Keep a bottle of homemade Sesame Dressing in the fridge, and suddenly you’ll look forward to eating more leafy greens, cabbage slaws, and vegetables. This dazzling, Asian-style vinaigrette only needs a handful of easy-to-find pantry ingredients, too—I bet you already have them.
This dressing turns Baby Bok Choy, grocery store ramen noodles, and almonds into a Baby Bok Bhoy Salad everyone goes crazy about. I love, love, love DIY salad dressings and vinaigrettes. If you’re ready to leave the store-bought stuff behind, you could try working your way through 7 Homemade Salad Dressings. Start with Red Wine Vinaigrette, my everyday fave, and finish off with Buttermilk Ranch, the thickest, creamiest version out there. Perfect for carrot sticks, chicken wings, and pasta salad.
I use lots of this sesame seed-speckled vinaigrette when I make Baby Bok Choy Salad. It’s slightly sweet, a little salty, and perfectly delicious. But you certainly don’t need bok choy to make this easy sesame soy vinaigrette. Blanch some tender asparagus and pour on the dressing while the spears are still warm--instant salad or vegetable side. Shred up some cabbage (or buy a bag of Asian slaw mix) and make a no-mayo coleslaw that all your friends will rave about. And trust me, they will.
There’s nothing it can’t do! Need more ideas? Drizzle the dressing over grilled tuna, thinly sliced beef, cold chunks of cucumbers, or a bowl of chilled noodles, tofu, and veggies. You can also use it as a dipping sauce for Japanese dumplings.
Because it’s a basic recipe, you can dress it up by adding a little ginger, maybe some scallions, or sesame oil—that’s up to you and how fancy you want to get. Chances are you'll love it as much as I do, just the way it is.
Making Sesame Dressing for meal prep for the week? Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What you need to make Sesame Dressing:
- Light brown sugar. You can opt for honey, if you prefer.
- Olive oil. If you love extra sesame flavor, sub in some sesame oil or toasted sesame oil to make it more flavorful.
- Red wine vinegar. Out of red wine vinegar? No problem! Try cider vinegar, white vinegar, or rice wine vinegar.
- Sesame seeds. Toasted seeds bring more nutty taste to the dressing. You can toast them yourself using a dry skillet or oven. Black sesame seeds are okay, too!
- Soy sauce. Make gluten-free sesame dressing by finding a gluten-free soy sauce.
- Ginger. A little grated ginger root turns it into sesame ginger dressing.
- Sesame oil. In place of some of the olive oil, try sesame oil.
- Scallions. Finely chopped scallions, greens and all, taste terrific.
- Mayonnaise. Turn the dressing creamy by mixing in your favorite mayo—Kewpie, Hellman’s, or Best Foods.
How to make Sesame Dressing:
- I like to make a double batch of the recipe (for about 3 cups total) and keep it in a jar for the week ahead. But it’s easy to whip up even on the fly, especially if you have toasted sesame seeds ready.
- Simply add the ingredients to a jar with tight-fitting lid and give the jar a gentle shake to mix. Alternatively, you can whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl.
- If you're going to use the dressing right away, let it sit out on the counter to let the flavors meld. Otherwise, store in the refrigerator and shake it up again before you use it.
How to toast sesame seeds:
Toasting the seeds brings extra nutty flavor to the game and adds a little crunch, too. It’s easy to toast raw sesame seeds in just a few minutes, which I break down in detail in How to Toast Sesame Seeds. Here's the gist.
By the way, you can always toast up more than you need and freeze the rest for later to add to other recipes.
- In the oven. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in an oven set to 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn occasionally with a spatula.
- On the stove. In a dry pan over medium heat, heat the seeds until golden brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally. This should take 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the seeds out onto a plate to stop cooking.
Once you get the hang of the recipe, feel free to play around with some ingredients you might already have in your inventory. If you have any commonly found Japanese pantry ingredients, like mirin, rice wine vinegar, or sesame oil, now’s the time to dig them out of hiding.
- Grind the seeds. A fun way to make a creamy sesame vinaigrette without adding mayo is by grinding the toasted sesame seeds before adding them to the dressing. Pulverize the seeds using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I use a small coffee grinder reserved just for spices) until smooth. The ground seeds will thicken the dressing somewhat. If you have black sesame seeds too, add some in whole to provide contrast.
Also, you can use Chinese sesame paste, but the flavor won’t be as strong as freshly ground seeds.
- Ginger sesame soy dressing. With ginger, this simple Japanese salad dressing gets even better. Mix in some grated fresh ginger to really make the dressing pop! Use a fine grater like a Microplane to do this.
- Garlic. A little garlic goes a long way here, but try a clove of grated raw garlic, if you like.
- Scallions. Use the whole green onion (or fresh chives) to boost the soy sesame flavors. Finely chopped work best.
Sesame Dressing Recipe
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- In a small bowl or in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine brown sugar, olive oil, vinegar, sesame seeds, and soy sauce.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the sesame seeds until golden brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 3-5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a plate to cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the pantry for 6 months or freezer storage bag in the freezer for up to 1 year.
- Substitute GF soy sauce