Hibiscus Vinaigrette - The bright color and citric acidity of dried hibiscus flowers make this homemade vinaigrette unique and original. This stunning sauce is also gluten free and vegan.
One of the things that a chef always strives for is visually striking food.
I've been making this hibiscus salad dressing recipe for many years, and it has always impressed in every restaurant I've worked in. The restrained acidity of white balsamic vinegar and unique fruity notes that the hibiscus provides make it remarkably versatile. This is a perfect example of a chef "trick" that anyone can do.
This hibiscus vinaigrette is the dressing that is used for this smoked beet salad. It is fantastic for almost any kind of salad, or even as a simple sauce for meats or seafood as well! It follows the traditional vinaigrette ratio of oil to vinegar, which is notable also.
What is Hibiscus?
Hibiscus is a beautiful tropical flower, and it's dried petals are very useful for a broad variety of things. It is enjoyed as a hot tea in many parts of the world, both for it's fruity flavor, but also for it's vitamin c content. The vibrant red color that it imparts makes it useful as a natural dye for textiles and fabric. In Mexico, it is famously brewed and sweetened to create the beverage known as "Jamaica", a member of the "aguas frescas" family of beverages. It's usage in this recipe is a bit of a departure from these traditions, but very fun and interesting.
The dried flower petals can be found in the Latin section of most supermarkets, as well as online. A little goes a long way, and therefore, it is very affordable.
- Dried sweet hibiscus flowers - See the section above.
- Shallots - These little gems of the onion family are way too often overlooked in the home kitchen.
- Fresh thyme - Dry can be used in a pinch, but this dressing really benefits from the fuller flavor in fresh.
- White balsamic vinegar - Almost identical in taste to the black stuff, but a must have in this vinaigrette.
- Extra virgin olive oil - Try to find the fruitiest, and most green oil that you can.
- Salt - What kind of salt used always matters, and in this case, the pure and clean flavor of kosher is called for.
- Fresh ground black pepper - Always grind fresh whenever possible.
- Sugar - Balance is everything in a properly made vinaigrette, without some sweetness, it's way too sour.
See recipe card for quantities.
Step One - Mincing Shallots
I thought this would be a great opportunity to illustrate how to properly mince a shallot. First remove the stem end and cut into halves lengthwise.
Make one cut horizontally from the cut end until almost to the stem end, followed by a series of vertical slices of the same length.
Step Two - Finishing Shallots/Infusing the Hibiscus Vinegar
Slice down vertically through the shallot in order to create a uniform fine mince.
To infuse the hibiscus flavor and color into the vinegar, I heated it very briefly to about 180 degrees and dropped the dried petals in. This infusion then sets for about ten minutes before being strained.
Step Three - Finishing the Vinaigrette
Pick and lightly chop the fresh thyme.
Then it is as simple as combining all of the ingredients together, as seen here.
Don't forget that part about hibiscus being a great natural dye! Be careful not to get the vinegar on anything that can easily stain, as it's not easy to get out.
Why Is It Called a Vinaigrette?
This is a great question! The word comes from the French, a variation on vinaigre, or "aromatic vinegar."
This is a very basic recipe, and is a great "jumping off" point for many other recipes or styles.
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes while cooking the vinegar to imbue heat into the sauce
- Different herbs - fresh basil, tarragon, parsley, or any combination therein would be welcome here
- Binders/emulsifiers - this vinaigrette is what's called "broken" because of it's lack of an emulsifier or thickener, and that's part of what gives it it's unique look, but adding some dijon mustard, honey, or even an egg yolk to the mix would make a more creamy and unified pink hue
- Vinegar - feel free to use red wine vinegar, or any other type that you would prefer for this vinaigrette recipe, just remember that the red color won't show through with a dark colored vinegar.
Store this homemade hibiscus vinaigrette in the refrigerator tightly sealed for up to 3 weeks. Salad dressings in general will usually save for this long.
When using this dressing, keep in mind that it separates quickly. Make sure to aggressively shake and mix it to get the appropriate combination of ingredients on anything you are looking to season with it.
- 1 Cutting Board
- 1 knife
- 1 Mixing Bowl
- 1 ramekin or small bowl, microwave safe
- 1 strainer small
- 1 wire whip
- 1 Measuring Cup
- 1 measuring spoons
- 2⅓ Tbsp. shallot finely minced (see process notes)
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme picked and coarsely chopped
- ⅓ cup white balsamic vinegar
- 8 pieces dried hibiscus flower approximately 1 Tbsp.
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 8 turns black pepper full turns of a pepper mill
- Place vinegar into the microwave safe ramekin or bowl.
- Microwave vinegar on high for 30 seconds.
- Add hibiscus to vinegar.
- Allow vinegar mixture to steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain hibiscus from vinegar and discard.
- Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk with wire whip.