I've been making my own salad dressings at home for longer than Big Brother has been on the air. Mainly because it's one of the quickest, easiest ways to keep mealtimes fresh and flavorful. This easy lemon pepper salad dressing makes the most of citrus season by bringing you the perfect tangy, peppery dressing for any salad. The bonus? You can also use this lemon pepper dressing as a marinade for meats or a seasoning sauce for roasted veggies!Jump to Recipe
This dressing is inspired by a Lawry’s marinade I was obsessed with as a teenager, when I first started cooking meals for myself. The easy lemon pepper salad dressing now makes a seasonal appearance in our fridge every year. If you're looking for more salad dressings that celebrate citrus season, check out my recipe for Honey Orange Vinaigrette Salad Dressing here!
💕 why you'll love this lemon pepper dressing recipe
🌱 fresh, bright flavor. This salad dressing is made with fresh squeezed lemon juice and zest from the lemons themselves. It is bright, zingy, and bold in flavor, with a slight peppery bite.
♻️ versatile. This lemon salad dressing can also be used as a finishing sauce or marinade. Drizzle it on sandwiches, dunk your chicken tenders in it, and marinate meat or tofu; the limit does not exist!
⏱️ quick & easy. Making your own salad dressings at home is the perfect way to get started with cooking! This recipe comes together in under 15 minutes!
This salad dressing is made from just a few ingredients that are readily available:
- Lemons - get the freshest lemons you can find! Aim for medium-sized lemons; they'll fit easily in the palm of your hand. You will need at least 2 for this recipe. There are different varieties of lemons available in the grocery store, and this dressing is made with standard conventional lemons. Meyer lemons will give you a milder, sweeter lemon flavor. Conventional lemons are higher in acidity, too.
- White balsamic vinegar - this is found in the same aisle as other vinegar in your local supermarket. I get mine at Trader Joe's or Publix! I love using white balsamic vinegar in salad dressings because it's milder in flavor and sweetness than balsamic vinegar. It also allows the color of the ingredients to shine in the finished recipe, instead of just turning everything a dark brown color like balsamic vinegar does. White balsamic vinegar is sweeter than regular white vinegar, so if you substitute regular white vinegar, you may need to increase the amount of honey you use.
- Olive oil - extra virgin olive oil is a pantry staple! While you might think a nicer olive oil is always better, in recipes like salad dressings, a more neutral flavor is more helpful. Nicer olive oils tend to have a stronger olive flavor, which can be nice if you don't mind the extra fruitiness! I use a standard, middle-priced olive oil for salad dressings since my goal is to highlight the other ingredient flavors, not the olive oil flavor.
- Garlic - this lemon pepper dressing uses fresh garlic cloves, but you can substitute powdered garlic if it's all you have on hand.
- Honey - honey is a super versatile sweetener perfect for use in salad dressings like this one.
- Salt - as with my other recipes, I use kosher salt in this recipe. Specifically, I use Diamond Brand Kosher salt. Salt helps to balance the acidity in the recipe!
- Pepper - I will always tell you to freshly grind your pepper in your recipes! And, I will never stop telling you about my love for Diaspora Co. Spices. 😉
See the recipe card for quantities.
Whipping this homemade salad dressing up takes about 15 minutes.
Step 1: Wash and dry your lemons, then zest one lemon to get about 1 teaspoon of zest. Juice two lemons to get about ⅓ cup of juice.
Step 2: Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt and pepper in a jar or blender, and mix it together well. I use an immersion blender for this step, so I can stream in the olive oil in the next step!
Step 3: While the mix is blending, slowly drizzle in ¾ cup of olive oil, to emulsify the mixture. You will see it start to thicken and become matte and velvety in appearance.
Step 4: Store the dressing in a jar or other container in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Hint: make sure to wash and scrub your lemons with a gently abrasive (and CLEAN) brush or sponge to remove wax and other residue from the lemons.
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💡 tips and tricks for getting it right
🍽️ Serving Tips - use this dressing on anything from a simple side salad, like a house salad of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots, to a main dish salad, like a spring Tuscan kale salad. You can also use this dressing as a sauce on sandwiches or as a marinade for your favorite proteins!
ℹ️ Troubleshooting Tips - Slowly pour in the olive oil while you are blending the mixture instead of just adding in the oil all at once, then blending. This helps the mix come together without breaking apart later. This is also called emulsifying! If you've ever seen oil and water separate, you know the look of a separated salad dressing!
⚖️ Scaling Tips - This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you have a big gathering coming up!
🔆 top tip
Since we are using the zest, it’s super important that we get the best, purest flavors. I usually buy organic produce to avoid harsh pesticides, but all produce like apples, lemons, and oranges has a protective wax coasting on it. So give it a good wash and scrub in warm water! If you want to be extra safe and sure you’re removing ALL the wax, you can pour boiling water over your lemons.
- oil - feel free to use whatever oil you like! Avocado oil or canola oil would also work well in this dressing. Olive oil has a mild flavor, but it’s not the most neutral oil, so if you opt to use something like grapeseed oil or avocado oil, be sure to taste test as you go. You may want to add more vinegar or honey to balance out the tartness of the lemons!
- vinegar - you can use a different vinegar, like regular balsamic vinegar. Keep in mind, different vinegars have different acidity and sweetness to them. Balsamic vinegar will be most like white balsamic, but a little sweeter. White vinegar is not sweet, so you will need to increase the amount of honey you use, or cut the vinegar amount in half.
- sweetener - use whatever sweetener you have on hand! Maple syrup or agave would also work well in this recipe. If you only have granulated sugar, start with 1 teaspoon and increase by ¼ teaspoon until you reach your desired sweetness level.
- white or pink peppercorns - you can swap out the type of peppercorns depending on what you have on hand. Keep in mind that white and pink peppercorns have a more delicate flavor, so you may want to increase the amount of pepper in the recipe.
- garlic powder - if you don't have fresh garlic on hand, you can use garlic powder at the rate of ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder per clove.
Try these variations, or comment below with your own!
- herby - add in basil, parsley, or tarragon to create an herbaceous twist on this lemon pepper dressing!
- spicy - add smoked paprika or red chili flakes to increase the heat factor of this dressing.
- garlicky - add even more garlic to create a garlic-forward dressing, perfect for marinating meat or dressing roasted veggies! Remember: if you are using garlic powder, ⅛ teaspoon of garlic powder = 1 clove of garlic!
🧰 equipment needed
Truthfully you can whip this lemon pepper salad dressing up with just a bowl and a whisk, but these affiliate-linked tools below will help make your life easier.
- Immersion Blender - I recommend an immersion blender. Mine is from Cuisinart, but it’s no longer being made. Whenever mine kicks the bucket, this All-Clad model is on my radar. For a more modest price, I’d recommend this model. Of course, you can make this lemon pepper dressing in a regular blender or a food processor. I wouldn’t recommend using a “bullet style” blender because you need to be able to stream the olive oil in while you’re mixing the base of the salad dressing.
- Microplane - microplanes are one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. I have several sizes, but for this recipe, you'll need one that is capable of zesting. Alternatively, you can use the thinnest side of a box grater-- but be careful only to get the zest, not the white pith of the lemon.
- Mixing jar - I love blending right in storage jars, for easier cleanup. These quart-sized wide mouth ball jars are my go-to. A large measuring cup or bowl will also do the trick!
- Squeeze bottles - These OXO squeeze bottles are so useful for everything. They’re my favorite way to store salad dressings because you can keep an eye on how much you have left, and it’s super easy to squeeze onto salads. I have multiple sizes!
Your lemon pepper salad dressing will stay fresh for up to 10 days in the fridge. You can freeze the salad dressing for longer storage, up to 3 months.
I love freezing dressings in ice cube trays for perfectly portioned servings! Because of the high-fat content of olive oil, the cubes won't freeze completely solid. Rather, they will remain softer even when frozen.
You can 100% make this salad dressing with just a medium-sized bowl and a whisk. You'll need to whisk vigorously to mix the dressing together, so it will take a bit of work. If you like making your own salad dressings at home, I'd recommend looking into purchasing an immersion blender!
Fresh lemon juice will always taste better than store-bought juice, which is usually from concentrate and loaded with preservatives. Juicing your own lemons fresh means you'll get the most flavor from each lemon, so I always recommend using fresh produce when possible.
While you don't have to use the zest in this recipe, it does boost the lemon flavor greatly! If you don't want your dressing to be too lemony though, you can definitely leave it out.
If you can't find white balsamic vinegar, use regular balsamic vinegar in its place. The color will be different, but the flavor will be very similar. I do not recommend using distilled white vinegar because the flavor is so different, but if you do, start with half the amount of vinegar the recipe calls for (use 1.5 tablespoon instead of 3 TBSP).
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Lemon Pepper Dressing
- 1 immersion blender you can also use a blender or food processor
- 1 mixing bowl or jar
- 1 storage container
- ⅓ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 medium-sized lemon, washed and dried
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoon honey adjust to preferred sweetness level
- 3 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- ½ - ¾ cup olive oil extra virgin, adjust to preferred thickness
- 1 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon salt kosher, Diamond Brand
- Combine ⅓ cup of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of honey, 3 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl or jar.
- Blend well with immersion blender.
- While blending, slowly stream in ½ - ¾ cup of olive oil, until the mixture is emulsified, depending on your preferred thickness. If you like a thinner dressing, use ½ cup of olive oil. If you like a thicker salad dressing, use ¾ cup of olive oil.
- Store the mixture in the fridge for up to ten days.