The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed. Next up: The lemoniest lemon vinaigrette.
The pile of lemon peels that end up in the compost bin is a great tragedy of our time. Not only because you’ve paid for those vibrant yellow skins, but also because they’re loaded with flavor. Finely chopped preserved lemons electrify a bowl of spaghetti. The zippiest-ever lemonade starts with a rind-charged simple syrup, plus fresh lemon juice. And to make olive oil cake that tastes like pure Tuscan sunshine, you’ve got to add some lemon zest.
But when summer hits and being outside starts to feel like suffocating in a tub of molten fondue, there’s no better way to use a whole lemon—yes, lemon juice, flesh, pith, and peel—than this easy lemon vinaigrette recipe. It’s a brilliant no-waste idea I found while flipping through Salad Seasons by Sheela Prakash, and it’s my new go-to when I’m stumped on salad dressing recipes beyond balsamic vinaigrette. The author, recipe developer, and registered dietician describes this chunky vinaigrette as “unlike anything you’ve had before.” And it makes a serious case for homemade dressing over the bottled stuff.
Tart lemon, earthy almonds, and raw garlic are blitzed in a food processor (or pulverized by hand). A touch of honey stealthily joins the party—enough to offset the bitter pith, acidity, and intense lemon flavor, but not cloying like some store-bought dressings. Finally, a glug of grassy olive oil and a swift shake in a jar emulsify everything into a sharp-yet-creamy overhaul for your next salad. There’s barely any prep time and the end result is somewhere between a hefty dressing and lemon-almond pesto; viscous enough to coat your leaves but not so thick it weighs them down.
Here’s how to make the lemoniest lemon vinaigrette:
Trim the stem end off 1 lemon and slice it into quarters. Remove the seeds and pulse quarters in a food processor until coarsely chopped (about rice-sized). Fish out any seeds you might have missed.
Add a small handful of toasted sliced almonds (around 2 Tbsp.); 1 peeled garlic clove; a drizzle (1 tsp.) of honey (more if you have a particularly pithy lemon; maple syrup if you want to make it vegan); and a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Pulse again until the lemon and almonds are finely chopped (crumbly, but not powdery), scraping the sides of your food processor as needed. Transfer the mixture to a clean mason jar. Add ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil and shake to combine. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
Spoon your homemade lemon vinaigrette over a simple green salad, tossing and tasting until it’s dressed to your liking. Or, assemble a speedy dip: Swirl a glob of the vinaigrette into a small bowl of thick Greek yogurt, drizzle over some more olive oil, shower it with fresh herbs and toasted seeds, and scoop it all up with chewy flatbreads. Stir a plop through your favorite side dishes, like pasta salad, a bowl of steamed rice or quinoa, or a sheet pan of roasted veggies (such as brussels sprouts or broccoli). Or mash some into avocado and smear it on toast.
Whatever you do, this is how a homemade salad dressing should taste: warm and bright, like the best summer days.
Adapted from SALAD SEASONS: VEGETABLE-FORWARD DISHES ALL YEAR by Sheela Prakash © Rizzoli, 2023. Photography © Kristin Teig.