The Surprising Ingredient You Should Be Adding To Salad Dressing

To dress or not to dress? That is the question ... or is it how to dress? Dressing has long been contested as a potentially "make it or break it" element of a salad (via Saveur). While some people prefer to drown their salads in flavorful dressings that coat each element, others opt for health over flavor, choosing something simple like balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (via Bon Appétit).

The topic is so heavily debated and questioned that it warranted its own Quora forum. But there may be a solution that didn't naturally occur to the average salad-eater: you could be making your own dressing. With the popularity of cooking blogs, there is no shortage of homemade dressing recipes online. On top of the health benefits that are sure to come from not eating dressings with a lofty list of additives, you also have the satisfaction of knowing every ingredient that goes into it (via Healthline). But what will really elevate that dressing to a new level?

Why this pantry staple works so well in salad dressing

According to The Kitchn, the secret to the very best homemade dressing may be the addition of an ingredient you likely already have in your pantry — vanilla! And if you're thinking, wait that sounds gross, you're probably not the only one. But they swear it helps develop a flavor that may beat even your go-to dressing. The author found the trick via Life Hacker but swears it lends a great added note to even non-sweet dressings. 

Wondering how it all comes together? "Vanilla lessens the bite of bitterness and tempers acidity while making sweet ingredients taste more like themselves," according to The Kitchn. And now it all makes sense. Something sweet would naturally work well to balance something like lemon or vinegar and give it less of a bite, making it smoother to the tastebuds and much easier to swallow. 

While there may be three types of dressings (vinaigrettes, creamy, and cooked), as Colorado Farm to Market points out, it would seem this trick leans more towards vinaigrettes, but you'd have to try it for yourself and find out. Either way, it could be a fun test when you have some spare time, and you're craving something a little healthier to top your salad with.