Classic French Vinaigrette

Classic French Vinaigrette

Everybody needs to know how to make a classic French vinaigrette, that’s just a given. This is my “go-to” salad dressing, the one we use most often, for every-day and for company. Although there are endless variations of this dressing, there are certain essentials that simply can’t be skipped when you’re making it.

Dijon Mustard

The first is you must use a high quality dijon mustard, preferably made in France. I use Grey Poupon Dijon because we like its creamy smooth texture, but there are others on the market, such as Maille or Amora.


The second key ingredient is les échalots, i.e., shallots. Not scallions, not green onions (though you could use those in a pinch), but those small lavender oblongs you’ll find next to the garlic pods at the grocery. The French describe shallots as “the chic cousins of onions,” and we couldn’t agree more. They have a more refined taste while still packing plenty of onion-y flavor. We use them all the time in our cooking.  

A Good Vinegar

It goes without saying that a good vinegar is key to a vinaigrette, but I’ll say it anyways. Any high quality wine vinegar will work great in a classic vinaigrette, but I prefer a sherry vinegar. Steer clear of traditional balsamic for this dressing–too syrupy. If you don’t have vinegar on hand, don’t fret! Fresh lemon juice will give you that same acidity.

Tips for making vinaigrette:

  • Although classic French vinaigrette does not include garlic, we always add a small crushed clove to our dressing. We love garlic! If you want to do this, add the garlic to the vinegar/shallot/ salt mixture and let sit for 10 minutes to take the edge off the raw garlic.
  • Some people find classic French vinaigrette to be too tart. If you’re in that number, do I have a tip for you! Add Leonardi’s White Balsamic Condiment (available on the 177 Milk Street website) instead of wine vinegar. This stuff is liquid gold, I promise. Or you can add a drop or two of honey or about 1/2 tsp. brown sugar to cut the bite.
  • If you follow Ms. Child and want to add the juice of 1 lemon for a citrusy note, be sure to lower the amount of vinegar you add by at least a half.
  • You can double or triple this recipe and store the dressing in an air tight mason jar in the fridge.

Classic french Vinaigrette

July 10, 2019
: 6
: 15 min
: Easy


  • 1 1/2 tbsp. sherry or other wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. (1/2 small) minced shallot
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or other neutral flavored oil)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped herbs
  • Step 1 In a small glass or ceramic bowl, mix the diced shallot with the vinegar.
  • Step 2 Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
  • Step 3 Mix in the mustard.
  • Step 4 Slowly whisk in the oil, one tablespoon at a time. Taste after 3 tablespoons.
  • Step 5 If it’s too tart for your liking, add a teaspoon of honey or sugar.
  • Step 6 Toss over very dry greens.