Taste Test: The Best Salad Dressings
We taste-tested dozens of bottled salad dressings from the grocery store and online to shake out our favorites.
Johnny's Fine Foods Great Caesar!
This was the king of the Caesars -- and every other category: It outscored nearly 100 others. While tasters found most Caesars runny or gloppy, Johnny's, made by a family-owned company in Tacoma, Washington, was perfectly balanced: "creamy and cheesy" with "a sharp kick," thanks to plenty of lemon, parmesan cheese and Worcestershire sauce. ($4 for 12 ounces, johnnysfinefoods.com)
Cindy's Kitchen All-Natural Fresh Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Tasters raved that this dressing "tastes like fresh veggies" and "has a homemade touch." The small company's recipe calls for fresh buttermilk, which is why you'll find it in refrigerated cases. ($6 for 16 ounces, 508-583-2995 for stores)
BEST THOUSAND ISLAND
Smith & Wollensky Thousand Island Dressing
The venerable steakhouse chain has been relying on this recipe since its first restaurant opened in New York in 1977. Tasters said the "peppery, zesty" dressing stood out for its "unique hot-sauce kick." ($4.99 for 12 ounces, at grocery stores)
Elena's Insalata della Casa Italian Dressing
One panelist declared it "tastes like something Grandma made." And rightly so -- the recipe was passed down to Elena Houlihan by her Italian ancestors. The essential ingredients: extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and roasted garlic. ($6.25 for 9.8 ounces, elenas.com)
BEST BLUE CHEESE
Live a Little Gourmet Foods Very Blue Cheese Dressing
Most blue cheese dressings were overpowering, but not this one. Tasters loved the "big, rugged" pieces of Wisconsin blue cheese and "sharp, garlicky" flavor. The secret? Fresh garlic, not powdered. ($7 for 9 ounces, livealittle.com for stores)
Wild Thymes Pomegranatae Salad Refresher
Judges voted for the vinaigrette without even knowing the real appeal: only 2.6 grams of fat per serving (compared with about 10 grams in many dressings). Tasters praised the real bits of cranberry and "not-too-sweet flavor." ($6 for 11 ounces, 800-724-2877 for stores)
Annie's Naturals Artichoke Parmesan Dressing
Dressings come in many flavor duos -- fig and port, olive and caper, lavendar and honey -- but this was the favorite. Panelists noted teh thick texture, bits of real artichoke and "fun" garlic-cheese flavor. "It tastes like mashed potatoes&mdsash;in a good way." ($2.89 for 8 ounces, at grocery stores)
Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in April 2007.