Sometimes the only thing you need to top off a great meal is a simple salad. This green salad with sherry shallot dressing goes with everything from cozy braised stews to casual pizza nights. With lemon, honey, and Dijon, this dressing is tangy, citrusy, and has just a hint of sweetness. Save this recipe for dinner parties, holidays, or cozy weeknight dinners!

A stoneware bowl of green salad with sherry shallot dressing on a tan counter next to a white linen, glass jar of dressing, and wood bowl of parmesan.

I am so ready for warm weather and dinner parties on the patio. I’ve been eyeing my grill and the little stubborn patch of snow in my yard that just won’t melt. But it’s almost time, I can feel it.

With lots of spring and summer holidays coming up, my first plan of action is to get everyone together to sip beers, sit around the fire pit, and bust out some yard games. I’ve even planned the menu. Smoked tri-tip, antipasto tortellini salad, watermelon, and this basic (but super flavorful!) little side salad.

Of course, this salad isn’t just fit for warm weather, it’s also amazing with cozy dishes like brisket beef stew and garlic butter dinner rolls in the winter and fall. Tuck this recipe away for your next dinner party or get-together. It’s the easiest side dish but still pretty and elegant!

Recipe details

I’ve been making variations of this salad for close to 10 years now. Back when I was in culinary school, we were taught that the best salad dressing ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. But honestly? I like a 2:1 ratio for a punchier, more flavorful dressing. But don’t worry, this vinaigrette isn’t too tangy thanks to the caramelized notes in sherry vinegar!

  • This salad is beyond easy and comes together in just a few minutes.
  • The dressing is tangy, lemony, and has a delicate shallot flavor.
  • It goes with everything from stews and steaks to pizza and BBQ.
  • Serve this salad for elegant dinner parties or weeknight meals. It’s so versatile!

The ingredients

White bowls of lettuce, sunflower seeds, and cucumbers on a beige counter next to a wood bowl of parmesan.
White and brown bowls of vinegar, lemon zest, salt, onions, pepper, oil, mustard, and honey on a tan counter.

For the salad

  • Lettuce – for the best flavors and textures, use a mix of different lettuces. I like butter lettuce and green leaf lettuce.
  • Sunflower seeds – to add a bit of crunchy nuttiness to the salad.
  • Parmesan – a sprinkle of parmesan gives this salad saltiness and umami. Make sure you’re using freshly-grated parmesan cheese!
  • Cucumbers – for a little extra crunch, I like adding slices of English cucumber to the mix.

For the dressing

  • Shallots – the shallots give this dressing a delicate, sweet oniony flavor.
  • Sherry vinegar – vinegar is essential in salad dressing for flavor and acidity. The sherry vinegar in this dressing is balanced, a tad sweet, and has lovely caramelized notes. While it’s not as popular as other types of vinegar, you should be able to find a bottle at your local grocery store!
  • Dijon mustard – a spoonful of mustard adds tang and helps thicken the dressing.
  • Honey – to offset the tart flavors in this dressing, I like adding a small amount of honey. It gives the dressing a little extra sweetness.
  • Lemon zest – you don’t have to add lemon zest to this recipe, but it’s so good! It adds just a hint of citrus to the dressing.
  • Oil – this recipe uses a mix of olive oil and avocado oil. I like using this combo because olive oil adds flavor but avocado oil helps the dressing emulsify for a smoother texture.
  • Salt & pepper – I use Morton’s Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Toppings & variations

  • Lettuce – any lettuce you like will work! Spring mix, arugula, kale, romaine, etc.
  • Nuts/seeds – this salad would be delicious with toasted almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, pepitas, or even hazelnuts.
  • Cheese – try sharp white cheddar, gouda, blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese.
  • Veggies – top this salad with any veggies you like. Carrots, cherry tomatoes, beets, onions, peppers, fennel, radishes, etc.
  • Shallots – you can also use red onions, the dressing will just have a stronger onion flavor.
  • Vinegar – feel free to use red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar for a tangier dressing.

How to make this recipe

Three steps to making sherry shallot dressing. In photo 1, a brown bowl of shallots and water is on a tan counter. In photo 2, a blender is filled with shallots, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper. In photo 3, a hand is drizzling oil into the blender.

To make the dressing

  1. Place the shallots in a small bowl, cover with cold water, and let them sit for 10-30 minutes. The water will remove some of the pungent, sharp flavors in the shallots.
  2. After 10-30 minutes, drain the shallots and add them to a blender along with the sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  3. Then, while the blender is running, slowly drizzle the olive oil and avocado oil into the dressing until it’s nice and smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Quick tip

For smooth, consistent dressing, dribble the oil into the blender nice and slowly. Once the dressing is done, it should be fully emulsified. If you add the oil too quickly, the dressing will separate.

Three steps to making green salad. In photo 1, a white bowl of lettuce, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, and parmesan is on a tan counter next to a beige linen, white bowl of sunflower seeds, and wood bowl of parmesan. In photo 2, a hand pours a jar of dressing over the salad. In photo 3, the salad is tossed.

To make the salad

  1. First, combine the butter lettuce, green leaf lettuce, sunflower seeds, parmesan, and cucumbers in a large salad bowl.
  2. Then, drizzle about 1/3 of the dressing over the salad. Toss to combine.
  3. Lastly, taste the salad and add more dressing if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Quick tip

There is a fine line between salad that’s perfectly dressed, salad that’s underdressed, and salad that’s overdressed. You’ll want to add around 1/3 of the dressing to start. The salad should be thoroughly coated and have no dry spots or a puddle of dressing at the bottom of the bowl. When in doubt, start with less dressing and add more to taste!

Serving ideas

This salad is truly so versatile for all kinds of meals! The sherry shallot vinaigrette goes with anything from pizza and pasta to stews and steaks. It’s also my go-to for dinner parties (or weeknights!) because it’s easy but a little more elevated than your typical red wine vinaigrette. Here are some of my favorite dinner options to go with the salad!

Other ways to use this dressing

This honey shallot vinaigrette is lovely on a basic green salad, but I’ve used it for all kinds of recipes! If you have leftovers, here are a few ways to use them up.

  • Make cucumber or raw carrot salad.
  • Use the dressing as a marinade for chicken or pork.
  • Drizzle the dressing over heirloom tomatoes & mozzarella.
  • Dip raw veggies like carrots, peppers, or cucumbers in the dressing.
  • Toss roasted veggies in the leftover vinaigrette.
  • Drizzle the dressing on a sandwich.
A glass container of sherry shallot dressing on a wood board next to white bowls of lettuce, cucumbers, and sunflower seeds on a tan counter.

Storing & make-ahead

To store leftovers, pour the lemon shallot dressing into a jar and cover. Refrigerate the dressing for up to 1 week.

You can also make the dressing up to 1 week in advance. But, I do not recommend making the salad in advance or the butter lettuce will get soggy. Toss the salad right before serving and enjoy!

Pro tip

The oil in the salad dressing may solidify in the fridge. If it does, just let it warm on the counter for 30 minutes-1 hour until the oil melts. Then, give it a good shake to make sure everything is well-combined.

Helpful tools

A white stoneware bowl of green salad with sherry shallot dressing on a tan counter next to a glass container of dressing, wood bowl of parmesan, and beige linen.

Tips & tricks

  • Shallots can vary quite a bit in strength. Some are much stronger than others, so I would add the shallots to taste. If you want a stronger flavor, add more diced shallots. If you have a very strong shallot, use less.
  • For a creamy dressing, add 1-2 Tablespoons of whole milk Greek yogurt. You can also use mayo!
  • If you don’t have a salad spinner, wash the lettuce well in a colander. Then, lay the lettuce on a clean towel and use another clean towel to gently pat the leaves dry.
  • Be gentle with the butter lettuce! It’s fairly delicate so if you handle it too much, it will bruise or wilt.
  • Toss this butter lettuce salad right before serving. Otherwise, the lettuce will get soggy!

Recipe FAQs

What is sherry vinegar?

Sherry vinegar is made in Spain out of, you guessed it, sherry. It’s a bit more complex and balanced than red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. And it’s less sweet than balsamic. You can usually find it for a pretty affordable price in the oil and vinegar section of the grocery store.

What does this dressing taste like?

This dressing tastes like a classic vinaigrette with a hint of lemon and shallot flavor. Thanks to our little trick of soaking the shallots beforehand, the dressing doesn’t have a super pungent oniony taste. It’s also bright and tart with a hint of sweetness thanks to the honey and Dijon mustard.

Is this dressing sweet?

This sherry shallot vinaigrette has a bit of sweetness thanks to the honey and sherry vinegar. But it’s definitely not as sweet as say, honey mustard. If you don’t like sweet dressings, use half the amount of honey (or leave it out entirely).

Can I make the dressing without a blender?

Yes, if you have a food processor, that works too! You can also make it by hand, but you will have chunks of shallots rather than a completely smooth and creamy dressing. Here’s how to make it by hand!

  1. Start by finely dicing the shallots and soaking them in cold water for 10-30 minutes. Drain.
  2. Then, in a small bowl, whisk the shallots, sherry vinegar, Dijon, honey, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  3. Lastly, while whisking constantly, drizzle the olive oil and avocado oil into the dressing until emulsified.
A hand pouring a glass container of sherry shallot vinaigrette into a stoneware bowl of lettuce on a tan counter next to white bowls and a white linen.

More shallot recipes

French Shallot Soup with Gruyère Croutons
Domino Potatoes with Shallots
Crispy Fried Shallots
Spicy Deviled Eggs with Crispy Shallots
Pot Roast with Red Wine & Shallots
Cacio e Pepe with Fried Shallots
Beef Stroganoff with Shallots & Brandy

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Simple Green Salad with Sherry Shallot Dressing

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Sometimes the only thing you need to top off a great meal is a simple salad. This green salad with sherry shallot dressing goes with everything from cozy braised stews to casual pizza nights. With lemon, honey, and Dijon, this dressing is tangy, citrusy, and has just a hint of sweetness. Save this recipe for dinner parties, holidays, or cozy weeknight dinners!

Ingredients

Sherry Shallot Dressing

  • 1 small shallot, roughly chopped (3 Tablespoons/24 grams)
  • 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar (40 grams)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (15 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil (42 grams)
  • 3 Tablespoons avocado oil (42 grams)
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Simple Green Salad

  • 1 pound red butter lettuce (453 grams)
  • 4.5 ounces green leaf lettuce (128 grams)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted (38 grams)
  • 1/3 cup freshly-grated parmesan (20 grams)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced English cucumbers (110 grams)

Equipment

Instructions 

Sherry Shallot Dressing

  • Place the diced shallots in a small bowl and cover them with cold water. Let the shallots sit for 10-30 minutes. (This will remove any sharp, pungent flavors.) Drain the shallots.
  • Then, place the shallots, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, and lemon zest in a blender. Season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula halfway through.
  • With the blender running on low, slowly drizzle the olive oil and avocado oil into the dressing until it's smooth and creamy. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Simple Green Salad

  • In a large salad bowl, combine the red butter lettuce, green leaf lettuce, sunflower seeds, parmesan, and cucumbers.
  • Add about 1/3 of the dressing to the salad and toss well. Taste and add more dressing, salt, and pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Notes

Shallots can vary quite a bit in strength. Some are much stronger than others, so I would add the shallots to taste. If you want a stronger flavor, add more diced shallots. If you have a very strong shallot, use less.
For smooth, consistent dressing, dribble the oil into the blender nice and slowly. Once the dressing is done, it should be fully emulsified. If you add the oil too quickly, the dressing will separate.
For a creamy dressing, add 1-2 Tablespoons of whole milk Greek yogurt. You can also use mayo!
If you don’t have a salad spinner, wash the lettuce well in a colander. Then, lay the lettuce on a clean towel and use another clean towel to gently pat the leaves dry.
Be gentle with the butter lettuce! It’s fairly delicate so if you handle it too much, it will bruise or wilt.
There is a fine line between salad that’s perfectly dressed, salad that’s underdressed, and salad that’s overdressed. You’ll want to add around 1/3 of the dressing to start. The salad should be thoroughly coated and have no dry spots or a puddle of dressing at the bottom of the bowl. When in doubt, start with less dressing and add more to taste!
Toss this butter lettuce salad right before serving. Otherwise, the lettuce will get soggy.
The oil in the salad dressing may solidify in the fridge. If it does, just let it warm on the counter for 30 minutes-1 hour until the oil melts. Then, give it a good shake to make sure everything is well-combined.
Cuisine: American
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 114kcal, Carbohydrates: 4.7g, Protein: 2.8g, Fat: 9.4g, Saturated Fat: 1.8g, Cholesterol: 4mg, Sodium: 88mg, Potassium: 111mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2.1g, Calcium: 63mg, Iron: 2mg
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xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – Campus by Vampire Weekend