Every day Japanese style salad dressing (for every day big lunch salads)

Every day Japanese style salad dressing (for every day big lunch salads)

I cook a lot. I make breakfast most mornings for the kiddos. I make one packed lunch for the older kiddo, and on the days he’s home, I make lunch for the little. I make dinner five nights a week. I bake a bunch of bread, and I love baking treats and making interesting snacks and experimenting with tasty warm beverages. I’m in the kitchen for a healthy portion of pretty much every day of the week.

But I am very, very bad at making myself lunch. So bad! Yesterday, I considered it a reasonable success because I ate half an apple, a slice of leftover quick bread, and a cheese stick while standing at the counter. Last week I admitted defeat and had a bowl of cereal. Dark days. I don’t quite know why it is such a struggle, but even when I am in the midst of a pathetic lunch, I know it will come back and bite me, with a case of the grouches later in the afternoon and an insatiable hunger for carbs. It’s just how my body works. I need to eat a balanced, substantial lunch to function well the rest of the day.

Thankfully, a friend convinced me to try her Big Salad method, and it’s been (mostly – see paragraph above) working delightfully well. My typical big salad consists of the following, depending on what is in the house: romaine lettuce, a few lacinato kale leaves (de-ribbed), carrot, celery, whatever leftover veg I have in the fridge from dinner the night before (roasted beets, broccoli, and romanesco are current regular guest stars), cubed apple or pear (blueberries or strawberries in the summer), pepitas (raw, hulled pumpkin seeds), sesame seeds, sometimes chia seeds, and some form of protein (tofu, lentils, chick peas, or my favorite, a fried egg). Oh, and because I won’t eat a salad without some crunch, I’ve been sprinkling either a crushed rice cake or handful of cheerios (yep) on top. One key to success? A giant bowl to put it all in, so you can really mix it around well. I use a stainless steel one from Ikea.

The other key to success? A delicious salad dressing. For years, I would only eat Good Seasons Italian Dressing. The kind you buy in the little box, and then mix with water, vinegar, and oil. It is delicious. It tastes like home. My mom used to pack it and bring it to me when I lived overseas. I was a devotee. I even have the little carafe with the lines so it is totally mindless. But one day, I somehow lost the knack of balancing the olive oil with the canola so it doesn’t harden in the fridge. And that one bottle languished in my fridge, all chunky and disappointing when I dragged it out to use. It was time to try something new.

Turns out you can make your own Italian dressing. It’s not hard, but there are a lot of ingredients. For dinner, sure! But for my daily lunch salad? An extra step like that meant this was never going to happen.

Enter this Japanese style every day lunch dressing. It takes one measuring spoon, five bottles, and you’re done. It is a delicious savory-sweet-sesamey combination that lets you taste your salad ingredients but also gives it all a bit of shiny umami flavor.

Salad dressing ingredients

Salad dressing unmixed

5 from 1 vote

Every Day Japanese-Style Salad Dressing

Prep Time 5 minutes


  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil (or grapeseed or avocado oils)
  • 3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (or 3 Tablespoons tamari)
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup (sugar also works, but why mess with perfection)
  • A drizzle toasted sesame oil


  1. Using the same measuring spoon, add all ingredients to a jar with a secure fitting lid. Note if you use sugar instead of maple syrup, measure this first! Put the lid on, then shake vigorously to emulsify. Serve over salad to taste.

  2. Refrigerated, this seems to keep well for a few weeks.

What are your favorite Big Salad ingredients? How do you handle lunch?

1 thought on “Every day Japanese style salad dressing (for every day big lunch salads)”

  • 5 stars
    Yay, big salads! I’m going to make this dressing! I really like toasted pecans in mine–not particularly revolutionary, but easy to keep in the freezer and just toss on. Also, I like the herby salad mix from Trader Joe’s that has dill(!). And I add, I kid you not, kimchi or sauerkraut because I will always crave something pickled or fermented.

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