.
Making Your Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette: The Oil & Vinegar
To whip this up, it will only take you a few minutes and it stays good in your fridge for up to a week. This recipe makes about 1.5 cups, perfect for a week of drizzling.
To start, simply add the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to a bowl. If you’re doing this by hand (which is totally okay) make sure you have a bowl big enough to avoid splashing while whisking. I used my immersion blender and a tall plastic container to prevent spillage. Definitely use a blender if you’re up for it. I talk about the difference of an emulsified and un-emulsified vinaigrette in my How to Make Vinaigrette post, and I really prefer the emulsified version. The blender really aids in that for this recipe.
Next drizzle in your oils while whisking constantly. It’s completely okay to combine the 2 oils into one measuring cup, as I’ve done in the picture above. If you are using a blender to assist, I advise a very low speed to prevent thickening beyond the point of a dressing. For the stick blender, I added around half the oil, pulsed for a few seconds, added the remaining oil, and pulsed until it came together in a creamy texture I was happy with.
If you’re whisking by hand, you may not be able to achieve the creaminess you would with a blender. Without any other additions at this point, the oil and vinegar are fighting pretty hard to stay apart. Even with the blender, the basil balsamic vinaigrette will have some natural separation in the fridge. Whether emulsified, or not, give the finished dressing a good shake before using later.
Making Your Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette: The Fresh Herb
The Basil Preparation Debate
When you’ve finished whisking or blending, it’s time to chop your basil. There are some interesting opinions out there on whether to tear or chop fresh basil, so I’m going to chime in with my two cents. While some would argue that tearing basil releases better flavor, I think that’s bologna. Whether chopped or torn, flavor is released by breaking through the cell walls in the plant, it’s going to happen either way. What’s true about chopping basil is that the steel of your knife oxidizes the plant, causing some discoloration, or bruising, that can darken the edges of the leaves. You may have seen this when chopping lettuce as well.
It’s really a matter of appearance, if you care about not bruising the basil, go ahead and tear it. It’ll save you a knife to wash in any case. You can also rub your knife with a little bit of olive oil to prevent the darkening. I’ll be honest, I really don’t worry about it here. You may desire a bright, green basil when using it as a garnish for a dish, but in my basil balsamic vinaigrette, it get’s mixed in. I promise, it won’t make a bit of difference. I prefer to chiffonade, and then dice for even sizes that distribute evenly in the vinaigrette.
If you’re curious about proper washing, storage, or chopping of fresh herbs, I really like this quick article called How to Chop any Herb by Epicurious
Chop & You’re Done!
Once you’ve chosen your herb approach, and have about 2 tablespoons, add it to your balsamic vinaigrette. Give it a good mix and then it’s time to taste. The best way to taste a vinaigrette is to dip a piece of lettuce, rather than your finger in. This will give you a better idea of how it will actually taste on a dish. Add more of any ingredient if you desire, and pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
I really recommend letting this vinaigrette chill out in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. The longer the basil and balsamic hang out together, the more developed the herb flavor will be. For this reason, it might be best to let it chill and then taste it to see if the level of basil is to your liking before adding more. I try to prep it in the morning, or even the day before if I can.
I really advise adding the herbs after you’ve mixed the vinaigrette, especially if you’re using a blender. Doing so before will basically obliterate your herbs into teeny tiny pieces. You’ll be able to taste it, but you’ll miss out on the little pops of herb goodness you get from biting into a large piece.
Serve it Up! Pairings for Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette
That’s it, you’re done. So easy, right? Of course, a vinaigrette needs to be served with something, so here are few suggestions from my own kitchen. Drizzle it over a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad with a pinch of finishing salt for a simple riff on a Caprese salad, or serve it on top of adorable caprese bites for an easy party crowd pleaser.
For a larger, more filling salad option, my favorite pairing with my Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette is a fresh spinach salad with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.
Balsamic and basil pair well with countless other foods as well. Pork, chicken, and fish are all really great options. A good sear finished with this vinaigrette is a delicious and easy dinner. I also recommend salty cheeses like feta, or romano that will stand up to the assertive flavors in this vinaigrette. Berries such as strawberries and blackberries are also a really yummy option, or even cherries.
As always, my intention is to share knowledge, and encourage anyone reading to experiment. Add more, or less basil, use only extra virgin olive oil if you wish, it’s really up to you! I hope you enjoy this Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette as much as I do. Happy whisking!
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup Canola Oil
- 2 Tbs fresh basil about 7-8 leaves
- Add salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to a bowl or blender. Choose a bowl large enough to prevent splashing while mixing.
- Drizzle in combined oils. Add slowly if whisking by hand. If using an immersion blender add oil in two parts, pulsing between additions. If used traditional blender, keep blender on very low speed and pour in oil slowly.
- When vinegar and oil have come together, chop your basil.
- Add chopped basil to vinaigrette and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.*