This vegan Italian dressing is so simple and packed with amazing flavor. Made with hidden vegetables, it is an oil-free and dairy-free vinaigrette recipe that makes for a healthier dressing perfect to use for green salads, cold pasta salads, roasted vegetables and much more!
Lately, I have been on a warm & heavy dishes strike. Don't get me wrong, I love a good spiced curry, but right now with the abundance of fresh produce all around, I just want simplicity and freshness in my plate.
But the thing is that when following a healthy plant based diet that's low in added fat or oil, then finding sauces and dressings for quick salads can be a big challenge. Most store bought vinaigrettes are loaded with oil and it can be hard to find what to replace the oil with when making it yourself. The added oil helps emulsify sauces and also brings flavor, so no wonder we feel lost when we want to avoid using it.
On top of that, dressings are such a key element when focusing on eating plant-based. Often times, you can simply gather a few wholesome ingredients in a bowl, like a buddha bowl, and drizzle a sauce over to bring all the elements together. No need for big planning and you can meal-prep ahead of time to simply combine at the last minute.
That's why we need more wholesome, simple and tasty dressings! This raw vegan Italian dressing is completely oil-, dairy-, soy- and nut-free. Also tastes super fresh with its delicious zesty and herb flavor and is SO easy-to-make. All you need is your blender, fresh zucchinis (yes, yes!) and a few simple pantry ingredients. It can become a great basic healthier salad dressing to customize to your flavor craving of the moment.
Zucchini is the secret ingredient!
An easy way to create volume in salad dressings without adding so much added oil is to use fresh veggies! In this case, fresh zucchinis are blended to allow you to reach a creamy and thicker consistency which acts like a binder for the other ingredients. The raw zucchinis are fairly flavorless, which leaves the focus on the more flavorful ingredients. It can be a fun way to use your extra garden zucchinis and you will end up with a low-in-fat salad dressing without compromise on texture.
Vegan Italian dressing vs classic Italian vinaigrette
Why calling it vegan, isn't Italian dressing always vegan?
If you look at the ingredient list on store-bought ones, most Italian dressings will include some sort of cheese, usually parmesan. Also, creamy kinds might be made using eggs or mayonnaise.
To make it vegan, then you will need to add some nutritional yeast for a subtle cheesy flavor. To make it even cheesier at serving, be sure to sprinkle with some vegan parmesan as well.
Ingredients you will need
- Fresh zucchinis
- Dijon mustard
- Nutritional yeast
- Fresh garlic
- Maple syrup
- Dried basil & oregano
How to make it
Step 1: Prep the zucchinis
Clean and peel the zucchinis. Also, roughly chop them in cubes small enough to measure the 2 cups needed.
Step 3: Blend
Transfer the zucchini in a blender along with the vinegar, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard and maple syrup. Blend until very smooth.
Transfer the blended mixture to a storage container and add the dried basil, dried oregano, salt and crushed garlic. Stir or shake the container and taste to adjust the flavor, while considering that the flavor will intensify with time.
Watch how to make it
- I recommend you first peel the zucchinis, unless you want your dressing to turn bright green! Peeling them will also soften the overall flavor.
- Make sure not to blend the garlic with the zucchini! Simply add it crushed to the sauce after blended, or you will end up with a very strong garlic flavor.
- The mixture might appear thick when you first start blending it, but avoid adding water unless necessary. The water from the zucchinis will eventually loosen up the texture as it blends.
- As mentioned, the flavor intensify when resting, so you might want to wait before adjusting the flavor.
What kind of vinegar to use
The vinegar adds an essential tangy flavor typical of Italian dressing. The classic vinegar would be a red wine vinegar, but I chose a white wine vinegar for personal preference and also I wanted to keep the color pale. Feel free to use the red one if you only have this one though.
I tried apple cider vinegar and although it was not my favorite for this recipe, it also worked well.
Another option would be to use fresh lemon juice. You might need to adjust the quantity if using it, so taste along the way.
How to make a creamy vegan Italian dressing
This dressing is already nice and thick, but you can make it richer and creamier if you want.
To do this, soak about ¼ cup of raw cashews (or sunflower seeds for a nut-free option) in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, then drain well. Add them to the blender along with the zucchini and make sure to blend very well to a super smooth texture. If the extra cashews make the mixture too thick to be blended, then add a little water to help the blades going.
Also, if the cashews dilute the flavor too much, then add extra vinegar and salt as needed.
I like to use mason jars to make it, which also allow easy storage in the fridge. I simply use these Ball glass mason jars that I buy online.
Keep the leftover vinaigrette in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. The flavor will get stronger as it rests, but I found the color to stay fairly stable. It makes for a great dressing to meal-prep ahead of time. Be sure to stir or shake before each servings.
This is a great vinaigrette to use over green lettuce. To make an Italian style salad, then use crispy romaine with kalamata olives, red onion, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped carrots and cucumber and sprinkle with vegan parmesan cheese or tofu feta cheese. Add some croutons as well for a good crunch.
Also amazing to use with cold noodles like pasta salads. Use in buddha bowls, grain bowls with rice and drizzle over warm roasted veggies. Also great to use when making a beet salad.
Is Italian dressing gluten-free?
Enjoying a gluten-free Italian dressing is not that difficult as most store-bought recipes are labeled gluten-free. This homemade vinaigrette recipe is also gluten-free, but on top of that, is much healthier with its no-oil content and free of any preservatives!
Other healthy salad dressings you might like
More zucchini recipes to try
- Zucchini raisin muffins
- Chickpea, oat and zucchini burgers
- Zucchini blackberry smoothie
- Hummus and roasted vegetable pasta
- Vegan zucchini fritters
I hope you enjoy this zucchini salad vinaigrette as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Italian Dressing (Oil-Free)
- 2 cups zucchini - peeled
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 clove of garlic - crushed
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp salt - or to taste
- To a blender, add the peeled zucchini, vinegar, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard and maple syrup. Blend until very smooth. Transfer to a storing glass container.
- To the zucchini mixture, add the crushed garlic, dried basil, dried oregano and salt. Stir or shake the container and taste to adjust the flavor if necessary.
- Serve as a green salad vinaigrette, cold pasta salad dressing or drizzle over roasted warm veggies. Enjoy!
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
- I recommend to first peel the zucchini for a milder flavor and lighter color.
- It is important to add the crushed garlic AFTER the zucchini was blended. Blending the garlic will create a strong flavor that is not as pleasant.