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The Best & Worst Balsamic Vinaigrettes on Shelves—Ranked!

With so many brands making this beloved salad dressing, it helps to know how to spot the healthiest ones.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

What makes a good balsamic vinaigrette? Well, it turns out, the perfect version of this popular salad dressing is truly a wonder of cooking technique, high-quality ingredients from around the world, and science coalescing.

Optimally, tart balsamic vinegar from Italy, tangy mustard from Dijon, olive oil from the first cold press, and various spices meld together in an emulsion created by the marriage of oil, water, and acid. The result is a perfect balance of all three that clings delicately to lettuce leaves and hits all areas of the tongue equally as you chew.

While you may crave a more acidic balsamic vinaigrette, others may prefer a bit more sweetness from a touch of honey—really, it's a matter of taste.

But as far as nutrition goes, you should look for these four things (all listed for a two-tablespoon serving) when choosing a healthy salad dressing:

  • Less than 250 milligrams of sodium
  • Less than 3 grams of added sugar
  • No artificial colors or preservatives
  • Few to no vegetable oils

What follows is our ranking of every balsamic vinaigrette currently on grocery store shelves based on the above criteria, as well as calorie count and the quality of ingredients. With this list, you'll know which bottle is the absolute worst or best to buy during your next food shopping trip. Oh, and if you're an Italian dressing fan, check out our list of the Best & Worst Italian Dressings on Shelves—Ranked!

20

Wish-Bone Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

PER 2 TBSP: 60 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein

Yes, this is low-calorie, but that's because it contains a lot of water. It claims to have a splash of olive oil, but it's really mostly soybean oil—which, when it comes to weight loss, may be even worse than sugar! It also contains a teaspoon of sugar per serving.

If you're looking for a sweet, watery, slightly oily mixture packed with emulsifiers, preservatives, and flavorings, this is your dressing. We give it a no.

RELATED: How to Buy the Best Olive Oil for Any Dish

19

Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 70 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein

Not to judge a book by its cover, but this one just looks bad for you. It contains 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar per serving and uses cheap balsamic, which is described as wine vinegar mixed with grape juice. When that lower quality vinegar is combined with lower quality soybean oil and some preservatives, you've got a mixture that probably vaguely resembles a balsamic and is high in sodium to boot.

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18

Skinnygirl Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein

When a vinaigrette—which is basically vinegar and oil—is sugar- and fat-free, feel compelled to check out the ingredients. The list on this bottle looks to be mostly water, cheap balsamic, and sucralose. The balsamic vinegar used includes a preservative and caramel color—but good balsamic doesn't need those additives. That said, one reviewer called this dressing the "Diet Coke of salad dressings," so maybe it's worth a try for those on a strict diet.

RELATED: 5 Myths About Alternative Sweeteners

17

Walden Farms Calorie-Free Dressing Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein

What could possibly be in a dressing that has zero calories and fat? It's mostly water with some vinegar, fiber, natural flavors, gums, preservatives, and sucralose stirred in. The one redeeming quality for this option is that it uses Dijon mustard.

It's also expensive at Walmart at $11 for 12 ounces.

RELATED: 40 Food Swaps That Cut Thousands of Calories 

16

Cardinis Gourmet Dressing Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 100 calories, 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein

We really wanted to like this dressing, but it falls short on a few fronts. It uses all-natural ingredients, but it's heavy on soybean oil, EVOO is nowhere to be found, and there's too much sugar. Plus, it's expensive.

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15

Maple Grove Sugar-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein

This dressing is cider and balsamic vinegar thickened with gums, sweetened with sucralose, and dusted with spices. If you're looking for a low-sugar, low-fat dressing, it's not the worst, but it's also not the best.

RELATED: 11 Best Sugar-Free Sodas on Grocery Store Shelves

14

Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

PER 2 TBSP: 110 calories, 11 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 270 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein

If you're looking for a tangier vinaigrette, Newman's Own's classic balsamic vinaigrette has a lot of spices and is low in sugar. It's made of mainly canola oil with a splash of olive oil for flavor. This is a decent choice, but just watch your serving size, and be aware that it's higher in sodium than some other options.

13

Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing Light

PER 2 TBSP: 45 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein

This dressing is a lot like the classic balsamic vinaigrette but with additional water. If you like a lot of dressing, this could be the one for you—just watch the sodium as this is slightly higher than the classic balsamic vinaigrette.

RELATED: The Surprising Effect Reducing Sodium May Have on Your Blood Sugar, New Study Says

12

Annie's Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing Organic

PER 2 TBSP: 100 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 60 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein

This is a good choice for someone who's looking for a lower calorie balsamic with a creamy, not oily, mouthfeel. There are good mustard flavors and the interesting addition of cloves. Just know that this dressing does use canola oil, so you won' be getting a healthier olive oil. Honey adds a slight sweetness.

11

Ken's Steak House Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 60 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 0 g protein

This product is listed as having canola or soybean oil. When a company isn't clear on what kind of oil its product is made from, approach with caution. If you want a higher quality oil and less sugar, skip this one and just use less of the Ken's Simply Vinaigrette (coming up soon in this ranking).

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10

Briannas Home Style New American Creamy Balsamic Dressing

PER 2 TBSP: 150 calories, 14 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein

This dressing is one of the highest calorie options on this list. However, there are some good ingredients in here: Dijon mustard, garlic puree, and honey as a sweetener. But, you would have to be a creamy balsamic dressing fan to enjoy this option.

9

Ken's Dressing Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 110 calories, 11 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

This dressing gets a high-five for having a short ingredient list, but that's about it. It's mostly canola oil and it doesn't have any mustard. It's sweetened with sugar and contains preservatives and natural flavors. For these reasons, it's okay, but you could do better.

8

Marzetti Simply 60 Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

PER 2 TBSP: 60 calories, 3.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (0 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 1 g protein

This lower calorie dressing uses yogurt to replace some of the oil, but then uses all canola oil. It's also high in sugar with over a teaspoon per serving. If you like a sweet, creamy balsamic, this is worth a try, just watch your serving size due to the sugar content.

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7

Marzetti Simply Dressed Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 90 calories, 9 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein

As far as being all-natural, this mixture fits the bill. There are no added flavors and no high-fructose corn syrup. This dressing uses real spices and lists them for the world to see. It uses egg yolk for emulsification. However, it doesn't use any olive oil and contains a teaspoon of sugar per serving, but if you like a sweeter dressing, this is a good choice.

6

Marie's Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette

PER 2 TBSP: 45 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

The first ingredient in this dressing is water, which explains why it's lower in calories than some of the most oil-forward options. Soybean oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, and extra virgin olive oil make up the bulk of the dressing. We'd love a more EVOO-forward dressing, but at least it has some! Spices, a stabilizer, molasses, and natural flavoring round out the flavor. This is a good choice for someone who likes a lot of dressing, but it may not cling that well to your salad and is higher in sodium than some other options.

RELATED: 14 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugar

5

Maple Grove Farms Vinaigrette Balsamic Fat-Free

PER 2 TBSP: 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 120 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

If you're looking for a fat-free balsamic vinaigrette, this is a great choice. It contains real spices with a little added natural flavors. It does contain gums to help it stay together.

4

Sir Kensington's Vinaigrette, Dressing and Marinade, Dijon Balsamic

PER 2 TBSP: 140 calories, 115 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

Sunflower oil is the only drawback to this dressing, when olive oil would've been better. Otherwise, it packs a lot of flavor with lemon juice, mustard, black pepper, garlic powder, and even Jasmine tea extract!

RELATED: 18 Clever Uses for Salad Dressing

3

Primal Kitchen Vinaigrette & Marinade Balsamic with Avocado Oil

PER 2 TBSP: 100 calories, 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein

This is as close as you're going to get to homemade. The addition of avocado oil adds heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. However, it's also one of the most expensive on the list, which is the only reason it's not our top pick…

RELATED: Everything You Want to Know About Avocado Oil 

2

Stonewall Kitchen Olive Oil & Balsamic Dressing

PER 2 TBSP: 170 calories, 18 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

This is close to the Holy Grail of balsamic dressings with just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices, and garlic. We crave a few emulsifiers for a better texture and a hint of salt, and you'll need to watch the serving size because this is high in calories… but it's also as natural as it gets. Shake a little Dijon and salt into the dressing and you've got yourself a winner.

(P.S. the other Stonewall balsamic dressings are loaded with sugar, which includes Balsamic Fig, Maple Balsamic, Honey Orange Balsamic, and Maple Bacon Balsamic.)

RELATED: "Healthy" Foods With More Sugar Than a Krispy Kreme Donut, Says Science

1

Ken's Simply Vinaigrette Dressing Balsamic

PER 2 TBSP: 100 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

The name says it all for this vinaigrette. It is very simple and that's a good thing. A blend of canola, olive oils, and balsamic vinegar make up the base of this dressing. A little sugar is thrown in for sweetness and a blend of spices gives it some flair. This is the best option for a simple, classic taste that won't break the bank.

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Meaghan Cameron
Meaghan Cameron is senior editor of Eat This, Not That! overseeing food content for MSN.com. Read more