It’s true that professional chefs generally like to make their own salad dressings; after all, spotting a brand-name dressing on a restaurant menu wouldn’t make many patrons happy. And chefs insist that DIY dressings give them the opportunity to adjust flavors and combine quality ingredients, allowing the salad produce to shine.
But there’s something unquestionably appealing about the convenience of store-bought dressing, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that plenty of kitchen pros have a soft spot for these bottled condiments.
According to our expert sources, these eight dressings — all of which can be found at supermarkets nationwide — are worth keeping in your pantry or fridge.
Newman’s Own Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
One of the most ubiquitous salad dressing brands in American grocery stores, Newman’s Own (founded by legendary actor Paul Newman) is a particular favorite among pro chefs willing to dabble in pre-made dressings. Newman’s Own Lemon Basil Vinaigrette received special attention from our surveyed chefs. “It’s a great quality dressing with good balance, and it can adapt to a variety of salad ingredients,” said Cameron Bryant, executive chef at The Sipp on South Lamar in Oxford, Mississippi.
Emerio Viramontes, executive chef for Chef’s Palette at Canvas Hotel Dallas in Texas, also gave Newman’s Own Lemon Basil Vinaigrette a ringing endorsement, telling us that “this dressing is really high quality, and it tastes delicious. It’s free of gluten, artificial flavors, dyes and preservatives, which is a big reason I find myself using it so often.”
How to use it: This dressing’s bright, zippy taste works beautifully with produce of all kinds and can confidently stand up to assertively flavored greens like arugula.
“I used to favor Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette, but arugula is my preferred green and it’s too bitter with balsamic vinegar. So I tried this citrusy blend and it’s perfect! I now find myself craving salads when I used to be bored of them,” said Viramontes, who also likes to use this dressing “to marinate chicken before grilling.” Viramontes insisted that Newman’s Own Lemon Basil Vinaigrette is easy to freshen up by adding cut herb leaves like parsley and basil.
Where to find it: Newman’s Own Lemon Basil Vinaigrette can be found at grocery stores and big-box stores nationwide, as well as on Amazon.
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing
When it comes to ranch dressing, most ranch-heads agree that there’s only one brand name worth discussing — the iconic Hidden Valley. We asked Alex Meyer, chef and co-owner at Boia De in Miami, Florida, whether he likes to add anything to Hidden Valley Ranch to deepen or adjust its flavors, and he succinctly answered, “No, it’s perfect.”
How to use it: Meyer finds that Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing makes an ideal dip for chicken wings because its thickening agents allow it to “stick very nicely.”
Cyrille Holota, executive chef at Le Bilboquet in Atlanta’s Buckhead Village, prefers Hidden Valley’s dry ranch dressing packets because “you can control the ingredients, ensuring that it’s as tasty and healthy as you desire.”
Holota uses these packets “to marinate salmon, chicken or tofu, or as a dipping sauce for veggies.” To jazz up the ranch flavor, Holota recommended “adding a pinch of fresh herbs [like] cilantro or chervil or chive and a splash of lime.”
Where to find it: Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing can be found at grocery stores and big-box stores nationwide, as well as on Amazon.
Makoto Original Ginger Dressing
Mike Friedman, chef at The Red Hen in Washington, D.C., and at AP Pizza Shop, told us that “Makoto ginger dressing is one of the best sauces you can pull off the shelf to liven up any salad. It’s savory, sweet, vegetal, and enhances everything it mingles with. The mixture of ginger, vinegar and hint of heat really set it apart from its counterparts on supermarket shelves.”
David Benstock, owner and executive chef at Il Ritorno in St. Petersburg, Florida, agrees, adding that “it has such intense flavor and tastes so fresh.”
How to use it: Benstock said that Makoto Original Ginger Dressing doesn’t need any additional ingredients to really pop. “I use it as is, and my family loves it too,” he said. He favors Makoto Original Ginger Dressing “on salads, but I also use it as a marinade for fish, and on vegetables and fried rice.”
Where to find it: Makoto Original Ginger Dressing can be found at Target, Walmart, Publix, Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons, H-E-B, and other supermarkets and specialty markets nationwide. It can also be purchased on Amazon.
Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Salad Dressing
Trader Joe’s is rightfully famous for fresh products made with ingredients that we all recognize, and its salad dressings are no exception. In addition to shelf-stable dressings, Trader Joe’s offers refrigerated versions that “have been heat-pasteurized for the public’s safety, and [being refrigerated] does tremendously affect the flavor profile,” said Brian Pancir, corporate culinary director for Thompson Hospitality.
Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Salad Dressing is among the excellent refrigerated options at TJ’s, and Pancir described it as “an organic, herb-infused dressing with cold-pressed lemon juice and seasonings such as garlic, chives and basil, which all create a vibrant salad complement.”
How to use it: The dressing suits a standard salad well, but Pancir also recommended it on “fried chicken sandwiches and drizzling on my loaded pizza pies.” If you want a spicy kick, try “adding a pinch of Carolina ghost powder, which gives the dressing an added heat factor with quality-ingredient freshness,” Pancir said.
Where to find it: Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Salad Dressing can be found at Trader Joe’s locations nationwide.
Kewpie Deep-Roasted Sesame Dressing
When U.S.-based foodies hear “Kewpie,” they generally think of Japanese mayonnaise. But Kewpie as a brand isn’t limited to mayo; it also makes a sesame-based salad dressing that Valerie Gordon, chef-owner at Valerie Confections in Los Angeles, raves about. “It has a delightful sesame soy flavor with a creaminess that doesn’t feel heavy or cloying,” she said.
How to use it: According to Gordon, Kewpie Deep-Roasted Sesame Dressing is a particular match for “Asian noodle salad [or] as a dip for crudités, and a side for chicken, salmon or shrimp.” When it comes to zhushing this dressing up, Gordon said that “if I want a little spice, stirring in some Sriracha applies a satisfying level of heat.”
Where to find it: Kewpie Deep-Roasted Sesame Dressing can be found at Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, H-E-B, Whole Foods, and other supermarkets and specialty stores, as well as on Amazon.
Marie’s Caesar Dressing
For vinaigrettes and other dressings made of oil and vinegar, a fair argument can be made that store-bought versions aren’t strictly necessary since they’re so simple to whip up from scratch. Caesar dressing, on the other hand, is a notoriously tricky sauce to successfully execute, so buying a pre-made iteration can save serious time. Luckily, a very solid option can be found at many grocery stores nationwide — Marie’s Caesar dressing.
“We almost always have a bottle of Marie’s Caesar dressing and dip in the fridge,” said Tom Berry, chief culinary officer at COJE Management Group in Boston. “I like that it’s sold in the refrigerated section (it’s a mental thing), and that it has real pecorino and sour cream in it without a bunch of bizarre ingredients.”
How to use it: As its name suggests, Marie’s Caesar dressing is perfect for Caesar salads and wraps. Berry also admitted to “dipping my pizza in it.” He advised “tossing the Marie’s with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, olive oil and some Tabasco to give it a bit of zing. (It also allows me to use less dressing for an overall lighter salad.)”
Where to find it: Marie’s Caesar dressing can be found at Walmart, Stop & Shop, H-E-B, Kroger, and other supermarkets and specialty stores, as well as on Amazon.
Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing
Kraft dressings are widely available at American grocery stores, so it’s nice to hear about a version that gets the signoff from pro chefs. Sophina Uong, chef-owner at Mister Mao in New Orleans, said: “At home, I live on Kraft’s toasted Asian sesame dressing. It’s the best dressing for the ubiquitous Chinese chicken and mandarin orange salad. It’s inexpensive, usually on sale, and easy to find in any grocery store.”
How to use it: Uong told us that she enjoys the taste of Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing as is, but an easy flavor boost can be accomplished by “crushing some sesame seeds into the salad or adding some fresh chopped serrano chiles for that extra eye-tearing heat.” She tosses salads in this dressing but also likes it “mixed into diced fresh tuna for a poke bowl kind of day, mixed with a bit of soy sauce for dunking dumplings into, and mixed with aioli for dipping artichoke leaves.”
Where to find it: Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing can be found at grocery stores and big-box stores nationwide, as well as on Amazon.
Bragg Organic Ginger And Sesame Dressing
Bragg may be best-known for its apple cider vinegar, but this classic hippie brand has more to offer, and its Organic Ginger and Sesame Dressing is worth noting.
“It’s always good to have something on hand that makes cooking at home easier, and the ingredients [of Bragg Organic Ginger and Sesame Dressing] are about as clean as you can get in a bottled dressing,” said Jeff Maxfield, chef and partner at Walrus Rodeo in Miami.
Its health-forward credentials include “olive oil as opposed to canola, and I love using coconut aminos as a substitute for soy sauce, which this Asian-style dressing utilizes,” he added. In terms of flavor, Maxfield told us that “the garlic, ginger, and sesame provide a really good flavor base for any salad or marinade, or [the dressing] can be used minimally as a finishing punch for a sauce.”
How to use it: The versatility of Bragg Organic Ginger and Sesame Dressing can’t be overstated. Maxfield said, “I make a lot of rice at home, [and] Bragg Ginger Sesame really makes for a no-frills flavoring component in Asian-leaning dishes.” Also, “it can give you the added punch to a ragu if you didn’t have quite enough tomatoes and wanted to drink more of the wine you had on hand to cook with; just a dash or two with the final emulsification of your pasta will yield tongue-pleasing results,” he added. It’s useful as a marinade too, especially if you “add orange zest and blend in some cilantro,” Maxfield said.
Where to find it: Bragg Organic Ginger and Sesame Dressing can be found at Walmart, Kroger, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods, Erewhon, and other supermarkets and specialty markets, as well as on Amazon.