How To Make Salad Bar-Style Lemon Tahini Dressing

Photo: Claire Lower

I love many things about the salad bar at my local bougie grocery store, but I love their lemon-tahini dressing the most. It’s rich, nutty, slightly tangy and sweet, and makes any vegetable it touches — even the driest of broccoli slaw — infinitely more edible.

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Creating a dupe was an exercise in restraint. I started out very heavy with the garlic and lemon, singeing my palate and drowning the flavour of the tahini.

The key to this dressing, it turns out, is to let the lemon and garlic complement, rather than pull focus from, the tahini. A little neutral oil mellows the harsher flavours out, while maple syrup sweetens and rounds. Onion adds another allium-y element in addition to the garlic, which I did not think was necessary at first, but ended up being totally so.

Unlike a vinaigrette, this dressing requires a bladed blending device to make sure the garlic and onion are properly pureed. Both classic and immersion blenders work well, as does a food processor, provided you don’t exceed the recommended amount of liquid.

To make it yourself, you will need:

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed, canola or some other neutral oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon minced onion

Measure out the tahini, taking care to mix it first, scraping the bottom to get all the good stuff that might have settled down there. Add the tahini to the blender, along with the remaining ingredients, and blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides once.

Pour into a container, cover, and let rest for an hour before using so the garlic can fully permeate the dressing (it really intensifies).

This dressing will last a week in the fridge, but I doubt it will make it that long, particularly when you consider its uses outside of salad (it makes an excellent marinade).


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