This pesto salad dressing recipe is fresh, vibrant and easy to make. Perfect on Italian-style salads.
Pesto salad dressing
I love cooking but sometimes you just need something simple. We usually have a bag of leaves of some sort in the fridge and this lovely fresh dressing means I can rustle up a great salad in minutes. This pesto dressing has a kick of basil as well as a good squeeze of lemon. The mustard gives it a little depth.
I like a pesto vinaigrette on bitter leaves like watercress and rocket (another classic combination with pizza), but it also combines well with tomatoes or avocado, and would be good on a mixed salad too. Try it with Tuscan beans for a more substantial salad dish.
The light, summery flavours bring back memories of Italy and go so well with many Italian foods. We always make a fresh green side salad with substantial dishes like pizza. A good sharp dressing on a side salad cuts through the richness of the cheese.
Using and choosing pesto
Although it’s a useful cupboard standby, I never seem to get through much pesto as I only use tiny quantities. It doesn’t keep for long in the fridge once opened, so when I open a jar, I keep it in the freezer.
The oil prevents it freezing rock solid, so it is always easy to scoop a spoonful out, and pop the jar back in. I find this saves a lot of expensive waste!
If you are following a particular diet or have allergies, read the ingredients list carefully when buying ready-made pesto.
Some versions are vegetarian and some are not, depending on the cheese. Others are dairy-free and vegan.
Some contain only the traditional pine kernels (which can be a problem for nut allergy sufferers) or no seeds at all, while others substitute all sorts of nuts. Remember to check!
If you have plenty of basil to use up, of course, you could just make your own pesto or pistou (the French version with no seeds or nuts).
How to make pesto salad dressing
It really doesn’t get any easier than this!
Step 1 – Place all the ingredients into a jar and screw the lid on.
The mustard helps to emulsify the dressing, or stops it separating. If you don’t like mustard you can leave it out; although in this recipe you can barely taste it, but be aware that the dressing will separate more quickly.
Step 2 – Shake, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed and serve.
Hints, tips & variations
- This pesto dressing will keep for four days in the fridge, so you make enough to see you through a few days. Take out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (the olive oil might have solidified), give the jar a good shake before serving.
- For a more vibrant dressing use a fresh rather than jarred pesto.
- Make it with red pesto for variation.
- If you only want to make enough to dress the one salad, make the dressing in the bottom of the serving bowl, mixing it with a mini whisk.
- Swap the honey for maple syrup or agave and use a dairy-free pesto to make it vegan.
How to use up leftover pesto
- Freeze it! I usually add a little extra olive oil to the jar and put the whole thing in the freezer. Or you can portion into an ice cube tray.
- Mix it with cannellini beans along with a little softened onion to make a salad.
- Add it to roasted summer vegetables, or spread it on a wrap to fill with peppers and grilled halloumi.
- Add it to a bean soup.
- Use it on bruschetta and top with tomatoes and olives.
More dressings and seasonings
- Sweet Chilli Dressing – a spicy twist from your regular dressing.
- Salad Cream – this British classic is even better when homemade
- Carrot Top Pesto – no waste with this twist on a traditional pesto
- Pizza Seasoning – for pizza, dips and more
Easy Pesto Salad Dressing
- 4 tbsp good quality olive oil
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp pesto (use vegan if needed)
- 2 tsp mustard (mild)
- 2 tsp honey (maple or agave syrup if needed)
- salt & pepper to taste
- Place all the ingredients in a jar. Screw the lid on tightly and give a good shake.
- Adjust the seasoning and serve over salad leaves.
- If you want this to be vegan, use vegan pesto and agave or maple syrup rather than honey.
- It will keep for 4 days in the fridge. Shake well before each use.
- This dressing is perfect on cold pasta for a salad.
- Freeze leftover pesto into individual portions in an ice cube tray.
- This recipe is 1 Weight Watchers Smart Point per portion
Update Notes: This recipe was originally posted in March 2016, but was rewritten and republished with new photos, step by step instructions and hints & tips in September 2019.