A Magical Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette is truly magical substance. It can be used for more than just dressing salads, and it demonstrates some pretty logic-defying science.

We all were taught that oil and water don’t mix, but turns out—they do! This is largely thanks to a class of chemical compounds called “emulsifiers.” An emulsifier is attracted to both oil and water molecules—one end of the molecule grabs hold of water, the other grabs hold of oil, and voilà—you have a mixture of two things that don't normally like each other.

Here, we’ll make a classic vinaigrette where the emulsifying agent is mustard. Make sure you use a good Dijon mustard made from actual mustard seeds, not the questionable highlighter-yellow stuff for hot dogs. Sounds good? Let’s mix!

Tools Needed:

  • whisk (or fork)
  • mixing bowl
  • liquid measuring cup optional

Ingredients Needed:

  • oil with a nice flavor (such as olive oil, hazelnut oil, sesame oil, etc.) 3/4 cup
  • vinegar, any kind, or lemon juice 1/4 cup
  • dijon mustard 1 tablespoon
  • salt to taste

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  • This turned out great! I don’t own a whisk, and a fork just wasn’t cutting it, so I cheated a bit and used my blender: first I blended grainy mustard and cider vinegar, then I poured in olive oil as slowly as humanly possible. It worked like a charm and was super fast. I served it over freshly blanched carrots. Yum!

  • Hi Carrie! That is one delicious looking salmon salad. You get 3 points: +1 for doing the mission, +1 for creativity, and +1 for being first. Hooray!

  • Hi JJ! You get 2 points: +1 for doing the mission and +1 for creativity (hazelnut oil, yum). Despite the fact that you don’t like mustard OR vinegar, I hope this mission has convinced you to make more vinaigrette and use up all that mustard we made you buy :)

  • Hi Michelle! You get a total of 3 points: +1 for creativity, +1 for helpfulness (way to go doing all the extra research) and +1 for doing the mission. It is true that mayo is also an emulsion! And if you add garlic to mayo, you get aioli, which is probably one of the most addictive substances on earth. By the way, if your vinaigrette ended up thin, try adding more oil. More oil = more viscous. The way it works is that oil basically gets in the way of the water molecules, reducing their ability to flow. This is why mayo is so much more globby than vinaigrette: the ratio of water to oil is roughly 1 tablespoon : 1 cup for mayo. An egg yolk can emulsify over 5x more oil in a tablespoon of water than mustard! Okay I’m going to stop nerding out now. :) Hope you enjoy your vinaigrette this week!

  • Hi Nika! Congrats on doing your first mission! You get 1 point for completing the mission. That’s some nice looking vinaigrette!

  • Ok… not the most beautiful of things, but it *is* quite delicious, though I haven’t put it on anything yet. I’m currently doing a restrictive diet, and seeds are one of the things I’m trying not to eat, so I ended up googling alternative emulsifiers. I ended up using garlic, because that sounds delicious, and an egg (which taught me that mayonnaise is an emulsion!!! It all makes sense now!). The ending item was more watery than using mustard would have turned out—possibly because I added the egg white? Anyway, it is jarred and ready for a week of salads!

  • This is an interesting recipe for me because it takes some ingredients I really don’t like on their own (mustard and vinegar) and combines them into something edible. We used white wine vinegar, hazelnut oil, and fancy mustard because that is what we had. Our dressing ended up on a delicious salad , which we shared with friends.

  • This was pretty easy to make! I used it for a simple kale/spinach/salmon salad. If I were to do it again, I’d try a lighter colored vinegar or oil. Sesame oil and balsamic vinegar make a very very dark vinaigrette!